Posts Tagged ‘Rapha’

‘Beginnerism’? It’s ‘expertism’ that we don’t need

March 28, 2014

Update, April 17: Collyn has now taken her post down, but you can still read it here.

Collyn Ahart, the Siobhan Sharpe of women’s cycling, wrote a blogpost that has been doing the rounds recently, and there is a great deal I find odd about it. In case you are one of the few people who hasn’t come across her promotional spiel masquerading as a feminist cri-de-coeur, her key observation is this: brands and the media tend to address women cyclists as if they are all beginners, which comes across as patronising and diverts everyone’s attention away from the higher end of the spectrum. She calls this state of affairs “beginnerism” and it’s the reason why her nascent company won’t be making cycling clothing.

I would’ve thought any aspiring businessperson, if they really had spotted how badly other companies are serving their customers, would consider this an opportunity rather than a reason to retreat before they have even begun. It’s as if Collyn has come up with an elaborate, face-saving excuse because she doesn’t want to enter a crowded market and fail. Or this could be a setup for a self-regarding return to the fray at some point in the future (Hey girls! I couldn’t turn my back on you! I shall be your saviour from patronising pink lycra! And I’ll do it in, like, a totally non-patronising way!). Whatever the reason, it seems clear from Collyn’s tone – apparently “everyone” is surprised by her announcement – that we are meant to consider this a decision of great moment and import. You can decide for yourself whether or not this is the case.

Targeting entry-level riders is probably a useful strategy from a business perspective. Far fewer women than men ride bicycles, but their number is increasing as cycling generally becomes more popular, so it seems sensible that manufacturers and magazine editors would focus on what appears to be a growing part of the market. And contrary to what Collyn suggests, wasn’t targeting newcomers how her exemplar Rapha started out? As I recall, it was initially the post-Armstrong crowd who rode around with ‘PEYRESOURDE’ and ‘VENTOUX’ emblazoned in bold type beneath their manboobs, not the fanatics who had been following cycling since the days of downtube shifters and Phil Liggett’s voice crackling over a dodgy phone line. Get them when they first venture into cycling, at the very point when they’re at their most enthusiastically receptive, and you’ve got yourself a loyal customer base who will tell their mates how great you are – which in Rapha’s case helped them widen their appeal to all kinds of road cyclists, thus generating a revenue of £28million last year alone.

But instead of following the money, Collyn is following the writing of Jacques Derrida – although I think the quote she used, “the success of feminism will be its demise”, may be incorrect. I wonder if she meant, “The risk of failure of women’s studies is the risk of its very own success,” which means something else entirely. In any case, I doubt whether any successful CEO has wandered down the path of postmodern philosophy to reach a business decision, so perhaps we should wish her the best of luck with that one.

More importantly, what are we to make of her key assertion – and it is just that: an assertion, offered without any evidence at all – that focusing on beginners has a detrimental effect on encouraging women to “reach up to the next level”? I think the competitive female cyclists I’ve known over the years are smart enough and determined enough to be unaffected by what companies in the cycling industry may or may not think they ought to wear or enjoy. Moreover, it’s a bizarre statement to make so soon after the successful launch of the South East Women’s Time Trial Series, Lizzie Armitstead winning the biggest race of her career and the UCI commencing the broadcast of women’s world cup races. Of course women’s cycling needs more success to breed future inspirational successes like these, but the enemy here is lack of money and investment, not a preponderance of fuchsia jerseys in Evans and too many magazines recycling lists of 10 Top Cycling Tips For Gals.

Collyn’s major clanger, which she hastily amended, was including Jeannie Longo in her list of inspirational women, apparently not realising that the Frenchwoman has been linked to a string of doping allegations. And in what might charitably be called a brave move, she has a pop at a women’s clothing brand. It’s done in a way that makes me wonder where professional opinion ends and passive-aggressive point-scoring begins. I’m not going to get into whether their apparel is appealing or not – that’s for each woman to decide, and as Collyn mentions in her addendum, “women are hard to please,” which I think is putting it mildly. But I would say two things. Firstly, I reiterate my earlier point: if an established company really is getting things wrong, then a newcomer should show them how to do it right and reap the rewards. (Incidentally, I can’t recall Simon Mottram having a dig at, say, Endura or any other specific sportswear brand when Rapha started out, and Collyn may like to reflect why this was the case.) Secondly, I think it’s a bit rich for Collyn to write: “This ‘girl power’ thing is all a bit too much protestation. Empowered people don’t have to tell people they’re empowered.” Surely, for any company, spelling out your philosophy in broad terms to your potential customers is just part and parcel of the language of marketing. Those who are outsiders and brave, for example, don’t need to say they are brave and outsiders either, yet those are the words which are plastered over the website for Collyn’s yet-to-be-launched clothing brand.

