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Sub-£1k alloy

sports bikes

group test


Big helmet

test: 15 of

the best

78 Latest reports

on life with the

CA longtermers


10 This month

12 Is 20 plenty? The Think! road safety

initiatives in the spotlight

13 Ride to live

14 New stuff

16 Eating v exercise: what’s the perfect

equation for success?

18 Pro bikes versus our bikes

20 Toolbox tips and TFL segregation

22 New findings on public health

24 Letters and editorial


28 Merlin Malt-CR SL

32 Cannondale CAADX

32 Tested: Cannondale CAADX

36 Raleigh Revenio 2.0

40 15 of the best helmets

Multi bike test

46 Giant, B’Twin, Specialized and

Saracen in sub-£1K big test

58 Seven of the best ladies’ shorts

Multi bike test

62 Hybrid head-to-head with Scott

and Ghost

70 Seven of the best lightweight gilets

74 Tech investigates: safety kit

78 Longtermers: living with the CA fleet


88 How cycling can help diabetes

sufferers manage their condition

95 Food fight — focus on breakfast

96 Mountain high! How to pedal to the

summit of a monster climb

104 Nail it! Getting out of the saddle

106 Outspoken politics grad Julian

Sayarer on his record-breaking ride

110 Tally-ho! It’s the annual Tweed Run

114 Bike buying: a rookie’s experience


118 Multi-day riding in Lancashire

118 Day after day up

Lancashire way

124 A path through the Olympic Legacy

128 Scots splendour around Loch Leven

132 Taking it easy in Yorkshire

136 World ride — Hungary

140 Swiss Alps challenge

144 Calendar: ride news and

event listings

154 Your turn — grown-up cycling




28 Merlin Malt CR-SL

32 Cannondale CAADX

36 Raleigh Revenio 2.0

48 Giant Defy 3

50 B’Twin Alure

52 Specialized Secteur


54 Saracen Tenet 2

64 Scott Metrix 40

66 Ghost Cross 1300

78 Merida Scultura 903

79 Specialized Vita

80 KTM Macina Bold

81 Boardman SLS 9.2

83 Kona Rove

85 VooDoo Bizango

85 Surly ECR





Explore Britain by bike this summer

We’re having a pretty decent summer by British standards — what better reason to get on

your bike and discover new parts of this great country?

Photo: Daniel Gould.

Who needs foreign holidays? Long queues at

airports, cramped flights, dodgy grub, shady

taxi drivers giving you the change in a wrong

and worthless currency (can you tell our fingers

have been burned?). In fact, 34 per cent of

Brits said their most memorable moments of

summer are family camping experiences, right

here in our own green and pleasant land.

At CA we’d never go that far — we know the

bicycle offers many people a chance for some

quality ‘me’ time — but there’s definitely

substance to the notion that great things aren’t

only found overseas.

So why not use these last few weeks of

summer to explore, by bike, an area of Britain

that you’ve never visited before? What about a

riding weekend in Oxford, from where you can

head north into the Cotswolds or east into the

Chilterns? Or a few days in Wales, enjoying the

country’s fantastic roads and challenging

climbs? Or you could simply head out from

home on a cycle tour, with nothing more

than a dream in your heart and a couple of

panniers full of clothes, a tent and a guide to

British campsites?

Of course, the family doesn’t have to stay

behind — they are great cycle routes for all

levels of ability across the country. The Camel

Trail in Cornwall is an 18-mile beauty that sticks

mainly to traffic-free roads. The Bristol to Bath

Railway Path is an easy entry into city-to-city

cycling. There are also superb Forestry

Commission facilities found up and down the

UK. And if you’ve already got a holiday

destination booked, but don’t know where the

good riding can be found, try using Sustrans’s

National Cycle Network map to discover safe

routes nearby.




Our photo

Looking north from the South Downs, a vast

swathe of southern England awaits your

two-wheeled explorations. Even here, in the

relatively populous south, from your saddle

you’ll encounter more fine lanes, more pretty

villages and more heart-warming vistas than

you ever thought possible. Just saddle up and

let your imagination take over.






Cycle safety

After an increase in serious accidents involving

cyclists in London in 2012, figures for the capital

in 2013 show a more positive downward trend

What’s on... Aug 30

The Mad Hatter Sportive starts

in Malvern and heads through

Worcestershire. There are 43, 72 or 103-

mile routes on offer — the short option costs £25,

and the longer two, £35.





1) Head Ranging from severe

to minor concussion and cuts.

2) Limbs More than 40% of

cyclists suffer arm injuries and

25% suffer leg injuries.

3) Chest and abdomen

Suffered by 5% of cyclists.

Is 20 plenty?

As the media misinterpret the latest road casualty data we set

the record straight and offer some further safety initiatives...

Night rides

Here at CA we reckon it’s the perfect time of year

for a little spin after dark

New bikes

2015 bike models are being revealed left, right

and centre. We’ve even got two on test this issue

— turn to page 46

The weather

Let’s not speak too

soon, but we might

actually be enjoying

a pretty decent


Bike weight

The new range-topping

Trek Emonda will weigh a

staggeringly low 4.5kg.

(It’ll also cost an equally

staggering £11,000)


After we said last month that red wine could be

beneficial, a paper in the British Medical Journal

suggests even moderate drinking is B-A-D


arious media outlets have been eager to

jump on the news that 2013 saw 20 per

cent more road casualties in 20mph

zones in the UK than the year before.

Cycle campaigners have long

pushed for 20mph zones as

pedestrians and cyclists are

seven times more likely to

survive an impact with a

vehicle travelling at 20mph

than one travelling at 30mph.

However, popular opinion

right now suggests the figures

for 2013 must mean 20mph

zones are a bad thing. If they are

seeing more accidents, they must

not be working, right?

But what the figures don’t reflect is how

many more miles of newly classified 20mph

zones there were in 2013 compared to the year

before. As we went to press, we couldn’t get

hold of the figures either, but if there were 20

per cent more 20mph zones, then relatively

speaking, those figures are static.

Even without accounting for this, 2013 saw

33 per cent fewer fatal accidents in 20mph

zones than 2012, and six per cent less total

casualties on all types of road — a statistic that

20mph zones may have helped achieve.

Essentially, it’s the age-old situation where

one set of data is only half the story. But even if

20mph zones aren’t the whole answer to road

safety — then what else do we need?

Refresher driving tests

What about retaking the driving test every 10

years? That should keep everyone on their toes

and committed to best practice.

THINK! about

riding and driving

Transport for London’s

cycle safety campaign is

aimed at both cyclists

and drivers

Mandatory cycle training

Perhaps those who can, should be compelled to

jump on a bike so they can gain empathy.

Segregated bike lanes

London has just released plans for

its first segregated cycle

superhighway (see page 20),

and segregated routes tend to

work well at keeping people

safe on the Continent.

However, British cycle

campaigners are wary about

losing our right to ride on the

road, so aren’t always big fans of

‘them and us’ systems.

Better traffic environment

Instead of segregated systems, why not make

the existing systems safer? As a matter of

course, how about a month-long mandatory

reduced speed limit at all sites where there’s

been a serious accident, while a detailed

investigation takes place looking at specific

safety improvements?

Strict liability laws

If drivers knew their insurance would have to

pay up automatically in any accident with a

more vulnerable road user, they might exercise

just a tad more caution.

Hard-hitting advertising campaigns

Remember those AIDS public service ads that

had such a big effect in the late ’80s and early

’90s? Maybe it’s time for something equally

effective for road safety. “Charley says… don’t

drive like a twerp.”

Pro riders

Starting with Cav,

then Froomey,

then Alberto, then

Cancellara, the

stars dropped

like flies at the Tour

de France

Photos: Chris Catchpole, Graham Watson


Scientists believe it’s not the Western world’s

diet but sedentary lifestyles that cause our

‘obesity epidemic’ (see page 16)




At the scene of an accident, cyclists are

nine times more likely than other road

users to help fellow cyclists, and three times

quicker to respond than motorists



Jacqueline isn’t a cyclist, but I cycle

to work every day — I’ve been up the

Ventoux, Alpe d’Huez and ridden the

Etape. However, in June we rode the

Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research

London to Paris ride together.

Late last summer we were in a hospital

room with our brother-in-law, Mike.

He had just had a bone marrow

transplant because he had acute

myeloid leukaemia. Mike was getting

into cycling before his diagnosis, and

we signed up for London to Paris that

day. Mike was keen that we raise

money for Leukaemia and Lymphoma

Research, partly because his

consultant received some research

funding from the charity.

The transplant didn’t take effect and

Mike died in February. Mike and

Jacqueline’s sister Maureen have two

young children — Patrick who is six

and Molly who is eight — and we’ve

spent most of the last year with them.

Jacqueline didn’t have a lot of time to

train, as she had major surgery at the

end of 2013. But we did ride a couple

of sportives and numerous laps of

Richmond Park.

The ride to Paris was so well organised.

We were split into three groups — slow,

medium and fast. We were in the slow

group and joked that wasn’t a nice

name, so the event manager started

calling it the ‘social group’. By the end,

however, he cheekily dubbed us the

‘slow-cial’ group, instead.

There was fabulous weather and great

countryside, especially in Northern

France, with fields of all sorts of crops

and poppies everywhere. I found the

ride comfortable, although it was a

challenge, especially some of the hills.

Getting to Paris was quite emotional

because Maureen and the kids came to

meet us (the kids inspired our team

name — the ‘Gurning Grimpeurs’). We

haven’t stopped fund-raising, either.

Molly has a junior triathlon coming up

— the Kimbolton Kids Triathlon.

Jacqueline and I are doing the Surrey

100 ride. And in September Patrick is

doing a kids’ Scootathlon.


The British Film Institute’s


player now has 75 historic

British cycling films

included in a new


Less than 5%

So much for bringing it on ourselves: the proportion

of accidents where cyclists breaking laws (such as

ignoring a red light) is a factor, is less than 5 per cent

Iain & Jacqueline


Age: 51 / 44

Occupation: Broadcast

journalist/project manager

Bike: Scott Speedster/

Boardman Comp fi Road

Hometown: Kingston

Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research

needs about £20 million a year to fund

its research. If you’d like to support us,

please visit our JustGiving page: www.

Photos: Daniel Gould






50 years

The length of time Dutch firm KTM has

been making bikes (not two years as we

said in our review of the excellent Strada

1000 back in the Summer issue – oops!)

First Aid for Cyclists St John Ambulance has launched a

new first aid for cyclists app, developed using the expertise

of the charity’s medically trained staff and Cycle Response

Unit. To download visit

SKS Aeron Mini Pump £16.95

Mid-ride tyre disasters are a fact of cycling life,

but they should be nothing more than a minor

irritation with the SKS Aeron Mini Pump. With a

reversible valve head it’ll work with either

Schrader or Presta valves, it inflates quickly, and

weighs in at only 157g. The pump also comes

with an easy frame mount.

Genuine Muscle Milk protein shake £2.24

Feeling tired after your long weekend ride?

This Genuine Muscle Milk protein shake promises

to pack all the nutrition you need into 330ml to

aid your recovery, fast. With a high protein and

carbohydrate content, this is a pretty sweet

post-ride hit. Available in chocolate, strawberry

and vanilla.

Carradice City Classics Kelbrook satchel £125

Carradice bags have been designed and, more

importantly, made in Nelson, England since 1932.

Each of these Kelbrook satchels (or any other

Carradice bag for that matter) will arrive

personally signed by its maker. Beautifully

crafted from waterproof cotton duck, this £125

item will last a lifetime.

Oakley Lifestyle range from £80

Oakley has always had a strong association with

cycling and supplies over 70 per cent of the pro

peloton. The Lifestyle range offers much of the

same market-leading qualities but won’t single

you out as a Lycra lover when you’re lazing

about on the beach. Available in men and

women’s versions.

B’Twin Red saddle £19.99

Saddle choice is a personal thing — what’s good

for your bottom isn’t good for everyone else’s.

But even so, it’s hard to see how you could go

wrong with this cut-price corker from B’Twin.

With its chromoly/titanium rails it weighs in at

just 265g, and looks every bit the high-speed

minimalist perch, too.

Cycle Show tickets £13 (booked in advance)

The highlight of many a bike-fancier’s year, the

Cycle Show returns to the Birmingham NEC on

September 26-28 with a host of new stands,

activity areas and expanded floor space. This

year there’ll even be a series of cyclo-cross

races. Concession prices are available and under-

14s enter for just £1 if accompanied by an adult.

Abus Granit X Plus lock £89.99

Ever feel nervous about leaving your bike alone?

The Abus Bordo Granit X Plus will certainly slow

down any potential criminals. It comes with

5.5mm hardened steel bars, a security level of

15, a fully extended length of 85cm and a

rubberised pouch with Velcro straps so you can

carry it easily on your bike.


OliElla Sports Balm £5

OliElla is a small Surrey-based company that

uses all natural ingredients to make a range of

great balms, insect repellents, skin and sun-care

products. This excellent anti-chafing sports balm

will keep you free of sores and has had proven

and impressive results after being put to the test

by Ironman triathletes.

Chapeau Café jersey £59.99

Combining natty details such as a water-resistant

pocket, headphone routing and silicone hem

gripper, this subtly styled jersey from Britishbased

manufacturer Chapeau will keep you

comfortable and looking good no matter

where you and your bike go this summer.

Available in a variety of colours.

Photos: Phil O’Connor, Andy Jones.



Eating v exercise



What your bike

says about you


‘Flying Mile’

One of the unique aspects of this year’s Tour de Mon

sportive, held on August 17, is the chance to take part in a

special timed sprint section along RAF Valley’s mile-long

runway. For more details turn to Calendar, p144

New research has indicated that the global obesity epidemic may

be caused by a downturn in physical activity. So keep cycling!


he Western world is in the grip

of an obesity crisis, so we’re

repeatedly told. And there are

only two possible reasons for it:

either we’re eating more (or more of

the wrong stuff), and/or we’re

exercising less. Now a study from

America seems to have pinpointed

what’s happened, and it suggests

inactivity is to blame for people’s

expanding waistbands.

The study, published in the

American Journal of Medicine, found

that over the last 20 years the typical

daily food intake — separated into

calories, fat, carbohydrate and

protein — has not changed

particularly. However, the number of

American men who do no physical

activity has grown from 11.4 per cent

in 1994 to 43.5 per cent in 2010, and

for US women it’s gone from 19.1 per

cent in 1994 to 51.7 per cent.

We know what you’re thinking:

‘but that’s in America where

everybody’s fat!’ Not so fast. Almost

two-thirds of Brits fail to hit the

suggested weekly total of 150

minutes of gentle physical exertion

and — what do you know? — almost

two-thirds of us are overweight or

obese, too.

Our message here at CA remains:

watch what you eat if you want to

lose weight but, otherwise, just keep

riding your bike!


irst of all, an apology.

Last month’s image of

a tandem was

generously supplied by Mr

David Blight, not Mr Tom

Hopkins as stated in this

otherwise error-free journal. I

can blame no one but myself

— I should never entrust such

details to the slack-witted

abilities of Watson. This error

comes as no surprise. In his

professional life, the good

doctor once accidentally

transposed my prescription

for a short-term jogging

injury with another fellow

suffering from what we might

call ‘retention’ issues. While

the other gentlemen remained ‘bunged up’, I can testify

that I started running again rather sooner than expected.

But to the job in hand (a phrase I came perilously close

to uttering during the aforementioned episode), and let us

ponder this velocipede sent in by Mr Pete Cashmore.

Cycling is one of the best

ways to stay (or get) trim

Thick-skinned? Send us a photo of your bike if you want the Bikelock treatment to...

Celeb cyclists

Famous folk snapped on their bikes this month

Hugh Jackman and his wife Debora Lee-Furniss, Christine

Bleakley, Vivienne Westwood, Jerry Seinfeld, Willow (daughter

of Will) Smith, and Kelly Brook (many times). Prize for the best

choice of bike goes to Willow Smith’s Trek Lexa

This month the detective

was presented with a stiff one



3.5 million

The estimated number of British

bike fans who lined the roads to

cheer on the Tour de France


Professional bike teams —

Belkin, BMC, FDJ, Giant-

Shimano, Orica-GreenEdge,

Sky and Trek — that have signed

up to Shimano’s #BELIEVE

campaign, encouraging people to

believe in themselves, set goals

and go out and achieve their aims.

Hallelujah, people!

9 hours

“Men who cycle more than nine

hours a week are six times more

likely to develop prostate cancer,”

the Daily Mail scare-mongered this

month. The NHS website, though,

begs to differ: “The study [the

Mail’s source] cannot prove

increased cycling time leads to

prostate cancer; it can only prove

an association.”

Looking at the

expensive concoction

of monstrously

deep-section rims,

composite frame

festooned with

aerodynamic details,

and simply mammoth

tubing, ‘Cash-more’ is

but one way to

describe this

specimen — ‘Speedmore’,



would be equally apt.

As regular readers

will no doubt

appreciate, I’ve never

personally rejected the notion that absolute stiffness is a

most worthy and exciting ambition, but I suspect Mr

Cashmore’s threshold extends beyond the point at which

even my eyes would water. Good man, Cashmore; as

Watson will testify, I admire any fellow willing to suffer

some discomfort in the name of sporting pleasure.




Percentage of fatal or serious

cyclist accidents occurring

at or near a junction


Percentage of fatal

or serious cyclist accidents

that occur in daylight


Reduction in the number of

cyclists killed or seriously injured

in London from 2012 to 2013





Pro bikes v our bikes

Photo: SRAM

Just as Wimbledon inspires people to

pick up a tennis racquet each year

so, too, the Tour de France

encourages everyone to hop back

in the saddle. But how much

relationship is there really between

the bikes that pro racers ride and the

bikes we can all buy?

While the Tour de France was in the

UK we had a chance to look at Cannondale

team leader Peter Sagan’s race machine.

Sagan uses a SuperSix Evo frame, exactly

the same as those available to the public,

except in his case it comes with an

incredible paintjob showing the eyes of

Wolverine from the X-Men (last year he

had the Hulk).

But can you spot the nine differences

between this real Tour de France team race

bike and the Cannondale SuperSix Evo Red

anyone can buy for £3,799?

See below for answers.


1 SRAM Red becomes ‘SRAM Green’ with custom team colour-coded green decals, but otherwise it’s exactly the same gear and brakeset.

2 The mass-produced SuperSix Evo Red doesn’t come with pedals, but Sagan has Speedplay Zero pedals. 3 SRM power system on upgraded

Cannondale SLSL2 cranks with SRAM 53/39 chainrings, rather than Cannondale Hollowgram Si cranks with FSA 50/34 chainrings.

4 FSA bars and stem, rather than Cannondale bars and stem. 5 Deep-section Vision Metron wheels (81mm rear, 55mm front), rather than Mavic

Ksyrium. 6 Kenda SC tubular tyres, rather than Mavic WTS. The Cannondale team are sponsored by Kenda so they also get to use prototype rubber.

7 Fizik Alicante saddle, rather than Fizik Arione. 8 FSA seatpost, rather than Cannondale seatpost. 9 Don’t forget — the rider!

That might sound like a substantial list, but actually they’re mostly examples of easily available aftermarket kit which have been chosen for personal

preference or sponsorship reasons. So what’s the difference between a pro rider’s bike and the bikes we can all buy? Not much.





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CA’s resident

mechanic, Kaye

Patton is able to fix

pretty much anything

If your brakes blocks are

getting dangerously

close to their wear

indicators, if they’re

squeaking like a bag of

cheesed-off mice, or if

they’re simply getting old

and you want to

rejuvenate your braking,

fitting new brake blocks

is a quick and easy job.


The date of this year’s

Cycle Show at the NEC

in Birmingham

6 pledges

TfL and the Mayor’s Office have made six

commitments to road safety in the capital. Visit and search ‘safe streets for London’

Fitting new brake blocks

1. First lift the brake caliper quick-release so the blocks move away

from the rim.

2. Most modern road bike caliper rim brakes use a

rubber brake block cartridge, held in an aluminium

shoe. Undo the bolt holding the shoe in the caliper

arm and remove it from your bike. (Try to

remember the order the washers sit on this bolt.)


cyclists use Vauxhall

Bridge every day in

the rush hours alone






J A selection of Allen keys,

new brake block cartridges

3. With the shoe in your hand,

find the tiny bolt holding the

brake block cartridge in place

and unscrew it. Do not lose this

minuscule bolt!

4. Slide out the old brake block cartridge and slide in a new one. If

it doesn’t want to budge, try using spittle as lubricant (sorry, but it

does work).

5. Refit and tighten the tiny bolt. Then

refit the shoe in the caliper and refit

and tighten that bigger bolt holding it

in place. Don’t forget the washers.

6. Close the brake caliper quick

release. Then realign the face of

the brake block with the wheel,

(there should be 1mm of rim visible

above the block, a uniform gap

along its length, and the block

should hit the rim squarely or very

slightly front end first).

TfL starts


Photos: Chris Catchpole, Rupert Fowler

To paraphrase Roy Castle, when it comes to getting

record-breaking numbers of people on bikes,

Transport for London thinks segregation is what

you need.

If everything goes to plan, London’s first continuous,

separated, two-way cycle track will be built

from Kennington Oval to Pimlico, meaning that

cyclists will no longer have to chance their luck

negotiating the pretty awful Vauxhall gyratory

in the capital. The segregated track will also

continue across Vauxhall Bridge, and will link

to back-street ‘Quietway’ cycle routes at both

ends, allowing cyclists from across south

London to reach large parts of central London

using only traffic-free or low-traffic routes.

Public consultation on the plans will be

open for comments until 14 September, and

then work to deliver the scheme could begin

this winter.

A mock-up of the

two-way cycle track

Plans for cyclists to

enjoy traffic-free routes









)TCPKV 9$#









150 minutes

The recommended

amount of moderate

exercise adults should

have each week

10 years

St John Ambulance’s Cycle Response Unit celebrates its 10th

birthday this year. The mountain bike mounted first-aiders are

commonly at events across the country during the summer,

including Wimbledon, and this year, the Tour de France.

Build it and

they will come

The solution to encouraging more people to get on bikes? Provide new, traffic-free,

suitable cycling infrastructure and those nearby will use it, a new study has shown

Photos: Jim Davies, Guy Corbishley / Demotix/Press Association Images

Now, far be it for us to accuse somebody of

stating the obvious, but a recent study in

the American Journal of Public Health

shows that the provision of new, high-quality,

traffic-free cycling routes encourages people to

get about by bike.

These findings might have been published in

a journal stateside, but the study was actually

based on British experiences. Independent

research led by the MRC Epidemiology Unit at

the University of Cambridge, surveyed adults

living in three communities — Cardiff, Kenilworth

and Southampton — all of which had benefitted

from a new piece of Sustrans-developed cycling

and walking infrastructure.

Two years after the facilities were completed,

people living nearby increased their total levels

of physical activity more than those living

further away. People living within a kilometre of

the new cycle routes were found to have

increased their time spent walking and cycling

by an average of 45 minutes per week more

than those living 4km away.

And we may have been slightly cheeky about

More routes =

more cyclists

the seemingly obvious connection between

good facilities and more physical activity locally.

This research is actually the first of its kind.

Dr David Ogilvie of the MRC Epidemiology

Unit who led the study, said: “Although it may

seem intuitive that improving facilities for

walking and cycling will help make the

population more active, this has rarely

been tested in practice, and most of the

existing studies have been done in other

parts of the world.

“This is one of the first studies to show that

changing the environment to support walking

Less than half of cyclist killers are jailed

Only 44 per cent of motorists found guilty of

killing a cyclist have been jailed, according to

figures for the last seven years obtained by

BBC Newsbeat. And on average, those who

were jailed went to prison for less than two

years — the maximum sentence available is 14

years — while 74 per cent of those convicted

were banned from driving, for an average time

of 22 months.

Perhaps just as worrying is the revelation

that the percentage of drivers sent to prison

for killing a cyclist is only about two-thirds of

the percentage of drivers imprisoned for

causing any death on the road — which stands

at 62 per cent in England and Wales.

Speaking to the BBC, Chris Boardman

said the British legal system needed to be

updated: “Our legal system at the moment

doesn’t support fully enough the more

and cycling in the UK can have measurable

benefits for public health.

“It is also notable that we did not see a

significant effect on activity until a two-year

follow-up. It can take time for the benefits of this

sort of investment to be fully realised.”

There was no evidence that other forms of

physical exercise had been affected by this extra

walking and cycling, which suggests that the

new facilities have encouraged local people to

become more active overall. The benefits were

spread equally between men and women, and

adults of different ages and social groups.

vulnerable road user and it doesn’t reflect

the responsibility people have when they

drive a car. If you seriously injure someone or

behave badly on the roads, then I think we

should see an awful lot more licences taken

away and I think that would very quickly

improve behaviour.”

Cyclists protest

dangers on road


Photos: Daniel Gould, Chris Catchpole






Talk to us

on Twitter and Facebook:


Twitter @cyclingactive

“Go on, challenge yourself”

In taking the reins at Cycling Active this month it’s a welcome

rest for the legs to be back at a desk. Just a few weeks ago

I was scaling a mountain and wondering if I’d ever see the

top, or if I’d ever make it back.

