Posts Tagged ‘London Dynamo’

You can thank God the meeting about cycling in Richmond Park didn’t become a bunfight

December 20, 2014

Leaflets handed out at meeting about cycling in Richmond Park

Strange times in Richmond this week, where a public meeting to address the tensions between cyclists and motorists in Richmond Park ended with panellist and GLA cycling commissioner Andrew Gilligan noting that it hadn’t been the scene of confrontation that some might have anticipated. I think there were many small reasons that helped to bring about this Christmas miracle, along with a very big elephant-in-the-room-type one. I’ll explain what I mean by that in a moment. First, though, I’m going to run through what I consider to be the notable moments during Wednesday night’s event at Duke Street Church, which was chaired by Zac Goldsmith, the Conservative MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston (and if you want a briefer and less analytical look at what was said, then by all means have a look at my running commentary on the night).

The audience’s most consistent response, judging by the level of applause whenever the issue was raised, was that far too many motorists use the park as a shortcut. The most visceral reaction came in the form of two collective gasps from the crowd when Sergeant Michael Boulton, who leads the park’s policing team, revealed that the average speed of motorists who had been caught breaking the limit was 38mph, and the fastest was 56mph (the limit is 20). By contrast, cyclists were not as badly behaved as they are often perceived: Simon Richards of Royal Parks observed that they are only really speeding on the downhill sections – damn you, gravity! – and Kingston’s police commander said the number of tickets issued in the borough for jumping red lights was “low”.

On the issue of special facilities for cyclists, there is very little enthusiasm for a cycleway. The Friends Of Richmond Park said they are “wholeheartedly” against the idea as they believe it would turn the road into a dual carriageway, while Peter Treadgold, the panel’s expert on sustainable transport, drew the line at adding “heavy infrastructure” and would only go as far as suggesting that a separate cycle lane on the uphill sections might enable cars to pass more easily. A comment from the floor that motorists should travel in one direction on the circular roadway and cyclists on the other was met with a few groans of displeasure. Through traffic is through traffic, I guess, regardless of which way it goes.

Zac Goldsmith suggested that one of the areas that might be explored by interested parties was opening the park at different times of day for different users. He asked for a show of hands which showed there was broad support for looking at this concept. I understand that various groups and individuals will be meeting to discuss ideas generated by the meeting, and I’ll be interested to see what becomes of this one, as well as the idea of road charging which was also raised by Paul Harknett, my chum and London Dynamo club captain.

There was, of course, a bit of hostility to cycling, most memorably with one motorist declaring that Richmond Park was “plagued” by cyclists (the irony that the park is a facility principally for outdoor pursuits seemed to have escaped him). I could hear some grumbles and snorts from my corner of the pews whenever a cyclist made a reasonable point, but they were too quiet to register in the room. So why, given the strength of feeling about the issues at stake, was this not a noisier and more confrontational affair?

One reason could be because the anti-cycling brigade felt inhibited because they didn’t have a visible platform: as you can see from the picture above, we were all handed leaflets publicising Royal Parks, the Richmond Cycling Campaign and Zac Goldsmith, but there is no such organisation as Friends Of Motorists Who Choose To Drive In Richmond Park. There was also clear common ground between cyclists and non-cyclists on the issue of through traffic. Paul, Dynamo’s club captain, sounded reasonable and engaged, which probably helped build bridges (although I admit to being biased on that one). And even though Zac apparently received hundreds of strongly-worded emails prior to the meeting, it appears no one on either side of the debate is brave enough to be as angry in a public setting as they are behind the safety of a screen and a keyboard.

But my theory is that the venue itself took a bit of the heat out of the mood. We were in a church. Many of those who clearly appeared to be against cyclists were of an older generation who are more likely to be religious or at least show greater deference to its customs. And they were, thank the Lord, unwilling to raise their voices in a house of God.

It’s like having a football pitch in your own backyard

November 6, 2014

Sawyer's Hill in Richmond Park on sunny afternoon in October
I’m not sure Jen and I live in London anymore. We have a telephone number that begins “020”, but I spotted a temporary sign near our flat which warned that a leafy road was “closed for toad migration”. That was some time before we moved here in July. Since then, I’ve woken to hear parakeets squawking in the garden and breakfasted to the sound of clopping hooves outside our living room window. We didn’t get those sorts of things when we lived within earshot of two Premier League football clubs. Although we did get a lot of shouting on Saturdays.

