Now this is Freeride Mountain Biking!

After watching this, it makes me think twice about the use of the term Freeride in mountain biking. The FMB world Tour (F for Freeride) should be Freestyle, because this is the true definition of the term Freeride. It’s pure exploration and doing what only freeride / downhill mountain bikes can do.

It’s very different to BMX style trick contests on man made courses.


Dear British Cycling Public

No offence to these people who at least have in common with me the love of cycling, but what are you doing wearing those ugly safety vests in the middle of the day? I’m honestly baffled by this phenomenon when I see so many people doing it around town and across the whole nation.

It’s not that I don’t want people to feel safe while they’re out on their bikes on our dangerous roads. It’s just I want to see more people riding, and I think a lot will be put off if they think that they have to dress this way to ride. It’s not cool, in fact it’s completely uncool. It’s not like I would care if people wore them when they went out walking. It wouldn’t make people think twice about walking in future. Cycling is different because it’s optional. I want people to think yeah that looks cool, I want to go and buy a bike now, not be put off by things like this.

Like I’ve said, I want people to feel safe on their bikes, and there is a time and a place for hi-vis clothing. You can get sleeker cycling jackets that do the same thing, but aren’t dorky vests. The other thing to note: they’re designed for wearing at night. To be honest, even at night you don’t need these things. I have a helmet with some reflective stickers on the back of it. They’re not obtrusive in daylight but they help at night. I have lights which I can attach to my handlebars and my bag to shine behind me. My pannier has a reflective patch on it. I have reflectors on my spokes, pedals and the seatpost to help as well. Unless I’m going out into unlit country roads at night, these things combined are going to keep me safe. No one can convince me that I’ll ever need a fluorescent yellow vest.

I’m certainly not that into fashion. I like to look good and occasionally make style statements of sorts like everyone else, but that’s really as far as it goes. However, it doesn’t take a genius to think of ways to stay visible during the day while still keeping your dignity. Wear bright clothes if you feel safer that way. If you’re a girl, a yellow dress for example. If you’re a guy, a bright T-shirt or whatever. Why not just buy a brightly coloured bike to begin with. A white bike will get you noticed for sure. Having said this, even if you wore completely black clothing, a black helmet and had a black bike I still doubt any driver with half decent vision is going to miss you in broad daylight. I mean black does contrast with the background when it’s daytime.

But my despair at the great cycling public doesn’t end with those yellow vests. I think it’s fair to say that 90% or more of the bikes I see out on the roads, are cheap, nasty and ugly looking pieces of junk. The good quality bikes I see are usually very old and battered. I mean yes, I do see some nice bikes out, but they’re very few and far between. When I do see one, I love the conversations that happen when I’m waiting at the train crossing and another rider comes up to me. I say “hey nice bike” and they say the same back to me. Then we have a great conversation about our rides, and it’s fun. You would never lean out of your car and say to the driver next to you “Nice car! Where did you get it?” and them replying with anything other than “You what mate?” before pressing the up button on their driver side window.

When you’re a cyclist, a proper cyclist with a proper bike, not a rusty piece of shit, you’re instantly a part of a huge community. I’m proud to be a part of it. It’s nice when someone coming the other direction nods and smiles at you, or when they compliment you on your bike and the customisations you’ve done to it. When people say to me “£300, that’s a lot for a push bike isn’t it?” the reality of the enormity of the task of educating people about cycling is hits me once again, and you think, am I ever going to stop seeing these junk bikes everywhere I go?

People keep saying that the huge success of GB in the Tour de France, World Championships and Olympic games on both the road and track will lead to massive increases in the number of people taking up cycling. Personally I’m not sure if I believe that. I just feel like the difference between sport and commuting / leisure riding on our congested roads is just too great. A lot of drivers don’t associate them at all and will see cyclists on the road as a nuisance even if they love professional cycling. I really hope that it does make a massive difference, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

As much as it’s kind of cool that it’s an exclusive club right now, I wouldn’t mind a bit if we increased the membership dramatically in the coming years. It’s about time. There are many other subjects to touch on, like helmets and whether they should be mandatory among other things, but I’ll have to come back to those another time.


La Vuelta 2011 Review

Differenty colored cycling jerseys as used in ...
Image via Wikipedia

This year’s Vuelta was a really exciting race and definitely a great introduction to the event for me. Unfortunately I didn’t really get back into cycling in time to catch the Giro D’Italia this year but I was treated to a great Tour de France and a great Vuelta.