When I was invited to sample the cycling on offer in

Tenerife I must admit that, in my mind, the promise of

sunshine rather eclipsed the reality of the challenge ahead.

Instead of heeding warnings about the windy and volcanic island

I imagined some gentle rolling rides underneath blue skies.

In fact what I’d agreed to was to be the toughest ride of my life.

I experienced altitude, extreme heat and long, steep gradients that

seriously tested my endurance. As I watched more than one

Tour de France contender glide past me in preparation for the

three-week race I wondered what I’d let myself in for.

On page 96 you can find out how it ended, but the moral of the

story is that I was able to push myself way

beyond my comfort zone and still finish with a

smile on my face… eventually.

As I write this, there’s an unexpected

heatwave on its way so there’s never been a

better time to take on your biggest challenge

yet. With plenty of events still to come this

season why not fill in that entry form you’ve

been pondering, or plan your own adventure?

You’ll never know how far you can go by bike

if you don’t try.

Rebecca Charlton, Deputy Editor

Ride this...

Next event in the 2014 Cycling Active/

Cycling Weekly sportive series is the

Welsh Raider in Ludlow on Sunday

August 10.


Write to us at

A class of its own

I would like to sing the praises of my local bike

shop, Cycleworld in Sunderland. Not only do

they give an excellent service and advice but

they are a friendly bunch and nothing seems too

much trouble.

I have never been told they are too busy or

that I will have to book an appointment, as I have

previously experienced at other stores, which I

would never dream of going back to now, as

anywhere else would seem second rate

compared to Cycleworld.

I don’t think there is enough praise given to

local bike shops and hope this inspires others to

follow suit.

So to the staff of Cycleworld, Sunderland,

thank you from a very grateful customer.

Hugh Cockburn, email

True inspiration

“I never thought I’d ride a bike” — the article ‘I’ve

switched my heels for cleats’ (CA August) made

my day. I am not a ‘new’ cyclist, I ride my bike

A LOT and I love it. It keeps me healthy, happy

and quite frankly sane in a fast moving,

often stressful world. I have seen/heard the

Choose helmets,

choose life!


Visit Cycling Active online now

Missed a bike test, product review

or fitness story in Cycling Active?

Go to for

stories, tests and more!

Subscribe to Cycling Active

Have CA delivered to your door hot off the press, or

read the digital edition on your iPad, PC or laptop.

Go to page26-27 for our latest subscription offer or

search cyclingactive magazine in your app store

mainstream press and British Cycling claiming

the ‘huge success’ of various cycling initiatives

and the ‘Olympic legacy’ in not only making

cycling more accessible but also inspiring more

people to get out and ride; however, it is not

often that we get to hear the stories of those

people brave enough to take up the challenge.

Great to see the ‘inspirational’ rider at the

heart of this particular article not being one of

our incredibly talented Olympic superstars but a

very brave lady with whom many others can

associate quite rightly proud of her cycling

achievements and sharing her experiences of

getting to grips with Lycra, cleats and helmet

hair — I wish her many happy miles and smiles!

Jo Munden, Fleet, email

Mind your head

I was out cycling last Friday on my local route

around Devil’s Dyke/ Ditchling Beacon. I was

Local shop saves

the day

I wanted to write in to

share my story with you

and your readers. I am fairly

new to cycling and so to

push myself I decided to

enter into a local event, the Big G

Cyclosportive. Unfortunately, two days

prior to the event my shed was broken into

and my bike stolen.

After months of training for this 60km

ride I had not only lost my pride and joy but

I wouldn’t be able to participate in

this event. Trying to better the

situation I enquired about the ‘bike

to work’ scheme the next day and

am eligible, so I went to Cliff Pratt bicycle

store in Hull after being recommended

by a colleague.

I asked to speak with Ed and he couldn’t

have been more helpful — not only did he

do me a good deal on a Wilier Izoard XP, he

also lent me a Giant Defy so I could cycle in

the Big G the very next day!

It was a challenging two-and-a-halfhour

ride... but I did it! My letter is to thank

the team at Cliff Pratt’s

Letter of

the month wins

a pair of Shimano

R107 cycling shoes

worth £99.99!

Great service: tales of

top shops this month



(there are some good

people in the world

after all) but also to

remind all you fellow

cyclists to make sure

your bikes are locked

up safe!

Brett Waterhouse,


going downhill at 30mph according to Strava,

when my front inner tube exploded, unseating

the outer which caused me to crash. I broke my

collarbone, and left plenty of skin on the road.

I also hit my head on the ground. At the time

I didn’t think it was a hard impact but my

helmet tells another story. Cracked in at least six

places, it probably saved my life, which is a good

reminder that even though it’s fortunately not

the law, it’s a damn good idea to wear one!

I am becoming a PE teacher next year and I

will have a good prop to show the kids why you

should wear one to stay safe on the roads. While

my triathlon training is on hold for the next two

months, at least I have more time to read your

fine magazine. Keep up the great work.

Tim (unofficial Bontrager helmet crash test dummy)

Warren, Hove, email


Cycling Active, IPC Media Ltd,

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Contributors this month: Louise Mahé, Chris Sidwells, Hugh Gladstone,

Andrew Dilkes, Max Glaskin, Paul Kirkwood, Laura Tilt, Cath Harris


Group production editor: Daniel Thomas

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Sub editors: Rob Hoyles, Sophie Hurcom

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Made in Great Britain!

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It’s under £1,500 — and

have you seen the spec?


Sportives and

entry-level racing


Commuting and

weekend training

Merlin Malt-CR SL £1,625*

* Currently on sale discounted by 12 per cent to £1,425

You don’t need to be a wizard to spot a bargain

Rob Hoyles

Established in 1993, Merlin Cycles is

one of the longest-running

mail-order firms in the UK. With an

undeniable ‘stack ’em high, sell ’em

cheap’ ethos to its business model,

there’s a simple honesty about John

Moss’s Lancashire-based firm.

There’s certainly no messing about

with back-orders or being made to wait

for months on end for parts that may or

may not ever become available. “We

say what we stock and we stock what

we say,” so goes the blurb on the

refreshingly easy-to-use website, and

it’s backed up by our experience; our

bike was ordered, built and delivered

within seven working days.

Having made its own mountain bikes

since 2000, Merlin started building road

bikes just a couple of years ago and has

since expanded its range to eight, from

San Marco Concor saddle

offers all-day comfort


entry-level aluminium through to

lightweight carbon-fibre frames.

Shimano is clearly Merlin’s favoured

option, and all its bikes come equipped

with the Japanese groupsets, starting

with the no-frills, nine-speed Sora

and topping out with the exotic,

11-speed Ultegra Di2.


While fairly similar in looks, and

boasting the same Di2-ready internal

cable routing, the SL suffix denotes a

different frame from the standard,

105-equipped Malt-CR. We’ll assume it

stands for ‘super-light’, as it’s at least

130g lighter for a given size and is laid

up with higher-quality material, the spec

revealing the use of T700 Toray, a

carbon-fibre usually reserved for much

more expensive framesets.

The fork is all-carbon too, with

Merlin opting to save even more weight

by using a carbon steerer, whereas

most rivals at this price point offer

only aluminium.

The geometry errs towards the

sporty side with relatively short seat and

head tubes in comparison to the top

tube length — so factor this in when

choosing your size. So long as you

choose the right top tube length, the

rest should fall into place, with plenty of

uncut steerer and a 350mm seatpost


Frameset Full

carbon monocoque

Gears Shimano Ultegra


Brakes Shimano


Chainset Shimano

Ultegra 50x34

(53x39 on request)

Cassette Shimano

Ultegra 11-speed 11-28

(11-25 on request)

Wheels Shimano


Tyres Michelin `

Lithion 23c

Handlebar Deda


Stem Deda Zero 1

Saddle San

Marco Concor

Seatpost Deda RS01

Size range 50, 53,

56, 59cm

Weight 7.71kg (17lb)

(size 50 with Shimano

R540 pedals)

Size tested 50cm


giving a wide range of height

adjustment. Merlin will also change the

stem length to suit, should you need to

alter the reach to the bars.


You can have any groupset you like so

long as it’s Shimano Ultegra 11-speed —

the Henry Ford approach. It keeps

things simple while still offering enough

choice. How so? Well, by concentrating

on one groupset, Merlin keeps enough

stock to offer two different chainset

sizes and three different crank lengths at

the point of purchase. It also means you

get one of the quietest, crispest-shifting

transmissions ever to grace a bike,

together with excellent brakes.

With no deviations from such a

high-spec groupset, costs had to been

reined in somewhere. This is apparent in

the finishing kit and bars, with

inexpensive, entry-level Deda parts used

throughout. Taiwanese firm Neco

provides the headset and bottom

bracket, and no, we’d never heard of

them before either. The San Marco

Concor saddle is a welcome addition,

though, and offered good support and

long ride comfort throughout testing.


Shimano’s latest tubeless-compatible

Ultegra wheels come as standard. They

tip the scales at a very reasonable

1,640g for the pair and, as you’d








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Bikes Merlin racer

Canyon Ultimate CF SL 8.0 £1,699.99

In the July issue we tested the £1,899.99 Ultegra version of

this machine — and absolutely loved it. If Shimano doesn’t

click your shifter, then how about this version, equipped

with the stunning Campagnolo Athena 11-speed groupset?

Handling is superb, acceleration is brisk and at 7.2kg it goes

up hills rather well, too. Cycle parts are also top-notch,

coming from the likes of Fizik, Mavic and Ritchey.

Ultegra 11-speed: a

faultless groupset

“For keen sportivistes looking

for their first carbon bike, the

Malt is a decent choice”

imagine, are top-quality. Perfectly

matched to the calipers, braking is as

good as it gets, and this wheelset climbs

and rolls well; in fact, it’s hard to fault.

Merlin also provides the option to

upgrade to the slightly lighter, carbonlaminate

RS81 C24 wheelset for just £70.


On paper, everything about this bike

tells me it should be a good starting

point for a racer. It’s light; the geometry

looks sporty; and even the styling

borders on aggressive. But the reality is

a little different.

The Malt offers neither an urgent

response to acceleration, nor the sharp

handling that its angles might suggest.

There’s a little too much flex through the

headset for hard sprinting and there’s an

over-damped feeling to the rear end

that seems to absorb rather than

reward your efforts. The flipside of this

is it’s a surprisingly comfortable bike

over distance.

Think of the Merlin as an incredibly

inexpensive way to enjoy one of the

best groupsets ever made and you

won’t be disappointed. While budding

racers or burly rouleurs may need to

look elsewhere, for keen sportivistes

looking for their first carbon bike and

eager to step on to the 11-speed ladder,

the Malt is a decent choice.


Though initially a little disappointed at

the lack of urgency and slightly vague

handling, I came to realise that its

weaknesses in one area are strengths in

another. If you’re after a stiff, out-of-the

seat sprinting machine, then the Malt

probably isn’t for you. If, on the other

hand, you’re after a bike that’s bang

up-to-date, won’t break the bank

and will happily smash out the miles

in comfort then the Malt-CR SL ticks all

the right boxes.


Quality carbon frame looks

sportier than it rides


Incredible value-for-money

with aggressive looks that

belie a softer character

Spot on...

QUnbeatable price

QSuperb groupset

Could do better

QRide lacks character

QCreaking BB and flexy headset













Dolan l’Etape SRAM Force 22


Another direct-sales brand that has scored well in CA tests,

just like the Merlin, Dolan’s l’Etape can be built to your own

exact requirements. Featuring a fast but comfortable

carbon frame, this British bike is a great choice for the keen

sportiviste. Specced with SRAM’s excellent Force 22

groupset it offers yet another affordable 11-speed option.

Less obvious upgrades

To produce a bike with a full Ultegra 11-speed groupset for

such a low price, savings have to be made elsewhere. In the

Merlin’s case, obvious upgrades centre on the finishing kit,

an area where quite a bit of weight could be saved. But it’s

the less obvious parts that can often make a big difference.

We experienced quite a bit of creaking from the bottom

bracket and the headset. This could be remedied by fitting

higher-quality parts and it’s something we’d recommend

asking for at the point at purchase — both are inexpensive

upgrades that Merlin can easily factor into the build.

Don’t be afraid to tweak

the spec of your build

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Perhaps not the obvious

choice — until you ride it


Commuting and mixing it

up off-road


Off-road on the North

Downs and commuting

Cannondale CAADX Tiagra £999

Great looking do everything bike

James Shrubsall

What we have here is arguably

the best looking cross bike on

the market, courtesy of

mainstream-but-still-cool US brand

Cannondale. Eschewing the shadesof-black

finish that is so popular on CX

machines of late, the CAADX Tiagra’s

glossy dark blue with dashes of red sets

it apart from the masses, while the bold

Cannondale branding on down and seat

tubes is confident and stylish. With the

sidewall detailing of the Schwalbe

Sammy Slick tyres matched nicely to

that of the semi-deep black rims, the

whole bike hangs together superbly in

one stylish objet d’irt, if you will.

There are actually four iterations of

the CAADX for this year — the Tiagra is

the second on the ladder, with 105 and

Ultegra 11-speed versions also available

at a (not a whole lot) higher price. A

non-disc Sora version starts the range off.

Cannondale’s own saddle

makes for a comfy ride



Cannondale does make carbon frames,

but underneath the CAADX’s pretty

paint is a fine example of what the

brand is famous for — an oversized

aluminium tubeset. Two sets of bottle

mounts (not always a given on CX bikes)

plus rack and mudguard eyes take care

of the practical stuff, at least at the back

— there are no mudguard eyes on the

fork. You could still fit a clip-on model of

course. As you would expect, the fork is

carbon, although it has an aluminium

steerer, which is probably no bad thing

if you’re subjecting the head stack to

off-road hits on a regular basis.


The clue’s in the name: Shimano Tiagra.

It’s not the most refined of groupsets,

but we all know Shimano rarely makes a

dud, and the case is no different here.

The bike arrived well set up and the

shifting throughout the 20 speeds was

accurate, if a little clunky next to the

Ultegra 11-speed I’ve used a lot lately.

Credit should go to Cannondale for

“Arguably the best looking

cross bike on the market

courtesy of Cannondale”


Frame Cannondale

6061 aluminium, with

carbon bladed fork and

BB30 bottom bracket

Gears Shimano Tiagra


Chainset FSA Omega


Brakes Promax Render

R cable disc

Wheels Maddux 2.1 disc

(32 hole) rims on

Formula hubs

Tyres Schwalbe Sammy

Slick 700x35 wire bead


Cannondale Stage CX

Seatpost Cannondale

C4 alloy

Bars/stem Cannondale

C4 alloy

Weight 9.9kg

Contact www.


speccing a 46/36 cross chainset; the 50t

on a standard compact can feel too big

off-road, and while the ‘36’ might not be

quite as low as the usual ‘34’, it makes

for a nice spread of gears and paired

with the ‘28’ at the back it’s sufficient for

most eventualities. The disc brakes are

from US manufacturer Promax, and do a

reasonable job with plenty of power,

although they are slightly spongy, as

lower-end cable disc brakes usually are.

Finishing kit is all Cannondale in-house.

Dale has plenty of experience producing

this stuff, so while it’s not particularly

sexy, it works fine.


Maddux rims and Formula hubs is a

Taiwanese pairing that is there to hit a

price point and get the job done. Not

unlike much of the componentry here

they’re not fancy or refined, and not

particularly light, but for the time we

used them they rolled well, stayed in

true and didn’t suffer any loose spokes.

The Schwalbe Sammy Slicks are a nice

touch — a quality tyre with a tread that

will roll well on the tarmac while also

coping fine with hardpack paths and

dry, non-technical trails. If you want to

go mud-plugging, something a bit more

knobbly would be advised! These are

wire-bead tyres, and once worn out

swapping over for something similar

with a Kevlar bead would save you a

good chunk of rotating weight and

make the bike feel more sprightly.


Bikes Cannondale cross bike

Specialized Tricross Sport Disc £1,000

Introduced several years ago, the venerable Tricross is back

for more this year, and the Shimano Sora-equipped ‘Sport’

model is the piggy-in-the-middle of three iterations in 2014.

The frame is built in Specialized’s well regarded A1

aluminium, and while it’s hung with the lower-tier Sora

group, it does feature Avid’s excellent BB7 brakes, which

are among the best cable disc stoppers you can buy.

Press-fit BB30 bottom

bracket for stiffness


At sub-10 kilos this is a light bike in its

class, and that was immediately

apparent in the ride. Acceleration and

handling was closer to those of a road

bike compared with other CX machines

I’ve ridden lately, no doubt helped by

the un-knobbliness of the tyres. The

cockpit layout felt well proportioned,

and teamed with an uncommonly plush

seat and plenty of padding on the bars,

I felt confident that a full day in the

saddle would present no problems in

terms of comfort. It proved a more than

capable urban commuter, even with

stock tyres, and readily kept pace

with the rush hour peloton.

Off-road was where the Dale really

shone though, and its well-balanced

handling and neutral riding position

allowed me to take on the sandy trails

of the North Downs with confidence.

Equally, its sprightliness meant that

hucking out of awkward moments often

proved less problematic than on some

other machines.


I have to confess to loving this bike from

the outset, and by the time I’d finished

with it I was hooked. At this price, it’s

everything a CX bike should be — light,

comfortable and capable. The only thing

that might sway you is the fact you can

buy the Shimano 105 version for only

£100 more, which really is brilliant

value. You do lose the gorgeous blue

colourway in favour of a more standard

black, but it still looks great and is

arguably more suited to getting covered

in mud and grime. Another point worth

making in terms of speccing is that the

CAADX Tiagra is basically a great frame

with a less great groupset hung on it, so

you could happily upgrade to a more

premium group in a couple of years

when the Tiagra wears out.

Generally it’s very hard to find fault

with this bike — if you’re in the market

for a grand’s worth of cross bike, the

CAADX Tiagra should definitely be on

your shortlist.


Promax front brakes

have plenty of power


A great looking do-anything

machine that teams commuter

practicality with superb fun


Spot on...

QLooks great

QRides great

Could do better

QBe nice to have mudguard eyes on

the fork













Genesis Vapour £999

It’s bright blue paint immediately sets the Vapour out from

the CX crowd, but just like the CAADX, its beauty is more

than skin deep. With a Tiagra groupset and a cyclo-cross

chainset, the Vapour goes toe-to-toe with the CAADX in

the components stakes, and also features an impressive

claimed weight of 10.2kg.

Cyclo-cross chainsets

Off-road riding, even cyclo-cross racing, is done at

significantly lower speeds than road riding, so road gears,

even the 50 teeth of a compact chainset, become surplus to

requirements and can render the big ring all but useless.

This is why cyclo-cross bikes traditionally feature smaller,

closer ratio chainsets, just like the CAADX does. Its

46-tooth outer ring is ideal for off-road cruising speeds.

That 36t inner is designed to cope with anything on a

cyclo-cross course and should also dispatch anything on

your average urban commute or hardpack hack.

Smaller chainsets

with closer ratio


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Sleek road machine with

the famous heron



Long tarmac cruises


Commuting, long

weekend ride

Raleigh Revenio 2.0 £750

Bright and shiny starter model from Midlands giant

Stephen Shrubsall

You’ve made the decision to get

fit, lose weight, live a long and

fulfilling life — congratulations,

how very wise and informed of you. In

order to achieve this you could jog? Nup,

boring. Swim? Nup, banned from the

local baths (just kidding, ed, honest).

Cycle? Nup, I wasn’t planning on

remortgaging the house and delivering

pizza of a weekend — way, way out of

my price range.

Let me stop you there just a second.

It certainly isn’t unusual to happen upon

parades of carbon-fibre bicycles piloted

by folk who apparently have unlimited

access to a huge pile of cash. However,

with pedal power becoming increasingly

popular, manufacturers are pandering

more to the average Joe and producing

affordable machines that can hold their

own and are nearly as satisfying to ride

as the their top-end counterparts. The

Raleigh Revenio 2.0 is a case in point.


The frame ticks a box or two even

before we start breaking down the

technicalities. Its bright, glossy white

finish yields optimum visibility, and the

smart graphics give the Revenio a

quality that wouldn’t look out of place in

the pro peloton. The joints are pleasingly

neat and barely register as a result of


the brilliant tone. Custom-butted

aluminium lies beneath the veneer, and

this bike manages a reasonably eager

ascent — perhaps assisted by the

presence of a carbon-bladed fork —

despite being a touch hefty.


As befits this price point, Shimano Sora

takes care of the heavy lifting, and it

shifts accurately across the wideranging

cassette, which features a 32t

sprocket to cover any gradient you can

find. The brakes are anonymous,

non-branded items, which is par for the

course on lower-end bikes, and the

finishing kit is all basic in-house stuff. It

does all carry the fabled Raleigh RSP

name, though, lending it a little cachet.


Raleigh AC 2.0 wheels boast snappy

visuals but aren’t the lightest pair of

hoops around. They stayed perfectly in

true for us, though, and should fare just

fine when it comes to sportives and

“Think you can’t afford to get

into cycling? Think again. This

bike may suggest otherwise”


Frameset: Raleigh

Revenio custom-butted

alloy, carbon-bladed


Gears: Shimano Sora


Brakes: Shimano Sora

Chainset: Shimano


Wheels: Raleigh AC 2.0

Tyres: Schwalbe

Lugano 700 x 23c

Bar/stem: RSP

compact butted

Saddle: Raleigh R1

Seatpost: RSP

Sizes: S,M,L,XL

Weight: 10.1kg/22.2lb

(with pedals)

Price: £750

Plush seat helps soak

up road harshness

general riding. They’re shod with

Schwalbe Lugano tyres, which look

great with their bold lettering and white

shoulder stripes. They also have Kevlar

puncture protection so should help

stave off the dreaded flat.


The Revenio was given a fairly

comprehensive workout covering a

diverse range of terrain. Sustained

lengths of level tarmac and false flat

were comfortably negotiated at speed

with the bike nicely ironing out the many

imperfections on Surrey’s roads.

With the Revenio being no lightweight,

hills were generally tackled at a more

sedate (if no less uncomfortable) pace.

This shouldn’t compromise your

everyday riding, though; unless you are

planning on time trialling up Mont

Ventoux in the near future, you needn’t

factor this into a potential purchase.

Gear changes were almost always


Bikes Raleigh Revenio 2.0

Boardman Team Carbon £999

If you’re willing and, more importantly, if your better half

lets you, spending an extra £250 will see you walk away

with a shiny new carbon road bike. A Boardman creation,

although its spec matches the low price tag, it remains

fantastic value.

Curved top tube is

classy at this price

Forks are lightweight

carbon blades

Scott Speedster 60 Compact £499

For those looking to pinch pennies rather than splash out,

Scott has produced a machine that gets an aluminium

frame with Shimano components for a very reasonable

£499. The Speedster 60 Compact is a financially viable

means of starting off on the road — and it certainly looks

the part.

Big-name decals

split opinion at CA

rewarded with a convincing click, and

we were rarely subjected to that familiar

grating mechanical rasp, even when

asking serious questions in the hills.

The brakes were a particular

surprise, and while we haven’t had much

of a chance to test them in the rain, it’s

safe to say they’re some of the best

non-branded items we’ve used, with

plenty of power.

If a bike is lacking in the comfort

stakes, the Surrey lanes will find it out

every time, and the ride wasn’t exactly

cosseting. This is a common

shortcoming in lower-end alloy frames.


For the price, thumbs go emphatically

up for this machine. A British-designed,

entry-level road bike capable of mixing

it up with the carbon set, it’s very nearly

perfect. Only the slightly harsh ride

detracts at all from the enjoyment to be

had aboard the Revenio, so you can get

started on that new exercise regimen

without giving your wallet too much of a

hiding. Just try to steer round the lumps

and potholes…



Wallet-friendly option to put

you on the road

Spot on...

QComfortable, rolls nicely on the flat

QSmooth gear shifts, even when out

of the saddle

Could do better

QSomething of a rattler

QPossibly a touch too bulky for very

hilly rides













The Raleigh record

More than 100 years old, ‘Raleigh of Nottingham’ is

arguably Britain’s most famous cycling brand. Speak to

anyone over the age of 30 about their experiences with

Raleigh and they’re likely to turn all misty eyed as they

regale you at length with tales of derring-do aboard

Royales, Clubmans,

Raleigh Chopper:

ask your dad

Choppers, Grifters,

Burners, Flyers… the list

goes on. During the

Nineties, Raleigh’s

popularity waned, but

after the company was

acquired by Derby Cycle

in 2001, it enjoyed

something of a

resurgence, and the

famous heron

headbadge is now a

force to be reckoned

with in British racing

as the Raleigh team

go from strength

to strength.





An array of options to protect your bonce whatever your riding preference,

from commuting to event day

Words Symon Lewis & Louise Mahé


ost cyclists choose to wear a helmet,

despite there being no legal requirement

to do so. Frankly, why wouldn’t you?

Modern helmets are protective, great-looking,

lightweight, and there’s no need to blow the

holiday fund.

All helmets sold in the UK must pass many

tests to ensure they meet the required safety

standards. Helmets work by having inner

materials that absorb impact, reducing trauma to

the outside of the head and diminishing forces

acting on the brain inside the skull. For this to

work, a helmet must fit, be worn correctly and be

in good condition. Crashed-in helmets should be

thrown away. Some companies have a crash

replacement policy, whereby you can get a new

helmet at a discounted price should you be

unfortunate enough to put yours to the test.