I knew this area from years of cycling through it (in fact, I am only a 25-minute bike ride from our old flat) but it didn’t seem quite as pastoral before we began living here. We have moved to the edge of Richmond Park and, as I write this, I am looking at a row of trees which define part of its perimeter. On rainy days like this one, those trees are a forbidding wall, telling me to stay where I am until less inclement cycling weather comes along. During sunnier days, the branches sway in the breeze, beckoning me for a quick three laps. And how can I possibly refuse?

Imagine if you had somehow managed to buy a home that had its own football pitch, tennis court or Olympic-sized swimming pool; as a cyclist, that is how it feels living with the capital’s cycling Mecca on your doorstep. I am a mere seven minutes away from the meeting point of London Dynamo’s ever-popular Parkride (you missed a key selling point there, Zoopla) which enables me to fall out of bed at ten past eight on a Saturday morning and still make the eight-thirty start. I’m usually starving, and I feel like I’ve been hit by a bus. But, hey, I’m there.

Or rather, I’m not. Recently I’ve been knocking out laps much later on a Saturday, the idea being that I can still put in a good workout by trying to finish before the sun sets. It works, but for some reason the sorts of cyclists who frequent the park at that time of day are much less likely to leave you alone. Lone riders chase each other down, form a cluster, and then interpret my gradual easing past them as an attack. Even when I slow down and leave two bike lengths between us, I still get the old elbow flick telling me to come through.

I mean, really. What rudeness. Don’t they realise this is my park now?

A rare sighting of a 1974 Cinelli Speciale Corsa in the wild

March 30, 2014

1974 Cinelli Speciale Corsa profile

Fellow Dynamo Jonathon Stacey was in Richmond Park on Saturday morning proudly showing off a vintage bicycle he has restored to its former glory. My chum Martin Garratt was one of many Parkriders at the Roehampton Gate cafe who were taken by Jonathan’s glistening beauty, and he asked me to take a few snaps to show his brother because he didn’t have his phone on him. Obviously there are many more people who would like to drool over these images, so I thought I may as well stick ’em on here.

1974 Cinelli Speciale Corsa rear mech

I didn’t know Jonathon and I asked him very little about his pride and joy, so I can’t give you a terrific amount of detail about it. But I do know that it has a Campagnolo Nuovo Record groupset, the pedals are made by Christophe (which later became the Zefal brand) and the frame was originally yellow. Oh, and the whole thing cost him £4,000. Enjoy!

1974 Cinelli Speciale Corsa badge

1974 Cinelli Speciale Corsa chainring

1974 Cinelli Speciale Corsa pedal

1974 Cinelli Speciale Corsa rear brake

1974 Cinelli Speciale Corsa shifters

1974 Cinelli Speciale Corsa seattube badge

1974 Cinelli Speciale Corsa top tube

The history of London Dynamo in pictures

July 26, 2013

Rapha-clad Guy Andrews with Dynamo co-founder Paul Callinan (centre) and former club captain Nick Peacock, Mallorca 2006

Rapha-clad Guy Andrews with fellow Dynamo founder Paul Callinan (centre) and former club captain Nick Peacock, Mallorca 2006


London Dynamo’s social secretary Nigel Smith recently asked me to write an account of the club’s brief history for a short book he’s putting together as part of our forthcoming tenth anniversary celebrations. I declined because I would struggle to accurately chronicle all the events that have taken place since I stopped writing the newsletter five years ago. But I told him I’d provide a link to issues 100 and 200 of DYNAMITE!, which together comprise a reasonably humorous synopsis of Dynamo’s first half-decade and could be reproduced in his members-only tome. Nigel also wanted to have a look at some old Dynamo-related photos in my possession which he could consider for inclusion. So instead of emailing all that stuff over to him, I thought I’d stick it on here instead. Behold the contents of my virtual musty shoebox!

