What is the point of a cycle touring route if no one knows it is there?

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Is the cycling equivalent of the Buddhist philosophical conundrum “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” This is the question I have been asking myself for a while, a mental discussion triggered by the relatively recent discovery that I … Continue reading

I just want to keep riding

Solvay park morning March 2015

Today I leave for what is now the fourth of my annual trips to Taiwan for the Taipei Cycle Show. Added attractions this year are the Asian Cycling Forum, a big step on the road to our Velo-city 2016 Conference in Taipei and a very special weekend cycling with the wonderful Formosa Lohas Cycling Association team who are going to take me out for a couple of long days in the centre of the island.

It may be the rainy (drizzly?) season but it will be warm and muggy compared to Belgium.

However before I leave I had some personal errands to do so I decided to do them by bike early this morning and then cycle hard for an hour so my body is nicely jaded and I might just sleep on the plane tonight, a process that never comes easily to me.

This was a sharp but wonderful contrast to what I am expecting in Taipei. As I left the house there was a very sharp frost and the first 70 metre drop to the valley below left me gasping in shock. But the place was bathed in sharp morning light which began to warm everything with a golden glow. An hour later as I rode through the woods I felt this was going to be the perfect day to spend the whole day riding,

Belgian woods March 2015

I just wanted to set off on a huge adventure on my two wheeled companion and “not come back till tea-time” as we might have said in a children’s book. What a waste to be stuck in a metal tube for hours.

Taipei will be wonderful again, stand by for lots of blogging. But I have unfinished business with these spring mornings in Belgium.

A Happy New Year to Steve Abraham as he sets off to break the world annual mileage record – either the craziest or greatest ride in history!

On January 1st a British cyclist called Steve Abraham sets off to attempt one of cycling’s most challenging records.

He aims to ride more than 75,000 miles in a year, breaking a record that has stood since 1939. He needs an average mileage of 205 miles a day, every day. If he misses even one day he then has to get that mileage back in future days.

The record has for many years been regarded as almost unachievable. If nothing else the sheer mental task has scared potential candidates, but there is the need to stay fit and healthy every day for the whole year while putting that stress on the body. It is four times further than the cycling round the world record. There is even a suggestion that the Guinness Book of Records regards the record as too dangerous and discourages other attempts. Since 1939 many have considered it, a few have tried and only one man got there but his record was annulled because of concerns over validity.

Tommy Godwin set the current record in 1939. He rode a heavy steel steed with just four gears and towards the end of his ride he had to carry on at night during the blackout of the early months of the Second World War. He also carried on to be the fastest man to reach 100,000 miles.

So a modern rider with a lightweight bike and modern smooth roads should have huge advantage, even if our roads are more clogged by traffic lights and other bothersome features.

But anyone taking on his record is not just racing the milometer, they are chasing the mythology of a man regarded as one of the hardest men ever to ride a bike, supposedly winning his first race at the age of 14 on a butcher’s bike.

However in the community of long distance cyclists there is just a small sense that “If anyone can, Steve can.”

He is one of the most prolific mile-eaters in the community of long distance riders represented by the form of riding called Audax or randonneuring. He already has a year where 25,000 miles were chalked up in recognised Audax UK events, the record number ever recorded, while holding down a full time job. This means he has regularly completed rides of over 1000km, riding through the night. So when it comes to the long summer days when he will need to build up a lot of distance Steve is one of the most experienced riders around.

My mind just boggles at the prospect. And I say very quietly to my friends and family “Its Ok”.  You know whenever I see a great cycling challenge I say “Wow, I’d love to ride that”? No. No, no, no, no. Not this one. Not ever. I have every respect for the incredible distances Steve has already chalked up, they are unimaginable to the average person in the street. But this could just be the maddest, most crazy, daft challenge possible. Or the greatest.

Like most others I will be watching from a distance, quietly crossing my fingers and wishing him the most extraordinary luck, because in terms of health, safety, weather and fair winds he is going to need it, even if he has the personal fortitude to do the record. In these days of social media and on line coverage every mile of success and failure will be laid out for all to see, a huge burden. And yet because of that it can be also one of the greatest achievements in cycling.

Happy New Year Steve Abraham.

Christmas, cooking and cycling – combined. “It doesn’t get any better than that!”

Photo Kevin Mayne

My colleagues came up absolutely trumps for the ECF Christmas party this year.

We set off in convoy under the Christmas lights of Brussels for a group bike ride to a mystery destination, known only to a select few.

After about twenty minutes we ended up at the brilliant Mmmmh! in Chaussée de Charleroi where we were ushered in to a large professional kitchen and handed aprons.

Photo ECF

Oh yes, it is an episode of Masterchef and in our teams we have an hour to invent and cook three dishes.

What a laugh. Even the self-confessed non-cooks chopped and stirred with vigour, perhaps encouraged by the free flowing wine.

Photo Kevin Mayne

And due respect, we found out that we have some superb cooks on the team, there wasn’t a failed dish on the table.

Given that a group of cyclists can often resemble a plague of locusts, devouring its own body-weight in food in a day this could be the perfect cycling outing.

In the British version of the TV show Masterchef there are two lead presenters who regularly shout lines at each other like “Cooking doesn’t get tougher than this!” I can only say “Christmas, cooking and cycling – combined. It doesn’t get any better than that!”

Photo Kevin Mayne

Mountain biking at Hanmer Springs, New Zealand – playtime in a stunning location

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I seem to be starting a bit of a tradition by taking in some excellent mountain biking on my holidays after Velo-city conferences. Perhaps it is all that earnest urban energy, a country boy needs his escape to the green … Continue reading