Modern designs have many clever features

and are well ventilated; they’re a far cry from the

‘mushroom’ lids of the Nineties. The helmet has

become a staple part of a cyclist’s attire, and

with so many options to choose from, there’s

something for everyone.

We’ve picked a wide range of helmets

available on the market, from super-expensive

aero numbers that you’ll see being worn in the

Tour de France, to bog-standard basics that may

not look quite as pretty but do the job. It’s always

best to try on a helmet before you buy, as some

fit certain head shapes better than others, and

sizing can vary.

Aero lids

As well as the normal helmets on the

market, a number of aero options are

available. These help save energy by

minimising wind-resistance. Wind-cheating

helmets don’t necessarily have to cost the

earth, and if you are exploring all options for

performance gains, it’s worth remembering

aerodynamics can help significantly.


Carbon can reduce weight

Aero helmets save energy

A good retention system is vital


It can get quite hot up top, so it’s important

to keep your head cool. Even the aero options

provide ventilation to keep temperature

build-up to a minimum, since overheating

can affect performance. A well-ventilated

helmet is key; more vents isn’t necessarily

better, as their position is key to achieving

maximum air-flow where you need it most.


You want your helmet to protect you without

annoying or hindering you. Therefore, you

probably want it to be as light as possible.

On a long ride, a heavy helmet may tire your

neck and shoulders, making it a chore to

wear. Luckily, the majority of helmets

keep weight to a minimum without

compromising on protection, but

it is something to consider

when purchasing.


We are told about how helmets can save our

heads from heavy impacts, but if you haven’t

purchased the right size, or haven’t fitted the

helmet securely, it won’t do its job properly.

The helmet should fit securely, and the

retention system should pull the cradle

snugly around your head. You shouldn’t be

able to fit more than two fingers between

the strap and your chin.


POC Octal £225

Giro Savant £59.99

POC has clearly put safety

first with the Octal. Available

in three bright colours with

reflective patches to aid

visibility, POC has ensured

you’ll stand out for all the right

reasons. This lightweight helmet

boasts superior ventilation

by the simple but innovative

use of larger vents. The small

adjuster dial was unobtrusive

and allowed for accurate size

adjustments, keeping the Octal

fitting well. We initially found

the Octal quite wide, its broad

design claimed to give extra

crash protection, but we soon

got used to it.

A pricey yet

comfortable lid with an

innovative design

and quirky features

The Savant fitted securely and

comfortably with no issues.

Giro filters its technology

through the range, with

the Savant using the same

adjustment dial as the Amare.

We like the fluoro colour, as

it gave increased visibility for

riding on the road, but if you

find this too garish, you’ll be

pleased to read that it comes

in four other colour options.

Alongside this, there’s also a

female version, the Sonnet, in

‘feminine’ colours.

Perfect-fitting and

great for those on a

budget, with a range of

colour options

Bell Volt £99.99

Catlike Mixino VD 2.0 (aero) £199.99

The Volt comes in 15 different

designs, from bold and bright

coloured patterns to plain black

or white, so there’s bound

to be one that suits you. We

found the Volt fitted straight

out of the box, needing little

adjustment. It was easy to

change the tightness, even

while riding, with the TAG fit

system dial. Despite having

22 vents, this helmet was still

fairly warm in use and with

thin padding at the front, some

sweat ran from the brow.

Reasonably priced

with a great shape

and fit but ventilation

could be better

The aero offering from Catlike

is seemingly just the normal

vented Mixino with some extra

plastic, which is good if you

liked the original and didn’t

want to change, but for our

heads didn’t seem the most

comfortable on test. Tweaked

over the years to help spread

the impact across the helmet

in a crash, this lightweight,

customisable lid is still worth

a look when purchasing a topend

aero crash hat.

The original Mixino

comes with an aero

fairing, so could actually

be the better option


Gear Helmets

Kask Infinity (aero) £220

Specialized Evade (aero) £160

As worn by Wiggo, the

Infinity is unique in the world

of cycling helmets, in that

it has a mobile aerator — in

layman’s terms, a sliding

sunroof. The idea is that when

it’s closed you benefit in

aerodynamic terms, but if you

flip the aerator back, vents

are exposed, allowing air to

circulate and cool the head.

The shape lends itself to round

heads, and the straps are

comfortable but oddly offer no

fore or aft adjustment.

A good helmet offering

aero advantages —

but at a price

As aero helmets go, the offering

from Specialized is probably

the best-looking and bestpriced

on test. Designed in the

wind tunnel, it’s said to save

46 seconds over 40km, while

being lightweight and keeping

heat to a minimum. We’re not

sure on the seconds saved,

but it certainly didn’t feel like

we were wearing anything

other than a normal lid.

The minimal vents kept us cool

and even though it didn’t feel

super-light, it was certainly

very comfortable.

If you want a windcheating

helmet, then

go for the Evade



Rudy Project Windmax £159.99

Giro Amare £129.99

The Windmax is one of our

favourite helmets in terms of

appearance, and with minimal

bulk, it suits most riders. The

vents do a great job at keeping

your head cool, even with

the extra mesh on the inside

of the helmet that helps to

keep errant bugs out of your

hair. The padding is placed

too high, though, so it feels a

little perched on your head.

This also means the pads don’t

catch sweat; drips roll down

your face.

A great-looking,

lightweight helmet,

but a rethink on the

padding position

would be useful

The Amare is Giro’s female

version of the Atmos, and

comes in slightly more

feminine colours, with

understated patterns but

nothing too girly. The Amare

is lightweight and doesn’t feel

bulky on the head. Although

the straps around the ears

weren’t the most comfortable

on test, it fitted our head well

and the dial at the back made

adjustment easy. With 27

vents, it kept us cool, even for

those of us with thick hair.

A well-fitting and

easy-to-adjust helmet

that’s also available in a

men’s version


LAS Asteroid £54.99

B’Twin 700 £29.99

Sitting one up from the bottom

of the LAS range, the Asteroid

is a surprising comfy helmet,

thanks to a combination of

soft mesh and sumptuous

padding. It isn’t the best on test

for keeping cool — it wasn’t

the worst but the padding

struggled to soak up the sweat.

The head retention system was

a let-down, though. We found

it fiddly and difficult to achieve

the desired tension.

Great value but let down

by poor padding and a

fiddly adjuster dial

The cheapest helmet on test

was also the least comfortable,

mostly due to the slightly

antiquated sliding tightening

system being less precise than

others. The straps were hard to

adjust to ensure it fitted and sat

correctly. If you’re an occasional

rider after a perfectly functional

and safe helmet then the 700 is

a reasonable option for under

£30. It’s available in men’s and

women’s versions, in a variety

of eyecatching colours.

A bargain helmet, but

the lack of comfort

makes it best for

shorter rides

Lazer Z1 Flash £199.99

Limar 660 Road £49.99

Lazer’s Rollsys system cradled

the head and gave a secure fit,

with no pressure points, meaning

it was super-comfy. This

cradle also has a ratchet system

inside, enabling an even more

tailored fit. For greater coverage,

the Z1’s shell drops down

and covers the side of the forehead,

giving temple protection.

There’s an aero shell option for

those who want to go fast, or

just keep dry.

A lightweight and

great-fitting helmet

that looks every bit as

good as it feels

On looks alone, the Limar 660

Road loses out. Yes, this is a

wallet-friendly helmet, but it

does look and feel cheap. The

narrow design makes it feel as

though side protection may be

limited. Aesthetics aside, we

found it very comfortable, and

it fitted well, thanks to its very

easy-to-use twist retention

system, which hugs from the

front, sides and rear.

If you value cost

over style then the

Limar 660 Road is

an inexpensive and

comfortable option




Gear Helmets

Mavic Cosmic Ultimate £150

Abus S-Force Pro £69.99

Weighing in at 210g (size

medium), the new Cosmic

Ultimate helmet is very light.

Completely redesigned for

2015, weight, comfort and

ventilation have all been

taken care of. The weight is

certainly right for the price,

and comfort was excellent too.

The retention system is simple

enough. Our only gripe: the

straps aren’t secured at the

helmet to prevent left/right

movement. That led to the

straps becoming too long or

too short. Annoying.

A good all-round

helmet for the price, let

down by slightly

irritating straps

Designed specifically for

recreational cyclists, with

soft padding, we found the

Abus comfortable enough for

shorter rides. However, it did

feel heavy and bulky, and the

ventilation was not brilliant.

On hot days, the soft, thick

padding would get saturated

with sweat. The ZoomLite

adjustment system gave a firm

fit but didn’t really allow for

too much fine-tuning.

A bulky helmet that felt

heavy but was


Endura Snype £69.99

The first thing we noticed

about the Snype was the

quality. Compared with others

similarly priced, Endura’s

well-priced lid looks and

feels as though it should cost

upwards of £100. A number of

adjustments can be made to

suit your head shape, and the

all-up weight is pretty low. It

isn’t the most comfortable on

test, though; we were always

aware of it during use, and the

retention system isn’t the most

reassuring, but it hasn’t let us

down yet.

A well made, goodlooking

lid that’s pretty

but not perfect


You’ve got options! Buying the right helmet is important, not only for

your safety, but for your riding comfort and performance too.

Helmets are one of the few relatively cheap ways in which you can

express yourself by means of your kit. Be it loud and garish or styled

and sleek, the options are almost endless. Of course, for riders who

just want something that serves the intended purpose, you can

choose something unshowy yet protective such as the POC.

The aero options offered good alternatives, but what you make up

in aerodynamics, you lose in style, lightness and ventilation.

Specialized’s Evade topped the charts, as it did the best all-round

job, while the Savant turned our heads too and was awarded best on

a budget, as it is available in men’s and women’s models and, for the

price, ticked all the aesthetics, comfort and usability boxes.




Alloy sports bikes

We put four of the best sub-£1K aluminium bikes available,

including two CA exclusive tests, in a head-to-head battle

Words Matt Lamy

Right now, you might be expecting us to state something

along the lines of: “If you’re new to road bikes and you’re

after your first serious drop-bar machine, here’s where

to start looking.” You think alloy bikes are just for people who

haven’t progressed to carbon yet, right? Actually, that’s not

true at all.

We’re billing this as the ‘Alloy Big Fight’, and the relationship

between aluminium and carbon bikes isn’t a world away from

the difference between middleweight and heavyweight

boxers. Both can be superb athletes, both can be incredibly

talented and just as proficient in their craft. There’s no hiding

the fact they’re different, but equally there’s no reason why one

should be seen as lesser in terms of ability.

Is this the bike for me?

With that in mind, who do we think should be

interested in these bikes? One of amateur cycling’s

most used cynicisms is: “All the gear, no idea.”

Yet there is also an implicit notion that the better

or more expensive your bike, the better or more

experienced the rider. But, returning to our analogy,

are bigger boxers naturally better boxers? No siree.

So while one aspect of aluminium bikes — their

price — makes them great for relatively new road

riders, we’re also interested to see what the best aluminium

bikes offer more experienced cyclists. We expect some to be

impressively comfortable, some to be lively and exciting, some

to be superbly efficient, some to offer a nice compromise of all

abilities. If you’re a cyclist who is interested in any of those

qualities — i.e. if you’re a road cyclist — read on.

Bikes on test

First up we have a pair of ring-sharp market

champions, two of the most tested, bought and

refined aluminium bikes on sale today: the

Giant Defy and the Specialized Secteur. We

tested a Defy 1 back in the April issue of CA,

and it excelled. But then it was up against a

mixed bag of opponents; here we have a

Defy 3 against its nearest contenders, and

there’s no rival more worthy than the

Specialized Secteur Sport Triple, a hugely

respected, comfortable road machine that

bows to no one when it comes to ride quality.

Against this mighty pair, we have two

mandatory challengers. French firm B’Twin’s

range has just got a little better with its brand new

— and exclusively tested here — Alur 700. Its

aluminium frame floats like a broad-winged insect and

stings like an, um, stingy one, and is kitted out with

excellent Shimano 105 components. Then we have another CA

exclusive in British firm Saracen’s 2015 Tenet 2. Saracen might

be better known for flat-bar machines, but coming from the

same stable as Genesis, Rapide, Ridley and Ridgeback, we

expect this drop-bar offering to pack a punch.

So forget about how much these bikes cost. Forget what

they’re made from. If you’re looking for a road bike that offers

all the performance any cyclist could wish for, then enjoy the

fact we have four superbly honed, fantastic riding machines

pitted against each other.

Ladies and gentlemen, let’s get ready to rumble.


Giant Defy 3 £699

Carbon forks

Aluminium frames can feel a

tad firm, or at least that’s the

common perception. Carbon

forks can help alleviate road

buzz at the front end and

keep control direct and sharp.

B’Twin Alur 700 £749.99


Bike brands might try to entice

you with showy posh components

such as upgraded rear derailleurs

or STI levers, but have a good look

at the brakes — there’s a world of

difference between budget,

non-branded calipers and

genuine groupset ones.

Saracen Tenet 2 £749.99


Wheels are one of the most


components in this area of the

market, but every now and

then some great hoops can be

found. Do look out for bikes

with better than average

wheels — they are out there.

On-trend details

From internal cable routing, to

aero design, to elements

intended to improve ride

comfort, aluminium frames at

this price should be a bit more

interesting than simply the

traditional two triangles.

Specialized Secteur Sport Triple £850

Sub £1K

What to expect

Q Classy aluminium frame

Q Mid-range groupset (Shimano Tiagra)

Q Budget, unbranded brakes

Q Low-end, self-branded wheelsets

Q Weight less than 10kg


Tech Sub-£1k alloy sports bikes


Defy 3 £699

The original compact alloy

frame tweaked for 2014

What Giant doesn’t know about

aluminium road bikes probably

isn’t worth knowing. And

though the Defy 3 might be found

towards the bottom of the Taiwanese bike

manufacturer’s range, its core is an

impressive Giant compact road frame.


Giant created the first ‘compact’ road

frame — i.e. one with a sloping top tube

— in 1997, and 17 years later, the Defy’s

basic frame shape hasn’t changed a

whole lot. There has been some

refinement; most interesting on this

2014 model is the selection of squaresided

tube profiles. Visually, they’re a

little less pleasing than round tubes, but

the overall finish is very good.

Suggesting the Defy could be a quick

commuter as well as an all-out speed

machine, the frame’s lack of on-trend

niceties such as internal cable routing is

offset by rear rack mounts. And like the

other bikes on test, carbon forks help

take the sting out of the front end.


One of the first things you notice once

aboard the Defy is how quickly and

keenly it responds to efforts. Helping

matters is the excellent Shimano Sora

gearset, with a compact chainset and a

cassette that features a whopping,

hill-friendly, 32-tooth biggest sprocket.

Sora might offer only nine speeds on the

rear cassette, and it might not be the

plushest Shimano kit, but there’s a

rather charming reliability about it.

Rather less reassuring is the sight of

unmarked brakes. However, the stoppers

fitted here are actually Tektro R312

calipers and, though not as powerful as

top-end brakes, they perform rather well.


Giant’s own-brand wheels are normally

some of the very best available in this

area of the market — the Giant P-Elite C

wheelset on the Defy 1 we tested earlier

in the year upheld that reputation for

silky smoothness. However, the S-Elite C

hoops here seemed to exhibit just a hint

of friction at the hubs. Better were

Giant’s own-brand S-R4 tyres, which

hung on well in corners.


From the saddle, the Defy 3 is a

supremely positive affair. It reacts well


Frameset: Aluminium

frame, carbon fork

Gears: Shimano Sora


Brakes: Tektro R312

Chainset: Shimano

Sora compact

Wheels: Giant S-Elite C

Tyres: Giant S-R4 25c

Bar: Giant Sport


Stem: Giant Sport


Saddle: Giant

Performance Road

Seatpost: Giant Sport


Size range: 43, 46.5,

50, 53.5, 55.5, 58.5cm

Weight: 9.5kg/20.9lb

Size tested: 55.5cm

Contact: www.

to power input, it gets up to speed

eagerly, and with those sympathetic

gear ratios, it’s also a fine climber. You

might expect the ride to be a little on

the firm side, and it is, but only by a

little. Road buzz is dealt with well, but

more substantial bumps do get through.

Consequently, rare mid-corner

bumps can unsettle control slightly, but

in most other scenarios you’ll reach your

personal limits long before you reach

the end of the frame’s abilities. In twists

and turns, the overall control is superb

— the Defy corners very ably. In fact, it’s

a very enjoyable and exciting bike to

ride, combining the chance for thrills

with a reassuring underlying security.














brakes don’t


Shimano Sora

chainset is



Sizing up

The beauty of compact frames is

that they have a wider range of fit

than traditional, level top tube

bikes. That also means that if you

want a more lively, stiffer bike, pick

a slightly smaller frame size and fit

a longer stem. Whereas, if you

want comfort, go larger.



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Tech Sub-£1k alloy sports bikes

B’Twin Alur 700 £749.99

A cutting-edge aluminium frame and

Shimano 105 — what’s not to like?

We’re big fans of B’Twin at CA,

mainly because the French

brand provides great quality

products at astounding prices. This

brand-new Alur 700 — direct from

the factory — is the firm’s freshest take

on what a top-level aluminium-framed

bike should be.


Although B’Twin’s entry-level Triban

aluminium frame offers nice, simple

shapes and round tubes, the brand’s

Lille-based designers can’t help pushing

the envelope. This brand-new Alur

aluminum frame represents the more

advanced end of what’s possible with

aluminium bikes. There is a huge range

of smartly-designed details, including

internal cable routing and a rear brake

positioned underneath the chainstay.

Square-edged tubing isn’t

everyone’s cup of thé, and the

finish is a trifle low-key. That said,

the gentle bow to the top tube has a

pleasing Specialized-like feel about it.

However, proof that B’Twin sees the

Alur as a serious sports bike is given

away by the absence of rear rack

mounts, and it’s possible to upgrade to

electronic gearing.


Compared to Giant and Specialized,

B’Twin raises the component stakes not

once but twice, fitting the Alur 700 with

Shimano 105 gears and brakes — that’s

two steps above Sora in Shimano’s

catalogue. So this is by far the

best-kitted and most mechanically

adept bike on test — the 105 parts work


There are also some unique

quirks, such as B’Twin’s own press-fit

86mm bottom bracket and it’s own

ultra-lightweight compact chainset.

And there’s a few useful extras, such

as front and rear lights and own-brand

Look Keo-compatible clipless pedals.

Meanwhile, the all-up weight (not

including these extras) is an

impressive 8.8kg.


Frameset: Aluminium

frame with carbon fork

Gears: Shimano 105


Brakes: Shimano 105

Chainset: B’Twin

lightweight compact

Wheels: B’Twin Aero


Tyres: Hutchinson

Equinox 23c

Bar: B’Twin aluminium

Stem: B’Twin


Saddle: B’Twin Comp

Seatpost: B’Twin


Size range: XS, S, M, L,


Weight: 8.8kg (19.4lb)

Size tested: 57cm (L)



One criticism previously levelled at

B’Twin was the quality of its entry-level

wheels. This has been rectified with the

Alur 700’s hoops, which feature long-life

cartridge bearings as well as aero

spokes. They’re the wheels that B’Twin’s

under-19 squad race with. Rounding out

the package is a set of very capable

Hutchinson Equinox 23c tyres.


Although the frame is designed for

sportives, the Alur is quite a sturdy

steed. It feels a fraction stiffer than the

Giant, yet the rear offers a forgiving ride;

it’s the front that seems harsher. It’s only

a little less forgiving than the two

market-leaders, and fitting 25c tyres

would help reduce the difference.

There is a pay-off, though: handling

and power-delivery. The Alur trumps the

Specialized and just beats the Giant on

fun terms. Getting the hammer down is

hugely rewarding. A 28t sprocket at the

back makes climbing superbly efficient;

although it’s a fast bike, an 11t at the

bottom end would make it even quicker.

But that’s nit-picking — overall the Alur

700 an amazingly refined package.


rear brake caliper


Chainstay-mounted brakes

We want some advice from you... The current trend for

chainstay-mounted brakes helps aerodynamics and

certainly makes frames look sexy. However, of the bikes

we’ve tested with this feature, the brakes tend to feel a

fraction less assured than equivalent seatstay-mounted

versions. Have you got a bike with chainstay-mounted

brakes? What do you think?














Tech Sub £1k alloy sports bikes

Specialized Secteur Sport Triple £850

If ride comfort is the question, Specialized’s Secteur is the answer

Sibling to Specialized’s sportive

favourite Roubaix carbon-fibre

frame, the Secteur aims to offer

all the same qualities in an aluminium

package. So, with the Roubaix being

among the very best bikes in terms of

comfort, we’re looking to the Secteur

for a cossetting ride.


The Secteur frame is an absolute

stunner and seems to be finished with

just a little more refinement than the

Giant. It even boasts high-end details

like through-frame cable routing for the

rear brake, and again there are rear rack

mounts for commuting or touring duties.

If you’re looking for clues about its

propensity for comfort, they’re all there

in the open. That beautifully arced top

tube — copied by countless competitors

— suggests dampening abilities, while

Specialized’s exclusive Zertz inserts are

positioned in the seatstays. Carbon

forks further isolate any road buzz.


As with the Giant, Shimano’s Sora

gearset handles cog-swapping duties

very ably. It’s not entirely the same

set-up, though: Specialized has opted to

fit a triple chainset to this Secteur Sport

Triple, which is a perfect option for

hill-seekers and new riders because it

offers some very handy lower ratios for

when the road heads upwards.

However, for all our good words

about Sora, you could argue that the

Secteur Sport Triple’s £150 premium on

the Defy 3 should represent a gearset

upgrade. At least the Shimano R541


brakes — which offer very assured

stopping power — are better than

Giant’s Tektros.


The Axis Classic wheels are far from

being the best hoops in this test. They

feel heavy to get rolling and also play

their part in the Secteur Sport’s

relatively high overall weight — 10.1kg

— which is a bit of a shame in itself. More

positively, the Specialized Espoir Sport

25c tyres make their own small

contribution to the forgiving ride.


From the first pedal stroke it is clear the

Specialized Secteur is one of the very

best aluminium frames in terms of

comfort, although it’s further into your

ride that you’ll truly appreciate it. And

the benefits aren’t always directly

obvious — because the Secteur is so

comfortable in the saddle you’ll have a

little more energy to attack exciting

sections of road when they appear, so

comfort can have a positive effect on

performance as well as enjoyment.

Shimano R451 brakes

are basic but functional


Frameset: Aluminium

frame with carbon fork

Gears: Shimano Sora

9-speed, 11-32t

Brakes: Shimano R451

Chainset: Shimano

Sora triple

Wheels: Axis Classic

Tyres: Specialized

Espoir Sport 25c

Bar: Specialised Comp


Stem: Aluminium

Saddle: Specialized BG

Riva Plus

Seatpost: Specialized

Sport aluminium

Size range: 49, 52, 54,

56, 58, 61, 64cm

Weight: 10.1kg /22.2lb

Size tested: 56cm


Riding the Secteur isn’t like being on

a turbo-trainer, though — you’re still

aware of the changing surface under

tread. So when bigger bumps do come

through — only noticeably at high

speed — the frame and fork do an

incredible job of censoring those too.

The Secteur also behaves beautifully

through turns. Control is direct and

smooth rather than outright exciting,

although one upside is that road

imperfections never threaten to knock

you off line. In all, the Secteur is one of

the most luxurious aluminium rides

you’ll ever experience.














Mavic Aksium S wheelset

The Secteur’s Axis hoops are a bit of a

letdown, but you don’t have to spend a fortune

to find something better. Mavic’s Aksium S

wheelset might not impress weight weenies,

but they offer great performance, good

reliability, and you should be able to buy

a pair for less than £200.

Tech Sub £1k alloy sports bikes

Saracen Tenet 2 £749.99

Off-road brand turns its hand to drop bars

British brand Saracen may be best

known for legendary off-road

bikes such as the Kili and Tufftrax,

but in recent years it has had a crack

at road machines, initially with the

urban-themed Hack bikes, and now

its open-road-friendly Tenet range.


After all the crazy shapes, bows and

square edges we’ve seen so far in this

test it’s nice to return to a relatively

traditional-looking bike. This is no

old-fashioned frame, though: the top

tube arcs very subtly, while the tube

profiles are rounded but not always

perfect circles.

Through-cable routing for the rear

brake and a full carbon fork keeps

things racy. And as with the B’Twin,

such are the Tenet’s speedy intentions,

there’s no provision for fitting a rear

rack. Mudguard eyes are present,

though, meaning you can

stay quick all year round. In

all, the Tenet is a very

pleasing machine to look at — we

reckon the vibrant finish is just about

the nicest on test.


It’s a case of ‘as you were’ when it

comes to equipment. Proving that

B’Twin really is out on its own with that

105 set-up, we’re back to Shimano Sora

for the Tenet 2’s gears, but a non-series

Shimano compact crankset is fitted.

We know Sora works well, and a

wide-ranging cassette with 32-tooth

biggest sprocket means climbing

anything short of a wall is not just

achievable but even spinnable.