WHO: Paul Harknett
WHERE: Tour de Langkawi
PHOTOGRAPHER: An excited local

paul harknett langkawi 07
A world exclusive for The DYNAMITE! Files: this is the only photograph on the interweb (try a Google image search if you don’t believe me) where you can see the face our elusive leader Paul Harknett. The image captures Lord Harknett’s brief moment of fame at the Tour of Langkawi’s opening stage in 2007, where many confused Malaysians lingering around the finish thought he was a professional cyclist (bald head, compact physique, blue jersey, getting on a bit – yeah, it’s probably Levi Leipheimer). As the real pros disappeared into their team buses, Paul was only too happy to pose for a number of photos and conduct an interview for a Japanese TV station. What a gent!

WHO: Phil Cavell
WHERE: GPM10 Etape training camp
PHOTOGRAPHER: Unknown

phil cavell gpm10 etape training 05
In 2005, when his Covent Garden bike boutique was the club’s main sponsor, Cyclefit guru Phil Cavell ventured up a few French mountains armed only with a bicycle, a sense of self-belief and a substandard level of fitness. I don’t know which mountain he was on when this photo was taken, and judging by his face, neither does he. Cycling is truly a cruel mistress, and a love of her charms can make a happy man very old.

WHO: Stuart Spies and Guy Powdrill
WHERE: Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub, Fleet Street
PHOTOGRAPHER: Me

stuart spies guy powdrill cheshire cheese

Taken at the Christmas social pre-dinner drinks in 2005, this classic image remains the most succinct expression of the two chums’ contrasting characters. Guysie on the right, so focussed yet slightly confused. Stu, probably slightly confused and certainly unfocused. Also, by scribbling two words on this image, I have introduced an exciting new angle on a well-worn “which is better?” debate.
stuart spies guy powdrill cheshire cheese campag shimano

WHO: David Streule cycling up some steps
WHERE: Mallorca
PHOTOGRAPHER: Paul Harknett (I think)

mallorca06_0504_davidssteps

Poor Streuley. Arriving at Palma airport for the Dynamo training camp in April 2006, the former mountain biker discovered all his luggage and his bike had gone missing somewhere between Heathrow and Mallorca. But did he let that get him down? Of course not – and here’s the proof, as the baby-faced wonderman delights in showing off his superior bike-handling skills during a rest day coffee stop.

WHO: Guy Andrews
WHERE: Mallorca 2006 training camp time trial
PHOTOGRAPHER: Unknown

mallorca06_0504_timetrial_guya

To a casual onlooker, it may seem like Rouleur’s head honcho, seasoned time trialist and Dynamo co-founder Guy Andrews wasn’t taking this prestigious event entirely seriously.

WHO: Jenny Lloyd-Jones stuck between Stuart Spies and Dave Gardner
WHERE: Christmas social
PHOTOGRAPHER: Me

jenny lloyd jones dave gardner stu spies xmas social

A frankly terrible photo from a compositional perspective, and I apologise to Stu for cutting off half his face. Although, come to think of it, he could have been photobombing – in which case, Stu, you bloody idiot, you’ve spoilt a perfectly good snap of the 2006 Christmas social. Anyway, Stupot isn’t the most important element of this scene, and it was only a few months ago that the person in the background pointed this out to me. Look behind ‘Pinky’ Gardner’s left shoulder and you will see none other than Richard Simmonds – Jenny’s future husband, who she met later that evening. Awwww!

WHO: Russell Short and Martin Garratt
WHERE: Richmond Park
PHOTOGRAPHER: Me

russell short and martin garrett riding

It’s always a unique joy to see Dynamo’s lankiest rider side-by-side with the appropriately-named Mr Short. Despite seeing this scene many times during the past decade, I only thought to take a photo a few weeks ago as we enjoyed a leisurely post-Parkride lap together.

WHO: Someone or other
WHERE: Eastway
PHOTOGRAPHER: John Mullineaux, ukcyclesport.com

sideburns eastway

Seven years before Bradley Wiggins sported a pair of sideburns during his victorious Tour de France, a trailblazing Dynamo showed off a magnificent pair of chops at the legendary Lea Valley circuit. I wonder whatever became of him.

Who is Chris Campbell?

