This is why Venice stays in my recommendations for your “bucket list”


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Venice. The city on the lagoon. “La Serenissima”, the serene one. One of the world’s most iconic tourist sights. Or a city swamped in tourists creating an ecological nightmare? Let me put my personal cards on the table. I have … Continue reading

2017 – a gallery. Thanks to all readers and followers of, have a great 2018


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Trying to find a way to summarise 2017 I reminded myself that this year almost every blog post has a unique header photo – some interesting shots, but only used once. So for my personal journey down memory lane, here … Continue reading

An evening of pleasure and relaxation – cycling Milan’s “Walk of the Monks”


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On my three days in Milan I used the BikeMi shared bike scheme for most of my transportation, always my preferred way of getting around. But it was really hot and humid and the bikes are heavy and sluggish on … Continue reading

Of all the cycling bars in all the towns, in all the world, I had to walk into this one


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In my previous post I congratulated myself on finding a cheap apartment in a fantastic location in Milan (for that was the city in the images). However I was not there by accident. I chose it because it was near … Continue reading

The curious case of the missing cyclists of Verona


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Last week I made a return visit to the Italian city of Verona to work at Cosmobike, the largest bike exhibition in Italy. This was very interesting because I first came here in 2012 when I was just a few … Continue reading

An alternative cycle tour of Milan – celebrating the cycling activist’s view of a city


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I am extremely fortunate that I get invited to all sorts of cities to talk about the development of cycling and cycling cultures. And I am even luckier that I get to ride around these cities with some of the … Continue reading

24 hour beach-front Italian café. All is good in the world.

Cafe delle Rose Rimini Italy

If I lived in Rimini I would spend a lot of time in the Café Delle Rosa.

I am a morning person. (If you regard mornings as a torture inflicted on you personally by the devil you can probably ignore the rest of this post!). I wake relatively early when I am at home and in hotel rooms it is quite common that I am awake at four or five am. More than a few of these blog posts have been written in the early hours, but more importantly I think morning is the perfect time to be out in the world. The light, wildlife, tranquillity, empty roads all add up to a great time to see a place or a country. Here in Rimini the view from my room to the mountains of the Marche was just so much sharper in the morning it was tempting me out immediately.

Dawn looking towards the hills of La Marche from Rimini Italy

The frustration with that is that I am also a breakfast person and waking up in a hotel where I cannot even get a coffee until 7.30 am can really takes the shine off an early wander.

As a chilly morning started in Rimini I was tempted out of my hotel room by the prospect of a walk and a chance to catch the beach while it was deserted.

Rimini beach early morning ItalyTo my joy I discovered that close to the sea front was this wonderful 24 hour café serving delicious fresh pastries and confirming why the coffee machine is perhaps Italy’s greatest gift to the world. (More than Campagnolo?….now there’s a debate.) I needed some “me-time” and a passed almost an hour sorting out the world in my head.

Cafe delle Rose in Rimini Italy

I cannot imagine that I would ever want to live in a place that has 7 million visitors a year and in peak season sells its beach by the square metre. But if I did I would come down here on one of the shared Rimini bikes that have a parking point perfectly positioned in front of the café. My only dilemma would be whether to walk and cycle along the beach before or after my coffee.

Morning over the Adriatic Rimini Italy


A perfect moment – when I just think “I want to be that cyclist”. Rimini, Italy.

Photo by Kevin Mayne

Ever had that that moment when you look out and you see a cyclist in just the perfect place?

Tuesday evening, Rimini Harbour on Italy’s Adriatic coast. Looking out along the harbour walls I saw this cyclist positioned against the darkening skies, far from the noise of the town. He stayed there motionless as we passed by, clearly soaking up the sea air.


More to come from one of Italy’s busiest cycling towns over the coming days.

Day-dreaming of cycling in Florence

Florence cycling

I’ll be taking advantage of some lovely early autumn weather to cycle in Belgium this week as I have a few days when I will be at home for a while.

But all the while I will be daydreaming of Florence and Tuscany.

Glorious city of art and culture.

Part of the Tuscany cycle tour that I convinced Mrs Idonotdespair to take part in as a first tour, and strange girl still married me two years later.

The city in which my current adventure started when I was approached to consider joining ECF as a staff member, almost exactly two years ago.

So I shall be visualising rolling hills and cypress trees, olive groves and city walls. A city I love visiting and hope to go to many more times.

But these images will be the backdrop to my other cycling passion. Classic bike racing. This year’s World Road Cycling Championships that has got me more enthusiastic than for many years because there are so many angles and interesting battles to consider, especially now I am not just looking through a British filter, I have been listening to the Belgian and French build-ups as well.

On Sunday the team time trial gave a taster as Fabian Cancellara and Tony Martin led their team squads into action while Bradley Wiggins was away winning the Tour of Britain. The aerial photography showed stunning views of Florence that looked wonderful.

Time Trial at Surbiton

So on Wednesday I will be glued to the results as the big three go for it with all of them on form for the first time in two years, the proper rematch for the Olympics when Cancellara was injured and Martin maybe a bit off form.

Then at the weekend we have the road races. The women’s race is a bit of a formality, on this course it is impossible to see anyone beating Marianne Vos.

But in the men’s U23 there are some incredible young riders including Simon Yates of Great Britain who is a real star in the making and there is a resurgence in some of the other countries such as France, while the Italians have been known to pack 1-2-3 in the past. Throw in the wild cards who are still emerging in this age group and anything could happen.