Like Giant, Saracen has gone to

Tektro for the brakes. They’re OK, just

about average for this point in the

market, but a good place for an early

upgrade. Much more impressive is the

all-up weight of 9.1kg — that’s very

reasonable, and makes for the second

lightest bike on test.


Spec sheet warriors will probably feel

the Araya/Formula wheelset doesn’t

seem particularly impressive, but they

don’t prove to be bad hoops. They’re

certainly pretty sturdy, coping well with


Frameset Aluminium

frame with

carbon fork

Gears Shimano

Sora 12-32t

Brakes Tektro R359

Chainset Shimano

FC-R345 compact

Wheels Araya AR713

rims on Formula hubs

Tyres Schwalbe

Lugano 25c

Bar Saracen


Stem Saracen


Saddle Kore

Seatpost Saracen


Size range 52, 54, 56,

58, 60cm

Weight 9.1kg (20lb)

Size tested 56cm

Contact www.

the worst of Surrey’s potholes, and they

don’t feel as lifeless as some. They’re

also nicely colour-coded with the frame.

Schwalbe Lugano 25c rubber keeps

traction shipshape, and their smidgen of

extra capacity over the B’Twin skinnies

does have a small effect when it comes

to ride comfort.


While square-edged tubes call to mind

girders and industrial levels of rigidity,

round tubes are actually strongest. So

it’s probably no surprise to find the

Tenet is up alongside the B’Twin in terms

of ride experience. It’s as stiff as one

would expect from a typical, modern

aluminium frame, but it’s also eager and

responsive too.

That stiffness translates to

discomfort when you encounter poor

road surfaces, though — unlike the

B’Twin, the ensuing shocks tend to

manifest themselves more towards the

rear. But as always, it’s a trade-off; in

return you have a bike that gets up to

speed well and handles very securely.

All in, it’s a great road bike from a

mountain bike maker — whatever next?


Shimano Sora brakes, £19.99 each

How about some quality brakes for your brand-new

Saracen? A front and rear matching set of genuine

Shimano Sora dual-pivot caliper brakes will cost you two

pennies shy of £40, which really isn’t very much at all.

Stick some better brake blocks on as well, and you’ve got

anchors worthy of a big ship. I said ‘ship’.

Strong, sturdy tubes

give plenty of stiffness

















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win win!

As we promised at the beginning,

for the most part of this test

we’ve tried to avoid mentioning

prices. But now there’s no hiding from

the tricky question of the RRPs.

At £699 the Giant Defy 3 is the least

expensive bike on test, but you’d never

know from riding it. It’s a superb

jack-of-all-trades, equally at home on

the Sunday morning sportive as the

Monday morning commute. Other bikes

here may have more obvious

standout qualities, which could

mean the Defy is overlooked.

But for riders needing a

general-purpose road bike

you’d be hard pushed to

find one that does so

much, so well, at such

an affordable price.

Less impressive

in the value for

money stakes is

the Specialized

Secteur Sport

Triple. It’s a full

£100 more than

anything else on

test, so you’d

expect a little bit

more luxury

somewhere in

the spec sheet. In

fact, the luxury is

all in the frame.

This is a simply

wonderful bike to

ride. It’s fun, it’s

comfortable, it’s

stable — and in terms

of ride experience, it’s

as close to perfection as

you’ll find in an alloy

frame. In our three

categories of build quality,

road handling and ride comfort

it scored 58 out of a possible 60. If

it was just a little less expensive, or

a bit better kitted out, it would be

unbeatable — but as it stands, it’s pricy.

The Saracen surprised us. After all,

what do mountain bikers know about

road cycling? In this case, they know

how to make a strong, sturdy, and

speed-orientated bike. The Tenet 2 is a

fine machine — it’s rigid and responsive,

if slightly uncompromising over rough

surfaces. But we’re a long way from

the point where Saracen’s road bikes

are sought after in their own right, so

it’s a shame it hasn’t opted for a more

aggressive spec package, which

would at least distinguish it from the


other £750 bikes in Madison’s stable.

It’s a fine bike, but a USP wouldn’t have

gone amiss.

Distinguishing features and value for

money aren’t problems for the B’Twin

Alur 700, though. You remember at the

start of this feature we said that

sub-£1,000 aluminium bikes could offer

just as much as top-end carbon

packages to experienced cyclists? The

B’Twin proves our point, and does so

handsomely. If you’ve been road riding

for years, and you want an upgrade

but money is tight, this is no secondbest

option. It’s simply a non-carbon

option. It’s stupendously quick, superbly

equipped and about as complete an

alloy bike as you will find.

Ladies and gentlemen we go to

the scorecards. The winner, and

new aluminium champion: the B’Twin

Alur 700.




90/100 90/100

Spot on

Q Excellent all-rounder

Q Shimano Sora kit works well

Q Rear rack mounts for life

beyond sport

Near miss

Q Very good at everything,

but no single area

of specialisation

Q Giant’s wheels scored

a rare miss

Spot on

Q Supremely plush

ride quality

Q Very well made frame

Near miss

Q Expect higher spec

for the money

Q Uninspiring wheels

Q Heavy total weight





94/100 88/100

Spot on

Q Shimano 105 gears

and brakes

Q Frame comes loaded

with design luxuries

Q Grown-up — and very

fast — ride quality

Q 8.8kg total weight

Near miss

Q Very rigid, especially

up front

Spot on

Q Positive, strong and very

smart frame

Q Fair package including

sturdy wheels

Q Decent overall weight

of 9.1kg

Near miss

Q Average brake performance

Q A tad firm for soft bottoms


Trek 1.5 C H2 £800

Trek has a new aluminium frame out for 2015,

and very smart it looks too. The 1.5 model

comes with a choice of either compact or

triple Shimano Tiagra gearsets. At £700,

Trek also has the 1.2 model with a choice of

Sora gearsets.

Hoy Sa Calobra .001 £750

If you’re looking for an out-and-out speed

machine, Hoy’s range of road bikes offers

go-kart levels of excitement. We reckon the

.001 model has the prettiest finish of the lot,

and comes with a solid Sora gearset with

speedy 12-25t cassette.

Scott Speedster 40 £799

Scott knows how to make great bikes and

the Speedster approaches Specialized

Secteur levels of ride refinement, at a slightly

better price and slightly lighter total weight.

The 40 models come with Sora gears and

Tektro brakes.




Women’s shorts

Whether you spend hours in the saddle or only have a short commute, you need your bottom

half to be comfortable. Rebecca Miles has been testing seven of the best shorts this summer

Words Rebecca Miles


ong shorts or short shorts, baggy shorts or

Lycra shorts, heck, even a skirt with shorts

— when it comes to getting your legs out

on your bike, there are endless options.

It’s possibly the most underrated piece of

cycling kit, but what you wear on your bottom half

is crucial for your long-term comfort. Get the

wrong pair of shorts and you’ll soon realise it.

Different body shapes will understandably suit


different styles, so when shopping for your next

pair of bottoms, consider the shape and the

length, the fit (tight, loose or in the middle), and

the amount of stretch and padding (such as

proven Cytech in the Gore skirt and quick-drying

Coolmax in the Maloja).

It’s also worth thinking about whether you’ll be

wearing the shorts off the bike as well as on, as

believe it or not, there are alternative options to

Shorts need a good grip

It’s all in the padding

Lycra. For instance, the thinly-padded merino liner

shorts that Giro and Vulpine both offer would

work well under a variety of clothes, and the

nylon/elastane-mix Gore skirt wouldn’t look out of

place on a tennis court.

But whether your typical cycle is a sweaty

summer commute or a lazy ride round the lake,

the long and short of it is, whatever your

preference, there’s a pair to suit you here.

The right fit is vital


Avoiding an awkward waistband digging in

while leaning over the bars is often the reason

why riders choose bibs over shorts, but

manufacturers have made good progress on

this. Of the more serious road cycling shorts

here, the waistband is designed to lie flat and

comfortably below the tummy. Look for

material that is doubled over so any stitching

is only on the bottom seam, not the top.


Look for double-layered pads — with a top

layer that wicks away moisture and is

antibacterial, and a bottom layer that

provides different amounts of foam

padding in different places. Thicker

isn’t always better, however — a

pad that’s too bulky can prove

too chunky and obtrusive,

while a thinner one can

offer just the right

amount of support.

Some brands make

their own, others use

established manufacturers

such as Cytech and Coolmax.

The fit

It’s invaluable to get this right.

Consider the sort of riding

you’ll be doing — there’s a

reason road cyclists wear tight

fitting Lycra: it fits securely round your

thighs and doesn’t rub, squeeze or

bunch up, so you almost forget you’ve got

shorts on. But for commuting or more casual

cycling, a tailored or baggy short (or even

skirt) will work if you’re in a more upright

position and keen to disguise every last lump

and bump Lycra so unforgivingly displays.


Vulpine Summer

Shorts £65

Castelli Principessa

shorts £95

A lightweight poplin pair

of shorts, Vulpine’s new

Summer Shorts are just

the thing for taking in

the sights from a saddle.

Chic tailored turn-ups,

a flattering cut, hidden

diamond gusset (so you

avoid sitting on seams) and

zipped hand pockets all get

the thumbs-up, and when

paired with the Women’s

Merino Boyshort (£45),

the comfort level doubles.

Sized on the small size, try

before you buy if you can.

Available in cobalt blue,

sand and navy.

One of the more expensive

options on test, the Castelli

Principessas lived up to

expectations. Longer in the

leg than the Giordanas, they

give good support over the

tummy without digging

in. Coming up on the small

side, they have a close fit

and a soft luxurious feel

to the material, as you’d

expect. Different sections

on the wide cuffs keep

them in place well and the

pad, despite feeling a little

hard initially, soon felt

supportive and importantly,

stayed in place well.

Classic and chic,

these work as

well on the

bike as off

If you’re feeling flush,

these are certainly

worth splashing

the cash on

Gore Path Lady

skirt £69.99

If you want to add a spot

of femininity to your ride,

the Path Lady skirt from

Gore is a good place to

start. Available in red, blue

or black, a very short pair

of undershorts is tucked

underneath the A-line skirt

— but if you’re buying this

to cover your legs, then

the skirt inevitably rides

up to reveal those very

short shorts. The basics

are covered well — the

padding is not bulky and

I quickly forgot about it

(the best endorsement),

and the waistband, despite

not having any particular

design features to not

dig in, was wide, high

and comfortable.

Giordana Donna

Silverline shorts


Fantastically comfy around the

waist with a wide crossover

band that sits just below the

tummy at the front but comes

high at the back, the Donna

Silverline shorts have a snug

fit and a decent feeling of

compression. The chamois is

unobtrusive — not too thick,

not too thin, but with the right

amount of support, and the leg

cuffs are thick and stay in place

well. A touch on the short side,

a gap would appear when I

wore them with leg-warmers.

For long summer hours

in the saddle, look

no further

Combine the

femininity of a

skirt with the

practicality of

a pair of shorts




Tech Women’s shorts

Maloja Doukala

3/4s £79.99

The longest short here, the

Maloja Doukalas sit below

the knee and stay easily in

place with a wide cuff and

small silicone dashes. The

waistband is low and wide

at the front, high and with

silicone grip at the back — I

didn’t notice it, which is

what you want. The padding

verges on cushioning but

despite its thickness was

agreeable enough, and

the flatlock seams running

down the front and back are

a nice touch.

Cover up with these

below-the-knee tights

that feel snug

and supportive

Giro New Road


(tailored fit)


A smart option for urban

cyclists, the Overshorts are

part of Giro’s New Road

collection that aims to

combine casual styling with

high performance. Ideally

paired with a pair of Giro’s

merino undershorts (£59.99),

they’re an expensive but

well-made combination. The

Overshorts’ fabric (nylon with

eight per cent spandex) is too

stiff and thick for wearing on

a road bike, but the merino

shorts are a handy addition

to any commuter’s wardrobe

with their Cytech padding and

natural breathability.

Smart city tailoring and

quick-drying moisture

wicking will swiftly

take you from

saddle to strolling

dhb Ladies Morro

shorts £44.99

Designed for mountain

bikers, the Morros would

suit anyone looking for

a casual option on and

off the bike. Essentially

a pair of baggies with a

detachable, well-padded

compression inner short,

the overshorts sit low on

the waist and don’t dig in.

Their nylon, polyester and

elastane mix is soft and

matt, and water beads off

it easily. There are plenty

of pockets, external

Velcro waist adjusters and

belt loops to complete

the picture.


The phrase ‘something for everyone’ has rarely been more apt than

here, with the variety of shorts and even a skirt that are available for

women cyclists. The different styles make it tricky to pick just one

winner, but for ultimate performance and comfort in the saddle, the

Giordanas take it — there’s little wrong with them. If tight Lycra really

isn’t your thing, then the Vulpine Summer Shorts offer the most style,

but are too formal to provide long hours of comfortable riding on a road

bike. The Giro skirt with shorts underneath deserves points for

innovation, while the dhb baggies win for value. But when it comes

down to it, nothing beats having Lycra round your legs. It doesn’t dig in,

it doesn’t get in the way, it doesn’t flap about — you can pedal and go.

If it’s great value

and comfort

you seek, look

no further


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Hybrid bikes

under £500

Words Nigel Wynn Photos Chris Catchpole

Two different takes

on the hybrid theme

both priced at a

shade below £500

Scott Metrix 40 £499

700c wheels

Road-bike sized wheels

fitted with narrow tyres,

whether they are

knobbly or not, will help

you keep your speed up

Shimano gears

There are other drivetrain

manufacturers, but Shimano

has this corner of the market

sewn up with its reliable,

no-nonsense gear



ybrid bikes were originally

conceived as a union of road bike

speed with mountain bike

comfort and practicality. With all

manner of variations on the theme now

hitting the bike shops, the balance of that

mix between road and mountain bike

can alter between models to weight a

bike towards on or off-road ability. With

a bewildering array of models available

below £500, the choice is yours.

Is this the bike for me?

Choosing the right bike for your needs

— whether hybrid or not — depends

almost entirely on the terrain on which

you are going to use it. A bike with slick

tyres and a stiff frame will zip along the

tarmac, making your daily commute

breeze past. But if your trip into work

features roughly made cycle paths or

off-road bridleways, then you’ll need

something with a bit of grip. Either way,

a good hybrid will have mounting points

for a pannier rack to carry your work

clothes in — or mudguards, to at least

keep them from getting splashed by

grime and puddles. And, of course,

you’ll want a bike that can turn its hand

to more fun pursuits at the weekend,

not just the daily haul into work.

Bikes tested

Of the two bikes we have here, the Scott

Metrix 40 is the more traditional hybrid:

pretty much a flat-barred road bike with

mountain bike brakes. Ghost’s Cross

1300 has more off-road leanings, with

knobbly tyres and a suspension fork to

handle bumps and knocks. There are

plenty of similarities between the two

bikes too, with both featuring aluminium

alloy frames, good quality Shimano

gears, 700c (road bike) sized wheels

and V-brakes.

So the Scott sticks to a tried and

tested formula, while the Ghost is a

more tough-looking newcomer. But

which would be the better bike for

your riding?


What to expect

Q A well-made aluminium frame

Q A Shimano drivetrain — most likely

a mountain bike group

Q A decent (low) weight

Q Mounting brackets for racks

and mudguards

Q Good quality V-brakes or possibly

mechanical discs


Strong, reliable brakes are an

important factor when you

are riding through traffic and

around road furniture, as well

as off-road

Ghost Cross 1300 £499


Tech Hybrids

Scott Metrix 40 £499

Flat-barred road bike offers plenty of speed

If you want to go fast on tarmac then a

road bike is best. But the drop bars,

caliper brakes and low-down riding

position of a road bike don’t always cut

it for commuting to work. In traffic, it’s

best to have a more upright position and

all-weather brakes to deal with those

sudden and unexpected events — a car

pulling out or someone stepping out in

front of you. Scott’s Metrix 40 ticks all

the hybrid boxes.


Sturdy-looking tubes and chunky welds

lend an air of confidence about the

Metrix’s frame, helped along by its

subtle but well-finished paintjob. Scott’s

entire range is classy, from its £5,000

carbon-fibre race bikes down to models,

like the Metrix, costing a tenth as much.

All of them are finished with the same

level of care. Up front, the Metrix

features a rigid aluminium fork in stark

contrast to the Ghost’s suspension unit.


Frameset: Aluminium

alloy with alloy fork

Gears: Shimano Acera

8 speed

Chainset: Shimano

FC-M171 48/38/28

Brakes: Tektro RX1

Wheels: Rigida

Xplorer 700c

Tyres: Schwalbe

Spicer 700x30

Bar: JD

Stem: JD

Saddle: Metrix SC-19

Seatpost: Alloy

Size range:

XS, S, M, L, XL

Weight: 11.4kg/25.1lb

Size tested: Large

Contact: www.


A full Shimano drivetrain adorns the

bike, all taken from the Japanese

giant’s mountain bike range. What that

means is you get gears that are built to

withstand the rigours of off-road

riding, and so promise great longevity

on the road. It all works well together,

with crisp shifts across the wideranging

11-32 tooth cassette and triple

chainset up front — plenty of gears for

even the toughest of ascents. The

finishing kit was also better than

expected, and we particularly liked

the comfy grips and saddle.


A Formula hub at the front and Shimano

at the back are spun into Rigida Xplorer

rims. The all-black rims, spokes and

hubs match the classy look of the frame,

and the whole package looks good.

They are shod with good quality

Schwalbe Spicer 30c tyres, which rather

than being as bald as Phil Mitchell offer a

modicum of water-channeling grooves

to keep you gripped to the road.

The ride

Having ridden the Ghost first, the ride of

the Metrix initially felt comparatively

harsh. The direct, rigid nature of the

frame and fork will assist you in

transferring power to the back wheel,

but the payback is that you’ll feel lumps

and bumps in the road, and you’ll have

to hone your pothole avoidance skills.

That said, we found the Scott to be fast

— particularly on hills, where its

relatively low weight felt less of a drag

than the Ghost.














Go touring

The Scott Metrix 40 would make a

great touring bike. Bolt on some

panniers, pack up for the weekend

and go exploring. The wide-ranging

gears mean that even when fully

laden, you should be able to keep

momentum going on the hills.

Comfy grips are

a welcome bonus

Tektro calipers offer

assured braking


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Tech Hybrids

Ghost Cross 1300 £499

Go-anywhere machine that performs well off-road

Ghost has recognised that many

people don’t just want a bike for

one purpose, and also that it’s not

always practical or cost-effective to

have a shed full of specialist machines

from which to pick and choose. Enter

the Cross 1300, which the German

company has designed to provide the

means to ride on any route you wish,

whether that’s on or off-road. Has Ghost

succeeded in its mission?


Like the Scott Metrix 40, Ghost has used

aluminium alloy tubes to construct the

Cross 1300’s frame. If we thought that

the Metrix was chunky, then Ghost has

taken it to another level with a large,

strengthening gusset welded in under

the top of the down tube where it meets

the head tube. The frame looks like it’s


Lock-out suspension

The Ghost’s suspension fork came

equipped with a lock-out dial,

which with a quick flick of the wrist

means that you can turn the front

end rigid to eke a bit more

performance out of the machine

on the steeper climbs. In practice,

we didn’t bother — just in case we

needed the suspension at an

unexpected moment.


built to last. It’s all finished in gunmetal

grey with red highlights and subtle

graphics, that are classy rather than

flashy. Up front, the Cross 1300 features

an RST Neon suspension fork, providing

shock absorption for rough trails and

rutted roads. A full selection of mounts

for racks, mudguards and disc brakes

are present and correct.


Ghost has selected Shimano’s off-road

Alivio rear derailleur to undertake

shifting duties. Like the Scott, the Ghost

features Shimano throughout its

drivetrain, providing smooth shifting

across the eight-speed cassette at the

rear and triple chainset at the front.

Shimano also provides the V-brakes,

lending the bike reliable stopping power

that’s easily controllable and thankfully

free of wheel-locking grab. At first we

found the grips to be rather chunky, but

on a longer ride we grew to appreciate

their comfort. The own-brand saddle,














Frame: Aluminium

alloy with RST Neon

MLO fork

Gears: Shimano Alivio

8 speed

Brakes: Shimano


Chainset: Shimano

FCM 48/38/28

Wheels: Shimano

hubs/Ryde Zac

Pro rims

Tyres: Schwalbe CX

Comp 700c

Handlebar: Ghost

Stem: Ghost

Saddle: Ghost 2055

Seatpost: Ghost alloy

Size range: 45, 49, 53,

57, 61cm

Weight: 12.8kg /


Size tested: 57cm

Contact: www.

Cyclo-cross tyres work

both on and off-road

stem, bars and seatpost look good, with

a dash of red to match the frame’s

paintwork. A neat touch.


The Shimano theme continues on the

wheels, with Shimano hubs providing

the centrepiece to the Ghost’s rotational

components. These are laced to Ryde

Zac Pro rims, which we’re not quite sure

would really be used by ‘pro’ cyclists,

but were sturdy enough, nonetheless.

Most importantly, Ghost has specced

Schwalbe CX Comp tyres. Originally

designed for the off-road rigours of

cyclo-cross, these tyres offered a

surprising amount of grip on muddy

trails. Equally, the tightly spaced

knobbles also meant they ran on tarmac

pretty freely too.

The ride

The suspension fork and knobbled tyres

are what set this bike apart, and their

presence meant that we were eager to

ride the bike on a variety of trails, tracks

and roads to see where the bike’s limits

lie. It really felt good wherever we went,

the only disconcerting factor being a

top-out thunk from the forks when

rebounding from larger hits.

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Our verdict


hat either one of these bikes could

be yours for under £500 seems,

frankly, staggering. It’s hard to pick

fault with either model for the money,

both featuring well-made frames and a

component selection that offers great

value. Both bikes are built to last, with

tough frames and tried-and-tested

drivetrains from industry leader Shimano

with absolutely no corner cutting on the

spec sheet in this highly competitive area

of the bike market.

On road, the Scott Metrix 40 excelled.

Its compact frame and rigid forks gave a

speedy and direct ride — perhaps a little

too rigid over some of the crumbling road

surfaces on our regular road test route.

The straight-bladed alloy forks could be

jarring, but some of the road buzz was

thankfully absorbed by the good quality

Schwalbe tyres, in a sensible 30mm

width. Although it has wider tyres and a

more upright position than a drop-bar

road bike, the difference in performance

is less than you might think — and it’s

certainly a more comfy ride than some

similarly priced road offerings.

Ghost’s Cross 1300 was something of

a revelation in that we thought it would

be a step too far in the off-road direction.

What we weren’t expecting was how

agile it turned out to be on any terrain, on

or off-road. True, the suspension fork

adds around a kilogram of weight to the

package over the Scott, but the extra

comfort and give at the front end made

picking our way through potholes less

stressful. Riding on rough, gravelly tracks

such as those typically found on the

National Cycle Network was great fun.

We’d be happy with either one of

these bikes on a regular commute. If you

stick to the tarmac, then the Scott is

probably the better bet. But if you like to

put a variety of surfaces under your

rubber, then the Ghost Cross 1300 really

is a proper all-rounder.


For £150 more…

HOY Shizuoka .002 £650

Sir Chris’s hybrid has hydraulic disc brakes

and a Shimano Sora groupset. Its rigid fork,

skinny 28c tyres and road drivetrain means

you’d have to stick to the tarmac, though.

For £50 less

Specialized Crosstrail Disc £450

You can’t go far wrong with a Specialized, and

the Crosstrail Disc features Suntour suspension

fork and mechanical disc brakes. Some money

has been saved on the drivetrain components,

though, to squeeze those trinkets in the spec.

Or try this…

Felt Z95 Sora £649

If you stick to the roads and like to go fast, then

why not get a road bike? Shop around and

you’ll be able to pick up a 2014 Felt Z95 with

alloy frame, carbon fibre fork and Shimano

Sora 9-speed groupset for under £500.



Make your own hybrid

If you already own a mountain bike, then a few minor

changes could provide you with a decent road

commuter. It’s remarkable what a set of narrow, slick or

semi-slick tyres will do to improve your average speed

on the asphalt in comparison to the rolling resistance of

wide, knobbly rubber.


85/100 90/100

Spot on

Q Quick on the tarmac

Q Faultless spec for the money

Q Decent weight

Near miss

Q Rigid fork was, well, rather rigid

Spot on

Q Comfy ride, whatever the terrain

Q Great looks

Q Built to last

Near miss

Q Heavier than a rigid bike




Bag yourself one of these versatile tops and you’ll never get caught cold on a ride again

Words James Shrubsall


h, the humble vest, usually relegated to

the rank of mundane underclothing.

Rarely seeing the sun, its once white

brilliance soon fades to grey. And who actually

wears them, except perhaps for Onslow off of

Keeping Up Appearances?

In the world of cycling, though, with its fancy

French name (“jee-lay”), huge array of colours

and techy materials, it’s worn on top for all to

admire. In short, it’s a rock star of a garment that

every bike rider should have in the wardrobe.