I suppose if you are prone to coining Siobhan Sharpe-style catchwords, you could call this mixture of cluelessness and assertiveness ‘expertism’ – a sort of evidence-free, self-promoting, faux-expertise. Women will think what they like, but I find it draining and cynical. Give me the imperfect idealism of beginners any day.

Is cycling rock or pop? (Answer: it’s pop.)

March 14, 2014

I like pop. Big pop. Enormopop. The type of pop it’s usually not OK to like – the synthetic, bright, ebullient kind which sounds as if it could’ve been assembled on the sort of machine you are reading these words from, because it usually is. I like voices – typically, women’s voices – that sound as if they have rocketed across oceans to reach your heart, and in an age where a song could have been recorded anywhere, they probably did. I like Sia, Robyn, Scherzinger, Gaga, the Aloud, that sort of thing. And as a committed bicycleperson, that puts me in a very small minority. Possibly a minority of one.

One of the shortest conversations I had in the Rouleur office was about the 2009 Eurovision song contest, even though I was raving about the spiralling, doomed romanticism of Patricia Kaas’s Et S’il Fallait Le Faire, which I thought would be right up their rue. A few years later at a Dynamo Christmas do, a fellow member asked me, in a manner which suggested he wanted reassuring that this was the case, if my frequent tweets about the X Factor were meant ironically (they weren’t). I can understand his concern: cycling, at least the type of cycling I enjoy, has more in common with the appreciation of rock, which hardly makes it the ideal environment for a TV-talent-show-loving nincompoop like myself. There’s an old belief, the lead singer of the Kaiser Chiefs recently noted, that you’re not in a bona fide band until you’ve gone “up the M1 500 times”; similarly, there are those who believe that you’re not a proper cyclist until you’ve got a few thousand miles in your legs (which, of course, have to be hard miles, up hills and mountains). Road cycling is about paying your dues and observing tradition: drop handlebars, 700c wheels and a diamond-shaped frame are its guitar, bass and drums. Cycling wears a serious face in monochrome, often amid a remote, enveloping natural landscape, like Joshua Tree-era U2 (a sullen aesthetic which, Raphaistas should note, even the world’s most ludicrously earnest band eventually had to abandon). The message, as crushing as a powerchord, is clear: cycling has a deep, inscrutable meaning; cycling is tough; cycling is 4 Real.

Or is it? Throughout my musical life, I’ve often felt excluded from the seriousness of being a rock fan – its various modes of rebellion, the accumulation of arcane knowledge, the penetration of the obligatory veil of mystery. The world of club cycling, on the other hand, I’ve found to be welcoming and jolly, despite – or maybe to mitigate – the physical pain you have to endure to be any good at it. And whereas rock can often feel like an exclusive club in which its members are obliged to venerate the ‘right’ artists and the ‘right’ albums, cycling won’t show you the door if you can’t tell your Coppi from your Bartoli, although it might point you in the direction of a detailed, hardback tome.

Watching a key moment in a race, such as Froome attacking Quintana on Mont Ventoux, gives me the same rush I get from pop. How could it not? Because, at its very core, cycling has a throbbing pop heart.

For a start, cycling, like pop, is a bastard form. Pop is a magpie nicking ideas – sounds, melodies, riffs, looks – from whatever genre it can find and repurposing them in a new form. Cycling did this when it pinched the downhill tuck from skiing and came up with the aerobar. The manufacturing know-how that produces many of the groupsets in the peloton came from golf and fishing equipment. Some of the training principles that put the current champion of the Tour de France on the top of the podium in Paris originated in swimming. Pop is manufactured, and so to is the constantly-evolving object at the core of cycling, the bicycle. There is no room for a blues-like purity in such a modern, inquisitive sport.

On an immediate, visual level, cycling is also identifiably pop. The rush of colours that constitute the pro peloton has an unabashed, gaudy, Roy Lichtenstein look about it. From a less artistic standpoint, the Tour’s post-stage shows became the inspiration for the Radio 1 Roadshow after station controller Johnny Beerling stumbled across them while on holiday in France. And, fundamentally, cycling shares pop’s commercial instincts: even though a race can make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, it nevertheless exists primarily as a sponsors’ billboard.

Pop’s message, if it has one, is that the most thrilling place to be is the present. And is that not the feeling you experience when you’re completely immersed in a race – any race? Whenever I come across enthusiasm for a relatively obscure non-European event, I’m struck by how the more committed type of cycling fan exists at an emotional frequency as high as their pop counterparts. Compare this to football, where pre-season friendlies – the equivalent of the tour of Oman or Dubai – are considered so uninteresting that the great Danny Baker recently suggested that they should be held behind closed doors.

So let’s abandon the mythologising, tradition-heavy, rock-like paradigm we use to frame our perception of cycling. Pop is unhip. Pop requires no chin-stroking expert’s permission to exist. And those, to me, are the qualities that are at the very root of why we love cycling.