July 19, 2013

Two green Ridley Excaliburs

Sunday was a big day. It was the third and final Richmond Park time trial of the year. My result (28min 50sec, 18th out of 31 in the Men Road category, 56th out of 92 overall) was always going to be of little consequence to me. I was only interested in achieving one goal, fulfilling a unique aspect of what is surely my destiny: this, I knew, was the moment when I, Chris Campbell, would finally meet… Chris Campbell.

The other Chris Campbell has been unwittingly shadowing this Chris Campbell for years. Chris Campbell and Chris Campbell were both Dynamos. For two years in succession, Chris Campbell signed up for the London Dynamo club championships but failed to show, leaving Chris Campbell – me – to ride as the only Chris Campbell in the race. Chris Campbell has also caused momentary confusion in Sigma Sport when I have had to point out on a number of occasions that no, that is not my address, and Pearson Performance briefly thought Chris Campbell’s bike belonged to me when we both had our machines serviced there at roughly the same time. And yet we have never met.

I arrived at 25 minutes to six eagerly hoping Chris Campbell, who is now a member of Kingston Wheelers, would appear in the low-level mist that had covered Richmond Park. I was 17th off at 6:08; the Wheelers’ Chris Campbell would leave the starting line three minutes later. I made a mental note to wait for him at the finish.

Unfortunately I was so knackered by the end I forgot to look out for Chris Campbell. No matter: at the Dynamo social on Thursday, my clubmate Robin Osborne revealed, to my great surprise, that he once knew Chris Campbell. Short and stocky, apparently. Rode a Serotta a few years ago. Zipp wheels.

I waited to see a Wheeler matching that description, to no avail. I asked a couple of Wheelers if they knew Chris Campbell; they didn’t. I was beginning to feel like the protagonist in a Nabokovian meta-prank, hunting for a double who it appeared may not actually exist.

I told former Dynamo Rich Simmonds about my predicament before he accepted his prize for joint first place overall. To my astonishment, it turned out he too knew Chris Campbell… except Rich remembered Chris Campbell as tall and thin, which is what I look like. Was Chris Campbell the physical double of Chris Campbell? Or were there now not two, but three Chris Campbells? After all, I was only assuming Chris Campbell joined Kingston Wheelers after leaving Dynamo; the Wheelers’ Chris Campbell could be a different Chris Campbell altogether. In which case, the three of us could form a club – the Chris Campbell Cycling Club. Or CCCC.

Then I looked at the finishing sheet. It seems the Chris Campbell who is now a Kingston Wheeler may well be the former Dynamo Chris Campbell. For, like the one-time ’Mo, the Wheelers’ Chris Campbell had also not turned up. The only double I got to see was another green Ridley Excalibur.

Curse you, Chris Campbell. Curse you.

What you can learn on a wet Saturday in Richmond Park

June 28, 2013

Last Saturday’s Parkride was a wet one. Consequently, noticeably fewer people than usual turned up. I was in the third group, which was slower than a typical fourth-group ride. But we did have the benefit of clearer roads than usual.

At Dynamo’s AGM in 2011, the club decided to run the Parkride at 8:30am during the summer. Almost as many people voted for an 8am start time – I think there was only around half-a-dozen fewer votes in a room of around 70 people. I was the only person to vote for keeping the time at 9am year-round.

The wet conditions at the last Parkride are the reason why I think it is unnecessary to get out of bed 30 minutes or an hour earlier. It doesn’t matter if you start the Parkride at 8am, 8:30 or nine; the level of traffic in Richmond Park is determined largely by weather conditions. When the sun is out, lots of drivers head to the park. If it rains, drivers stay in bed.

Unfortunately, so do most of the Parkride regulars. Which could be why so many of them don’t realise the weather controls traffic levels.

