Reflections on Mike Hall, the IPWR and cycling in Australia

Well worth reading – from my friend Frank

Cycling There

Mike Hall

The IPWR has been an amazing experience but everything has been overshadowed by Mike Hall’s death on the road near Canberra. Not since Tom Simpson, in a very different era and context, has British cycling lost one its heros, so suddenly and so sadly, in action.

More than anyone, Mike created the sport of unsupported ultra-endurance bike racing. In doing so, he‎ made long-distance cycling exciting and got a younger, faster crowd hooked on it‎.  Building on the achievements and ideas of others, such as Mark Beaumont and Nathan Jones, Mike, with his Transcontinental Race, created something full of fantasy and adventure which could fit into two weeks’ holiday. He made the wild, exotic and exciting accessible, not exactly to the masses, but to those of us, less extraordinary than him, who were magnetically drawn to it.

He focused on keeping it open and non-elitist. He could easily…

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Helping county council staff make Travel Choices

We have to admit it – some cycling promotion events are not as well attended as, say, President Trump’s inauguration. And certainly not President Obama’s. Whether for reasons of organisaton, weather or advertising, some events just don’t draw the crowds.

Well, this week CTC Northampton, part of Cycling UK, took part in an event that was a bit different: it was well attended, lively and positive. This was the county council’s Travel Choices day for its own staff.

The event drew in over 350 people keen to research their options for when the council moves to its new HQ building in the town centre. With limited, potentially expensive car parking and growing congestion problems in the town, the council wants to encourage staff to consider other travel solutions, including car sharing, pool bikes, pool cars, buses and park and ride (combined with bus or bike).

The event was held at County Hall and buses were laid on for staff to attend from other sites included in the move to the new HQ. It showcased many of the tools the council has included in its travel plan for the new building, such as the car sharing app Faxi, Enterprise pool cars, and good old bus timetables.

One of the big hits was the opportunity for people to try out pool e-bikes from Halfords, and cycle scheme e-bikes from GTech. Everyone who did so seemed to return with a smile on their face.

Brian and Phil staffed the CTC Northampton stall, and soon found themselves busy talking to people who were mostly not current cycle commuters, but were prepared to consider it. The most frequent question was about routes, but safety, insurance, cycle training and cycle buddies all came up too, as did the local group’s rides programme. Several people coming from other towns also asked about where to “park and cycle”.

Philip, a council property environmental manager (and CTC Northampton publicity officer), was on hand to outline the cycle facilities in the new building. These include 100 secure cycle spaces and dedicated changing, shower and locker areas.

The stall featured our new Cycling UK banner, calling cards and postcards, and freebies such as spoke reflectors and frame protection. By far the most popular item was the Northampton Cycling Map.

This county council map, now in its 4th edition, was originally developed by John Cutler and other CTC Northampton members for the council and is based on the Cheltenham model, which uses colours to indicate the traffic hazard on every road. It was invaluable for discussing route options with buddng cycle commuters.

A few themes became clear. First, most newcomers to commuting want traffic-free or low traffic routes. Second, while a few fairly good routes exist in Northampton (e.g. along the river), these still don’t connect well with key destinations. So there is work for the planners to do. Third, training and support for new cyclists are essential in the meantime. Specific cycle training for staff, cycle buddies, and a bicycle user group for the new building were widely supported ideas, which hopefully the council will take forward.

This event’s success was partly due to the coordinated travel plan backed by the council’s leadership, as well as financial incentives for staff to consider new options. But it also worked for cycling precisely because it brought together a wide range of options and expertise in the same room. Yes, we can be better together…

Many thanks to Brian and Phil for giving up their time, and to the council for inviting us along to this event.

Ride to Café Ventoux – Sunday 16th October 2016

Ride Leader James Holden writes:

Departing Moulton Co-op (NN3 7TB), 9.30 am on Sunday, for around 60 miles in total.

Whilst this ride is probably at the more challenging end of the spectrum, the effort is well-rewarded with quiet roads, impressive scenery and, of course, my company. An added incentive is the fact that our lunch-stop – the renowned Café Ventoux in Tugby – serves a fine array of cakes, coffees and ultra thick sandwiches that will re-energise anyone with fading legs. They also stock the latest range of elite Boardman road bikes so the opportunity is there if you feel like draining the credit card and riding home on a different bike to the one you set out on…

The first leg of the ride takes us out through Old, Harrington and the outskirts of Desborough. We then follow the B669 towards Leicestershire and Stoke Albany, whilst all the time attempting to enjoy the increasingly ‘undulating’ scenery. It’s then on to Medbourne – where we link up with National Cycle Route 64 – and finally, Tugby where, after journeying along the delightfully named Crackbottle Road and crossing the A47 we arrive at Tugby Orchards, home of . Incidentally, the car park surface at Ventoux is laid out with the names of famous riders from the past. Yes, it’s a minor novelty but it does provide you with the chance to pretend you’re a proper Tour cyclist.

The return leg of our journey provides us with some proper Rutland hill climbing – most notably in the area around Goadby and Horse Hill. Still, what goes up must come down and there’s a rather exciting descent which a road sign marks out as nine percent. This section of the ride is notably quiet given that some of the lanes we follow are closed to motorised traffic. Heading back through pretty hamlets like Glooston, Cranoe and Welham, we cross the Harborough Road soon after Great Bowden. The imposing HMP Gartree appears on our left as we cycle on towards Lubenham before rejoining the Harborough Road near East Farndon. Turning left we head through the Oxendons and then Harrington before linking up with the familiar route back to Moulton via Old, Walgrave, etc..