The DYNAMITE! Five: the month in cycling, remixed. February 2013

February 28, 2013

5 UP The Pope
God moves in mysterious ways – so it could have been divine inspiration that prompted an inquisitive journalist to ask Marcel Kittel, “Did the Pope’s resignation give you extra motivation?” following the young German’s victory in the opening stage of the Tour of Oman. Commentator Matt Keenan reports that the question “was met with bemused silence”. Maybe the heat had got to the unnamed hack – or he thought the relatively little-known early season race was called The Tour Of Amen. It’s an easy mistake to make.

4 UP Osen
This little-known Rapha rip-off, spotted by former Perren Streeter Luke Scheybeler, could do with a viral marketing campaign if they want to make their Korean brand a No.1 hit in the UK. How about a pop video of a dapper loon doing an exuberant dance which mimics riding a bike with one hand? Chaingang-nam style. Over to you, Luke. Op, op, op!

3 DOWN Cycling to school
“It would be a national scandal if a school situated within view of the 2012 Box Hill Olympic cycling race introduced a policy that forces pupils into cars.” Well, it should be a scandal, but apparently it isn’t, despite concerned parent James Harvey’s eloquent summation of the decision by North Downs Primary School to ban pupils cycling or walking to two of its sites because of the perceived danger. Memo to Surrey County Council: if the roads really are that dangerous, then maybe you should be targeting motorists instead.

2 DOWN The Guardian
Taking up the cause of his chums in the US who are, like, totally pissed that Lance Armstrong is now using Strava, the Guardian’s Matt Seaton writes: “Of any segment of the American public, this is probably the community that is best-informed, cares most about clean cycling, and feels most betrayed by Armstrong’s cheating.” To which non-Stravistas might respond to the adoptive American’s buddies: relax, er, ‘dudes’. He won’t be using any of Dr Ferrari’s Special Sauce this time. Strava is the one ‘race’ Armstrong can win without doping and, in a just world, he should have been sequestered to it a long time ago. If he doesn’t end up in chokey, getting mired in an online willy-waving ‘King of the Mountains’ purgatory could be the next best thing…

sean yates at hillingdon winter series 2013 3rd cat race
1 UP Sean Yates
Meanwhile, back in Matt’s homeland, an altogether more tolerant attitude to the EPO era was on display when an alleged friend of the infamous Motoman decided to slum it in the lowly 3rd cat race at the penultimate fixture of the Hillingdon Winter Series. Sean Yates (yes, that’s him above on the Team Sky Pinarello, and there are more pics here) was given a warm welcome, which is more than can be said for Eurosport’s Tony Gibb, who was ejected from the series for bollocking his fellow competitors. First Lance, now Tony – who can we believe in anymore?

The DYNAMITE! Five: the month in cycling, remixed. January 2013

January 31, 2013

5 DOWN Assos winter kit assos winter kit at bike show
From the Swiss outfitters who gave you The Homoerotic Mandroid comes another unique way of celebrating the male body: a pair of winter leggings that will turn your balls blue. Isn’t that what they’re supposed to prevent, guys? Cycling Weekly, which photographed The Assos Circle Of Cyan on a dummy’s gentleman’s area at the Cycle Show, has failed to provide a photograph of the garment’s rear view. Which is probably just as well.

4 UP The Urban Cyclist
In the ever-competitive world of cycling magazines, plucky newcomer The Urban Cyclist makes a strong bid for Most Fanciful Upgrade Suggestion: a £649 five-spoke carbon front wheel for the sort of bike you would normally use to get to work or go down the shops. Apparently the BLB Notorious 05 is “a serious bit of kit”, so no pointing and laughing if you see one, OK?
Urban Cyclist mag carbon wheel test

3 UP Rapha rapha shower made for two story
The fashionable literary genre of S&M appears to have infiltrated one of the mini-stories that Rapha famously sews into its garments. New Sky signing Ian Boswell spotted the intriguing tale of a soigneur climbing into a shower to get his hands on bruised and battered Richie Porte – but how does the steamy story end? James Fairbank, Rapha’s head of marketing, suggests you will need to buy all 11 variations of the new Sky jerseys to find out. Just in case he isn’t joking, here’s a suggestion for a title: 50 Shades Of Gains (Marginal).

2. UP Pinarello
To sneers and groans of disappointment, Halfords has announced it will stock Pinarellos. Who would have thought that a proud, Italian, Tour-winning marque could be sold alongside car stereos and bottles of anti-freeze? Well, for a start, anyone who has been to Pinarello’s hometown of Treviso, where the brand’s name adorns anything from kids’ bikes to sturdy shoppers – the sort of bicycles you would expect to find in, er, Halfords.