Look! I’m in a book! (sort of)

April 26, 2013

During the past few weeks, I have set aside my disinterest in all things coffee-related so that I can, in my own small way, aid the delivery of something useful to the caffeinista community. That thing is a book which encourages you – yes, YOU (or maybe not you. We barely know each other. And what do I know anyway?) – to quit your nine-to-five and turn your dream project into a reality, using a table in any Wi-Fi-enabled coffee shop as your new workspace.

out of office cover

Out of Office is written by my friend and yours (if you happen to be an original member of London Dynamo), mister Chris Ward.

out of office chris ward in london dynamo jersey

Chris asked me to help him knock his words into shape, and he has kindly thanked me on page 188 of his compact, 198-page tome…

out of office special thanks

…which, as book publishing high points go, is almost as exciting as the time my patience was graciously acknowledged in the credits of the 2007 Rouleur annual.

rouleur annual 2007 credits

This isn’t all about me, though. Well, it is, because this is my blog. But let’s focus on the other Chris for a second. I’m not terrifically keen on the possibility that cafés could be overrun with wannabe entrepreneurs, or the clunky portmanteau ‘coffice’, but Chris has some insightful things to say about social media, the use of technology and implementing ideas. He’s the fella who brought Friends Reunited to the masses and he’s worked on Red Nose Day, which means he knows what he’s talking about. So even if you don’t walk out of your job and straight into whatever trendy coffee shop everyone is banging on about these days, armed with only a laptop and a dream, you’ll still find something of interest in Chris’s book as long as you have an inquisitive mind.

Out of Office fits in the pocket of your cycling jersey and costs a tenner. It will be on sale in coffee shops and some other outlets, which are listed here. I’m going to read it again. With a tea.

The value of terrible ideas

March 15, 2013

I have many terrible ideas. Whenever I think of a terrible idea, I write it down in my notebook. The DYNAMITE! Notebook Of Terrible Ideas.

the notebook

The words that slide haphazardly out of my pen at odd hours of the night are usually notes for things to post on here, but I never get round to writing them up because I find them far too dull. Some of my scribbles concern non-writing projects, and invariably they go nowhere – so you’ll be surprised as I was to discover that the fruits of one such mind doodle is actually going to be implemented, and it will affect a few hundred people. Yes, really!

The idea I had is a way of reducing the number of members in London Dynamo without being a total douche about it. Last year numbers peaked at a record of 563, and that figure could head further north as the Cult of Wiggo continues to attract more converts. Maintaining decent, safe standards of riding with so many members, particularly newbies, would be hard. Conversely, Dynamo has always experienced difficulty attracting enough volunteers to help out at races, which every club must do to avoid being blackballed by race organisers.

So how do we keep membership numbers at a manageable level and ensure we have enough ’Mos to marshall? The new approach, as outlined in Dynamo’s latest newsletter, explains how:

When we are hosting a race or event, and we find ourselves short of volunteers, the committee will randomly pick names from the membership list and request help.

Should the member be unable to assist, he/she will be at the top of the list for the next event where we require help.

This would be repeated three times, and should the member be unable to proffer an acceptable excuse, they will be unable to renew their membership.

By making this clear to all renewing members (in 2014) and to new joiners from now on, we hope to retain and attract the right calibre of people to London Dynamo. And frankly, deter those with less generous tendencies – which may of course have an effect on membership numbers. We will be carefully monitoring the effects through the year.

And that, essentially, is the idea I scribbled down nine months ago and subsequently shaped into a proposal to show the committee. I wanted us to avoid actively excluding people, which would be a bit ‘golf club’ and against the inclusive spirit on which Dynamo was founded almost a decade ago, so I thought of introducing an element of obligation which might deter the sort of person who simply wants to ride in a Dynamo jersey without having any real involvement in the club. It also seems obvious that pricing hasn’t worked – the club used to offer a £10 reduction in membership fees if you marshalled, so most people simply bought themselves out of the deal by paying the extra tenner – and a recent short-lived scheme to offer small prizes for marshalling also had no effect. I think in both instances there was an incorrect assumption that the club was giving something of value, but it is fairer to say that what members actually value is membership in itself – the rides, the racing, the forum, the networks of friends and cyclists. Make this the reward, create this virtuous circle, and you should have a willing pool of helpers.

That’s the theory, anyway. Regardless of what happens, though, I will at least have proved to myself that by having lots of terrible ideas, you eventually come up with a pretty decent and usable one.

Cycling clubs should be less popular, but they aren’t

January 25, 2013
The Dynamo club championships: racers and non-racers, united. And not arguing.

The Dynamo club championships: racers and non-racers, united. And not arguing.

