Cyclists’ Christmas greetings from around Europe

Magyar KerekparosklubIt has been really nice to get a mixed selection of cycling themed Christmas greetings popping into the inbox. Now I can steal one or two to make my own Christmas message.

I’m sure the general standard is getting higher every year, but there will always be a case for a bunch of cyclists dressed as Santa on their way to a party, at least in Stevenage! And Copenhageners just can’t help showing off their levels of cycling can they?

My personal favourite is the one above from the Hungarian Cyclists Club. I think the wording is just perfect, it sums up my philosophy of cycling completely and is the perfect antidote to those who bring their tribalism to our great pastime, transport and sport. Goodwill to all cyclists from me.

Best wishes for the season.

Ukrainian Cyclists AssociationSanta's Cycles StevenageLedbury Xmas e cardCopenhagen Christmas 2012

#london2012 “I know I ‘cos I was there” – road cycling impressions

Gallery

This gallery contains 9 photos.

I have posted for first impressions and the fans. There was actually some cycling going on amongst all this. As I said in my previous post I don’t have the equipment for proper sports photography, and frankly when the big … Continue reading

London2012 cycling “We know ‘cos we were there” – celebrating the fans

Gallery

This gallery contains 18 photos.

Every time a world class bike race has come to the UK since the 1990s organisers have been blown away by the crowds – maybe a million in London for the Tour de France prologue in 2007. We don’t have … Continue reading

On Sunday I shall wear yellow

An appeal for every cyclist in Britain to wear yellow in Sunday!

With acknowledgements to the wonderful Jenny Joseph poem “Warning, when I am old”

On Sunday I shall wear yellow,

And celebrate Wiggo even if yellow doesn’t suit me,

And I shall spend my money on a celebratory coffee and cake,

I will ride around and there will be no time for gardening.

I shall sit in my saddle and ride till I’m tired,

Wheel around the countryside and wave to the rest,

And know that we can shout about cycling,

And make up for the years from Anquetil to Armstrong

The challenge is on – if Bradley Wiggins wins the Tour de France on Sunday can we get every Sunday cyclist in the country to wear at least a dash of yellow? I have been folllowing cycle racing for over 40 years and this one has to be celebrated, even the BBC have noticed!

Can cycling’s poets come up with a better poem that starts with the opening line “On Sunday I shall wear yellow”?

The original: From “Warning” Jenny Joseph, 1961

When I an old woman I shall wear purple,

With a red hat that doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me,

And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves.

And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter,

I shall sit down on the pavement when I am tired,

And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells,

And run my stick along the public railings,

And make up for the sobriety of my youth.

 

Oooooooooooohhhhhhhh – new bike!

New bikeEverything glistens. The handlebar tape is pristine, the tyres not even dusty.

Anticipation is everything. By virtue of this new steed I will gain wings, the wind is always behind me and the hills will become mere pimples. Put me up against the strongest of riders and I will bounce along beside them barely drawing breath. The bike will solve everything.

And where to go on a first date?  The local? Familiar roads, a chance to build a relationship without complications and distractions. Or somewhere exotic? Off on an expedition to really put it to the test.

But now frustration.  Rainy days and wet roads for several days. We cannot possibly go out until conditions are perfect, it would ruin the moment.

At last the day arrives. Seeking perfection we stop numerous times. Saddle up, saddle down. Tilt bars, saddle up, saddle down. At last this is it. Time to ride.

An hour and a half later I am content. Sadly I am still a fifty year old cyclist who needs to lose at least a couple of kgs and I am quite grateful that I haven’t fitted a computer yet because it might shatter my illusions of style, grace and speed. But I can remember that I was once that other cyclist, and I am inspired to become him again.

As you may have guessed I don’t often get a new bike – the last one was in 1999. The kind folks at CTC gave me this beauty as a leaving present, apparently to avid me further shaming the organisation by going on to a new job on my dodgy old work bike. Actually I do have nice bikes, but I wouldn’t share them with my working life of all-weather commuting, bikes left standing on the street, bounced on and off trains and generally abused.

So sorry folks – I love the bike, but I will fail your test. I like it so much I couldn’t possibly take it to work and the crusty work bike will make its debut in Brussels in the very near future.

However you have prompted me to start a new page on the blog. Bikes will give me a place to put occasional entries about equipment I have used – good and bad.

Springtime 3 – In praise of David Hockney’s exhibition “A bigger picture”

I have been floundering around this week trying to blog a few words about a cyclists’s feeling of spring. After going to the David Hockney exhibition at the Royal Academy today I am blown away.

I loved much of it, but the highlight was 51 images shown in a single room as a single artwork. “The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011″ was made for this show and depicts a few scenes repeatedly created over the six months from January to June 2011. Extraordinarily vibrant colours, changes in mood and tone. Stunning, all done on an I-Pad in what must have been amazing bursts of energy.

Almost as exceptional was a room full of hawthorns. I was looking across the heads through to another room when a burst of white in the distance could only be the vibrancy of a hedgerow bursting in to spring life. As I wandered into the room it had differing flowering scenes on every wall. Hockney calls the week that the first buds appear Action Week, to emphasise that spring is the hardest time to capture as an artist because it changes so fast.

I wish I could claim that Hockney was a cyclist or a dog walker, but of course he isn’t. But this exhibition captured an essence of the English countryside that we can recognise vividly. Perhaps because he has captured the hedgerows and trackways that cycle tourists love so much, or because he has captured that feeling that every ride can be a new adventure, even it is on a road we have seen a hundred times before. Whatever it is if you can get to this show before it closes go.