1. DOWN Lance and Oprah
Amid the fallout from Doprah, spare a thought for the hitherto unexamined effect on the caffeineistas of Old Street. Popular cyclists’ cafe Look Mum No Hands! announced it would screen Armstrong’s confession and give away coffee every time he shed “crocodile tears” – only for the shameless cheat to avoid delivering a Kleenex moment during the first night of the two-part interview. So no free brews. It’s always the fans who suffer, isn’t it?

The Great Cyclepassion Amnesty

December 16, 2011

I know a person who spent £135 on an empty book (otherwise known as the now-discontinued leather-bound Rapha training diary). I also know someone who, before the Nespresso and similar kitchen appliances became commonplace, would ride from his home to the nearest Starbucks every time he fancied a brew rather than subject himself to the indignity of a cafetiere or instant coffee. And I know two grown men who are not the least bit embarrassed about the top tube of their Colnagos bearing the phrase “Extreme Power”, even though such a name would even be too naff to grace the packaging of a disposable razor. (“You don’t want five blades, you don’t want six, seven or eight blades – you want the closer-than-ever-before 22-blade shaving system that only the Wilkinson Extreme Power Titanium Edition With Aloe Vera Lubricating Strip can deliver…”).

Yet despite witnessing a range of unusual and frowned-upon behaviours among a variety of cyclepeople, there is one eyebrow-raising purchase that has seemingly eluded my peers: the Cyclepassion calendar. For I do not know a single person who has ever bought one.

Which, of course, isn’t to say that nobody buys the annual collection of professional female cyclists in their underwear and various other states of undress. The 2012 edition marks the seventh year of its existence, so presumably there are quite a few men interested in this sort of thing; I just don’t know any of them. What I do know, or suspect, given my extensive observations of male cycling fans over a decade-long period, is that Cyclepassion’s punters have probably all enjoyed watching fast, strong women racing in addition to watching fast, strong men. And in any case, the lack of money and exposure currently besetting women’s cycling wouldn’t be ameliorated if a very small minority chose not to display their physiques in glamour shots. So I shall not denounce or blame these men for damaging the perception of women’s cycling, although I remain open to such arguments.

What fascinates me is this: why, when the photographs are freely available on the internet, would anyone need to purchase a Cyclepassion calendar? Isn’t your interest sated, like mine is, by a quick online gawp? I would also be very interested to know what your wife or partner thinks. Do you have to hang it up in the bike shed so she doesn’t see it?

So it is in the spirit of understanding and sheer nosiness that I am now opening The Great Cyclepassion Amnesty. If you’ve purchased a Cyclepassion calendar – the 2012 edition or any other of the previous years – then get in touch. Tell me why. Your anonymity, should you request it, is assured, gentlemen.

The DYNAMITE! Five: The week in cycling, remixed. Issue #17

September 16, 2011

5 DOWN Kara Kum
It’s been seven days of utter confusion in our famous soundproof bunker. On Friday we thought Rapha had launched a range of jerseys designed to be worn in an insalubrious area of south-east London, until we opened their email and realised it wasn’t that sort of “New Cross Collection”. Then, on Tuesday night, Guy Pearson ended a day at his intriguing new bike boutique in East Sheen by asking “who has the longest regular vomited”, and it took us a few minutes to work out his phone had autocorrected “commute”. So, naturally, when we stumbled across a mention of a bike called Kara Kum on page 195 of the latest Cycling Plus, we thought that too was a typo. But no: Dawes really did christen a bicycle – a women’s-specific bicycle – with a name that sounds like it belongs to a porn star. Which could explain why you don’t see that many women riding them.

4 DOWN Dating
Speaking of rude matters, a matchmaking website called freedating.co.uk has interviewed 10,000 of its members and concluded that cyclists of both genders are less likely than average to get up to a bit of how’s-yer-father on a first date. Reporting on the survey in road.cc on Tuesday, Simon MacMichael mused: “Perhaps the finding reflects the typical cyclist’s behaviour when it comes to buying a new bike, which after all is a relationship that all of us hope will last a long time when contemplating it, and not to be entered lightly.” And you can see where Si is coming from: it may well be the case that fellas are looking for smooth, assured handling, while ladies perhaps want a model that’s stiff yet compliant. But knowing cyclists the way The DYNAMITE! Files does, it’s more probable that competitive cyclepeople equate dating with training, enduring many long, gruelling sessions before the “big event”. Which ends, of course, with bitter disappointment and self-loathing, no matter how vigorous the final spurt.

3 UP The Italian national team’s speed suit
Cycling is all about cultivating an air of mystery; the less you know about a rider, a team or a DT Swiss anodised nipple, the more you want to know. So well done to Cycling Weekly for running a blurry photo of the Castelli San Remo aero skin suit which the Italian team will be wearing at the World Championships in Copenhagen. We should all fool ourselves into believing that the hi-tech outfit is so fast you can barely see it – for the day when a more detailed photograph emerges showing how the design allows you to easily answer a call of nature will be the moment that the spell is broken.