You know me, reader. You know the sort of person I am. I’m an honest man, and I will always endeavour to give you the unvarnished truth. So I feel I can tell you that London Dynamo hasn’t been travelling a smooth road lately.

Behind the walled city of our members-only forum, a few ’Mos have loudly complained that the club has lost its focus. Dynamo finished a mere sixth in the Surrey League last year – please, hold back your tears – and some of our more experienced racers feel the club’s racing culture has been eroded as more sportive riders have flooded in.

Despite my fondness for a good old ding-dong, I’m not too bothered by this contretemps. A lot of our big Surrey League point-scorers stopped racing for the club because they moved out of London or had kids. But a healthy number of newer members are going to Hillingdon to try out racing at the Imperial Winter Series, and more riders will make the transition from sportives to road racing. You’ve just got to give it time.

Nevertheless, the issue of how to handle the club’s ever-expanding size is likely to provide animated discussion at this year’s AGM, which takes place tomorrow. Some disillusioned members might not come along to join in with the arguments because they have decided not to renew their memberships. But it is notable that many more haven’t already left. Veteran club cyclist Tim Hilton, in his charming, freewheeling cultural history One More Kilometre And We’re In The Showers, observed that any cycling club’s maximum number of members was usually around 100. “The history of British cycling tells us that defections will occur, or a formal split, if this number is exceeded.” London Dynamo reached Hilton’s benchmark within 12 months, and by the end of 2012 – its ninth year – there were 560 paid-up members.

And these days there isn’t an imperative to join a cycling club in the first place. With GPS devices, newcomers to the sport can easily discover and navigate training rides themselves. Personal trainers can provide you with a training plan, or you can filch knowledge from books, magazines and the internet to create your own. You could even learn the basics of roadcraft from YouTube.

In this context, London Dynamo and other large clubs should be the HMVs of the cycling world, lumbering beasts struggling to adapt to the digital age. But instead of facing extinction or decline, membership numbers in most large clubs I know of are rising or remain high. Strava’s virtual club runs haven’t made a dent in the popularity of our rides, and the Rapha Rendezvous app, which aimed to connect users looking for others to ride with them, quietly disappeared some time during the past year.

So why are cycling clubs doing so well? I think the fundamental reason is that cycling can be bloody miserable. Before reaching the sunlit uplands of peak fitness, you must endure scores of desultory, rain-soaked miles, so it helps if you can be among a large group of people offering each other moral support along the way. The other key reason is the randomness: you can turn up week after week for a club run and never know exactly who you’re going to meet. A big club like ours can be a new club, or at least a slightly different one, every time you turn up for a ride.

But you can’t have amity without enmity, which is why I value the sometimes vociferous debates that take place within Dynamo, and the wide differences between members’ participation in the sport. The club will never be just a load of stats and info on a screen; we’re a living entity, and arguments are a sign of life, however ugly.

Off for a bit

December 25, 2012

I’m off to do nothing in particular except eat lots of food and lark around with Jen. I’m grateful to everyone who has visited this blog over the past year, so have a good one, and I’ll see you back here in the New Year. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a brief account of what will probably be my last long ride of 2012: the London Dynamo Christmas jaunt, which took place last Thursday.

About two dozen of us met at Dish café in Hampton Court. We split into groups of eight and rode to Windsor and back. The sky was dark for most of the journey and it was raining constantly. A couple of ’Mos were dressed head-to-toe in commuter-type waterproofs. One brave chap wore shorts. All of us got soaked through. Thankfully, I had the foresight to drop off a bag at my chum Paul Callinan’s house prior to setting off for Dish, so I was able to get changed into dry clothes before heading to The Albert pub on Kingston Hill for post-ride canapés and drinks. The picture below, which I took at the pub, appears to show a well-oiled Nigel Smith (he’s furthest away, by the TV) and Paul Harknett comparing the size of something. Perhaps it was the length of time they had each spent on the Dynamo committee.

Nigel Smith and Paul Harknett at The Albert

The Christmas ride, which is an annual fixture in the Dynamo calendar, is my favourite club event. No one really does it because they need the training; if you come, it’s for the sheer pleasure of riding your bike and being with like-minded people. It’s club riding in its purest and most essential form, and that’s why I’ll be back next Christmas for more.

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