Friday, 21 November 2014

Sold Down the River

On Wednesday night Windows decided to demonstrate just how third they are in the mobile phone market in the UK.

It turns out that not even recruiting the most likely to go viral of all mountain bikers can make anyone really pay attention to the Windows phone. What they did was to essentially recreate the story in MacAskill’s Imaginate film to build to a big stunt involving a loop floating on the Thames in front of a crowd of bike journalists and bloggers.

The thing is that this lacked something. All the glitz, lighting and MacAskill’s undeniable talent can’t hide that this is a trick we’ve seen before in exactly that Imaginate video, as well as in more interesting ways since. It’s a brilliant stunt and Danny Mac pulls it with aplomb, but it’s not new and it’s not enough to catch the imagination of the biking public, nor more widely.

Arguably those that did notice the spectacle simply asked themselves whether Microsoft are really just releasing a feature on their phones that Apple and Android have had for years. Perhaps Windows phones have had it as well, but that’s not what anyone will take from this. You can almost imagine the meeting at the agency where they came up with this, a little too late for it to be new in any way.

Still, let’s see it. It is dramatic in a corporate way and you can’t blame the Scottish trials star from taking the money. Here it is:

I look forward to my cheque from Bill Gates.


Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Who Are You?

It has been widely reported this week that YouGov published a very accessible audience building tool that, amongst other things, allows you to see what people who are into different activities are like.

Of course I instantly checked how this looks for cyclists

So, a lot of people identify as cyclists, they are relatively wealthy and educated men in their forties who live in East Anglia, eat mince pies, keep fish, drive VWs and like Breaking Bad, Kevin McCloud and Dangermouse. They like gadgets, use Strava and read the Guardian. They fantasise about Gillian Anderson and Suzi Perry. To be honest, while there are definitely bits of this I identify with, this seems to fit the image of the nouveau cyclists who have got into road cycling late and love to bang on about it. While they’d be pleasant enough company and recommend you a lovely wine or mechanic they seem a bit, well, dull.

Mountain Bikers are a whole lot more interesting. There are a lot less of them and they are still men over 40, but they have less spare cash and live, it seems, in Wales. Oddly they also read the Scottish paper the Herald, perhaps for news of northern trails, perhaps because they had to move south from their homeland for their blue collar job. Interestingly they are more into cycling than cyclists and have that as their main interest. They have dogs and eat eastern European cakes and Sheeps Yoghurt. Or stewed prunes. They drive a more rugged Skoda, are more family than work focussed, and like Nick Cave. There’s only 42 of them but they seem a lot more eclectic and interesting.

Ok, I realise that the sample sizes skew the results in this case but my point is probably valid that cycling is a lifestyle for the mountain bikers and a hobby for the cyclists and that is shown in some of the results here.

In other news I decided to treat you to what may be the first of many irritatingly self-indulgent videos.


Monday, 17 November 2014

Welsh Adventure

I’ve slightly abandoned you for a while but that’s meant some riding to tell you about.

First up there was news from France that, thanks to lack of sponsorship, Didi the Devil, the iconic Tour de France supporter is due to retire.

I took a long weekend over a wedding to go for some riding in Wales. This was a chance to brave the rain and hit some trails I have been thinking about riding for a while. Suffice to say I got absolutely soaked both by the rain and the trails, which in places were little more than streams.

First up I rode the new trail at Glyncorrwg. The Blade seems to be basically an extension to the Whites Level route and adds a serious amount of climbing to the initial ramp. In the wet, with a deadline to be at a wedding rehearsal, it was a tough exposed climbed, made tougher by adding in the Black extension to Whites, just to give myself an extra climb. I found it brutal, but it may well ride better in the dry.

So, one new trail at a favourite centre down and more beckoned on Sunday when, with a wedding hangover, I arrived in Bike Park Wales in the rain. I was determined to ride through the wet and to experience the trails I had missed last time. This meant Sixtapod, the fast fun blue run and then a couple of trips down the red trails, including the new massive jump line of A470 which felt like it had loads of potential for an on-form rider the dry. I was neither, but enjoyed the rolling lines.

To finish a long weekend of riding I rode the famous classic Gap route on the Brecon Beacons. This is a genuine old-school mountain bike ride, with the highlight easing up and up along a valley side on rolling bedrock and loose boulders, and then plummeting back down over the top on rocky tracks that were freely flowing with water. With a couple of wet punctures from hedge clippings and a bit of muddy spray at every stage of the ride it was an excellent loop, with a real mountain feel. Well worth its status as a classic.


Tuesday, 4 November 2014


There is an ongoing debate you might be aware of around whether helmets should be worn in cycling. Obviously they are now required in all forms of competition, but the real debate is around wearing them for “normal” cycling.

When it was first suggested that I should wear one I was strongly against it, but now always ride with one. Not putting one on feels wrong like driving without a seatbelt, and I’ve seen the benefits from people who have got away with crashes that would have done a lot more damage without one on. That said, I consider myself a mountain biker and helmets have always fitted the more extreme image of the sport, even if you are just riding cross country.

Some excellent points on this subject were penned yesterday by Chris Boardman and they are well worth a read.

The hot topic in road cycling at the moment is the hour record, thanks to a change in the rules allowing more aero bikes to be used. A slew of riders are lining up to ride it, Jens Voigt set the first marker a few months ago, but that record was broken last week by Matthias Brändle, a pro for IAM Cycling at 24 years old. Everyone expects Wiggins to smash the record next year, with Cancellera the only likely challenger to him, but it’s interesting seeing who is up for a tilt at the record.

Meanwhile Jon Tiernan-Locke is digging himself a deeper hole.


Monday, 3 November 2014

Pick Up and Go Again

Welcome to the week and to November. Let’s have some obligatory “hasn’t the weather been nice?” chat, which will guarantee that today is a wet freezing mess when I question everything about riding bikes. I didn’t even ride any at the weekend, although I did wash one, which is almost as fun, right?

It’s a mixed bag today, starting with an odd article I found in the Standard about how it’s now apparently ok to turn up to meetings in bike gear. I would say that, however much that sounds great and would save me time changing or buying shirts, it is not in fact ok. I would imagine you will be regarded in the same manner as the slightly odd guy you know works in a digital development team and only wears free tee shirts and shorts if you were to start doing this. I mean, if that’s what you’re aiming for then go ahead but I have yet to see anyone pull off a lycra look in a business environment, however casual your office might be. Top tip there for recent graduates and the unemployed in terms of work-wear. I do like it when this blog is a public service.

I’m unsure how to effectively link these next two bits, without running the risk of it seeming insensitive somehow, but let’s just go for it.

Danny MacAskill’s Drop and Roll tour is a fully developed showcase and touring, as you can see in this video:

From the world of trials demonstrations Martyn Ashton has also written an inspiring blog on the Animal site about his first year dealing with the life-changing injury he sustained during a show last year. It’s perhaps a rare, honest and thoughtful look at how someone who had a life built around bikes and being active has to adjust to the restrictions he now has on his body and find ways to get back the feelings he could get from his sport. It shows the determination and strength it takes to cope with such a huge injury and I absolutely hope to see him riding bikes in some way on the trails again as he clearly wants to.