2 UP Green
As a predominantly text-based outlet, this blog cannot claim to know much about colour or design, but we are nevertheless concerned by road.cc’s report that the hue du jour for bikes next year will be green. It’s such a conspicuous colour that having lots of green bikes cluttering up the visual landscape will surely be the equivalent of PUTTING EVERYTHING IN CAPITAL LETTERS. WHAT A – sorry, didn’t realise the caps lock was still on – what a pain.

1 UP Hurricane Katia
Sombre faces at the Tour of Britain on Monday as the 130km stage from Kendal to Blackpool was cancelled to avoid Hurricane Katia transforming the peloton into a human version of a record-breaking domino-toppling display. “In my 30 years of organising cycling events,” said downbeat race director Mick Bennett, “I have never once had to cancel a stage before it even started, so this is not a decision that has been taken lightly.” All of which makes it sound like this wasn’t a great day for the ToB. But it so was! Because the United Kingdom has finally stepped out of the shadows of road racing’s European heartland. Forget the snow-smothered Gavia and the mud-covered cobbles up the Kopp – our proud sceptred isle can now boast that it has hosted a stage so bloody dangerous nobody was actually allowed to race. And our country achieved this milestone by utilising a mainstay of British life: godawful weather. So thank you, Katia – you may from the west coast of Africa, but you will always be British to us.

The DYNAMITE! Five: The week in cycling, remixed. Issue #1

April 8, 2011

5 DOWN Puns
There was a keen sense of anticipation in The DYNAMITE! Files’ famous soundproof bunker last Friday when we tore into our pile of morning papers hoping to witness an orgy of inventive punnery accompanying photos of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Boris Johnson riding the latter’s titular two-wheelers – so you can imagine the intense disappointment when we discovered no one had plumped for “joke pedallers”, “political Raleigh” or “Last Traction Heroes”. In fact, the only pun deployed was – wait for it – “I’ll be bike”, which was used by no fewer than five publications. I’ll be bloody bike! He’s not a bike! Neither of them are! It doesn’t even make sense! The headline should, of course, have been “Faster la Vista, Boris!” But nobody asked us, did they?

4 UP Sponsorship opportunities
Oh, cruel fate! Friend of this blog and all-round nice chap Will Hayter drew his action-packed daily diary of the Absa Cape Epic to a premature close after hitting a ditch and taking a very nasty tumble on last Friday’s 143km-long stage. The DYNAMITE! Files wishes him a speedy recovery, but having seen the wince-inducing footage of his wheel-mangling smash, it can’t help wondering why 12 sponsors would want to associate themselves with such a painful misfortune in the clip’s closing frames. Coming soon: You’ve Been Framed bike crash special, sponsored by [NAME OF WHEEL MANUFACTURER DELETED FOR LEGAL REASONS].

3 UP Wood
Another week, another groundbreaking material surely destined to usurp the carbon stranglehold – and unlike fancy-pants nylon fused by the magic of lasers in a 3D printer, this one is made from those dull, useless bits of scenery you usually ride past, or “trees” as they’re commonly known. For just £4,500, the discerning cyclista is invited to own an Audi-branded wooden bicycle equipped with SRAM Red, which you will no doubt agree is, er, truly unbe-leaf-able. Photographic evidence of two or more of these bikes actually being ridden would be a novelty, if only to make a quip about them being a splinter group.

2 DOWN Lycra
Prepare to overhaul your wardrobe, chums, because the death knell of the cyclist’s fabric of choice was sounded on Monday by no less a clothing authority than a features scribbler from the London Evening Standard. The reason? Apparently Rapha has brought out a pair of jeans which you can’t actually buy at the moment. “Lycra – your days are numbered,” the scribbler concludes, and who knows what outdoor activity will be the next victim of her withering fashionista’s eye? Possible target for the autumn/winter season: those long, thin shoes maniacs use to slide down snow-covered mountains. And the sticks! Those silly sticks! Dahling, they’ve just got to go!

1 UP Emoticons

Poor old RoboFab. The mighty mandroid, known by his adopted human name of Fabian Cancellara, got into a horrible pickle after appearing to be less-than-gracious about the manner of his defeat at Sunday’s thrillingly unpredictable edition of the Tour of Flanders. The pre-race favourite said his rivals rode “only to make me lose” and Nick Nuyens’ victory “has no value” – but as he later explained: “Interviews are not coming out like always I be thinking to say things. Specially now what’s around sounds not me. Lot get lost in translation.” Yet while the subtleties of the Fablish tongue eluded the gentlemen of the press, there could be no misinterpreting the stark binary language of the emoticon on the Swiss cyborg’s back (pictured above) which reflected his fans’ reactions to the race as it unfolded. He’s caught Sylvain Chavanel (AMAZED FACE)! Oh no – he’s cramped on the Muur (AMAZED FACE)! Now Phillipe Gilbert’s gone on the Bosberg (AMAZED FACE)! Fab’s attacked with four kilometres to go (AMAZED FACE)! But Nuyens has got it (AMAZED FACE)! Finally, Team Lay-O-Pard have found a use for that clumsily-pronounced “o”.

