Thursday 31 December 2015

Cycling (and other) picture memories from 2015

Winter walk around Bollington (nr Macclesfield) Cheshire
Anna Christian at Wiggle Honda camp

And we're off! Red Bull Foxhunt with Rachel Atherton

Park run Lyme Park, Cheshire

Hanging on to Team Wiggle Honda
Little niece at Ride London with Islabike
Trek Remedy from Alpine Bikes
Dropping down to Lugano from Como
Back to the London rush hour routine!
Related article

Cycling words from 2015

A few memorable quotes I picked up during interviews I did with cycling folks in 2015:

"Just completing the event teaches you a huge amount about yourself. The process of getting to the start line is the most valuable thing I think any cyclist can do. If you’re a number crunching training animal then it’s right up your street. We’ve taken marginal gains to the nth degree, and we can apply them to what I’m going to be doing between now and the games in Rio."
Sarah Storey speaking following her hour record attempt at Lee Valley velodrome

"We do thrash ourselves a fair bit over our careers and you only really realise it when you stop. The amount of damage we do to our bodys, I am quite shocked to know I do this to myself."
David Millar speaking following his retirement from professional cycle racing 

"It’s really fantastic. It’s really cool to see all those schoolkids around and coming out of their schools, supporting, cheering for the riders and cheering for the tour. You really feel that cycling is really popular in Britain." 
Marianne Vos speaking at the Women's Tour

"We are changing focus for 2016 and trying to make sure we can step up. Elinor [Barker] is an unsung hero, and it is really difficult to transition from the track to the road. It was nice that she took the pressure off Laura [Trott] and we had her in some good positions coming into finishes."
Stefan Wyman (Matrix Fitness) speaking at the Women's Tour

"The roads are wider over there. So in terms of positioning you kind of get a little bit lazy because you know that in two seconds you can be at the front, whereas here it can take you an hour to get to the front, and less than a minute to slip to the back!"
Hannah Barnes comparing road racing in the US with road racing in the UK at the Women's Tour

"Last year I did this and when coming up to the finish I crashed on the corner, so it was nice to stay upright this time! Changing the course to anticlockwise this year was great for me. I’m a track rider so I love going left!"
Katie Archibald speaking following her victory at the London Nocturne

"I love it because it’s different, it’s quirky, and the crowds are absolutely mental. It’s almost like the atmosphere in the Olympics. There’s a great party atmosphere. It helps that everyone is a bit half cut! In this race everyone was going for it and was gung ho, going bang bang bang. It just feels good to finally crack it and get the win."
Ed Clancy speaking following his victory at the London Nocturne

"When you are in a race you have to put out of your mind who they are and what they have done. You just see it as just another bike race and they are just another bike rider. No one is unbeatable. It’s just a question of getting on and doing it."
Nicola Juniper after gaining the title at the National Criterium Championships

"I think the whole vibe with Foxhunt is that it’s a race but it’s pretty relaxed and it’s not your average race. I think the mass start – everyone starting together, I think that helps the nerves and the confidence of girls who aren’t so sure about racing – having people around them, and it’s female only. It’s been an awesome weekend and everyone’s had a good time."
Rachel Atherton speaking following the Red Bull Foxhunt


"There's a lack of girls in downhill mountain biking, so I am keen to help get other women into cycling. I hope to organise a couple of women's events. I have already taken my mum out on a few trails!"
Manon Carpenter speaking at the launch of the Strongher women's cycling group

Related articles

Cycling picture memories from 2015

10 Sound bites from....Sarah Storey

10 Sound bites from....David Millar

Fun at the Women's Tour

Fun at the Red Bull Foxhunt

Women's Cycling just got Strongher


Tuesday 29 December 2015

Rider beware: Anti-social media preying on our bicycles

Thieves are now using tracking apps to gain the information needed to commit bicycle theft

As we enjoy the end of year holiday season and look forward to going away on winter holidays or cycle training camps it is worth considering how secure your social media activity is, particularly with regard bikes.

I remember the old days of web-chat forums when we were encouraged not to post photos of our bikes or discuss details of our trips to cycle races on these publicly accessible channels.

But since the explosion of more sophisticated forms of socializing and chatting on-line it has become easy to forget the old rules. Social media is a great way to boast of your pride and joy - be it your kids, your pets, what food you're eating, who you meet, where you go, how fast you go, what you achieve, and what bikes you have.

For some people it is the easiest thing in the world to take a photo of your brand new acquisition and show it off to your followers, friends or circles on Twitter, Facebook or Google+. Sadly, for those who have left their address details and not adequately set up their privacy settings on social media this leads to more Christmas presents for preying thieves.

Why would a felon need to travel over to "case the joint" for some days before committing the crime when a bit of desk research on social media can tell them all they need to know?!

