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Showing posts from March, 2009

GRAND THEFT VELO

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If you’ve ever tried a cycling computer game, you will understand why most games’ reviewers give bike sims very low scores. There’s fun to be had up to a very limited point, from sending pixellated domestiques back to the team car for bidons but not much.

Your cyber characters may bear the names and attributes of real life professional roadies and sport the squad colours; but the similarity to what really happens doesn’t go much further than a name and a dominant riding style, such as climber, sprinter or rouleur.

‘Sterile’ is probably a good way of describing the experience. There’s no meat or intrigue, or edge of the seat excitement. In short, there’s no cheating and there are definitely no dope tests or dopers. For the management game geek that’s not a problem. There’s still plenty to get stuck into here for them, with team selection, scouting out new riders and figuring out the best in-race strategy to follow. For the rest of us, casual gamers after a bit of a thrill, maybe the Obse…

PROUD TO BE A FAKE 'FAKENGER'

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The bike messenger community is a tightly knit group which is fiercely proud and protective of its identity. I base this conclusion purely on a detailed reading of the online forum of ‘Moving Target - the world’s most useless messenger zine’ (their description, not mine).

The posts on the MT forum are from bona fide cycle couriers (I’ve probably misused some vocabulary here - messenger terminology I’m guessing is probably guarded with a vengeance too); and they are by turns, wise, witty, self-deprecating, frivolous, serious and it has to be said, very funny.

Chapeau to the Zine’s founder, Buffalo Bill, for an informative and entertaining ‘product‘ (not sure about that bon mot either, by the way). His moderating presence never feels far away on the website and he writes the news stories on the main page with a light touch. The familiar forum banter is frequently hilarious and gives you a clear sense of a real vibrant community as you read through the threads.

I also get the feeling that M…

FIXIE FIXATION

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Cycling is a collection of habits and muscle memories learnt in childhood - usually with the help of stabilisers - which are never wholly forgotten. Hence we encourage people to revisit a long-neglected activity with the expression, “It’s just like riding a bike.”

For me, the particular habit of freewheeling, has been second nature for as long as I‘ve been riding. I have also always favoured a conventional multi-geared bicycle. It makes sense on down-hills to click onto the smallest rear cog and blast along like Germany’s troubled big-gear grinder, Jan Ullrich. Choosing a low gear going up and even stooping to the last ditch ‘granny’ option like cadence king, Lance Armstrong, is the other ‘no-brainer‘. Integral to this is the ability to glide along without pedalling.

Why would anyone give up their gears and revert to the kind of primitive, ‘one-speed-fits-all’ machine, used more than a century ago when the Tour de France wasn’t even a gleam in the eye of its first director, Henri Desgra…

ON BEING A LYCRA LOUT

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Lycra is an insidious fabric. It attracts ridicule to those who wear it - and most of us are cyclists. After one strenuous commute into work, it advertises its presence forcefully to the nostrils of passing colleagues.

When I first started cycling to the office, I swore I wouldn’t be seen dead in the unseemly, skin-tight black shorts, with their spongy inner nappy, so beloved of the two-wheeled fraternity.

I was happy to wear football shorts, trainers and cotton tee-shirts which would double in weight and be wringing with clammy sweat by the time I reached my destination. But if only I’d known it, I was at the top of a slippery slope.

Cycling magazines and a growing interest in the Tour de France were my downfall. Replica team jerseys crept into my wardrobe as I admired their garish colours and improbable names. The most unglamorous firms put sponsorship money behind cycling, in the hope that a rider wearing their brand will make it to the end of a Tour de France or Vuelta a Espana stage…

WHAT'S NOT ON THE BOX

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Tim Henman may have bowed out of the lawn tennis limelight, passing on the jinxed mantle of Britain’s best player, to Andy Murray. But Tim remains one of the most recognisable sporting personalities in this country. And he never even won Wimbledon. For all his years of tantalising failure, he enjoyed extensive TV coverage and media exposure. There’s nothing our sporting public warms to more, it seems, than a plucky underdog with a tendency always to fall at the last hurdle.
As 1966 slips deeper into the collective memory, similar points could be made about the home nations’ football teams in successive World Cup and international competitions. This year’s Euro 2008 tournament in Austria and Switzerland is a stark case in point. It’s a Brit-free zone.
You’d be wrong to take your lead from what’s on the TV and conclude that Britons are no good at sport. There’s one discipline in which our national squad stands head and shoulders above the competition - and that’s track cycling. But genera…

ALPINE COMEUPPANCE

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Etape Jitters...Lance was wrong. It’s ALL about the bike. Or that’s how it feels, having recently joined Kingston Wheelers cycling club and signed up for a hellish day of pedalling in the Alps. Never have I spent so much time orbiting the indifferent deer in Richmond Park, or rubbing manically at oily marks on my once pristine bike frame. What possessed me?Not only am I attempting a real 187km stage of this year’s Tour de France, it ends on one of the most infamous and daunting climbs in that strength-sapping race, L’Alpe d’Huez. Do four revolutions round the park at top speed do this task any justice by way of training? I doubt it.
Not even repeated ascents of Box Hill’s three mini switchbacks are much good as preparation - and you can’t stop for coffee and a sticky chocolate bun on the Alpe’s Hairpin 15.

There’s a word which looms larger as I strain to increase my cadence up Sawyers Hill, ‘hell-for-leathering’ it as best I can, towards the horizon. This multi-syllabled term warns and…