Dynamightgiveitamiss No.5: La Gazzetta Della Bolshie

March 14, 2011

UPDATE 19/05/11: It’s taken almost two months, but the Lambsters have finally found this post, and The Berk himself has responded on his blog and Twitter. Apparently I’ve accused him of exploiting his illness for financial gains, I’m a stalker, I want him to shut up and, er, I’m fat (ooh, you BITCH). Of course, none of these statements is even remotely true. Especially the stalker bit – I couldn’t think of anything worse than having to meet The Berk. But this is what angry, slightly dim people do: they make stuff up because they want a fight. And I don’t. Which is why, as I said in my original post, I’ve left the whole pointless world of Dynamoaning behind…

Simon Lamb is a berk. It’s an insult to anyone who is bipolar to dismiss them as simply mad or argue that they are never capable of behaving rationally, or that they have lost the ability to reflect on their actions and own up to their mistakes, so Simon Lamb’s berkishness has absolutely nothing to do with his well-documented condition. (Having said that, the charity Mind might want to consider the wisdom of promoting him in the press as an ambassador for the tolerance and understanding of mental health issues when he demonstrates so little of those two qualities towards those whose unhappiness differs from his own.) But he is unquestionably a berk, and he is a berk for many, many reasons. So if you don’t know or care who Lamb is, now is the moment to bail out of what is going to be a very long post…

For a start, Lamb is a berk because he earned himself a legal warning for branding a blameless journalist a racist without offering any evidence whatsoever to back up his claim. The British writer, he alleged, didn’t give Lamb’s banned hero Alexander Vinokourov a chance to explain himself – a bizarre claim in light of the Kazakh’s unwillingness to offer any sort of credible explanation for his positive doping test. And while I wouldn’t call Lamb a racist, I think he’s a massive berk for not considering that in comparison with the argument about Vino, most people are more likely to raise an eyebrow when a bloke casually uses the phrase “fucking Jews” while tweeting one of his mates.

There’s more, of course. Lots more. Lamb is a berk because he made an unfunny remark about how he would like to see Pat McQuaid die and didn’t apologise when the UCI president’s son politely complained. He’s a berk because his appropriation of a cancer foundation’s logo for his own glorification and, as it appeared to at least one casual observer, seemingly for his own financial gain, was spun into a sentimental story of little-guy-hits-back-at-humourless-legal-bad-guys with, preposterously, none other than Lance Armstrong lurking in the background. He’s a berk for casually mentioning that sales of his massage oils, while perfectly in line with the benefits system he relies on, have funded his sports massage course after originally claiming his website is “purely for my interest in cycling”. He’s a berk when you consider his lofty motto of “calm is the virtue of the strong” is hilariously at odds with the size of his hate list, which includes David Millar, a number of specialist sports magazines, a certain member of Kingston Wheelers cycling club, the Daily Mail and the BBC (surely a unique double-whammy), and, of course, his bete noir Armstrong. And he’s a berk for attacking Shutt Velo Rapide when the fledgling clothing manufacturer allegedly suffered quality control problems with his jerseys and he didn’t get his way on pricing and copyright issues. (Incidentally, Lamb’s beloved Rapha also had quality control issues in its early days which it resolved, and the company now occasionally sends him free gear to review. And the now-defunct website Lamb used to attack Shutt was Velocast, who seemed to be quite happy with their jerseys, which were made by none other than… Shutt Velo Rapide!)

Simon Lamb is a hopeless, floundering, fulminating berk for all of these reasons, and that is enough in itself for La Gazzetta Della Bici, a landfill site for his petty vendettas, cycling-based trivia and uncaptioned photos of dead sportsmen to make my list of things that are the absolute antithesis of this blog. (Incidentally, what kind of egotistical berk appropriates the name of a famous newspaper just to get a few more hits?) But for me, his biggest act of berkishness was when he found out where a complete stranger worked, sent him an abusive message, and accused him of saying something he didn’t. But I would say that, wouldn’t I? Because I was that stranger who stumbled unwittingly into the weird world of Simon Lamb, an angry man perpetually on the lookout for a fight, and in doing so falling far short of the high standards he sets for others.