Earlier this year the Association of British Insurers warned people to think carefully about what they put on social media. A "reasonable care" clause in home insurance policies could mean that insurance companies may reject claims for burglaries committed while the home owner was on holiday if the company can prove that the home owner announced their holiday plans on social media.

It's funny how when a Facebook friend posts a photo of themselves currently in a beautiful mountain location folks reply about how jealous they are. In my cynicism I can't say that I share the same feelings - particularly when I think that while this person is topping up their suntan on another iconic mountain pass, a lowlife could be helping themselves to their bikes at that exact moment!

In fact now, thieves are using another resource - the GPS mapping device app, Strava.

Earlier this year Dorset Police reported a significant hike in the number of bike thefts, particularly of those worth £600 or more. This has in part been attributed to the availability of data from such apps which can give information that leads to an individual's home. Police urge cyclists to amend their privacy settings so that their home postcodes are masked.

A club cyclist in Greater Manchester, Mark Leigh recently had two bicycles worth £500 and £1500 stolen from his garage. He believes he was targeted after thieves traced his home address through Strava, and advises other cyclists to start and end their rides some distance away from home so that their addresses can't be traced.

I wouldn't put a poster in my window letting everyone know what bikes I have, how much they are worth and when the house will be empty. But that is effectively what it is being done when posting activity and photos of bikes on social media without putting privacy settings in place.

I think it's a shame that we have to be so cautious when some of these apps encourage networking and discussion, a chance to make new friends and a way to discover new routes and destinations.

However, by making a few tweaks to privacy settings and starting/ending bike rides from places that don't identify your home, this could mean the difference between happiness and heartbreak.

Tuesday 22 December 2015

Cyclists' hopes punctured at BBC SPOTY awards

Two cyclists nominated for Sports Personality of the Year but they fail to gain much public support

So it's that time of year when we celebrate sporting achievement (and their personality apparently) at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards (also known as SPOTY) and the public gets to vote for their favourite sportsperson from a list of nominations. This year the twelve nominees, elected from a panel that included olympians, heads of sports organisations, and individuals from sports media outlets came from the following areas: tennis (1), motorsport (1), track and field (3), boxing (1), cycling (2), rugby (1), football (1), gymnastics (1), and swimming (1).

The winner and runner-up were the sole representatives of their sports on the shortlist - tennis and rugby respectively. Third placed Jessica Ennis-Hill was one of three athletes in contention from the world of track and field. So it was good to see someone from that discipline up there in the roll of honour.

However, neither of the cyclists featured highly in the results. It looks even worse when you consider that both of them had achieved historical feats this year. Chris Froome became the first Briton to win the Tour de France twice, while Lizzie Armitstead was crowned World Road Race Champion on the back of a glittering run since the 2012 Olympics.

Andy Murray who was voted the Sports Personality of the Year 2015 did not win any major singles title at all. The closest he got to touching a Grand Slam trophy was during his spectacular defeat by Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open final in January. There then followed the usual British semi-final/quarter-final exit for the remaining Grand Slams. Although Murray won the Davis Cup tournament, that was a team event, and the Great Britain team received an award for that during the SPOTY ceremony on Sunday in Belfast.

Kevin Sinfield, the rugby player who finished second in this public-vote competition, did not win any specific championships during 2015. It appears that he received votes for being a really loyal and consistent athlete who scored loads of points during his career. Well done!

Since the winner is chosen on the basis of the number of on-line and telephone votes received from the public my question is why was there such muted support for Froomey and Lizzie (who finished 6th and 10th respectively in the vote) despite their achievements?

Note that the total number of scores amassed by the two cyclists was less than the number of votes received alone by Tyson Fury, the boxer who many campaigned to have removed from the list of nominations following his misogynistic and homophobic comments. He even finished fourth in the competition - close behind 2012 Olympics poster girl Jessica Ennis-Hill!

Scores on the doors

1st Andy Murray (tennis) - 361,446
2nd Kevin Sinfield (rugby) - 278,353
3rd Jessica Ennis-Hill (heptathlon) - 79,898
4th Tyson Fury (boxing) - 72,330
5th Lewis Hamilton (Formula 1) - 48,379
6th Chris Froome (cycling) - 39,007
7th Mo Farah (athletics) - 31,331
8th Max Whitlock (gymnastics) - 25,952
9th Greg Rutherford (long jump) - 23,492
10th Lizzie Armitstead (cycling) - 22,356
11th Adam Peaty (swimming) - 13,738
12th Lucy Bronze (football) - 13,236

1,009,498 votes cast

Some might argue that the SPOTY public vote throws up lots of anomalies. For instance, if it is also about an individual's personality how has someone who appears so dull and deadpan like Andy Murray managed to win twice? And why didn't Max Whitlock finish higher up in the placings after becoming the first British male gymnast to win a World Championship title?