You might be wondering who needs a cosy

sleeveless jacket in summer, and it’s true, spring

and autumn are when gilets really come into

their own. But let’s not forget, this is the UK, not

South East Asia. Even in summer, the threat of a

chilly wind or a heavy shower is ever present; if

you’re 10 miles from home with a lightweight

summer jersey on when it starts raining, you are

going to freeze your Allen bolts off.

Gilets come in a variety of weights, from

super-snug sleeveless jackets to items that seem

Vibrancy is a bright idea

Reflective strips for night rides

to have more in common with your granny’s net

curtains than anything purporting to keep you

warm. But even these flyweight gilets can be

surprisingly effective when a summer shower

strikes. What’s more, they easily fold up small

enough to fit in a jersey pocket, making them a

no-brainer if the weather’s looking iffy.

For this seven best, we’ve majored on

summer gilets, with one or two heavier items you

might want to consider as the months grow

slightly cooler. Enjoy!

Zipped pockets: very handy


Keeping the wind at bay is probably the most

effective weapon you have against the cold,

and the wind-proofing in gilets means that

even the lightest types can be amazingly

warm in the face of chilly weather. It’s a

practically universal feature on gilets these

days, and coupled with a nice high collar, it

can take you from shivering to snug in one

quick roadside change.


Convenient extra warmth is the raison d’etre

of the gilet, rather than storage facilities, but

pockets can come in very handy. For example,

you may want to wear your gilet for

the entire ride, in which case extra

pockets can add handy stowage

ability. For out-and-out summer

items, though, pockets aren’t

common, as they add weight and bulk, making

them less easy to carry with you on the bike.

Reflective detailing

If you’re planning to use your gilet in the dark

(getting lost on one of those brilliant long

summer evening rides, perhaps…) then

reflective detailing is worth having. In low

light (or even full daylight)

conditions on the other hand,

choosing something brightly

coloured will help you

stand out on the bike.



Ponente £85

Madison Road

Race £44.99

With its fluoro panels

and bold, stylish

graphics, the PRR

Ponente gilet from the

Italian Alé clothing

line is nothing if not

striking. But with its

mesh back, windproof

front, zip baffle and

rubberised hem to stop

it riding up, it’s also a

plenty technical item.

It doesn’t fold down as

small as some of the

others do, but will still

fit in a pocket. When

wearing this on the bike,

we barely knew it was

there — which is possibly

the biggest

compliment we can

pay a garment.

It’s a well-made

gilet; hi-viz, and

looks the biz

In sleek black with natty

detailing, the Road Race

gilet is a stylish keepyou-warm

option that

not only folds easily

into pocket proportions,

it has a decent-sized

zipped pocket of its own

too. Despite being very

well priced, it carries

a gamut of features

including that pocket,

a mesh back, soft

collar with zip garage,

zip baffle and a nice

wide elasticated hem.

There are also dashes

of reflective detailing

dotted about, and it also

comes in white for extra

visibility. We

found the fit

to be great,

with warmth

to match.

Everything you

need without

breaking the bank



Pro Vision Aqua

Repel £30

dhb Ultralight

Ladies £29.99

While it lacks the soft

touch of most the others

here, the Pro Vision

does boast a 100 per

cent waterproof shell, so

you can be sure that it’ll

get you home and dry

in a storm. We did find

that in use it acted very

much like a full-sleeved

waterproof, in that the

inside of the garment

was somewhat sweaty

when we arrived at our

destination, but we were

warm nevertheless and

not uncomfortable. It

doesn’t pack down as

small as some, but it

goes in a pocket

just fine and at

£30 represents

good value.

Warm and dry

but a little


The only gilet of

our seven to arrive

tucked into its own

little stuffsack, which

wasn’t much bigger

than an andouillette

sausage and probably

tastes considerably

better. The material

is flyweight but still

boasts a cosiness factor

thanks to its soft-feel

collar. Fit is good and

it’s very comfortable on,

but we did find there

was a certain amount

of billowing as the

oncoming wind found its

way into the arm-holes.

But it did keep us warm,

and with a retail price

of less than £30

(currently reduced

to £20.99 on the

Wiggle website)

it’s hard to argue with

the value.

Great starter gilet

to get you home





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Pearl Izumi PRO

Barrier Lite Vest


Gore Power



Made of a superlight

and seemingly


membrane, the PRO

was one of the lightest

and smallest-packing

gilets on test. But when

we put it to the test on

one cold, damp and

decidedly unsummery

morning, the PRO kept

my torso as warm as

toast with a close but

unobtrusive fit that

meant I barely knew I

was wearing it. It’s a

pretty stripped-back

item, though, without

even a windstopping

flap behind the zip,

though this

wasn’t an issue

in practice.

Unlike the others here,

the Gore isn’t meant for

stashing in a back pocket

‘just in case’. It’s a supersnug

thermal item perfect

for autumn or spring riding.

You might want to think of

it as a winter jacket with

no sleeves, and it’s the sort

of item that’s well worth

having in your wardrobe,

alongside one of the lighter

stash-away gilets. The

quality is spot-on and it

feels very well made. With

zip baffle and garage,

two pockets and even a

sealable bag

for your phone, there’s a

lot going on. At one

hundred of your English

pounds, though,

there should be.

Superb strippeddown


Lovely item

for colder days,

at a price

Castelli Velo

W Vest £60

This is a luxurious piece

of performance kit

designed specifically

in a ladies’ cut. It’s

extremely lightweight,

flattering, offers

reflective detailing and

a splash of pink adding

up to subtle femininity

without screaming

‘girly’. The Forcefield

micro ripstop fabric is

windproof and offers

protection from rain

showers in addition to a

longer-cut back

to protect your

backside from


Great looking,

high performance

and ultimate





It’s fair to say that there’s not one duff item here — any of our seven

would save your bacon if the weather took a sudden turn for the

worse. If it’s proper, cosy warmth you’re after, the Gore Power wins

the day, but it doesn’t have the stowaway versatility of the others. The

dhb and Pro Vision are both established, reliable brands, and this was

reflected in the performance of their worthy, no-frills items.

Only a fag paper’s width separates the performance of the Castelli,

Ale and Pearl Izumi, the latter two of which only really lost marks due

to their lofty price-tags. Ultimately, though, the Madison Road Race

came out on top thanks to a great fit and quality feel coupled with

multiple features and a superb price.




Cycle safety

The future’s bright

Despite what some people think, cycling isn’t an inherently dangerous activity.

But there’s no question that by being sensible and using clever kit, riders can

make life in the saddle even more secure. Matt Lamy examines three of the most

innovative new products that show where the future of bike safety is headed

Proviz Reflect360


aving made a name for itself with

its unique electroluminescent

self-lighting cycle kit, Proviz has

put away the battery pack for this year’s

innovation and has launched a new

range called Reflect360 — a selection of

products made from truly incredible,

totally reflective material.

The textile used is essentially made

from polyester, but what gives it

astounding reflective capabilities are

millions of minuscule reflective glass

beads that are ingrained within it.

However, when light isn’t shining onto

the jacket, it looks like a pretty low-key

‘normal’ piece of clothing.

“That was key to our thinking 18

months ago when we started the

process of putting this range together,”

Proviz founder Rupert Langly-Smith

says. “A lot of people don’t like hi-vis

colours — yellow or orange or pink. We

wondered what we could give people

that is different.

“A cyclist wearing reflective clothing

is seen by other road users three

seconds quicker than if the cyclist is

wearing anything else. So by using

reflective material you’re creating a

product that is actually safer than a

standard hi-vis yellow jacket. With

Reflect360 we haven’t used just the odd

strip of reflective material here and

there — it’s all over — so you’re going to

light up like a beacon on the commute

home at night. With the jacket on, the

wearer isn’t aware of the light reflecting

into their eyes, it’s just functional, but in

the depths of winter you’ll see people

wearing it from miles away.

“As part of our inspiration we looked

at the Nike Flash running jacket, which is

a similar kind of technology. It does a


great job, but it is incredibly expensive

— it retails at over £300. We thought,

who is going to shell out £350 for a

cycling jacket? Of course some people

will, but the vast majority of cyclists will

splutter into their cornflakes when they

see that kind of price for a reflective

jacket,” Rupert says.

“So one of the biggest challenges for

us has been to get the cost down

without compromising on the quality.

The products are all made in China and

all the materials are certified to

European safety standards. For us, it

was about finding the right supplier, and

to get the price down we had to work

hard getting the volumes to the factory.”

That last statement belies one of the

unheralded but absolutely vital aspects

of bringing any innovative product to

market. No matter how clever, unique or

effective it is, a product is worth nothing

if it doesn’t sell. So, with a proven track

record producing similar kinds of

products behind them, Proviz and its

national and international distributors

worked hard selling the Reflect360

range to the bike industry. And it has

been an astonishing success, with

orders from around 40 countries, and

many of the UK’s biggest domestic cycle

retailers pre-ordering the range.

Of course that’s good for Proviz but

it’s also good for the consumer, and it

has meant that rather than paying £300

for a jacket, the Reflect360 model is

available for £79.99, the rucksack cover

is £29.99 and the rucksack itself

(which will be going into full production

very soon) will be £69.99.

There may also be more Reflect360

products due to appear — Proviz is

currently looking at final sample

versions of a gilet, a deluxe vest, a

children’s jacket, a children’s rucksack

and two running garments.

“We’re experts in this area, so our

goal is to try to bring out something

innovative each year if possible,” Rupert

says. “That becomes more challenging

in that we have to think of a new good

idea that hasn’t been done before — I

can’t even remember how the idea for

the Reflect360 range came about — but

we’ve started planning for next year’s

range already.”

Does it work?

Look at the Reflect360 jacket under

normal daytime conditions, and there’s

nothing to see — it seems to be just a

normal jacket, albeit of a slightly unusual

grey colour. Even as the light goes

down, you’re waiting for it to do its

magic. However, as soon as you’re in

something approaching darkness and a

light is shining towards it, an incredible

transformation occurs — the Reflect360

kit really does glow, and in quite an

incredible manner. The only way we can

describe it is that you appear like a

luminescent ghost. So if the jacket’s

reflective qualities don’t arrest the

attention of drivers, this paranormal

aspect of its appearance certainly will.

As Rupert says, though, none of the

jacket’s abilities affects the wearer

directly. Look down at yourself and you

may not even be able to tell the jacket is

‘working’. We needed to consult a mirror

to check for ourselves. So there’s no

denying that in the constant battle

between subdued daytime fashion and

ultra-obvious night-time safety, Proviz

has hit a six with the Reflect360 jacket.

Flash Harry: staying safe needn’t

come at the expense of style

Proviz rucksack cover

could be a lifesaver

See.Sense lights

See.Sense is the world’s first ‘smart’ bike

light, which automatically provides

exactly the right mode of lighting a

cyclist needs in any given situation. By

using patent pending sensor technology

to monitor the rider, the bike and the

environment, the light can choose the

most suitable function to keep the cyclist

safe. So, for example, it can identify

when you’re approaching a junction, or

when you’re riding in shadow, or if there

are approaching car headlights, and

react by flashing brighter and faster to

improve your visibility.

See.Sense is the brainchild of Philip

McAleese, a cycle commuter who was

hospitalised following an accident on

his bike.

“I was a cycle commuter in

Singapore for a couple of years,” Philip

says. “They have a concept over there

called kiasu, which is the desire to come

first. It’s hard to describe — it’s not that

they’re aggressive, but they’re very

assertive. Nobody sounds their horn,

but if there is a millimetre of space you

expect somebody to go into it. They

treat bicycles exactly the same, so they

think nothing of passing you and then

immediately turning left into your path

— that’s quite acceptable because they

consider they have road position

because they are ahead of you. So I felt I

needed something that gave me a little

more road presence.

“Meanwhile, here in Europe, since

2011 all new cars have had to have

daylight running lights fitted to them. It

occurred to me that if something as big

as a car needed daylight running lights,

wouldn’t they be useful on a bicycle as

well? That got me going down the path

of using ever brighter lights and I ended

up using ultra-bright mountain

bike-style lights. But they’re quite

inconvenient because they have big

battery packs that need to be attached

and detached.

“Then I had a bit of an epiphany one

day as I was cycling along, looking at my

smartphone on the handlebars. I

realised the phone had a level of

awareness of what I’m doing, where I’m

going and my intentions. I thought, how

about taking the sensors from the

smartphone and integrating them into a

Smart lights: more

than just a bright idea

14 LI I 5

Tech Cycle safety

bicycle light? What if we gave that level

of situational awareness to a light so

that it can flash brighter in situations

where cyclists are potentially missed,

such as traffic junctions, roundabouts,

filtering in traffic and so on? Then it

could conserve its energy when it’s not

in one of those situations. So we can

have the performance of the mountain

bike lights when needed, but without

the large external battery pack.”

And so Philip set about using his

background in electronic and software

engineering to make it a reality.

“There are two primary sensors in

the device,” Philip says. “The first is an

accelerometer. This allows the device to

measure the acceleration forces acting

on it up to 800 times a second. From

that it can work out things such as if the

cyclist is speeding up, braking, what

gradient they’re riding over, what their

cadence is, whether the cyclist is

cornering, and it can even understand

road surface conditions and grip level.

“The other sensor is a light sensor,

which is constantly looking for sudden

changes in lighting, which would

indicate that the rider has either entered

an underpass or tunnel, or they are

emerging from one. In those situations

we know that people’s eyes take a few

seconds to adjust, so the light flashes

brighter to keep the cyclist visible. In

hours of darkness, the sensor is also

programmed to recognise a particular

pattern that would indicate a set of car

headlights is approaching you. Again,

the light will react to that, too.

“Probably the easiest way to

understand how the sensors work is to

explain one scenario,” Philip says. “Take,

for example, approaching a roundabout.

Typically the cyclist will pause as they

look at the roundabout to assess how

they’ll negotiate it. See.Sense will detect

that momentary slowdown or reduction

in cadence. Then it’ll look for either a

change in lane positions or the bike

might go from smoother tarmac onto

the grippier stuff that is quite often used

on the approach to roundabouts. Then,

as the rider starts to cycle around the

roundabout, it’s looking for them

turning left, followed by right, followed

by left as you exit.

“Essentially, it follows the cyclist

through a number of different riding

scenarios that it is continually looking

for. Then, as it gets more and more

indicators that the rider is in one of

these situations it starts flashing faster

and brighter,” Philip says.

“Making See.Sense started off as a

personal quest for something that was

more convenient for me as a commuter. I

didn’t really set out with the intention of

creating a product and bringing it to the

masses, but it’s been quite incredible.

We only had a prototype around this

time last year, but spurred on by fellow

cyclists’ enthusiasm for the product,

we’ve worked hard to develop and bring

it to the market in less than a year. In

fact, we’ve even surprised ourselves!”

See.Sense products are available

now priced at £44.99 individually, or


£79.99 for a set of front and rear lights.

Does it work?

There have been attempts at motion

sensitive brake lights in the past and

See.Sense doesn’t set out to be this.

Rather, it’s designed to react to speed,

light and situation, making it altogether

more practical. It has a totally

switchless design — operation and

settings are controlled by rotating the

unit either in the horizontal or vertical

plane, ideal if you’re wearing gloves but

you do have to unmount it (or lift and

spin your bike, if you want to do things

the hard way!).

The easiest way to get started is to

hold the light and rotate your hand back

and forth six times and then it’ll burst

into life, providing it has enough charge.

Word of warning — this light is intensely

bright. The first few times you do try to

spark it up, face the light away from you

otherwise you will be seeing blotches in

your vision for hours.

In operation it performs brilliantly,

too. There’s enough charge in the light

to cope with a five-hour sportive and

more. It does exactly what it says on

the box, emitting hi-vis pulses of light

that give an unconscious warning to

other road users when your speed or

their proximity changes. It really is

clever enough to detect sudden

changes in ambient light, for example,

when you go under a bridge or into

tree-shaded roads. And it does react to

approaching headlights. In all, it’s just

about the cleverest bike light you and

— more importantly — other road users

will ever see.

All head sizes and rider

types are catered for

MIPS design emulates the

brain’s response to injury

MIPS helmet


One of the claims that non-helmet

wearing cyclists make is that, no matter

how much a helmet helps cushion the

head in a direct impact, in many

accidents the forces acting upon the

head are converted into what’s called

‘rotational acceleration’. This is where

the brain rotates inside the skull. It’s

actually a valid argument, and while

the direct-impact capabilities of

helmets may help lessen the effect of

single, catastrophic head injuries,

there’s also a body of evidence that

says rotational acceleration is

responsible for a multitude of other

issues, not least concussions.

However, in 1997 Hans von Holst and

mechanical engineer Peter Halldin

teamed up to address the problem. Von

Holst understood better than anyone

that inside the human skull there is a

low-friction layer of cerebrospinal fluid

surrounding the brain, which acts

almost as a natural energy-absorbing

protection system. Together, von Holst

and Halldin decided to create an external

system, which could then be built into a

helmet, mimicking that natural system.

The result is MIPS (Multi-directional

Impact Protection System).

MIPS helmets feature a built-in low

friction layer. You can see it by looking

inside — the MIPS technology is the thin

plastic layer covering most of the internal

surface of the shell. In an accident this

layer slides, moving independently of the

rest of the helmet, reducing rotational

forces transmitted to the brain. It doesn’t

take much movement to have an effect

— in the event of an impact, the low

friction layer works within 15 milliseconds

and moves less than 15mm.

But it can have a significant effect.

Rotational acceleration is measured in

radians per second squared (rad/s 2 ).

In experiments done by Canada’s

independent Biokinetics lab, it was found

that riders wearing normal bike helmets

would suffer from 7,000 to 11,000 rad/s 2

brain spin in a crash. With MIPS this was

reduced 6,000 to 8,000 rad/s 2 . This

doesn’t eliminate the risk of concussion,

but certainly helps mitigate it. And MIPS

also helped reduce the effect of direct

impacts by 10 to 20 per cent.

MIPS technology is available in four

Lazer products: the P’Nut MIPS for

children, the Nutz MIPS for youths, and

the Beam MIPS urban helmet (all

£49.99) or the range-topping Genesis

MIPS road bike helmet (£189.99).

Does it work?

Thankfully, we have no personal

knowledge of whether the MIPS system

works, and we weren’t willing to sacrifice

our noggins in the name of cycle safety

science by using one of these sample

helmets either. But the theory and the

experimental evidence are convincing,

and anything that looks at helmet safety

calmly and scientifically — rather than

emotively — is a good thing by us.



Meet the team

VooDoo Bizango £599.99

Q Versatile, affordable mtb, 29in wheels

Q Luke Edwardes-Evans, 50, CA editor

Q For mixed rides, trail centre thrills and

an off-road tour

Merida Scultura 903 £849.99

Q Entry-level replica racer

Q Callum Tomsett, 40, designer

Q Getting fit, lunchtime rides, possibly


Surly ECR £1,799.99

Q Fat-bike for off-road bike packing

Q Hannah Reynolds, 35, fitness editor

Q Adventures, camping, cycle-touring,

riding to the pub

Our monthly update on

the highs and lows of

living with a new bike

Photos: Dan e Gou d

Merida Scultura 903

“Off the subs’ bench”


DONE THIS: A couple of lunchtime rides familiarising

myself with the Merida

SPENT THAT: One free bottle-cage

ACHIEVEMENT: 13 miles in just under an hour —

I know, I know, but it’s a start


“S and ready to roll. After an unfortunate theft left my

ub, ref!” shouted CA’s editor Luke. Up comes my number on

the assistant’s screen and after a quick warm-up I’m stripped

colleague Matt without a long-term bike, Luke was looking for a fit and

able replacement. Well, a replacement at least.

Firstly, let me introduce myself. I’m Callum, from the design crew

here at CA Towers. I’d never really cycled much before working on

cycling magazines, but obviously it’s beneficial to have some

experience in the subject you are designing. So when asked to ride the

Merida for the rest of the year, I jumped at the chance.

My first impressions were I loved the look of it — call me tasteless

but I think the pink-and-green colourway is great, with a real Eighties

retro feel. It’s basically a copy of the pro squad’s team-issue Scultura

CF Team-E.

It’s got a triple-butted aluminium frame and weighs 9.6kg which I’m

told is quite heavy, but felt as light as a feather to me! The bike is

mostly loaded with mid-range components, which, though nothing

special in their own right, make a good-value package when put

together. Indeed, the Merida got the thumbs-up from our chief bike

tester Matt Lamy in the summer issue of CA, especially for ride comfort

and value for money.

I’ve been out only twice so far on lunchtime rides with my fellow CA

longtermee Sarah Auld, and I’ve been very impressed with the Merida

already. I’ve found it quite easy to handle and the gears exceptional

compared to the crap bikes I’ve had a brief ‘go’ on in my lifetime. It

does feel the ruts and holes in the road a tad, but that’s me being picky

and I should really steer around them. Sarah has shown me around the

nice country lanes a few miles outside of Croydon and even ‘forced’ me

into the pub for a lunchtime ‘one-er’. I could definitely get used to this!

So what are my aims with the Merida for the rest of this year? Well,

my fitness has been an issue for a while now, so losing a few pounds

would be good. I currently weigh just a shade over 15 stone, (OK, call it

16 stone — I can’t tell a lie) which is a concern for someone who’s just

turned 40. I’m aiming to enter Cycling Weekly’s Box Hill Original

sportive in October, which is a pretty brutal course, so I will need plenty

of miles in my legs before then.

Improving my basic maintenance skills is another challenge, so in a

perverse way I’m looking forward to my first ‘on the road’ tyre change.

With this also comes better technical knowledge, another muchneeded

added bonus.

My main aim, though, is a simple one — to enjoy it. I’ve tried my

hand at most sports over the years with mixed success. I’m also an

armchair sports fan who wants to see and enjoy our players and teams

do well. It’s not been a great summer so far with England leaving Brazil

after all of 10 minutes, Andy Murray turning from British back to

Scottish in the tabloids after his Wimbledon loss, and Chris Froome

and Mark Cavendish crashing out of the Tour de France. So I’m going

to switch off the TV set and do something less boring instead — get

out on to the South Downs lanes and ride the Merida.




Repeat offender Callum in

lunchtime detention at the pub


KTM Macina Bold 26in £2,149

Q Electric hybrid bike

Q Hugh Gladstone, 35, news editor at

Cycling Weekly and Cycle Sport

Q Commute and power-assisted kicks

Boardman SLS 9.2


Q Top flight road bike

Q James Shrubsall, 39, chief sub editor

Q Hilly sportives and fast blasts

Kona Rove £1,499

Q Do-it-all steel-framed wonder wagon

Q Jason Hardy, 43, picture editor

Q Commuting, cyclo-cross, touring,

what can’t it do?

Specialized Vita Elite

Disc EQ £850

Q Women’s specific hybrid

Q Sarah Auld, 41, deputy art editor

Q Mix of road speed and total versatility

Specialized Vita Elite Disc EQ

“Tackling the lunchtime loop”


DONE THIS: Commuting and lunchtime rides

SPENT THAT: A pint of lager and a full-fat Coke

ACHIEVEMENT: Getting Callum out of the pub after only one pint



he sun has been shining for the past couple of weeks, so it’s been

a pleasure to ride to work — so much so I’ve even ventured out on

a lunchtime ride or two. The three lunchtime loops that leave the

CA office vary in size and difficulty.

There’s the 10-mile small loop with no major hills after the first four

miles, with a lovely long, fast run back at the end. The large loop, at 18.5

miles, needs strong legs to get round it in an hour, and just when you

think it’s all over, there’s the ominous Gravel Hill waiting to test you.

I’ve never attempted the large loop and probably never will — well,

not unless I get given the afternoon off to complete it. And there’s the

middle loop, which also ends with Gravel Hill. If I’m honest, given any

opportunity to avoid hills, I will usually take them, so I decided to take

the Vita Elite Disc EQ out on the small loop with Callum who is just

starting out with his longtermer, to see how we got on.

I have completed both the medium and small loops on my road

bikes before, so I knew what to expect from the ride. The Vita’s

nine-speed Shimano compact drivetrain helped me climb easily up the

long drag at the beginning, and the wide bars gave great stability and

control when bombing down the other side, narrowly missing an

oblivious driver who pulled straight across me. The next climb is

shorter and steeper and I struggled a little with the extra weight of this

bike. It comes with an 11-30 cassette but maybe an 11-34 would be

better if you don’t have the strength in your legs for large gradients.

Both Callum and I made it to the top of this climb slightly red-faced

and out of breath, so we decided to stop for a cheeky al fresco drink at

the pub before we continued (don’t tell the boss!). The rest of the ride

was a breeze, thanks to the bike, the pint, or more likely the fact that

it’s mainly downhill; anyway, we felt like we flew back.




Tested to the (drink drive) limit


Bikes Longtermers

Photo: Ruth Gladstone

KTM Macina Bold 26in

“And when did you

last see your father?”


DONE THIS: Got my dad out riding again


ACHIEVEMENT: Pops topped hills he’s not cycled up for 20 years


Back in his youth, my dad was

a cyclo-tourist. But time

passed, he had us kids,

and, as we all do, he got older.

Somewhere along the line he

stopped riding a bike altogether.

I recently got him back on two

wheels when I gave him an old

mountain bike. He enjoyed using it

for the flat run down to the allotment

but then ceased riding after he fell

off. “There’s a sharp turn, then a

steep ramp up a bridge,” he

explained. He has arthritic knees,

couldn’t push through the slope,

stalled, lost his balance and didn’t

get a foot down in time.

