Thursday, 25 July 2013

Cycling Video: 'Experiments in Speed'

This is such a wonderfully bonkers (and beautifully shot) short film of frame builder Tom Donhou's quest to get his bike to go as fast as possible - in his case by drag racing behind a modified Ford Zephyr...

"A lot of people think about it but it's whether you actually go through with it," Tom says. "It started out as just an idea, to simply build a bike and see how fast we could go..."

To reach his target speed, he gets component-makers Royce to build a 104-tooth chain ring (for the non-cyclists amongst you, the biggest a road bike's chainring usually gets is 43-teeth)!

Tom is a Rapha Continental frame builder and rider.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Another Mont Ventoux Ride for the Record Books

Mont Venoux is an icon in the history of the Tour de France and Chris Froome's incredible ride yesterday adds another tale to that legend.

Chris Froome conquers Mont Ventoux
Having ridden Ventoux twice myself, I have very personal reasons to appreciate something of what the riders have gone through. Despite first appearing as recently as 1951 the 'Géant de Provence' is one of the classic mountains and it's regarded as the most gruelling climb, in what is a pretty tough field. There are higher mountains, there are steeper mountains, but Ventoux has something special.

Roland Barthes, the French philosopher and cycle racing fan, sums up Ventoux's almost supernatural quality: "The Ventoux is a god of Evil, to which sacrifices must be made. It never forgives weakness and extracts an unfair tribute of suffering."

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Gear Review: Lezyne Micro Drive Front Light

It's less than two years since I last bought and reviewed a set of bike lights, but I've just been sent a new front light to review which has blown me away and made me realise just how much things can change in technology in such a short space of time.

Back in 2011 I bought a Cateye EL-320, which was a pretty much state-of-art LED, producing what seemed a blindingly bright light and and lasting a pretty long time between charges.

What a difference 2 years make...

On the left is the Cateye EL-320, all 176g (including the mount) and 100mm x 45mm of it, powered by 4 x AA batteries. On the right is the new Lezyne Micro Drive front light, which weighs 67g (with mount) and 71mm x 26mm, powered by an internal Lithium Ion battery.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Tour de France - Chris Froome wears the Yellow Jersey

Chris Froome blew the Tour de France apart today. After a week of edgy manoeuvring, and with only seconds separating the leading contenders, Froome is currently wearing the 'Maillot jaune' with a lead of over a minute on the nearest contender, Movistar's Alejandro Valverde.

Chris Froome takes the Yellow Jersey
That may not sound like much, but Bradley Wiggins only won last year's Tour by 3 minutes and 21 seconds from his Sky teammate, ahem, Chris Froome...

It's another feather in the cap for Sky, lead by Dave Brailsford - who has also led Team GB's cyclists to such incredible success.

But I've not posted about this year's Tour yet because, to be honest, of a lack of excitement on my part. Without Wiggo there to defend his title - whether through injury or ennui - Chris Froome is the only real British hope to win (although he was born in Kenya and grew up in South Africa, only riding on a British licence from 2008).

And I do find Froome hard to like. In last year's Tour, Froome acted as Wiggins's 'super domestique', basically there to do his hard work for him and taking little of the glory. Not much fun, but that's how these things work - it's tradition and very like the F1 idea of 'team orders', where drivers allow their team's top driver to beat them in the hope that they will win the title.

But I found Froome rather graceless about his role in Wiggins's success last year, for example his performance at Peyragudes and his comments about Wiggo's non-appearance at the tour this year.

I've worked in PR for 20 years, including sports - for example looking after Channel 4's Ashes cricket coverage in 2005 as well as working with Premier League football clubs - and I understand the kind of ego-related battles that go on. But I think Froome has shown a lack of discipline as well as poor PR skills. Hopefully he will learn the skills that Wiggins displayed late year.

And I'm willing to lay all that to one side if Froome, who's an amazingly able cyclist, whether in the mountains or in time trials, can keep hold of the yellow jersey and win - in his own right and in style - in Paris...!