In May last year, Lamb discovered I was a member of a cycling club he irrationally despises and used this as the flimsy basis to wrongly claim on Twitter that I wanted him to “shout” (sic) his mouth. (A lovely, prophetic irony: I wouldn’t want my worst enemy to shut his mouth – if I had a worst enemy – but I would love him to shout, and shout his mouth off for as long and as loudly as he could, just so he can prove to as many people as possible what a gigantic idiot he actually is.) The previous night, Lamb had blogged in characteristically intemperate and exaggerated terms about a friend of his who he claimed was bullied by a group of London Dynamo riders on the Parkride, the club’s regular Saturday morning outing in Richmond Park. At the time, Lamb had more than a thousand followers, and the link was retweeted at least a dozen times; understandably, then, there was much anger about the incident, particularly as Lamb’s friend and her mate were female and novices, while the Dynamo riders who were said to be shouting at them to move as they went past (which is what the alleged bullying amounted to) were apparently experienced riders and male.

There were just two problems: the specifics of the incident, in the terms Lamb described them, in all likelihood didn’t take place, and he wasn’t there at the time (to this day, no one seems to know who those Dynamos were). The woman, perhaps realising what had actually happened during those fraught moments at that particular road’s busiest time, or maybe concerned at Lamb’s disproportionate anger, apparently got him to call off the dogs after a few days of his unedifying swear-packed tweets, which he had used to propose a ludicrous theory that the majority of Dynamos let the minority get away with pushing around other riders – in other words, fostering a culture of bullying. Behind the scenes, a number of reasonably well-known London-based cycling bloggers were distancing themselves from Lamb’s remarks, and a respected journalist from a bike magazine (not the one he would later brand a racist) expressed his concerns, prompting Lamb to award him the sobriquet of… well, it begins with a “c” and he uses it a lot, so you can probably guess. But it was some subtle diplomacy from the guys who run the club that really did the trick – and so, without his friend to publicly back up his dramatic claims, Lamb turned down an offer to meet the Dynamo committee and removed all the relevant posts from his blog before tweeting a lame warning to the “cowards” in Richmond Park. Ironically, given his readiness to brand other people cowards, that tweet was also later deleted – a common occurrence in the world of Lamb, and the reason I began screengrabbing so many of them. Unfortunately, his deleted blog posts weren’t quite as perishable: they were picked up by another blog, which you can still find with a bit of googling.

London needs Dynamo, despite all its imperfections. Before it began, club cycling in the capital was a closed-off world to anyone who wanted to join the sport (I know because I was one of them), and its club rides still attract scores of cyclists of all abilities throughout the year. But to internet-dwelling wingnuts such as simple Simon, it matters little that Dynamo has welcomed hundreds of people into the sport he supposedly loves, helped them become decent cyclists, and become an actual, real-life community of friends. It also doesn’t matter to them that its committee acts as a means for ordinary cyclists to express their concerns to the authorities dealing with Richmond Park (you have LD partly to thank for partially resolving the horrid resurfacing) or that a committee member recently persuaded the owners of the much-loved MoD track in Chertsey to reopen it for a one-day trial run. Neither do they care that the club takes a very dim view when its members genuinely fail to ride with consideration and care for others. Lamb and others like him see the oft-quoted figure of 400 members and simply equate big with bad. Their attacks follow a tried-and-tested formula: make a false or exaggerated claim on the internet, maintain a level of anonymity by declining the offer of a face-to-face chat and a coffee (easy to set up, given that most of the friendly committee and the faceless complainants are both usually in Richmond Park on Saturday mornings) and fantasise about physically attacking a Dynamo or, in a particularly nasty case on the wretched Veloriders forum which has since been deleted, seeing one of them die. In the face of ever-increasing membership numbers, they also ignore a simple question: why haven’t members left the club in droves if they’re supposedly surrounded by a bunch of arrogant bastards? Wouldn’t you leave if that was the case? Maybe Dynamo has become big in a relatively short space of time because it’s friendly and well-run – or is that statement just too straightforward and logical to comprehend?

And whatever half-baked theory the haters propose, there are numerous sensible counter-arguments. Yes, I’m sure some Dynamos have shouted at other cyclists and switched wheels, but then I’ve witnessed riders from other teams and clubs do the same for years. Yes, poor bike handling has been a feature of LD rides, mainly because a greater proportion is inexperienced in comparison to other large clubs, yet Dynamo’s safety record in relation to the number of miles covered is nevertheless excellent. Yes, it can be intimidating when an experienced group of ‘Mos passes you at speed, even though they endeavour to do it safely – although for every rider who complains we’re going too fast, another will say we’re going too slow. And yes, Dynamos have, regrettably, sometimes been witnessed behaving aggressively when commuting, but then the blue, black and orange tops are a commoner sight than other clubs’ jerseys on London’s streets. (A pertinent, if somewhat vain fact: the look of Dynamo’s kit is one of the most popular reasons members give for joining, which could mean that in comparison with other similar-sized clubs, Dynamos are more likely to wear club colours when not riding with their clubmates.) In truth, Dynamos aren’t ruder than anyone else, nor is there a greater likelihood of them breaking the rules; there are just more of us, and we’re more conspicuous.