“I was worried I was going to

bang my head. Since then I haven’t


had the confidence to use it again,”

he noted.

Time was ripe, then, to introduce

him to a bike with electrical

assistance. Struggling to get my

bulky longtermer in and out of my

flat, I’d been kind of eschewing it. But

for my 67-year-old father, it seemed

perfect. He would be able to roll it

straight out of the shed and the

motor would get him out of the

valley where my parents’ village lies.

The step-through frame would come

into its own when it came to getting

those cranky knees either side of the

bottom bracket, and the robust build

would be to his liking too.

His first outing was on a warm

summer’s evening to a remote farm

high on the hillside up a

dead end lane. “I’ve not

been up here for years,” he beamed

through a grin on arrival amongst the

tractors in the yard. A light breeze

whipped across the wheat fields and

he marvelled at the view.

I’ve since left the bike with him. A

week later I got a message from my

sister, who’d also paid my folks a visit.

“That bike’s amazing,” she wrote. “He

loves it.” My brother-in-law reckons

he “looked all excited like a kid” when

he got back from riding round the

local lanes on it. He keeps phoning

me up to tell me about all the rides

he’s been on. Go Dad!




Boardman SLS

“Silence is golden”


DONE THIS: Dawn raid

SPENT THAT: One new inner tube!

ACHIEVEMENT: Getting up at 5am



close my front door with the most tentative of clicks so as not to

disturb the silence of the street. All around, windows have been

thrown open to mitigate for the stifling — but glorious — July

weather, but from the houses comes not a sound. As I ride, a chill

washes over my arms and legs, an unfamiliar sensation after weeks of

hot days.

At the main road several cars rush by, which takes me by surprise.

But I’m quickly back on to roads less trodden, skimming stealthily

past noiseless houses, shadowed only by the quiet whirr of my

11-speed freehub.

Above the trees to the east, the fierce orange blush of the rising sun

promises another day in the cooker, then quickly vanishes as I ride

back into the long shadows. In Albury, the church is bathed in an amber

glow, heavenly indeed; while at the post office, whose impressive

window boxes are threatening to burst forth onto the road, the day’s

newspapers are being delivered by a cheerful van driver in a perfect

village pastiche.

It’s idyllic, but I don’t allow myself to be distracted. My

focus remains on my breath and my slightly tired legs, as I




urge them inwardly to keep the pressure on — my destination isn’t far

off now and I’m eager to get there.

At Silent Pool there is, very nearly, silence. A few birds add a

half-hearted epilogue to the dawn chorus and my freehub whirrs on,

but there are no cars on this usually thrumming main road.

After a quarter of a mile I take a left. I’m nearly there.

Immediately the road ramps up and I’m into the trees, climbing in

the small ring, riding in the shadows. The narrow lane coaxes elevation

ever more urgently from the side of the ridge as the gradient slowly

steepens, turning the screw.

I round the hairpin bend at the top and kick for the crest up the

one-in-six finale, my legs protesting all the way, wondering why in

God’s name they’re not still tucked up abed.

Breathing hard, I roll easily to the edge of the treeline on the far

side of the hill, and as I get there the panorama opens out before me,

miles of countryside bathed in the golden glow of morning.

It’s perfect. It’s 6am.

Photo: Roo Fowler

The sunrise makes the 5am

wake-up worthwhile






Kona Rove

“Finding karma

on the commute”


DONE THIS: Terrorised the local fauna

SPENT THAT: Nothing this month

ACHIEVEMENT: A blissed out mindset


In no rush to get home after working late, I took the longer, quieter

route out of the office home. As you can imagine, travelling south

out of Croydon is never the most relaxing of rides, but with a bit of

thought you can avoid the hubbub of traffic heading down to the M25,

and escape to the country...

From almost the halfway point of my 12.5-mile commute I can turn

off the busy A-road route and slip up onto downland. When I say slip,

it’s actually a bit of a long drag up, but once there you’re on a hardly

used narrow road, on the open saddle of the hill with cattle grazing to

the side of the tarmac.

Just this simple diversion completely changes the attitude of my

commute. From the constant battle to assert yourself in the face of

tired and bad-tempered drivers, you’re suddenly all on your own,

with the middle section of the tree-lined route exposing you to less

than a dozen cars at most. I immediately become more relaxed,

the main thing to concentrate on being my pace and avoiding

swallowing insects.

Now that summer is in full swing I know I can chance the off-road

route I’ve been planning for a while without the risk of resembling a

Glastonbury festival goer by the end of it. It’s probably only a little

more than a mile that cuts a corner off this extended route, a turning

taking you down a low-tree-enveloped bridlepath, and suddenly the

relaxed nature of the ride subtly changes, as I’m continually scanning

the surface for anything that’ll catch me out.

You then turn off and cut across a field down the side of the hill,

a wide but bumpy track giving you speed that you’re not entirely

pleased to gain! If I’d been on my MBR full-suspension Longtermer

then I would simply have blasted down this path without a second

thought, but on a rigid steel bike I found myself constantly scrubbing

off speed to keep control. A tad less air in the tyres would probably

have made this much easier. But this was all still entirely enjoyable,

and eternally preferable to the cut-and-thrust of riding on the A-road.

The real delight for me as I swooped down the hill was surprising two

fox cubs sat in the middle of the path. By the time I got down to where

they had been they’d sensibly scarpered, maybe observing my bike

handling skills and thinking better of it. But I could still hear them

scampering through the tall crop as I rattled by.

A dark concrete tunnel (complete with pithy graffiti), takes you

under the M23, and then I chased a startled rabbit along the

remaining singletrack before I returned to the tarmac to complete the

rest of my commute.

Through all this the Rove didn’t miss a beat; the disc brakes

proving reassuring off-road, the tyres coping admirably with all the

mixed surfaces on offer. As long as time and the weather is still on my

side, I think this little rural escape will become a regular treat on my

ride home.




Wise words from

the local vandals

Photos: Roo Fowler, Jason Hardy


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VooDoo Bizango

“Did you scratch my van?”


DONE THIS: Escape ride photos

SPENT THAT: Flat white, tea, flapjack and carrot cake

ACHIEVEMENT: Refrained from stamping my foot



his month I scratched the van,

broke my camera and had a

wrestling match with the

Bizango. Do you have months like

this, when stuff just goes wrong on

you? Oh, and I dropped my new

watch on a tiled floor in the office

loo. The gods had their fun. I got the

message — there’s more to life than

paint and springs and things.

The Biz played its part in some of

the above woes, and after a run of

high scores this month, it gets a

three, which is a bit mean, but hear

me out. Two things have niggled me;

the first are the metal end-caps on

the bars.

You need end-caps to shield the

exposed ends of the bars and hold

the grips in place. Leave them off

and the bar-ends could do some

serious damage to you in a fall. The

grips could start to slide off the

ends, too.

Ideally they are made from

plastic or rubber — something with a

bit of give that won’t bore a hole in

you, i.e. not metal like they are on

the Biz. Because before long they

will scratch your car, or van, when

you lean the bike against it.

And gripe number two is related

to the bars, which are very wide

and sticky-outy. They are forever

catching on things and elbowing me

in the tummy. Everything about a

29er is big, which is fine and dandy

when you are in the saddle but

not when you are transporting or

parking it. Then it becomes a

big-boned and clumsy brute — a bit

like a camel — and if you’ve ever

tried to lift one of those on to a boot

rack, you will know what I mean.

On the plus side, I had a nice ride

with Max Glaskin on one of his

Escape ride stories. We pedalled out

of Polegate on the fringes of

Eastbourne and followed some

Sustrans trails, Pevensey Marsh lanes

and a bumpy byway. It was a fun

ride; we chatted non-stop, and the

Biz was comfort city. Then the

camera blew up and we had to can

the job in Hailsham, as I was

supposed to be taking the pics

for the story. We left the camera

with the capable and helpful

proprietor of the excellent Camera

Centre in Hailsham. No biggie — it’s

just a camera, no one got hurt, right?

Sharp-edged and clumsy as

a camel: the Biz can be brutal




Surly ECR

“Where we’re going we

don’t need roads”


DONE THIS: Rode Brighton beach pebbles


ACHIEVEMENT: Claimed the south coast



he thing about having a

packbike is it’s always daring

you to try something you

Fan of the stones, the ECR

can always get what it wants

know might not be a very good idea,

writes Iain White. For example,

going for a ride on the mostly

pebbled beaches along Brighton’s

chalky Undercliff Walk that extends

to the east (Saltdean) by around

4.5km. I’ve already tried to claim the

south coast as a viable riding

surface, but came a cropper in

grand style with a deft dive

over the handlebars. At

least there was a

smattering of applause.

Anyway, the ECR is

daring me to give it

another go — and I’m

starting to weaken.

ECR: “Beach! Pebbles! Sea! Call

yourself a man? What’s the worst

that can happen? It won’t be like last

time. Plus there’s that cafe down

there. You could have a bacon

sarnie. What’s your problem?”

Me: “But you’re not built for

pebbles. We tried that and it all

ended in embarrassment, bruises,

and a very shellshocked seagull.”

ECR: “You’re scared. No sense of

adventure. See these tyres? They

can go anywhere...”

So, against my better judgment,

off we go towards Rottingdean

along the Undercliff to beach one,

just past Brighton Marina composed

of sand (10 per cent) and large

pebbles (90 per cent). Success, as




predicted: zero. It was impossible

to stay upright, let alone gain any

traction. I feel a wave of smug

satisfaction coming on. Either that

or it’s the exertion of pedalling

furiously while staying in one place.

O nil to me, then.

Round two. Pretty much

halfway between the Marina

nd the Undercliff cafe, the

next beach looked

promising with about a third

f it sand and the rest small

pebbles. Success! I can bomb

along the pebbles to the waterline

and back again, as well as nip along

the water’s edge from one end to

another. Whoever said you can’t ride

on Brighton beach is an idiot. (Oh,

that was me.) One all.

Our final beach is right next to

the cafe, a refreshment is imminent,

and the 50/50 sand/pebble surface

looks promising. Again — success

— it’s a total blast scooting along the

sandy strip flattening sandcastles

and avoiding lemming-like

sunbathers. I could do this all day

long, but there’s that pressing

matter of the bacon sarnie to take

care of…

Photos: Daniel Gould, Iain White


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. .


. /







Cycling helped

with my diabetes

The number of cases of Type 2 diabetes

diagnosed each year is increasing, but

cycling and healthy eating can play a large

part in controlling it. We speak to cyclist

Janet Simpson about how her passion for

long-distance bike riding has helped her

manage her symptoms, and allowed her to

continue to enjoy exercising as well as the

occasional foodie treat

Words Hannah Reynolds Illustrations Chris Watson


anet Simpson was

diagnosed with Type 2

diabetes nine years ago.

CA met up with her the

day before she completed an epic

950-mile ride across France, from

St-Malo to Nice, to find out how

Type 2 diabetes had affected her

lifestyle and cycling.

“I was diagnosed with Type 2

diabetes when I was 40, but I had

gestational diabetes [which

affects pregnant women] the two

times I was pregnant,” Janet says.

“The doctors did say to me at the

time that this meant it was likely I

would develop it [Type 2]

sometime after I was 40.”

When Janet was first

diagnosed with diabetes, she

started to watch what she ate. “I

tried to be careful not to have too

many things I thought were bad,”

she says. “I used to love fish and

chips, bread all over the place and

lot of carbohydrates, sweeties and

chocolates — whatever I fancied.”

But then Janet took up

exercise, which helped manage

her symptoms instead. Before

being diagnosed, Janet says she

wasn’t a cyclist and didn’t

exercise a lot, but since having

children she has taken it up

significantly more. “I used to go

for a twenty-minute run, but after

my first child I did my first 10km

and half marathon. Then after the

twins — my second pregnancy

— I did my first marathon and

then got into triathlon.

“I’ve done much more since

having the children and being



Fitness Controlling diabetes

Cycling helps keep

Janet’s blood sugar

levels in check


diagnosed with diabetes.

In the last two years I’ve

done some reasonable

long-distance cycle rides,

including Land’s End to

John o’ Groats,” she says.

Janet was able to

manage her diabetes

almost entirely with exercise, and

a small amount of medication.

But over time this proved to be

insufficient to keep her blood

tests in a healthy range. “Until

this year I hadn’t taken it [food]

terribly seriously,” she says. “I

thought ‘I do so much exercise

that I don’t really need to worry

too much about what I eat’.

“My long-term blood test

results had typically been OK, but

last spring one of the blood tests

came up quite high for what is

called HbA1c — a measure of the

last three months worth of sugar

that has been floating round in

your system. It was a bit high. I

talked to the doctor about it; he

said I needed to watch it.”

At the same time as this,

Janet was about to embark on

the training for her Land’s End to

John o’ Groats ride. “I told the

doctor that I was doing a big

long cycle ride and that I was

training for it. He said to come in

afterwards and see how that

affected it.”

When Janet returned to the

doctor after completing the ride,

the results were good. “Sure

enough, with the training and the

long ride itself my HbA1c was

back in the normal range again,”

she says.

Reliance on exercise

While exercising like this can

really help symptoms like Janet’s,

relying on it alone can lead to

problems, especially if injury

occurs or anything stops you

from getting out on the bike.

“Diabetes is typically progressive,

and in the past year I have been

injured a couple of times and I

haven’t been able to do as much

exercise as I would do typically,”

says Janet.

And almost immediately,

Janet saw the effects from her

time off the bike.

When Janet went for a

retinopathy scan to check for

disorders of the retina, commonly

brought on by diabetes, it showed

up some early stages of damage

or macular degeneration. “The

doctor wanted to talk to me about

it and asked, ‘What are you doing

about this?’ I replied, ‘I am going

on another big cycle ride, it will

be fine! I just haven’t been doing

as much exercise as I normally

would,” says Janet.

The change in volume of

exercise could be seen in Janet’s

long-term blood test results, too.

“The doctor advised

Janet to cut down on

carbohydrates to

150g a day or less”

“He sent me for another HbA1c

and it was very high because I

hadn’t been doing the amount of

exercise I normally would

because of my injury. I certainly

hadn’t bothered at all about

eating. I’d been working in a

school and there were always

cakes about for someone’s

birthday,” Janet explains.

The combination of Janet

doing less exercise and eating a

few more cakes and treats meant

that the results of the tests had

started creeping back up again.

“I had a real wake-up call in

March,” she says. “The doctor

said, ‘This is too high.’ He went

on to say that I had been focusing

on my output — through exercise

— but I need to focus on my input

too [what you eat]. So for the past

few months I’ve been working

really hard to think about that.”

The doctor advised Janet to

cut down on carbohydrates to

150g a day or less. Typically, an

adult woman would eat around

double that. “That was quite a

challenge,” says Janet. “The first

thing I did next was go on a

school skiing trip where it was all

French bread and pizza and

pasta, so very difficult! I was very

careful, I was very impressed

with myself, I didn’t have any

French bread because I know

that is very high GI. I really tried

to cut it down.”

Ride more, eat more

For diabetics who are controlling

their symptoms through food and

exercise, monitoring blood sugar

levels is the most useful way of

knowing whether you are getting

it right. “I was being very, very

careful almost to the point of

feeling, ‘My goodness, I can’t

possibly have that!’” Janet says.

But when exercising, the

amount of certain food groups

you need, such as carbohydrates,

increases. Even though Janet was

on a carb-controlled diabetic diet,

as she was undertaking a long

ride, she needed to eat more.

“When I came on this ride I

was a bit worried about how the

food aspect was going to go. I

brought my little fingertip blood

tester to keep an eye on my blood

sugar. I need to aim for between

four and seven [millimoles of

blood glucose per litre] and

certainly no higher than 8.5, two

hours after a meal.

“This trip has been interestin

as although we have been

Fitness Controlling diabetes

doing a lot of cycling, breakfasts

here are French bread and little

else! At first I wondered if I would

poison myself with all this white

bread, but of course I haven’t

because I have been cycling so

much each day.

“When I’ve taken my blood

sugar at a coffee stop after two

hours it’s very low, typically 4.8 as

opposed to 10.5 which I might

have seen at home with that type

of breakfast.”

By exercising a lot Janet has

been able to relax her diet a little

bit more, safe in the knowledge

the carbohydrates are being burnt

off during the long rides she had

been doing each day.

“I have had a lovely two weeks

eating a few things I wouldn’t

have dared to for the last three

months! With the blood tests I

can see when I sit down to coffee

two hours after breakfast and

after some riding that the

measurements are fine and well

within the limits and actually

sometimes they’re low, so it is a

good idea to have some extra.”

Balance is key

Janet has found a good way to

use diet and exercise to control

her diabetes, and the results from

her tests have shown she is on the

right path. “Obviously at home I

can’t ride like this every day, but

I’m enjoying the riding and the

way it helps manage my food,”

she says. “When I get home I’ll try

and fit longer rides in at the

weekends and some more in the

week. I’m trying really hard to get

the right balance of input from

carbohydrate and output from

exercise. The bottom line is I

don’t want to be blind!”

CA spoke to Dr Tom Fox,

consultant of diabetes, obesity

and endocrinology at the Royal

Devon and Exeter Hospital about

Janet’s story and asked whether

cycling could be the key for

tackling diabetes.

As a cyclist himself, Dr Fox

is keen to see more people take

to two wheels as it will help

them become active and

reduce the incidence of obesity.

“The prevalence of Type 2

diabetes has been steadily rising

over the last two decades,” he

says. “There are two factors at

play: obesity and genetic

predisposition. Some people with

a high Body Mass Index (BMI) of

50 will never develop diabetes,

“High-calories diets and a sedentary

lifestyle can lead to diabetes”

Exercise has saved Janet

from a life without cake

but others will develop it even

with a lower body weight.

“High-calorie diets and a

sedentary lifestyle can lead to

diabetes, but it can be controlled

with weight loss and diet. Many

people who are overweight have

joint problems so I often

recommend cycling as it is low

impact. It would be a great thing if

more people cycled.”

He continues: “The important

thing is to do things that are

sustainable. Crazy diets only work

as long as you stick with them.

We want people to find something

that they can do forever.

“In Janet’s case that could be

cycling. It’s unrealistic to say, ‘I’m

never going to eat another cake.’

It’s about having a balance

between being more active and

not withdrawing all the things you

enjoy eating.”

A diagnosis of diabetes doesn’t

need to mean you never eat

another chocolate bar or can’t go

out for dinner. With plenty of

exercise and some dietary control

you can continue to enjoy cycling

and the occasional indulgence

while still looking after your

health. They key is sustainability,

as Janet discovered when she

was injured. After 950 miles of

cycling across France and

enjoying the occasional French

baguette for breakfast and a few

treats while on the bike, Janet

felt positive that cycling would

allow her to continue to manage

her symptoms.

“I do love exercise and I think

the diabetes is better controlled

when I’m exercising. It has got

worse and progressed over the

time since I have been diagnosed,

but I have made sure that I get

lots of exercise and I think that

has helped me keep it at bay and

stave off some of the worse

symptoms,” she says.

“There are lots of people who

just ignore the advice and I don’t

think they are doing themselves

any favours. My doctor is very

happy with my cycling — big tick

for that!’




Morning matters

This month CA tests pre-ride breakfasts. There can be only one winner in food fight

Words Robert Hicks


t’s billed as the most important meal of the day, breaking the fast

of the eight or so hours when you were tucked up in bed.

But a good brekkie does more than just that. Did you know

that during periods of sleep, you actually burn energy? You also

lose fluids through light sweating and breathing. A bowl or plate of

something tasty and nutritious is therefore important to help you

rehydrate and refuel.

Should you have a sportive, long ride or heavy training session

coming up, your needs will go beyond replenishing the calories burned

while you were asleep; you will be looking to go further and provide fuel

for your exertions.

You should never skip breakfast, and if you’re riding that morning,

make sure you do it properly. To achieve this, you want foods that

provide a slow, steady release of energy. Foods with a low Glycaemic

Index (GI) score — a measure of how quickly blood sugar levels rise

after eating certain foods — will ensure you stay efficiently fuelled

throughout your ride while minimising the chances of snacking and

hunger pangs.


Cornflakes are the perfect way to start the day, or so Kelloggs would

have you believe. Per 100g, a bowl of Kellogg’s Cor es co t i s

378kcal, which doesn’t sound too bad. But remember,

100g is only six tablespoons. A full bowl of

cornflakes is significantly more, and the calories

will soon add up. With a GI score of 80, they’ll

provide you with a sudden boost of energy but it

won’t last long, and what you will find is

that an hour into your ride, you will need to

1/5 snack again.

Bacon sarnie

While a good old bacon sarnie won’t help you fly around on the bike,

it’s not a bad food to have to help fuel your ride. White

bread is a good source of carbohydrates and the

bacon will provide some protein. However, it is

rather high in salt and saturated fat. Grilling rather

than frying will reduce the overall fat and

calorie load, but even so, you shouldn’t be

2/5 eating it every day.

Jam on toast

Wholemeal bread has a GI score of around 50, just

what is needed for a few hours of bike riding. The

added jam will also increase your sugar intake and

give you that kick up the backside to power your

ride. There’s no need to go over the top, two or

three slices of jam on toast will fill the tank

up, and set you on your way for a few hours

3/5 of fun on the bike.


Porridge is a fantastic food to have in the morning

before your ride. Oats have a low GI score (less than

55), which will help build a solid base of energy.

What’s great about porridge is that you can

experiment with what you want to add to it. For

example, a dollop of honey is rich in

carbohydrates and scores moderate to low

4/5 on the GI table, helping sustain energy levels.

Fruit smoothies

Fruit smoothies contain slow-releasing carbohydrates and proteins,

plus natural sugars to release energy into the bloodstream. Opt for

skimmed milk and low-fat yoghurt and be creative with our fruits.

Bananas area great source of carbohydrates, while

blueberries — a renowned super-food — contain

important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. If

you make enough, you could even have a glass

when you get home, as the

protein from the milk and

the yogurt will aid with


muscle repair.



Mountain high

Can any cyclist climb Mount Teide, the pro’s favourite training

ground? CA’s Rebecca Charlton heads to Tenerife to find out

Words Rebecca Charlton Photos Daniel Gould


ve covered more than twice the

distance I’ve ever climbed before,

I’m high above the clouds and I’m

counting. It’s the only thing keeping

me going as I resist the urge to give in to my

burning leg muscles, hours from the foot of

the climb, yet hours from the summit. All I

want to do is lay down by the roadside. I stare

at the small board on the verge which

displays each kilometre passed, blink again

and wonder how it can possibly have only

been one kilometre since we last saw one.

“Have I missed a couple?” I ask

photographer Daniel in desperation, thinking

perhaps the heat exhaustion has affected my

counting. The reality was that a combination

of altitude, gradient and fatigue in my legs

meant that it was a long time between

kilometre counters. I was half way up

Tenerife’s infamous Mount Teide wiping

sweat from my eyes, and I had the hardest

part to come.

What am I letting myself in for?

Any hint of an incline and I think I’m

climbing. I’m not the lightest of riders and

let’s be honest, although we have some steep

gradients in the UK, it’s not often you’re

scaling hills at home for the duration that you

find abroad.

Any more than about 10 minutes of

climbing in and around London and I think

I’m doing well. I know northern readers will

scoff at my southern softness, but anything

that makes me puff, I consider to be a hill.

When I was invited to the holiday island to

sample the riding with Tenerife Bike Training

all I heard was ‘sun’. Company founders

Marcos and Alberto Delgado, two brothers

who grew up on the island, explained that it’s

not just the professionals that ‘train’ here, but

also everyday cyclists like me. That was

Fitness Climbing Mount Teide

all I needed to hear and I booked my flights.

I knew that the likes of Sir Bradley Wiggins

frequented the volcanic island, and that I’d be

climbing at a fraction of his pace, but I

thought, ‘how hard can it be?’.

I soon realised I shouldn’t have been so

optimistic because everyone I spoke to about

my impending trip responded in the same

way. “You’ll hate it,” said one friend, “You do

know it’s basically all uphill?” said another.

“Are you sure?” added a colleague. I started to

wonder what I’d let myself in for.

Upon arrival

We were met at the airport by Marcos and

Alberto and taken to the Paradise Park Hotel,

which despite sounding a bit like something


J Teide is the third highest volcano on a

volcanic ocean island in the world at

3,718m, after Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa

in Hawaii.

J Its elevation makes Tenerife the tenth

highest island in the world.

J The volcano remains active, its most

recent eruption occurring in 1909.

J The volcano and its surrounding area

comprise Teide National Park, which has an

area of 18,900 hectares (73 square miles)

and was named a World Heritage Site by

UNESCO in 2007.

J It is one of the most visited National

Parks in the world, with an estimated total

of 2.8 million visitors, according to the

Instituto Canario de Estadística (ISTAC).

Higher than…

The Shard

To put things into perspective, The Shard is

currently the highest building in the UK

standing at 306 metres (1,004ft) high.

Multiply that by 10 and you’re getting close

to the height we climbed in Tenerife:

3,718m (12,198ft). The true summit is 118m

higher than than.

