RIP Queen of Soul

Sun is setting gently over the valley. A quiet evening in, TV off, listening to Aretha Franklin playlists in respect of the Queen of Soul who died yesterday. One of my absolute favourite singers.

I have been singing R.E,S.P.E.C.T all day, not least on my bike ride to work this morning. 1 song, nearly 90 minutes. Seems right.

Great playlist in the Guardian this morning too – here. 

I guess you could click on any link and hear something great. But for fun and entertainment from someone who could do everything – her turn in the Blues Brothers movie near steals the whole show.


Easter in Flanders – a cycling pilgrimage


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Time for a quick gallery of photos from Tour of Flanders weekend! It is the first weekend in April and there is only one place to be for cycling fan in Belgium. Once again I had the best excuse to … Continue reading

Spirits rising – the familiar made special


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I am going to write about a short but wonderful bike ride, a ride that left me buoyed up by the beauty to be found in a familiar landscape. But make me a promise. Before you read this in full … Continue reading

Message to myself – “do not despair”


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Close followers of this blog will perhaps have noted that my “first day” blog post from Taipei Cycle Show was nearly 12 days ago and there has been nothing since. Yes, there were some memorable experiences on the following days … Continue reading

My Ghent Six Day 2016.  If this was the Wiggins finale then “thanks for the ride, Sir Bradley”


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A couple of weeks ago I went to the Ghent Six Day cycle race with my Dad for my second immersion in this Flemish temple of cycling, cycle sport turned into pure entertainment. And once again I was captured by … Continue reading

It’s the weekend – shed your monster! I’m going to, how about you?

Wonderful stuff again from our friends at People for Bikes in the US.

This is so me.

To be added to my cycling video library and shared with lots of friends.

See you in the shed.

(Email recipients of this post may not see the video link, please go to the original post in your browser)

A song to be played while repairing bikes: – “Shipbuilding”.


When I am working in my bike shed there is a song that sometimes comes suddenly when the music payer shuffles the tunes, then becomes an earworm that stays with me for the rest of the day. It is a special song anyway, but I give it a little cycling twist when I am working on my bikes.

It is the beautiful and moving 1983 song “Shipbuilding”, written by Elvis Costello and Clive Langer and first recorded by English singer songwriter Robert Wyatt.

On first impressions this can be taken as a song of optimism. The words talk of possibilities from a new job

A new winter coat,

And shoes for the wife

And a bicycle

On the boy’s birthday

Of course, a bicycle for the boy, who couldn’t love that idea as a symbol of hope?

However the song has a dark side. Because the “Shipbuilding” in the title is the possible return of shipbuilding and repairing to the British shipyards of Scotland, Northern Ireland and the North East of England, places that had been hardest hit by recession in the 1970s and early 1980s. The rumour that there might be shipbuilding again came because Britain was sending a military task force to the Falkland Islands, a war that would be fought mostly at sea.

And it is those self-same suffering industrial areas that supplied the much of the British forces at the time. Woven through the lyrics are the pains of war,

They’ll be reopening the shipyard
And notifying the next of kin once again

So Costello had actually written a protest song that reflected the impact on the people who not valued by the Thatcher Government, but were now needed both to fight and rebuild the ships. A painful reminder of one of the most challenging periods of our not so distant past and one where I cannot help but be in sympathy with Costello’s words.

He says in interviews that he wasn’t being alarmist or morbid, but he also says they were possibly the best lyrics he ever wrote, reflecting the complexity and depth that he put into a short “pop” song. “Diving for dear life, when we could be diving for pearls….”

I have added below Youtube links to both versions, you can enjoy the sparseness of the Robert Wyatt version or the virtuoso jazz trumpet on Costello’s own recording that for me just adds to the poignancy. (Email readers may have to visit the original blog post on for these links to work)

I sing these words out loud when I am working, if nothing else because I can. But I do have my own special version that has emerged from the bike workshop. Last year when I was making my first attempt at removing and replacing a wheel rim when the song came on and almost without thinking I replaced the words “shipbuilding” with “wheelbuilding”.

Dropouts 3And I have carried the idea ever since that this song can become a true song of hope when old areas of industrial decline get a glimmer of optimism because they are re-opening old bicycle factories to satisfy the demands of a new society.

Listen, enjoy, reflect and maybe in your bike shed you will sing of wheelbuilding too. I hope so.


Beautiful time lapse cycling video from Australia – one for my library

I was pointed to this beautiful time-lapse video sequence of a long distance cycle ride in Australia by Cycleclips, the weekly email from CTC, the UK’s cyclists charity. It seemed even more timely because I was in Australia when I watched it.