My questions come against the backdrop that cycling is constantly being talked about as a sport that has garnered a phenomenal increase in interest from the public. Look at the crowds that turned out on the streets of Yorkshire and London for the Grand Depart last year. Furthermore, cyclists have had a track record for winning SPOTY - from Tom Simpson in 1965, Chris Hoy in 2008, Mark Cavendish in 2011 and Bradley Wiggins in 2012.

Perhaps the fact that Chris Froome's achievement at this year's Tour de France occurred under a cloud of scepticism and suspicion over doping. As for Lizzie Armitstead's outstanding season and her win at the World Road Race Championships, this seems largely to have slipped underneath everything!

I guess for Tyson Fury, whatever you think about him everybody knew his name by the time the SPOTY awards ceremony took place. And for him and his PR team they probably stuck firmly to the adage "there is no such thing as bad publicity"!

Perhaps next year the cyclists will be back. After all, in the last two Olympic years it was a cyclist who won the BBC award. Maybe Rio will bring good fortune to our pedal-powered heroes, and who knows we might see people ringing in or clicking their mouse in favour of Laura Trott or perhaps even Wiggo again!

Related article

SPOTY - It's not about the BBC

Sunday 20 December 2015

More winter treats for cycling and running

In my previous post I talked about how being seen is an important consideration for me while on outdoor pursuits in winter. Well here are a couple of things which will nicely tick that box.

Primal long-sleeved heavyweight jersey

I love this design. There were a few to choose from within this range, but for me the Kashmir Yellow one was the no-brainer. It is a subtle yellow in variegated shades without going as far as garish, and with brown Indian-style flowery motifs on the front and back - rather like Henna tattoos. Why go for the usual reds, blues and blacks when you can have something a little more exciting that will surely brighten up a dull day?
When I took the jersey out of its packaging I thought the fabric was a bit too thin for it to be described as heavyweight. But in fact the Sfero technical fabric keeps you quite warm while still being breathable. Since we are experiencing spring-like temperatures you may find you will need to pull down the zip a little as you trundle past the daffodils in December!

If like me, your measurements fall between two sizes I would suggest going for the larger option as these designs have a snug fit. You might, if you are like me, prefer to have some "wiggle" room while riding.

Although this jersey looks "fun" it takes quality seriously. The finish is slick, there is generous space in the three rear pockets, and the lack of labels on the inside plus raglan sleeves means that there is no danger of the jersey rubbing or chafing your skin as you ride. Furthermore the integrated sun protection factor 35+ is an added bonus during these sunny days.

I look forward to properly testing out the heavyweight properties of this jersey when the temperature drops - which is forecast to be on Christmas Eve - great timing!

Other colours: purple, blue; sizes: S-XXL(2X); £60.00;

Proviz Reflect 360 women's gilet

While it might be too warm at the moment for a jacket while running, it is not too dark. Proviz have gear which is equally useful for runners as for cyclists. I particularly like this item, the Reflect 360 gilet.

As with the eponymous cycling jacket it is 100% reflective, and you will be spotted from almost 200m away as you do your marathon training at night or in the early mornings. The shiny reflective material gives a spaceman-like appearance, attracting almost as much attention as British astronaut, Tim Peake or a Star Wars character!

There is enough warmth on the trunk of the body to keep you warm if you come to a stop or slow down to walking pace. In addition, the high collar will protect your neck and chest from the cool night air which can sometimes lead to a chill. Of course the lack of sleeves means that there is no danger of overheating if you up the pace during a competitive event such as night orienteering. A perforated back helps with temperature regulation too.

I like lots of room for movement when running, and the Reflect 360 definitely has it, since the cut is not snugly tailored. Very usefully this gilet also has roomy zip-up pockets. Great, though it would have been even better to have one micro-pocket for things like keys and change to cut out the jingle-jangle sound as you bob up and down during your run. I have focused on running in this review, but this Reflect 360 is equally useful for cycling. Overall, this is a very handy piece of kit for your night-time outdoor pursuits.

Sizes: 6-16; £49.99;

Islabikes for small people

As I mentioned earlier in the year my niece is trying out the  Islabikes Cnoc 16. She is enjoying it even more than a few months ago, now that she is riding it everywhere with the pedals on (as opposed to using it as a balance bike). As the weather this December has been glorious there are still lots of opportunities for kids to get out and ride/learn to ride a bike. Islabikes produce good quality frames that are built sturdily to allow for the odd spill. This is great for if you want to save the bike and hand it down to a younger family member, plus these bikes don't lose much value on their price when selling.
Components on the Cnoc 16 are the same as those found on adult bikes, so children can get used to the workings of a bike from an early age in readiness for when they move on to a more "grown-up" bicycle. The good thing is that the Cnoc 16 is also lightweight so the littl' uns can use their energy mainly for zooming around further and faster, rather than trying to push off  and gain momentum!

Cnoc 16 - Age 4+; £249.99;

Related stories:

All I want for Christmas is.....

Review: Proviz Reflect 360 Cycling Jacket

2wheel kid meets Islabikes