The Empire State


With its antenna spire included, New

York City’s Empire State Building stands

a total of 443m high, (1,454ft). Teide’s

summit stands at eight times the height.

Imagine that!

Box Hill

The Olympic road race climbed Surrey’s

famous Box Hill nine times, its hairpins

meaning it’s often likened to an alpine-style

ascent. The ‘zig-zag’ climb is 120 metres

(390ft) over 2.5 kilometres, topping out

at a gradient of around 10 per cent and

averaging 4.9 per cent. Our elevation gain

on the Queen’s Day was 3,300m (10,826ft),

with an average of six per cent and a max

of around 15 per cent. Although Box Hill is a

similar gradient, Tenerife blows the

distance out of the water.


out of Noughties sitcom Benidorm was lovely,

and way more luxurious than I’m used to on

riding holidays.

Upon arrival at the hotel, the brothers sat

us down and asked us a few questions about

our riding ability, health and fitness. I have to

say I was pretty nervous at this point, but it

was really useful to be able to chat through

the coming days and find out exactly what

to expect.

I was reassured that even if I struggled I

would be well looked after and in the worst

case scenario, a van would be on hand at all

times to pick us up, should we experience any

difficulty. Despite the back-up plan, I was told

I’d be absolutely fine, which was nice to hear,

even if I doubted it was true!

Alberto set me up on my hire bike the night

before the first ride, and I had confidence in

him from the start. I’d emailed my

measurements prior to the trip and he’d picked

me out a 50cm frame size that fitted well. He

lowered the saddle for me and checked my leg

extension. I’d taken my own pedals with me,

which I popped on. It was good to know I

didn’t have the hassle of worrying about my

own bike on the flight over and that it would

simply be provided when I needed it. The van

was also equipped with tools too, should we

need to make any roadside adjustments once

we were away from civilisation.

I went to bed early that night nervously

clutching the piece of paper that detailed the

route profile — a mere 130km and five hours

of mountain climbing to the top of the third

highest volcano in the world. I’d be fine. Right?

“Everything’s taken care of”

We were to sample two days of the ‘Volcano

Tour’ and it just so happened that we

were starting on the toughest stage, the

aforementioned 130km ‘Queen’s Day’. I felt for

the other three guys who would be cycling

with us because they were already two days

in to their trip and had a whole week still to

come. At least I could focus on just two

mountain days.

We didn’t have to worry about a thing and

it wasn’t by any means because we were given

the journo treatment. If you go on this trip you

will be well looked after whatever your ability.

When we got ready at the start of the route,

Alberto and Marcos made sure we all had full

bottles and some food in our pockets. It was a

godsend to know there was always a support

van, with food, drink and mechanical

assistance to hand — not to mention that it

lightened the load in my pockets.

When we met Paul, Ed and John, the other

three riders who’d signed up to the trip, it was

clear we all had different goals. You may think

the rider up the road ahead of you is finding it

easy but the truth is, cycling still hurts as

much for everybody, people just go at slightly

different speeds. My goal was to simply get to

the top of the climb, however slow.

It soon became obvious that we weren’t all

going to be riding together. On this kind of

climb there are so many factors that divide

you: body weight, strength, technique, drive

and determination can all make a huge

difference to your speed.

We had a fair few miles of rolling road and

then a descent before starting to climb

Mount Teide. It would take at least three

hours to get to the summit, that much I knew.

It was 35km in one hit for that section,

Tall order: Mount Teide’s

a true test of stamina and



Fitness Climbing Mount Teide

Hard road to the top:

you’ve got to sweat to

taste success




Start — Arico 387m

Güimar 210m

34km - 2,140m

Average 6%

Lzaña 2,350m 210m

Teide 2,370m 210m


Finish —Los Cristianos 30m

almost three times the length of any

mountain I’d ever climbed.

We started and immediately John and

Paul disappeared into the distance. I

maintained the gap for a while, but then

became resigned to pacing myself — I knew I

had a very long road ahead.

If I could pass on one piece of advice it

would be this: ride at your own ability level.

If you try to keep up with someone stronger

than yourself in the early stages of a hill, you

will not be able to sustain it for the duration.

Pushing yourself is great, but if you’re red

faced and panting in the first mile of an

80-mile day in the saddle, it’s not likely to end

well. It may dent your pride, but you will enjoy

the ride so much more.

Choosing gearing

Groupsets come in various shapes and sizes

and it’s really important to have gearing on

your bike that allows you to cope with the

gradient when you’re taking on steeper hills.

If your gear ratios are too large you could hurt

your knees, lose momentum and not have

much fun at all.

Many modern sportive bikes come with

‘compact’ gearing or ‘triples’ that allow a

wider range of gears than a typical ‘double’


From left to right:

Ed Ersil, John Uphoff

and Paul Hughes

chainset. This will mean you have a smaller

chainring at the front and allow you to turn

your legs a little faster for a given speed. Also,

at the back, the bigger the largest sprocket is,

the easier it will be to turn the pedals.

If you’re going abroad, test your legs on a

climb near you and ask yourself how the

gradient compares to what you’ll be doing on

your trip. Take a look at the route profile

where possible and be realistic on whether

your gearing will suffice. If in doubt, ask at

your local bike shop.

I was provided with a tiny chainring at the

front and a big rear cassette on the hire bike

and it made all the difference. It meant that

rather than losing momentum I could

maintain a more regular cadence on the

steeper parts that I was struggling with. It

offered a welcome respite and meant I didn’t

grind to a halt when the gradient kicked up.

Halfway but no house

After a section of undulation we started the

climb proper. There would be no break until

we’d done at least 16km of the mountain. I

was fixated on the halfway point; in my mind

there would be somewhere to refuel and relax

before the second leg, but in reality it was a

quick bite of a bar and banana on the


Ed Ersil

Age: 50

Occupation: software engineer

Location: Ottawa, Canada

“As a cycling enthusiast, this was one of my

most enjoyable and challenging cycling weeks

ever. I really enjoyed the tough hills, scenery,

and the quality of the rides. I want to come

back next year.”

John Uphoff

Age: 60

Occupation: retired

Location: Low Habberley, near Kidderminster

“I picked Tenerife because of its reputation

for long climbs to the volcanos. The UK has

many fantastic hills but none with the distance

that I wanted, as I trained for this year’s Etape

du Tour.”

roadside. I didn’t care. I whipped my shoes off,

lay on the dusty floor and gulped down a can

of Coke. I was quickly reminded I needed to

get up though.

Marcos was friendly but firm when it came

to keeping to a schedule. If I’d had the option

of lazing there for longer, I would have, but it

would have been so hard to get going again.

Not only that but we would have risked not

making it back in time. When you’re taking on

something this big, it’s really important that

you don’t stall too much or you run the risk of

not making the distance.

Never-ending story

I never thought I’d make it to the top. I really

didn’t. The way I usually cope with hills is by

either knowing I can see the summit, or

counting down the minutes until I know it will

be over. But rather than minutes, it was a case

here of counting down the hours.

“In reality I was blown way by how long

and difficult the climbs turned out to be! Six

days of climbing was as much mental as

physical. The daily challenge was to keep

pedalling and not be overwhelmed by the

climbs. Riding above the clouds was magic.

“Tenerife Bike Training, the Delgado

brothers, made the rides. Having the support

van, to carry extra gears, drinks and food, was

the only way to do 35k’s of climbing in one go.

“I cannot wait to do it again.”

Paul Hughes

Age: 47

Occupation: landscape gardener

Location: UK

“A fantastic experience that we will be doing

again next year. It’s a great challenge to test

your fitness both mentally and physically. I

highly recommend Tenerife Training; great

lads, very helpful. I have been on so many

sports-type holidays but this was the best.”

It felt never-ending; there was no

excitement that we might be nearing the

summit at any point before around four hours

in. And because I knew we were nowhere

near the top, it was an odd place to be

mentally. There have been few cycling

challenges that I thought I wouldn’t complete

— this was one of them. I started to think ‘if I

make it to the summit I’ll be so happy!’ and

imagined telling people I’d got to the top as I

knew how proud they’d be. This isn’t a feat

one completes every day and the element of

achieving something so big drove me forward.

Everything hurt. My legs were begging me

to stop. My shoes were hurting my feet and I

wanted nothing more then to take my helmet

and shoes off.


And then I saw a sign that told us it was

4km to go to the top. I was euphoric; I


Fitness Climbing Mount Teide

Determined to take a break

at the 16km mark, Becs is urged

on by those holding the schedule

practically screamed at Daniel that we were

nearly there. It was another solid 4km of

climbing, but the end was in sight. It occurred

to me that I hadn’t uttered a word in a very

long time, only enough to express excitement

that we’d passed through the clouds and were

higher than I’d ever been before.

Passing through a layer of clouds was the

most surreal experience, and emerging above

them felt as if we’d entered another world. A

quiet, remote and idyllic place we’d earned

exclusive entry to through sheer hard work.

For most of the climb, any time Daniel —

who’s a lot fitter than me — asked any

questions, he received short grunts from me in

reply. At one point he even sang a Beyonce

song to me to break the silence. Now that’s

team support.

Up and up we went, passing a beautiful

section of rock that was bright with a

spectrum of red and orange hues. I think I

was in a state of delirium by this point

because there were two tourists who had

hopped out of their car to take a photo at this

vantage point and I just stared at them

through bleary eyes. Not much was going

through my mind until this point apart from

‘pedal, pedal, pedal, wiggle hot toes, wipe



Hannah Barnes, a professional rider for

UnitedHealthcare serves up her top

climbing tips:

J When people get to the bottom of a climb

they tend to get a little carried away and go full

gas at the bottom. Instead, pace your effort

from the start, especially if it’s a long way up.

J It always pays to go up at your own pace.

You may catch people up later!

J I tend to push a big gear, which isn’t the best

for everybody. Keeping a higher cadence saves

energy so is better.

J If a climb has hairpins people tend to go the

shortest way round, but this will also be the

steepest part of the road, so you have to get

out the saddle and it can upset your rhythm.

It’s actually better to go the long way round

where it’s flatter.

sweat, pedal.’ I wondered if they realised we’d

cycled all the way up. It seemed like a mad

prospect, even as I did it, four hours riding a

bike up a hill, FOUR hours! I kept thinking

how long I’d been climbing for and how these

people had simply jumped out of their car and

probably thought we were insane.

When I saw the top I couldn’t believe it.

We were at the highest point you can climb to

by bike and the view was breathtaking. We

saw Marcos standing at the van and it was a

sight for sore eyes, I was elated to know I’d

climbed the distance of Mount Teide, I

couldn’t believe I’d done it, what a slog.

But it wasn’t over; there was a significant

amount of up and down before the descent

proper, including a six-kilometre ascent of yet

more 10 per cent gradient sections.

The descent

What goes up must come down, and after at

least five hours of climbing, we had the same

distance to drop down on the other side of the

mountain. Similarly to when I was scaling the

distance up, I knew we’d be on a downward

slope for quite some time. I popped on my

wind jacket and rolled off with a grin of

anticipation on my face.

Too hard for words: talking’s

tough but it’s good not to have

to suffer alone

This isn’t something you experience every

day and I can’t recommend it enough. There

were no extremely tight hairpins, and no

nasty surprises, just miles upon miles of

flowing road ahead. Down and down we

went, swooping round each bend and

enjoying every second of our reward. It

was such a relief not to be going up that my

confidence grew and grew, cutting (safely) the

apex of the bend and picking a smooth line to

maintain speed.

It really was down all the way home to the

door of the hotel, and that was a huge

motivating factor.

We certainly slept well that night and I

appreciated the unlimited hotel buffet as I

hobbled round the restaurant.

Oh, and by the way, we got up and did it all

again the next day.


Would I do it again? In hindsight, undoubtedly

yes. When I was halfway up the climb, I would

have said I’d never do anything that hard

again. But upon reflection it’s an incredible

way to discover how far you can go with a bit

of encouragement.



Volcano Tour

J Duration: Eight days/ seven nights

(six routes)

J Accommodation: Paradise Park Hotel,

4* (half board)

J Rental bikes available

J Price: €775 p/p (double occupancy)

seven per cent tax

J €875 p/p (single room) seven per

cent tax

J Eight per cent discount for

returning customers

Tenerife Bike Training:

the Delgado brothers

Alberto, 32, and Marcos, 38, were born in

Tenerife and both are fluent in English,

Swedish and Spanish. Alberto is the team

leader and the ‘boss’ on the road. He knows

the best routes around the island and he

will support you along the way.

Being a local gives Alberto a unique

advantage when it comes to preparing

your trip: the roads you will ride have all

been carefully selected and have been

ridden many times by Alberto on his

training runs. Similarly, his excellent local

knowledge and contacts allow him to

select the top luxury hotels that also reflect

the culture and history of the region.

Marcos and Alberto have both

competed to a high level in triathlon,

completing Iron Man distances, and while

one is on the road for on-bike support, the

other will be on-hand in the van to offer

encouragement and sustenance.

They work as a team to make sure you

have the best advice out on the road. And

you’ll need it for a ride of this scale.

It’s not often you clear your mind for that

long and simply focus on the basics, like

moving forward, eating and drinking.

Afterwards it made me appreciate that sense

of achievement and feel confident I could

achieve anything I set my mind to. It may

sound crazy that I’m saying a bike ride can

change your life, but I believe it can to a

certain extent.

Getting away from the mundane and

pushing to your physical and mental limit is a

break from the norm and not only improves

health and fitness but can free your head from

worries and stresses too. It doesn’t have to be

Mount Teide, but if you can plan a big

challenge ride before the end of the year,

you’ll thank yourself for it.

So, the question I set out to answer was:

can anyone climb Mount Teide? And I think

the verdict is yes. I was reasonably fit when I

went out but I’m no mountain goat by any

stretch of the imagination. Having said that,

I would recommend preparing as much as

you can for a trip like this. It would be very

difficult to take on this distance of climbing if

you hadn’t done at least some longer rides at

home first.

I also think you need a realistic plan.

You’ll need to set out early and you’ll need to

have access to plenty of food and drink,

because you may be riding for a very long

time before you see any sign of civilisation.

You also need a get-out plan if you take longer

than you expect. It’s easy to work out your

pace and think you’ll be able to climb at a

predicted speed, but there are so many

variables such as the weather, heat, altitude

and fatigue. It would be far too dangerous to

descend through the clouds if you lost the

daylight; so planning is key.

If you’re doing a ride of this nature it’s a

great idea to do it supported because you’re

then benefitting from the advice of very

experienced guides. The best thing about

Tenerife is you don’t have to scale the entire

mountain in one go. There are plenty of

different routes up, all varying in difficulty,

and you could spend a whole day on one

section, there’s so much to choose from.

If you have the chance to do the route we

did, you should have a go, as there really is

nothing like it when you reach the top —

breathtaking in more ways than one and so

worth it.

The Delgado brothers:

Alberto (l) and Marcos



Out of the saddle

An essential skill for all types of riding, it’s easy and fun

Words Luke Edwardes-Evans Photo Daniel Gould


Harder to look up the road

when you are out of the saddle,

but you still need to scan the

road ahead, even on slow climbs


Strong biceps and

triceps will help pull

and push on the bars


Always bent to support

your weight, steer and

maintain a smooth rhythm


You will find your knees are

much closer to the bars and the

stem. If your knees are bumping

into the bars, you may need a

longer stem or a bigger frame


Mental approach

Riding out of the saddle, or

‘dancing’ as the French call it, is

one of those quirky pleasures

unique to cycling. Bikes

typically have many gears with

which to regulate your cadence

and speed. In a car, you change

down or up, that’s it. But on a

bike there is another option —

lift yourself out of the saddle and

use your whole body, assisted

by gravity, to drive the same

gear a little bit harder.

Think of it like the powerband

of a two-stroke engine.

There is a sweet spot in any

gear where the power comes in

smoothly, and sometimes you

need to rev it a bit to get into

that band of power. Getting out

of the saddle helps you stay ‘on

top’ of the same gear and keep it

revving. Or you can increase the

revs to accelerate the bike.

Climbing hills is where you will

gain the most benefit from

riding out of the saddle, as you

may already be in bottom gear.

It also recruits power from your

arms and upper body.

Do this

Use one leg on the down stroke

to push yourself out of the

saddle and keep your weight in

the centre of the bike or slightly

forward. Hold the brake hoods

and use your arms to support

your upper body. Your legs are

also supporting your weight, so

it’s not hard on the arms unless

you start to really pull on the

bars. On a steep climb you can

lean further over the bars,

taking more weight on your

arms. From this canted-forward

position, you can shove the

pedals through a longer power

phase than you would normally

when seated.

Keep your arms bent, move

the bike from side to side in sync

with your pedalling rhythm.

That’s why the French call it ‘en

danseuse’. With a little practice,

it will come easily.

The bike

On a road bike with drop

handlebars, the position of the

brake levers is key. Too far down

the bars and you will be

positioned uncomfortably over

the front wheel with too much

weight on your arms. Too high

and the balance shifts towards

the saddle, unweighting your

arms and forcing you into a

treadmill-style with your back

too straight and upright.

For bikes with flat bars it’s

actually a little trickier to ride

out of the saddle, as your wrists

are at the wrong angle, and the

shorter reach from saddle to

bars makes it harder to get your

balance weighted towards the

front of the bike. It’s well worth

fitting bar-end extensions to

flat bars if you like riding out of

the saddle.


Core strength will prevent

back ache and increase

your out of the saddle power


It’s normal to articulate your

ankles more when riding out of the

saddle, especially on very steep

climbs where you are grinding out

as much power as possible


Pedalling to

prove a point

In 2009, young graduate Julian Sayarer broke the world record for

fastest circumnavigation of the world by bike. It wasn’t about the

record — he wanted to make a stand, as he explains in his new book

Words David Bradford Photos Julian Sayarer


ulian Sayarer is grinning

warmly as he finds me,

eventually, in the vast

meeting space upstairs in

London’s Southbank Centre. He

looks different from how I

remember him from our first

meeting back in 2011: somehow

less intense, less wary. He is a

changed man, he admits.

“I’m nearly 29 now, whereas

I’m a 23-year-old in the book. I

really like that young man, even if

he is an angry young man, but

he’s not who I am now.”

The book in question is

Life Cycles, a wonderful,

vivid account of his 2009

circumnavigation of the globe

(18,000 miles) in 169 days, setting

what was then a new record. The

angry young protagonist, Sayarer

at 23, didn’t particularly care

about the record; he was

pedalling to prove a point.

The point was that anyone

can (and should) ride a very long


way without any need for

big-budget backing. He was

enraged by what he regarded as

the tainting of long-distance

cycling by the man who had set

the circumnavigation world

record in 2008, Mark Beaumont.

Sayarer hated that Beaumont’s

ride was backed by large

corporations, and detested

its portrayal in a BBC TV

documentary The Man who

Cycled the World as a gruelling

feat of heroic endurance.

Indignant blogger

The point he wanted to prove

was that riding 90 miles per day,

as Beaumont had, required

neither superhuman tenacity nor

the backing of big business and

did not warrant a media-spun

narrative of extreme hardship.

Sayarer set off on June 10, 2009,

averaged 110 miles a day, finished

on December 4, 2009, and beat

Beaumont’s record by 25 days.

For many people, his

record-setting ride was admirable

but his anger unseemly,

especially the blog he wrote in

December 2009, soon after

arriving back in the UK, in which

he made highly derogatory

remarks about Beaumont and

poured scorn on his “sell-out”

ride and corporate ambassador

status. Is the older, calmer

Sayarer inclined to distance

himself from those comments

made by his younger, hotterheaded


“A big part of it was that we

[he and Beaumont] were similar

“I’m 23 in the book. I really like that angry

young man, but he’s not who I am now”

ages, both politics graduates,”

says Sayarer, “which meant

something to me, and we were

both into cycling long distances.”

He defends his comments on

grounds of their context: the

global economic crisis was biting

hard in 2009, and he was airing a

sense of injustice about corporate

corruption and the social ills he

had witnessed during his

upbringing “in a really crappy

town” — formative years from

which he inferred “the world is

not OK”.

Soaking up the

sunset over the

Kazakh steppes

When I ask whether

Beaumont was really the most

strategic target in a campaign

against global-scale greed and

unfairness, Sayarer says:

“I don’t want to create a big,

bad bogeyman but if you’ve got

a corporation that’s involved

with all the ills of the world

economy… I don’t really believe

that that belongs on the same

page as the open road, the

sunset, the humanity of the man

in his yurt or the man who gives

you water in the desert. I really

don’t like that mixed message.”

Kindness of strangers

I’m sympathetic to this

argument, but frankly I still can’t

see how Beaumont deserved to

be attacked with such vitriol.

Sayarer may not be apologetic,

but he refrained from continuing

the invective in Life Cycles, in

which Beaumont’s name has

been changed (somewhat

jarringly) to Kash D’Anthe – not

exactly a conciliatory gesture, but

at least a laying-down of arms.

It’s worth pointing out that

Sayarer does not strike me as an

angry or dogmatic person; he

doesn’t flinch when his views are

challenged and happily concedes

that Beaumont’s accepting

sponsorship from large

companies did not render him

personally accountable for the

misconduct (alleged or proved) of

those companies. And though he

doesn’t express regret over his

now-infamous blog, he comes

pretty close.

“[It was] an over-emotional

rant of a blog post… it probably

was more vitriolic than I meant it

to be; I was probably falling

victim to the internet in some

ways, writing about a human

being as if they weren’t actually a

human being — never advisable.”

Enough said on the matter; I

want to hear about what it’s like

to cycle round the world and then

record it in writing — not least

because Life Cycles is so effective

in conjuring up the romance of

long-distance, open-air travel.

Within a few paragraphs of

reading, I was itching to jump on

my bike, ride to my nearest port,

catch a ferry and begin a big tour

of my own. Sayarer’s love of the

open road and his ability to evoke

the beauty of travelling by bike

are a potent combination.

In outlining his aims for the

book, he notes his intention to

avoid writing a “drab sports

monologue”. I tell him that I think

How to…

cycle around

the world

Julian Sayarer’s top tips for

fuss-free and rewarding

long-distance cycling

Travel light If you have to

think twice about whether

you need it, you don’t.

Start riding The

commonest reason for

not finishing is never

mustering the courage or

confidence to begin.

Travel cheaply Carrying

minimal cash makes you

more inventive, and

makes you appreciate the

small things.

Don’t over-plan Trust in

yourself, the world, and the road

to look out for you.

Keep an open mind Wherever

you are, remember you’re a

guest in other cultures. Even

when things get frustrating,

you’re the one who decided to

travel to some far-flung corner.

he wholly succeeded, and inquire

as to exactly what kind of book

he did aim to write.

“I guess I wanted the book to

be what in some ways the ride

wasn’t — to be positive about

what an amazing way [cycling] is

to travel; and I wanted to

communicate the warmth and

Holed up under the

highway in Russia

Still smiling in

Xi’an, China

Don’t be daunted by miles

When you’re sitting on a bike

all day, it’s amazing how far

you travel.

Engage your mind Have

something to do in the

non-cycling time, to give yourself

a break from pedalling. Writing

has always been my thing.

humanity of the people you come

into contact with everywhere.”

The kindness and generosity

of the people he met is a theme

Sayarer returns to again and

again, and in the book he spends

whole sections paying homage to

characters who helped, amused

and inspired him. Another

message he wants to emphasise,

aside from the inherent goodness

of most people, is “just how

do-able the whole thing is” — he

wants people to feel that

long-distance cycling is simple,

achievable and not the preserve

of heroic adventurers. But is it,

really? Can someone who’s not

super-fit really ride all day every

day and avoid injury, accidents

and burn-out?

Just do it

“Yes! I was fit but not super-fit.

Knocking out 100 miles a day,

when you don’t have anything

else to do other than sleeping —

you’re not watching television,

you’re not seeing friends — is

really very do-able.”

He laughs at my imagined

worst-case scenarios: running

out of food, fitness and the will to

go on, getting stranded miles

from civilisation, dying of thirst in

the desert.

“Honestly, the bicycle is an

incredibly efficient machine. I

think not being daunted is the

main thing. If you go into

something already imagining

your failure, not being able to


Fitness World cycling

Around the

world by bike:

World record timeline

The Guinness World

Record rules for fastest

circumnavigation of the globe

by bicycle dictate that the ride

must be completed as a

continuous journey by bicycle

and other means, consisting

of a minimum 24,900 miles

(40,073km), of which at least

18,000 miles (28,968 km)

must be cycled.

Feb 2005

Steve Strange

276 days 19 hours

Feb 2008

Mark Beaumont

194 days 17 hours

Sept 2009

James Bowthorpe

175 days

June 2009

Julian Sayarer

169 days

Aug 2010

Vin Cox

163 days 7 hours

Aug 2010

Alan Bate


do it, I think that will hinder

everything, whereas if you think

‘I can keep turning pedals,’ you

probably will.”

It’s sound advice that subdues

my visions of roadside starvation

and circling vultures. Even so,

I’m not quite convinced that

willpower alone is enough to

ensure success on a transcontinental

bike trip. Surely

some planning and contingencies

are vital, even for the

preternaturally laidback?

“Yes, and it’s great to prepare,

it’s fun to look at maps, and it’s

great to think about what your

kit’s going to be — and it’s

definitely going to be better

if you’ve got a waterproof

pannier bag, which will save

you some headaches.”