The race was one of surprise contenders. Juan Jose Cobo was in the end the deserving winner. He took the red leader’s jersey on the hardest stage of the tour and did an incredible job of shadowing his nearest challengers, especially Chris Froome for the remainder of the event. Bradley Wiggins was thought to be one of the top contenders and in the beginning had Froome working for him, but like other big names like Vincenzo Nibali and Igor Anton he just didn’t have it in him to challenge for the win. He did however put in a fine performance over the three weeks to end with a podium finish in third place. Considering that this was his first race back after breaking his collarbone in the Tour in July, this was a fantastic result for him.

Chris Froome’s ride will undoubtedly go down as the biggest surprise story of the race. No one really expected him to emerge as a grant tour contender in only his first 3 week race. At first, people were impressed with how well he was looking after Wiggins in the early stages, but it was the time trial where he really set out his stall. Everyone expected Bradley to ride into the lead of the race but he ended up tiring and losing a chunk of time in the final part of the stage, and it was Froome who shocked everyone and took the lead.

He only held the lead for one stage but he was the more consistent of the two Sky riders and when Cobo took the red jersey from Wiggins, Froome also passed Brad in the standings for second place.

The best stage of the race had to be the mountain top finish which ended in a duel between Froome and Cobo. Froome put in an almighty attack to try and gain precious time on Cobo but he was pegged back and it looked as if the Spaniard was going to take the stage. On the approach to the final corner though, Froome gave one final push and overtook Cobo once again and held on to win by a second and take the time bonus. It was incredibly exciting and a real advertisement for cycling.

Cobo definitely deserved the win overall, but very few riders can say they held the leader’s jersey, won an epic stage and finished second on the podium in their first grand tour. Chris Froome can and he has a great future. I’m hoping he does stick with team Sky. He’s certainly in a great position for contract negotiations. If he does stay though, it may end up being too packed with GC riders and a sprint train for Mark Cavendish. If that happens, it will be tough to juggle both and may cause the team problems, but I think right now that it’s a risk worth taking if it elevates them to being one of the very best teams in the world. He may be tempted by one of any number of strong offers from rival teams in which he may get positioned as a GC leader which he probably won’t be at team Sky for the next couple of seasons at least.

The tour was so packed of Action that it’s tough to mention everything I enjoyed, but I really liked seeing Dan Martin win his mountain stage in his first grand tour, Tony Martin winning the time trial and Michael Albasini winning a sprint stage for HTC Highroad in their last grand tour as a team. It was also a great sight watching Igor Anton win in spectacular fashion in his and his team’s home Basque region. It helped to make up for an otherwise disappointing tour for him and the team.

I can’t wait for next year’s Vuelta and of course before that, my first Giro as a huge cycling fan.


Leopard Trek, RadioShack Merger Confirmed

Radioshack mars 2010
Image via Wikipedia

I don’t know why companies keep doing this recently, but just yesterday or the day before it was reported on that Leopard Trek had denied the reports of them merging with RadioShack, but then today they confirm it. Why they didn’t just keep quiet rather than denying things I don’t understand, but regardless, we now know that it will happen after all.

I’m quite disappointed by this, but I know why it’s going to happen. Leopard Trek need sponsors, and RadioShack and Nissan want to win and they’ve just had a terrible Tour de France this year. They know that with the two other podium finishers from this year’s race they instantly catapult themselves into winning contention in 2012. The reason it disappoints me is mainly because it means another team is lost from the ranks and that’s never a good thing. It also means that around 11 riders will be let go from Leopard Trek and some from RadioShack in order to meet the maximum team size limit. I just hope those riders all find teams ready for the new season.

It’s also disappointing for the simple reason that Leopard have probably the nicest looking attire of any team and now they’ll end up with one of the least attractive in my opinion with a big red R on their jerseys. It’s also probably not good for Trek because they’ll have one less team riding their bikes, as well as the fact that everyone is used to saying Trek in the name of the team this year. This gives them excellent promotion that only a handful of other manufacturers enjoy, namely BMC, Cervelo and Cannondale. They’ll lose this next year despite the fact that Trek is technically in the new team name. It’s just so long that people will most likely ignore it.