Lamb, however, differs in two respects from your typical Dynamo-hater. Firstly, he may not have only fantasised about violence, if his claim that he was a member of a group of football hooligans called the 6.57 crew is anything to go by. And secondly, he is now attempting to show us all how things should be done by starting his very own cycling club – and in the words of one of his internet chums which he was only to happy to use as promotion for his new venture, it’s the “polar opposite” of the outfit which has had such a Lambasting.

Men and women’s racing teams, strong representation at sportives, a website functioning as a virtual clubhouse, weekly club rides and members of all abilities (some of whom are based overseas), not to mention supporting good causes… Gruppo Sportivo Gazzetta’s list of aims is notably ambitious and, perhaps not co-incidentally, somewhat similar to what London Dynamo has already achieved along the way. Indeed, GS Gazzetta, to use its slightly less cumbersome appellation, also seems to share a core Dynamo value in the sense that Lamb realises the importance of having well-designed kit, although the pre-release photos reveal he’s played it a little too safe with an uninspired, Rapha-lite, white-on-black design. Nevertheless, the Gazzas do, as Lambster Tom claims in the above link, represent a real difference to the club I’ve been a member of since its inception, so much so that they may as well be called Not London Dynamo, which would at least be less of a mouthful. And the difference with Not London Dynamo is this: its two leaders, for all their enthusiasm, appear to be remarkably inexperienced riders. Having ridden myself with Lamb’s chum Teresa Houghton and spoken with a friend who rode the London to Paris with her, I would suggest that her focus on spin classes has had a detrimental effect on her ability to develop group riding skills. Lamb, meanwhile, had been riding for barely more than a year when he fractured his left arm and collarbone and wrote off his bike on Not London Dynamo’s first-ever ride last November. In terms of serious accidents per total miles travelled, the Gazzas immediately became a more crash-prone club than London Dynamo before it had even officially accepted its first membership application. Quite an achievement.

Contrast Not London Dynamo – essentially a group of strangers who met on the internet – with the pedigree of London Dynamo’s founders: an accomplished time trialist (Guy Andrews), a talented former BMXer (Russell Short) and a pretty handy road racer (Paul Callinan). That’s a huge range of skills to pass on, especially to the fat, clueless novice I used to be, and of much more practical use than, say, the ability to crow about owning Michael Barry’s hat collection. As far as I’m concerned, Not London Dynamo doesn’t deserve to call itself a cycling club unless it can develop skills and encourage safe riding, because that, essentially, is the true value of the club system. But I wouldn’t hold your breath: contradicting the official rules on the Gazzas’ site, Lamb himself apparently wants his “club” to ignore the two abreast formation fundamental to safe riding because they are supposed to be a “rabble”. He expressed this view a week after coming off, so his accident may have been caused by more than just an error on his part. If that’s the case, the haters will now have another bunch of riders to moan about, perhaps with good reason this time. If they don’t, well, there’s plenty of other reasons to take issue with Lamb, and that could be why he shut down his personal Twitter account a few weeks ago: get off the stage before the audience turns and the rotten tomatoes come flying your way…

I wrote all this for two reasons. Firstly, terms such as “bloody Dynamos” have become the equivalent of “bloody cyclists” for people who ride a bike but are now just as intransigent as the type of motorists all riders dislike, and while I no longer enjoy poking fun at these idiots for using the club I love as their personal punchbag, I couldn’t walk away from these pointless arguments for good without setting the record straight. Secondly, there is virtually no criticism of Lamb online, which is a marked contrast to many of the face-to-face conversations I’ve had during the past ten months, so I wanted to redress that balance in a small way on this little blog – and for the record, I honestly harbour no desire to rival Lamb’s online presence. Given his previous form, Lamb will probably resort to name-calling and dredge up aspects of my life that have little or nothing to do with cycling; maybe he’ll even trawl through my tweets and falsely reason that some of the opinions I express chiefly to my friends are the same as his targeted, vitriolic hate campaigns. But hey, that’s his call, and a measure of his class or lack of it. Either way, I’m not going to mention his name in these pages ever again, and this entry won’t be open for comments – I’ll leave the half-truths, backbiting and exaggerations for his blog.

If you want to support Mind, you can avoid the Gazzas by donating money to the organisation directly. As for supporting young riders, I would recommend you have a look at the John Ibbotson Fund, or maybe even consider entering its auction for Rouleur issue #1. And here’s a final thought to any Lamb fans – and there appears to be many of them – who believe he should remain beyond criticism because of what he’s been through: some defenders of Armstrong say much the same thing about their hero. Do you think, maybe, that Lamb is using mental health issues in a similar way but on a smaller scale to that which many think his hate-target uses cancer? Because if he is, then Lamb isn’t such a berk after all…

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 27 other followers