None of the links I can give you really show this room to its full effect, but if you can’t go do look.

Royal Academy Blog

Art Finder Blog on WordPress

Treehugger web site article

Springtime – La Primavera

Two parallel thoughts – springtime cycling in the UK and renewed enthusiasm for La Primavera.

I have had great week’s cycling. A week away and suddenly there is light in the mornings. I have two rides in the morning. I can either go to the station around 7.30 but I much prefer to go out at around 7 and ride the 20 miles/30km to the office when I have time. This week for the first time I could do the longer ride the whole way in the light.

Suddenly its spring, the thick winter cycling top can be put away and I don’t need the lights. I’m sure I was about 5 minutes quicker, and I had a smile on my face the whole way.

Being up that early and cycling also means I can hear a bit of the countryside before the car traffic drowns everything out. And I’m sure the birds sign so much louder now they are into the season. I catch the end of the dawn chorus, I can hear woodpeckers hammering away and the pigeons are full volume. Actually this week’s wildlife gem was in the garden – I heard the distinctive sound of a buzzard call in the sky, the first of the year, almost certainly meaning our local pair are around again. When I spotted then to my astonishment there were four circling in the sky, the most I have ever seen in our area. The high circling flight and the wedge tail are so distinctive, not like the red kites which hover lower and have a forked tail. I grabbed my binoculars and watch for about ten minutes before the birds drifted off to the North. The buzzard is apparently now Britain’s most common raptor, I do see them regularly when riding but it is great to see them at home.

Anyway back to spring cycling.

The other way a cyclist should know that it is spring is because the proper racing has started on the TV – La Primavera – “Springtime” in Italian, or more formally “la classica di Primavera”

Milan San Remo of course.

The longest classic on the calendar is the opener before we are into the Tour of Flanders and Paris Roubaix.

I am addicted to the classics on TV. Most armchair fans know the big stage races like the Giro and the Tour but the classics are something different. I think it’s the fact that there is only one chance and if a rider is on form that day there is a possibility that this is the one. If the Tour is the Premier League then the classics are the FA Cup – with that special possibility that the best riders will win, but on the day anyone could spring a surprise.

Flanders and Roubaix can be run off in horrible conditions, indeed I think Roubaix is diminished without the mud. But La Primavera is truely about the spring. The Italian TV producers know it too, coverage only really starts when the peloton hits the coast. Then it is time for the stunning aerial photos of the coast and the scenes of battle in the sunshine. The Cipressa, the Poggio and then the race along the seafront to San Remo. (Get the flavour with a good English language Milan San Remo web site here.)

This year was a particularly challenging one for me. I was on form, up for the ride, careful not to peak too soon by watching other races and there was a Brit in with a shout in the form of Mr Cavendish.

But how to cope with the clashes. My other sport is rugby. Clashing with the cycle race it was Wales-France with Wales going for the Grand Slam. And worse – I have only two weeks to finish decorating my son’s room before he gets back from uni, and I have been off travelling most weekends.

This is the sort of situation that brings out the creative sports fan.

Well organised

Well organised

Cycling on the laptop. Rugby on the TV. Paints in the hand.

Sorted.

NB – Wales win the Slam, England thrashed Ireland on St Patrick’s Day and it was a great finish to MSR, even if the whole bunch did ride against Cav.

First thoughts of Brussels and London

Over to Brussels this weekend to start on our new lives living in mainland Europe. Frustratingly no cycling as we used public transport and shoe leather to start a recce of the suburbs.

But of course the mind turns to cycling, not least because it was glorious sunny day on Sunday. And today it was back into the bustle of London and the thriving bike scene around Waterloo Station.

Villo! Brussels Bike Sharing

Villo! Brussels Bike Sharing

Having ridden in Brussels I find it similar to theUK. Infrastructure is intermittent, most cyclists seem to be on the road and the drivers really haven’t got the awareness of cyclists that comes from a larger cycling share of traffic.

But today I was looking more carefully, seeing something different, something I couldn’t put my finger on initially.

On Friday night in Brussels I was watching commuters around the European District and all through the weekend  I saw recreational cyclists out and about, a couple going to church and a few people probably visiting elderly aunts. What almost all had in common was day clothes and what we can only call sensible bikes, including a few Bromptons. Scattered through them were some users of the regional public hire scheme Villo! in similar clothing.

This morning in London I had missed the rush hour but there were quite a few riders about and the evidence was parked around Waterloo and Lower Marsh. Fixies were in high proportion, quite a few tourers, dropped handlebars and far too many skinny tyres for mid winter. The presence of a bloke mending his puncture in the middle of the parking racks only reinforced my opinion. The dress code summarises the whole feel, the riders still feel they have to wear some sort of cycling style to get about.

London Waterloo Station cycle parking

Typical London commuter bike?

Belgium has one of the greatest histories of cycle racing in the world, and yet its daily cyclists seem to take their cue from the cycling cultures of Holland, while so many of ours seem to think that cycling is a statement, not a bus substitute. I must admit I am usually cycling in London in a suit, often on a Boris bike so I am determined not to break into a sweat. But as a fit(ish) bloke should I really be the slowest cyclist in London? I find the pace people ride at extraordinary. I hope all of them have got a change of clothes or a shower at work because if they haven’t they can’t be doing much good for the image of cycling. I’m all for a ride in lycra or baggies when I’m doing what I might call a serious ride but I really cannot see us making cycling mainstream until everyone can see that cycling is something so much more ordinary.