Ronde Van Vlaanderen PaterbergThen on Sunday it will be hard to drag myself away from the men’s road race as the intensity builds up all day. I will probably have to go for a bike ride to distract myself or I will have spent the whole day in front of a TV.

I have no expectations of Chris Froome beating the star puncheurs of the classic’s scene. But Cancellara is on record saying that this is the race he really wants to complete his collection. Sagan is flying. Defending champion Gilbert is coming back to form and the Belgians were by far the best team last year. Vincenzo Nibali was not in full form at the Veulta but is on home roads in Tuscany. Will the Spanish all ride for Rodriguez?  There is a brilliant group of young French riders coming through and yet they have selected cycling’s top gurner Tommy V to be the sole team leader. Loads of possibilities.

Much better than football – only 2 choices of winner!

Dreaming of Tuscan hills.

New Tour de France and Italian classics promo videos side by side

Bless the twittersphere and blogosphere.

How else would I be pointed to the new promo videos from the great tours and the Italian classics if links were not popping up all over the place today.

Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, Strada Bianchi, Milan San Remo, Tour of Lombardy in four minutes.

As one blogger put it “goosebumps”

Bring on the season.

Celebrating classic Italian bike heritage

cropped-epoca-header.jpgThis is the first of my Christmas holiday posts where I catch up on some of the missing subjects I promised myself I would write about at the time and never quite got round to. Some reflections, maybe a few thanks, but above all else the things I can catch up on when the rain is howling in horizontally across the countryside and it is time for another piece of cake.

Among this year’s new discoveries that I wanted to share were some of Europe’s communities of vintage racing bike enthusiasts. I had frequently marveled at the massive queues for what I could only characterised as a “load of old scrap” when I visited some of the popular bike rallies in the UK but the scale of the sector had passed me by.

However I do know that I always enjoyed seeing a restored classic and this year I have learned so much more about the community and culture behind the world of classic bikes.

GB, WeinmannFirstly I started a rather urgent mission to reduce the volume of cycling stuff I was going to relocate to Belgium. I knew I had a couple of nice classic bikes that needed a good home because I was never going to give them due respect. But I had no idea that when I delved into my old bits box I would be uncovering the items that power a whole community of collectors and restorers.

Crossed flad head badge Freddie Grubb FixieSecondly I began the long drawn out process of restoring my own period classic.  I conceived the project over a year ago on my 50th birthday because the bike itself is of a similar vintage and frankly at fifty there are not so many toys you can buy a bloke. But it was only this year that I got the frame refurbed and started to think properly about the parts.

In both cases I have been hugely impressed by the community over on , there just doesn’t seem to be anything that they don’t know about bike bits. And the ability to identify a part or a bike from just a single photo or a clumsy description is only matched by their ability to conjure up just the missing part from a secret store, often in mint condition.

I had carried a bit of a prejudice that this was a mainly British community of eccentrics with some similar enthusiasts in North America. The tribe runs on a diet of old English handmade frames and the period components that go with them.  However it hasn’t taken long in my travels this year to discover that there is an alternative theme that runs across Europe, one that runs on pure Italian vintage, with Colnago and Bianchi at its head. Just goes to show how little I really know about anything when I make assumptions about national character.

First I found the amazing Bikelager in Vienna – café, galley and homage to the finest Italian frames and bikes which I mentioned in one of my Vienna posts in May.  I am looking forward to paying them another visit next year for one of the coolest coffees in town.

Bikelager Wien

Then I in September my newest discovery was Bici D’Epoca, (“Bikes of the ages”) the period bike exhibition at the Padua Cycle Show. As with everything Italian and cycling from this period the twin gods of Coppi and Bartali looked down on everything. I guess it is a form of insurance for the company that they have to give equal billing to both.

It was a feast of Campagnolo, Bianchi, clothing and parts stretching over more than 50 years. Coppi’s 1954 World Championship winning bike as star, but I enjoyed just as much bikes with local histories such as the tandem from the local Padova club which was used to win an Italian national championship, complete with black and white photos of its riders. Coppi's 1954 Bianchi

Vintage Cinelli TandemSo despite being surrounded by some of the most exciting modern bikes on the planet I kept sneaking back to their stall at the Padua fair to soak up some of the legends.

Bici D'Epoca Bici D'Epoca Classic Italian Cycling Tops

The spiritual home of this stuff and one of the drivers of the rediscovery of the era has become the classic ride L’Eroica (“the heroic one”)  which has spawned a whole generation of spinoff rides including a Giro d’Italia d’Epoca. These rides only allow riders to compete on classic bikes with period clothing to preserve the classic images of the sport. L’Eroica itself was created to draw attention to the paving over of the legendary white dirt roads of Tuscany. It can be credited with the decision by the organisers of the Giro D’Italia to take one of the monuments of cycling over little known dirt tracks, days which have changed the destiny of the race. And a professional version of the L’Eroica in the spring is fast becoming a classic. Together they have rehabilitated both the strada bianchi and the classic bikes of Italy.

I almost imagined I had a small part in the original Eroica this year because one of the participants was credited in the event reports with wearing “some natty punched leather Gianni Motta shoes”,   the ones I had sold him just a few weeks before just for the occasion. Now I know that this is a proper missing link in my cycling CV, one for the bucket list to be sure.

So when I could be putting up more blog posts, riding my bike or restoring my own bike I seem to be able click around for ages for their events, parts, accessories, clothing, historical articles and some great photos of the bikes including the story about that Coppi championship winning bike. And if not I will be sneaking my regular look at to see if anyone really does need some of my old tat, for say the price of a cup of coffee?