I’ve ridden this route a couple of times and, aside from the fact that on the last occasion I tore a calf muscle climbing Horse Hill (editor’s note: don’t do this on Sunday), I’ve always found it to be thoroughly enjoyable. The hilly bits are manageable and there are plenty of shops and cafés along the way should anyone require any additional refreshment or oxygen. Assuming there aren’t any major mechanicals or incidents then I predict we’ll be back at Moulton at around four-ish.

James
Please note new mobile number    07841 933046

Ride report – Brisk ride to Ashby St Ledgers, Sat 8 Oct 2016

Philip Gray led this ride and writes:
Seven riders gathered at Brampton Valley Way on Saturday 8 October in crisp Autumn weather for a brisk ride to Ashby St Ledgers, which turned into something of an “adventure cross” ride – with an unexpected bonus at the end.

Familiar roads took us through Long Buckby, which was busy with other cyclists out enjoying the morning, then north-west to Yelvertoft, and sharp south to Crick, on mainly good roads. After crossing the A5 we wound into historic Ashby St Ledgers and saw the famous room where the Gunpowder Plot reputedly was hatched.

We then followed smaller unclassified roads from Welton to Norton, and the disintegrating road through Dodford Lodge Farm, which involves opening and closing four gates, then slithering along half a mile of deep gravel.

Phil and Milton found this more fun than they could bear, and left us at the A5, mumbling excuses about family engagements… 🙂 The rest of us continued on the pretty but dodgy gated road through Brockhall, as it started to rain.

Pop-up Coffee

Pop-up Coffee

After a further challenging surface from Whilton, we reached Great Brington. Here by serendipity we noticed some bunting and a “Pop-Up Cafe – Cyclists Welcome” sign outside a house, and swiftly agreed to stop. We were received very warmly by the purveyors of Great Brington Coffee who were running this “pop-up cafe” in their garden in aid of Scope. Not only were the coffee and the cakes excellent, but we discovered a shared interest in cycling with other guests, including a group of young women cyclists .

After this well-timed stop, it was a short ride back through Althorp and Church Brampton to the star for a round trip of 38 miles.

Thanks all for your company.

PS I set off afterwards for an extra loop, only for my rear gear cable to snap after a couple of miles – which made for an interesting limp home, with only two gears… At least it didn’t happen on the ride!

Sunday 04th September – Ride to Market Harborough

Apparently summer ends when August ends (let us hope the weather disagrees) so we return to an 09:30 start for this weekend’s ride out to Market Harborough.

The route is just over 50 miles in total and does feature a couple of hills, although we shouldn’t be climbing as much as on the last two rides, and we have two stops for recovery (Kelmarsh and Waterloo Farm).

If you plan on riding skinny tyres, make sure they’ve got plenty of air in them. Some of the tarmac is a little broken and some of the route* is best described as “pavé”. Don’t worry, we won’t be hurrying over this bit and your tyres will be fine so long as they’re properly inflated. MTB tyres will not be required.

The planned route is here: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/16229338 although, as ever, the Leader reserves the right to amend it on the day if (s)he sees fit. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

At time of writing, the weather is forecast to be dry with not too much wind and temperatures in the high teens (60s in old temperature). Almost perfect conditions!

Hope to see you outside Moulton Co-op, 9.30 am on Sunday.

* northern-most section of the Brampton Valley Way, which is cobbles sprinkled with a little light gravel. No big rocks, no mud, no need for fat tyres.

 

Saturday morning rides – 27th August – A Report

Milton went out on Saturday and writes

Ten of us met up at East Hunsbury for James’s 40 mile tour through some of the more rural parts of western Northants to coffee at Daventry Country Park. Six opted for the brisk ride led, in the absence of James through injury, by Giles, and four for the moderate paced effort led by Iain. On a showery day, only once were we soaked, on the outward journey, and that was by a short sharp downpour around Preston Capes. As ever it took me until the shower was over and I was drenched to find and put on my waterproof jacket. Are there Di2 versions for the likes of me?

The brisk group kept up a fine spanking pace until Newnham hill when some of us came as close as it gets to a wheezing halt without actually falling off. Thank you Giles and Chris for waiting for us at the top – could you look a little more knackered next time?

We were soon safely seated at the country park and after about half an hour joined by the moderate group who had also had a pleasant time until the hill. Can’t it be levelled somehow?

Coffee and cake and bacon and egg butties (7/10 from Giles)  and the brisk group were off to battle home on the lovely route through Whilton, Great Brington, Upper Harlestone and down through Upton to the river and home. We were only caught by another shower just as we got to our homes, although I understand the moderate group had a bit of a dousing along the riverside.

Good to have Chris out for his third run and to see Hartley for the first time in a while. Iain D sported a new machine which, on passing Leisure Lakes Bikes, was taken in for some minor brake adjustment (as in “I had no brakes!”, which they sorted without quibble or charge despite me not having bought the bike from them! So many thanks to the staff there – Iain). How many people conspire to have a mechanical outside a bike shop?

Thank you leaders both –  Iain and Giles, and we look forward to Giles getting the promised reading glasses so that he can see his Garmin better, although, as he hasn’t a clue how to work it, I can’t imagine what difference it’ll make!