The newsletter said:

Audax Alpine Classic, a short film shot over four days and nights which captures in extraordinarily detailed time lapse photography the 2000 cyclists taking part. The riders in the 250km audax event look like miniature models as the stunning scenery looms above them.

It is only four minutes long but worth every second. Email recipients of the blog may need to read this post in your browser to see the film, or click on the link below to go to the page on Vimeo.

Film on Vimeo here

If you like an eclectic selection of other cycling videos then try my Video Library page

“The Quiet Season” – beautiful cycling film

Those of my followers who are also members of CTC, the UK cyclists’ charity, will have received a link to this lovely short cycling film in their weekly news email this week.

Editor Julie Rand wrote:

The beautiful, lyrical film from the US that explores the joy and solace of long, country rides

I couldn’t agree more, it feels like some of the rides in my blog set to music and poetry.

Great way to start the weekend Julie, thanks.

How did I miss this at the time – David Byrne’s brilliant “Poem for Cyclists” (from 2011)

One of the joys of blogging and social media such as Twitter is the constant sharing. Little gets by the eagle eyes of the on line world, I am a bit of a newbie here so it is a complete delight when somebody comes up with a past gem that I didn’t see at the time rather than always chasing the new.

Last week I just happened to see a Tweet from journalist Carlton Reid who is always a good source and I couldn’t help but click.

Carton reidThe link took me to a 2011 Youtube which was apparently hand-filmed from the audience at the 2011 International Green Energy Economy Conference in Washington DC.

It is little wonder it is great, David Byrne’s book Bicycle Diaries is one of my very best cycling reads and a bit of an inspiration for this blog, he captures the feeling of cycling round cities so well. I have also had Talking Head’s “Once in a lifetime” on an old compilation CD that I carried round the world since 1986, so his music has been a companion too.

Play this full screen. relax. Breathe.

Doesn’t that feel better.

And it is the perfect follow up to the “14 best cycling movie clips” that I posted a few weeks ago. This filmed poem has an astonishing 45 cycling clips in just under 4 minutes. If I ever run a cycling quiz again I know where I am going to source my questions for the film round. I reckon I got between 10 and 15. Anybody out there want to claim a better score?

And of course it is now added to my Video Library of best cycling clips, which I do hope you have visited at some time.

Blog posts I wish I had written – this time “14 best bike scenes in movies”

Why 14?

No idea. But Ross McG in the Metro has put together a 14 of the best this week because he heard about the possible Lance Armstrong movie coming soon.

I know it has been done before, but I really enjoyed his list.

I’m not to steal his thunder because all the Youtubes are up on the Metro site here but I’d like to prompt the debate. Somehow I want to add most of his clips to my video library.

Likes? Well his number 1 was one of the first clips I put in my cycling video library, so it has to be my winner too.

Jason Statham on a BMX bike was surprisingly fun even if I wouldn’t watch a Jason Statham movie if you paid me. I was more interested in considering who did the stunts – was it one of the top trials riders?

Strangest clip? “A Scanner Darkly” was a new one on me. Cartoon cluelessness about cycling channeled by Woody Harrelson and Robert Downey Jr. What were they on?

And finally a special mention for a very special clip.

I do a lot of public speaking about cycling and I have a fond place in my repertoire for Stephen Spielberg. When you give someone a bicycle for the very first time you give them wings, you give them the nearest feeling to flight that many of us will ever have.

It takes a great storyteller to capture that. When I want to inspire an audience I remind them that the moment that Elliot takes flight on his bike in ET is the closest anyone has ever got to filming to the moment we first rode a bike. That is precious, that is the gift we bring to the world. We make people fly.

So that is the one clip I will play today.

The odd feeling of seeing yourself transformed into a cartoon – SRAM Urban Cycling Days video

I have recently been shown the animation that SRAM created from their Urban Days event where I was a speaker and participant in May. Previous post here

The weirdest feeling – seeing yourself as an animation.

However I think we have all enjoyed the concept, I think they did a pretty good job of bringing it to life.

The full video with an hour’s very enjoyable debate about the future of urban cycling is also on line. I thoroughly enjoyed the discussions with Stan Day (SRAM), Stephan Augustin (BMW) and John Kock (Springtime). It is a pity that the presentation from Stephan isn’t on line with the others, its the kind of thing the bike world needs to see to remind us that while we advocate the car industry isn’t standing still.