OK, so you may not need to

be incredibly fit nor have the

latest SAS-spec navigation

equipment at your disposal, but

what about keeping your body

fresh and refuelled enough to

keep turning the pedals? We’ve

all read those cautionary, if not

downright scaremongering,

articles about how nutrition and

hydration must be scientifically

measured and spot-on to avoid

disaster. Did he pay special

attention to these matters during

his time on the road?

“Not at all,” he says. “Cycling

to China, doing 110 miles a day, I

don’t think I’ve ever felt so fit

— eating no meat, hardly any

dairy products, no refined sugars,

just a good plate of rice or

106 days 10hrs

Dec 2012

Women’s record

Juliana Buhring

152 days

June 2012

Mike Hall

91 days 18 hours*

noodles and lots of vegetables,

water and maybe some kind of

soda drink for the sugar.”

Paradoxically, it was only when

calories became easier to come

by that he encountered dietrelated

drawbacks. “Not until

New Zealand and then the States

did I start eating more processed

foods…confectionary, ice cream,

Heroic rednecks

*Not ratified as

Guinness World

pancakes, and at that point I


really did start to feel sluggish. I’d

be eating three tubs of ice cream

a day sometimes!”

“Cycling to China, doing 110 miles a day,

I don’t think I’ve ever felt so fit”

Another topic conspicuous by its

absence from Life Cycles is talk

of equipment choice and bike

specification, and perhaps this is

an area to which Sayarer should

have paid more attention —

given that he had a crank snap

while riding through a remote

part of Texas, forcing him to

pedal for 15 miles using one leg.

When he finally made it to a

bike shop in Cross Plains, the

proprietor confounded his

expectations by welcoming him

in, shaking his hand and fixing

the crank for free. The genial

mechanic then assured Sayarer

that the image of Texans as

“nasty rednecks” is unjust, not

least because the original

rednecks were pre-war

coalminers who wore red

bandannas around their necks

during their fight for better pay

and conditions. If there’s a lesson

to be drawn, it’s that the world

experienced by bike can do a

good job of deconstructing the

world of facile stereotypes.

It wasn’t only a crank that

failed on Sayarer’s bike; he

suffered wheel trouble too.

So, would he opt for betterquality

components if he did the

ride again?

“Not really, I wouldn’t change

much, except maybe the Rohloff

hub, which, though I respect it as

a piece of engineering and for the

advantages it brings, I’d still find

it difficult to justify using one

again instead of a derailleur,

which is just so smooth.”

World’s best biking

Julian Sayarer picks his top three cycling destinations.

“I’ll always love the Alps. All of the baking and coffee and

French culture, surrounded by wonderful silence, utter beauty, and

cycling heritage.”

“Coasts are always special; Croatia’s isn’t as untouched as it was, but

still a beautiful place to ride. When the weather’s good, Oregon’s

Pacific Coast is beyond words.”

“I like the remoteness of deserts. Whether that be Arizona or

north-west China.”

So it’s not about the bike or

the nutrition or the preparedness;

it’s about determination and a

desire — a love of cycling so

strong that it cannot be quenched

by commuting and weekend

sportives. Then again, even an

impassioned adventurer has to

stop some day; I was intrigued to

read how Sayarer found it

difficult to settle back into

‘normal’ life after his recordbreaking


“Yes, it was difficult,” he says.

“From a psychological point of

view, I hadn’t really interacted

with anyone for longer than 24

hours, and going from this

existence where people showed

you great humanity and

strangers looked out for you, to

suddenly a city where people are

constantly roaring past you,

people not enjoying their jobs…

it was difficult.”

Understandably, London

is not among Sayarer’s

recommended places in the

world to ride a bike; he depicts

Below sea level at

China’s Turfan


with an example the shellshocked

nature of his return to

commuting in the capital:

“Cycling round Hyde Park Corner

and having no idea how I’ve just

pissed off a cabbie but him

yelling, ‘One day you’re going to

die and you’re going to deserve it’

— it’s so hard to reconcile that

culture to the one that you

experience most of the time on a

long trip.”

Courier past

Before undertaking the recordbreaking

ride, Sayarer worked

as a cycle courier; he has plenty

of experience surviving the

often hostile bustle of the city,

yet the deplorable situation

facing cyclists gets to him more

nowadays. There are certain

roads he won’t ride on, and he is

involved in campaigning for

improved cycle safety.

He tells me he has no

inclination to return to

couriering, largely because it

barely pays the bills. Even so, it

has provided the topic for his

Crashed out against

a market sign in

New Zealand

next book, a road-rash-and-all

portrait of the bizarre life of a

bicycle messenger. If Sayarer’s

depiction of making a living as a

courier is half as engaging as his

account of biking round the

world, it will be a fascinating

insight into a cycling subculture

that penetrates the very veins of

the city.

There is one question still

nagging away at me. Has

Sayarer’s world-view been

changed by the experience of the

ride, setting the record and

readjusting to life off the bike? To

put it another way, is the slightly

less young “angry young man”

really less angry now?

“I’ve contextualised a lot and

I can really see how bouncingoff-the-walls

I was, but I think

you need anger, and we need

more people to be angrier about

a lot of things,” he said. “Yes, I’ve

got a lot of my anger out of my

system, but the record and the

ride were part of that journey…

Above all, it was always a great

experience, and I hope that

comes out in

the writing.”

It most

certainly does.

QLife Cycles

is published by

John Blake

and available

from all good


for £8.99.


The need for Tweed

The London Tweed Run

This May, London turned back the clock as 500 cyclists mounted vintage frames, donned

flat caps, floral skirts and dusted down their wicker baskets for the annual Tweed Run

Words Maria David Photos Aodan Higgins


ith a ringing of bells, a shout of

“tally-ho”, and the doffing of

hats, the ladies and gentleman

set out on their bikes from

Somerset House in glorious sunshine. It was

that time of year again for the annual London

Tweed Run.

Now in its sixth year, this event has firmly

established itself in the cycling calendar. In

fact, the Tweed Run has grown in such

popularity that this year’s five hundred online

tickets were snapped up in barely 90 seconds.

Men in tweed jackets, cravats, plus fours

and flat caps in various shades of grey, green

and brown, ladies in floral dresses and

decorated baskets all on vintage bicycles

paraded through the streets of London in the

name of goodwill and politeness.


The merry parade started from Aldwych,

and snaked a 10-mile route through The City

including tea at Guildhall, onwards through

the South Bank, Westminster — not forgetting

a mark of deference to the tailors at Savile

Row — before a picnic stop at Russell Square,

and finishing in Clerkenwell.

Friendliness was the order of the day, with

passers-by cheering on the riders on an array

of Penny Farthings, tandems and other classic

bikes, and fellow riders striking up

conversations among themselves in the bunch.

A key moment of the ride was on

Westminster Bridge when the Tweed Run

crossed paths with the concurrently running

London Cycling Campaign Big Ride. The

coming together of tweed and lycra, Pashley

and Pinarello, showed what it was all about on

the day — fellow bicycle riders enjoying a day

out on two wheels.

“It’s been wonderful that we can both cheer

each other as fellow cyclists and can come

together and have a day like this where cycling

takes over Central London. It’s brilliant,” said

Tweed Run founder, Ted Young-Ing. “Having a

really fun day out on your bike with some

mates is what it’s all about and I think

everyone has done that. We will definitely be

doing it again next year.”

The Tweed Run now has an international

dimension, too, with events all over the world.

For those who cannot wait until spring for the

next London or New York Tweed Run’s, there

will be events this autumn in Vancouver,

Seoul, and Tokyo.

Cliff Goodwin (and Paula), retired,


I started growing my moustache for

‘Movember’ but then I hung onto it for the

Tweed Run. I’m under strict instructions to

take it off after the event, but I’m quite

attached to it. It’s a bit warm for a

moustache but you have to suffer for your

art! I’m a shooting chap, so tweed is a way

of life not just for a once-a-year bash. I like

cycles as well, and tweed and cycles

merge beautifully.

Shane Rae (and family), publisher,


We came down especially for the event. My

two smallest children sit on the back of the

Pashley trike, and my son pedals. When I

moved here from Canada 15 years ago I

tried to assimilate into British country life so

got a set of tweeds. Last year we heard

about the Tweed Run, got some tweeds for

the kids and came down, half-heartedly

initially. But now we’re hooked. We love it.

Sadie Doherty and Hayley Brown,

editors of a vintage news website,

London and Brighton

This is the fourth Tweed Run we’ve been to

and we love it. It’s a great occasion to see

folks in vintage styles. We make films about

London using old 1920s and 1930s cameras

and we put footage on social media

channels. We had our television debut when

we put footage from last year’s Tweed Run

on London Live. We want to come back year

after year.

Adam Rodgers (and The Guvnors’

Assembly), IT technician, Manchester

This is one of the times that we meet for a

ride on our Pashley Guv’nors. We got our

bikes three or four years ago, and after a

slightly drunken conversation we decided to

do the Tweed Run. We’ve been coming here

ever since and it’s a great occasion to ride

around London. We do other events and

organise our own mini tweed rides, which

usually run between pubs!


Fitness Tweed Run

Gerald Francis, antique dealer,


I’ve done the Tweed Run three or four times.

I’m into clothes and nice things and that’s

what I live by, so I enjoy doing the Tweed

Run. It’s always fun. It’s been nice weather

and I have met some nice people — people

you can have as friends for five minutes and

some you can be friends with for a bit

longer. It’s been brilliant.

Tanya Roberts, teacher, and Leila

Davidson, civil servant, London

This is usually our wartime re-enactment

weekend, but we are doing the Tweed Run

with a war theme instead. It’s a really great

event. Riding a vintage bike is nice but it’s a

bit wobbly and just goes in a straight line

fairly quickly. It’s challenging trying to

weave around tandems slowly and it’s not

easy to stay upright! But it’s all good fun.

The weather has been lovely as well.

John Jarrett, fashion blogger,

Eshan Kali, sportswear designer,

London and Yu Fujiwara,

photographer, Japan

We are fashion bloggers for a men’s style

website and we are here today to ride and

have fun. We love the Tweed Run. We like it

for the fashion, but the bikes are nice. You

get to see the history of the bikes as well as

the different styles. The Penny Farthing

looks amazing. Yu, who is a bike fanatic, is

riding a Tokyo Bike, but he has vintage bikes

as well.

Stuart Elliot, builder’s merchant,


I brought my Penny Farthing here overnight

in the van. It was built in 1872 and is

probably the oldest bike on the Tweed Run.

I haven’t seen a Penny Farthing as old as this

one. It’s got so many lovely features like the

brass footsteps for when you freewheel, and

the bronze headstock. One of the problems

is that it is really heavy, as parts of it are

solid iron. I love riding it though.


Ian Covey, bike builder, Staffordshire

I wanted a bike that I could ride while

wearing a suit to work. I couldn’t find one so

I made my own. The Roadster was the

result. The Tweed Run is like riding through

another reality, where you are surrounded

by this bubble with tinkles of bells.

Everybody’s got a smile on their faces. I was

here for the first time last year and enjoyed

it so much I had to come back again. Fingers

crossed I get a ticket for next year.

Maria David: what I rode

For the event I rode

a Raleigh Cameo.

As one of the latest

offerings in its

classic bikes range,

the Midlands-based

cycle company has

designed the

Cameo with stylish

cycling in mind —

perfect for the

Tweed Run. The chain guard meant no

snagging of trousers or flowing skirts as I

rode along with a picnic-filled basket and

magazine. The geometry was perfect for

sitting upright and enjoying my surroundings.

Riding around central London, the bike more

than coped with the gentle rises thanks to its

seven gears — even if Shimano Tourney is not

exactly of the 1920s epoch! Its City Tread

tyres and steel step-through frame were

sturdy enough to cope with any rugged

sections of road — however, what is gained in

robustness is compromised in weight. With

around 17kg of bike to shift, the Cameo is not

for speed merchants. Think pleasant cycle

ride on an elegant bike in your local area and

the Cameo fits the bill.

Al Howell, teacher, London

(and Richard)

I found the Tweed Run when I got off the

bus at Somerset House! I’ve really enjoyed

the day. It’s been tremendous. Every aspect

of it has been amazing. I learned to ride a

bike for this event. I spent a month riding

around the park, practicing. I am really

pleased at how the day went. There were a

few dodgy moments but I have had a

brilliant time.

Mercedes Bell, bicycle boutique

owner, London

I ride regularly so I wanted a bicycle that

would last. I stopped riding my mother’s

bike and decided to get something that

would last a lifetime. I got my bike from a

specialist vintage bike shop. It is a Mixte

frame which was popular in the 1970s, has

vintage detailing on the front rack, a

dynamo light and good componentry, which

I like. I am really enjoying my day out on the

Tweed Run.



Shopping lessons

When it comes to purchasing a bike, there are plenty of options. But while the internet is

apparently brimming with bargains, Alex Bowden extols the virtues of the local bike shop

Words Alex Bowden Photos Andy Jones


always considered pedals to be part of a

bike. I think I got this idea because they

seem so crucial to the functioning of the

device in question. Wheels are part of a

car; wings are part of a plane — surely pedals

are part of a bike?

Well, apparently, they are not. This is

something I learnt while buying my first road

bike several years ago — an experience during

which every aspect of my ignorance appeared

to have a financial cost attached to it. It was a

bruising process in some ways, but an


educational one, too. With hindsight, I can see

that I benefitted from good advice, but that

didn’t prevent the actual buying experience

from being occasionally rather awkward. And

that was largely my own fault.

It was a textbook example of budget creep.

Someone somewhere had said to me: “You

need to spend at least £500 to ensure you get a

reasonable road bike,” and so, keen for a

bargain, my budget had been set at slightly

less than that amount. Of course this was

based on little research on my part and I’d also

completely overlooked the need to buy pedals,

special shoes for said pedals and all manner of

other bits and bobs.

What you need

It’s good to have some idea what you do and

don’t need when you first enter a bike shop. At

the time, I’d never owned anything more

sophisticated than a cheap mountain bike —

the most recent of which had barely been

used. This meant that as I walked through the

door of Peak Cycle Sport in Macclesfield, I was

Your local shop can provide all you

need when buying your first bike

There are so many bikes available,

try to narrow things down

It helps to know what you

need, but also take advice from

those more experienced

sure of just one thing: I didn’t need one of

those sperm-shaped time trial helmets. There

were no certainties beyond that.

If you’re about to spend a large sum of

money but are totally reliant on the shop

assistant to help you decide how much, it pays

to pick your words carefully. I didn’t want to

play my hand too early, so I went with: “Er, I’m

after a bike,” as my canny opening gambit.

Peak Cycle Sport stocks everything from

affordable hybrids to top of the range time trial

machines which come with rather more

“While buying my first road

bike, every aspect of my

ignorance appeared to have

a financial cost attached”

terrifying price tags. We needed to narrow

things down a little.

After establishing that I was after a road

bike, we moved onto why I probably didn’t

want the strikingly affordable one I initially

had my eye on. Apparently, its main purpose

was to get uninformed people like me into the

shop so that they could then learn what they

really needed.

I’ve a lot of time for brutal honesty and this

perhaps swayed me more than the argument

that the Scott S40 would offer greater

reliability, longevity and comfort, as well as

improved performance. It also looked a great

deal nicer.

Two other bikes were mentioned in

passing, but they were more expensive than

the S40, which had also been vouched for by

one member of staff who rode one himself.

The pedal discussion then followed, with

much talking at cross-purposes as I gamely

battled to comprehend the fact that you clip

into clipless pedals. Terms such as ‘SPDs’ and

‘cleats’ were beyond me, so I chose to use

them interchangeably, hampering the

discourse further.

All the extras

Pleasingly, budget creep was momentarily

slowed when I bought my shoes. After trying

on three pairs, I was forced to settle for a

cheaper mountain bike shoe as the soft fabric

was kind to my misshapen feet. Mark

Cavendish probably doesn’t choose his shoes

based on bunion comfort, but then he didn’t

take up cycling as a result of an absurdly early

mid-life crisis partly brought about by the

realisation that he already has bunions.

Finally, with all decisions made, I was £100

or so over my original budget — not too bad

considering it wasn’t actually a budget at all in

any meaningful sense. I was happy to be



Peak Cycle Sport in




Get the most out of

your local bike shop

Do some initial research

Or at least do some thinking about your

needs. No one can tell you what bike will be

right for you if you don’t have at least some

idea where, when and for how long you are

likely to be cycling.

■ Be realistic, but open minded about those

needs. Do you really need a £5,000 bike when

you’re only going to be commuting to work on

it? Equally, if you’re new to the sport, you may

grossly underestimate just how much you’ll be

cycling in a few months’ time.

A really cheap bike can prove a false

economy if you then end up spending very

long hours in the saddle.

Get a bike fitting

If you spin the pedals on average once a

second, this means that each knee will flex

3,600 times in just one hour’s cycling. The

wrong set-up can mean subjecting your body

to unnatural, potentially damaging forces again

and again and again. It’s not just your knees

either. It’s your neck, back, core — everything.

■ Don’t be afraid to make repeat visits to the

bike shop prior to purchasing.

■ There can be a lot to take in when it comes

to buying a bike. After speaking to staff, you

may find you have a few things to ponder

before committing to a purchase. There’s no

rush. It’s better to take your time than make a

poor decision.

Take advantage of the experts in the

shop, to get a bike that fits right for you

Show loyalty

Perhaps you could save a little bit of money by

identifying the right bike and then buying it

elsewhere — but where are you going to go

when that bike develops a fault?

■ If there is a small difference in price between

your local shop and online, consider it a down

payment on a service package.

Make no mistake; no matter how

wonderful your bike is at the outset, you will

need the assistance of your local bike shop

before too long.

getting a bike and was looking forward to

returning to the shop for the fitting.

“Wear your cycling shorts when you come

so I can see the angle of your knee better,” said

the man. Yes, shorts — I’d be needing those.

And a jersey. And a helmet, gloves, water

bottles and the rest.

Learn from the experts

Bike shops are intimidating places to the

uninitiated, and road biking in particular has

its own subculture. If you don’t know its norms

and values, you can feel like an outsider with

the jargon only compounding the problem and

serving to keep you at arm’s length.

Confronted by this, it’s tempting to go

elsewhere, but think twice before heading to

a giant warehouse or to an online store. If you

truly are serious about taking up the sport,

there is much to be gained from establishing

a good relationship with your local shop at

the outset.

The vast knowledge gap between you and

the expert is there to be exploited not feared. If

you go to a specialist, you are likely to get the

right bike for your needs. I ended up spending

more than I had anticipated simply because I

was looking to buy completely the wrong bike.

I’m not sure how many thousands of miles it

took me to deduce this for myself, but that

doesn’t matter — the point is that the staff

already knew. They also knew that all that

mileage could have taken its toll on my joints if

I hadn’t had a proper bike fitting.

Over the years, I’ve taken my bike back to

them with all sorts of issues and more often

than not, if no parts are involved, they have

refused payment. Sometimes they may tell me

precisely how irritating and time consuming

something was to fix, but this is one price I’m

“There is much to be gained

from establishing a good

relationship with your local

bike shop from the outset”

more than happy to pay, because I can then

revel in having neatly sidestepped the same

frustrations (which would of course also have

been magnified by my own incompetence).

However, I doubt they would be so

accommodating were I to turn up with a bike

I’d bought elsewhere.

So don’t be intimidated by specialist bike

shops. There is nothing to fear and much to be

gained. If you’re worried that you’ll say

something stupid, comfort yourself with the

fact that as a newcomer to the sport, at least

your ignorance is justified. I still manage to say

something moronic pretty much every time I

go in, only now my words are that much more

embarrassing because I’m invariably trying to

sound like I know what I’m on about. I don’t

know what I’m on about, but they do — and

that is very much the point.

Alex Bowden is a freelance writer. His

website about pro cycling can be found at



Multi-day riding

Completing one long ride is hard enough, let alone doing big mileage day after

day. Here are some handy hints to help get you through a multi-day epic

Words Autumn Barlow Photos Steve Ashton & Autumn Barlow


e had ridden 35 miles

already and it was

raining. If there were just

a few miles left, with the

promise of a warm bath and a soft bed,

I could grit my teeth and grind away.

Yet the reality was far grimmer.

There were still 17 miles to go, the

weather was closing in and the vicious

hill out of Settle was looming ahead of

us, a wall of mist and pain. Our reward

at the end of this slog would be a damp

tent in a field and a 74-mile ride

tomorrow... and another 43 miles the

day after that.

Ahead of me, someone was singing.

The rain pattered on my unnecessarily

large waterproof jacket and the wind

picked up, inflating my clothing to an

alarming size. I became a windsock

and began to weave from side to side.

I was doing the Way of the Roses, a

170-mile Sustrans route from

Morecambe to Bridlington, with 25

others from Lancashire Cycle Link.

This was the first day, and almost

Swing a leg over the

multi-day merry-go-round


for beginners

every one of us was wondering: “If it’s

this bad today, how are we going to

cope tomorrow?”

Multi-day: the basics

There are four aspects determining

how well you can manage a multi-day

ride, but only three of them are

controllable by you. Get those three

areas correct, and the fourth will fall

into place. They are:

■ Physical preparation

■ Mental preparation

■ Equipment

■ Weather, conditions and

unforeseeable attacks of punctures,

cramps and hedgehogs

miles in — or more!

It’s useful to find out how it feels

riding two days back to back. This

might take some domestic planning,

but call in favours, bribe your partner,

and squeeze it in. A Sunday afternoon

ride followed by an early Monday

morning ride might be sufficient. At

Above: With the

right team around

you, cycling day

after day is more

holiday than haul

first, your legs will feel stiff and sore,

but spin away in a low gear for a couple

of miles, loosen up and you’ll soon be

bowling along.

It can be very difficult to find the

time to undertake long rides, but new

thinking suggests that short bursts of

high-intensity training can be as

Obey signs: stop for drinks

and gate-hugging

Physical preparation

Consider the longest ride you’ve done;

how did you feel the day after? Could

you have leapt onto your bike and

repeated it? Although some multi-day

rides cover only a short distance each

day, there’s a tendency to ‘make the

most of the day’ and cram 50 or 60

Plan your route to

take in pretty byways


Escape Lancashire

Shortcuts to long-ride success

Q Campsites with drying rooms are fab. Put your shoes in there so they’re

toasty for the morning. We improvised at the second campsite and found that a

barbecue did the trick just as well. If your feet are going to smell, they may as

well smell of hotdogs.

Q Take flip-flops for the campsite. They are smaller and easier than wellies, but

dry your feet before sliding into your tent.

Q Get the mobile numbers of all the other participants.

Q Save your best shorts for the longest day.

Q It’s not a race — do stop to take photos and encourage others to do so. You

will want a record of the trip. Don’t end up all slogging away secretly wishing

someone else would say stop.

Q As we were a large group, we booked our food stops ahead of time so the

cafes were expecting us. We had rough windows of time for these stops, and it

gave us a chance to regroup and chat. Between these points, we split into

smaller groups.


eneficial, provided you’re putting

in enough effort.

However, all the short blasts in

the world won’t prepare you for the

feeling of one very long day in the

saddle, and it is strongly

recommended that you find out just

how your body reacts to six or eight

hours on your bike.

Comfort essentials

■ Avoid fixing yourself into one

position. You’ll arrive at your

destination locked solid and begging

to be lifted off your bike. To avoid n k

and shoulder pain, keep them mov

Wriggle your fingers and use all the

hand positions offered by drop bars. If

you’re on flat bars, consider fitting bar

ends to give you more options.

■ A bike-fit can sort out niggling aches

before they become chronic. Ask

locally for recommendations.

■ Take frequent short stops to stretch

and lunge. You probably already look

odd in your lurid Lycra, so doing

step-ups in the cafe car park can hardly

add to the weirdness.

Mental preparation

Lunges and stretches for your mind, so

to speak, are equally important. It’s

trite but it’s true: often our biggest fear

is the unknown, and because we don’t

know what we don’t know, that can be

very scary indeed.

Knowing that you are physically

prepared with the correct equipment

can ease your mind. But even so,

friends and family usually raise

Having a waterproof helps

maintain good cheer

“Get to know your riding mates in

advance, and check that their ability

level is well matched to yours”

concerns. Who hasn’t heard these?

“What if you can’t carry on because

of weather and breakdowns?”

“What if you get lost?”

“What if everyone else is awesome

and you can’t keep up?”

Whether it’s your gran or your own

inner monologue asking, the answers

are the same:

■ Have exit strategies. You almost

certainly won’t use them, but be aware

of the towns you are passing — all you

need to do is hop on a train to get home

to safety.

Top In many regards,

a multi-day ride is

only as good as the

friends with whom

you complete it

Ignore the breaks;

ride at your own pace

ight equipment — maps,

sat-navs and a willingness to ask for

help. Unless you’re cycling across the

Serengeti, it’s easy to stop someone to

ask for directions.

■ Have clear expectations and be

honest with yourself and your ride

mates. Get to know the folks you are

riding with, and if you can, go out with

some of them prior to your trip. That

way, you won’t be surprised at their

speed, whether high or low.

Some of us are prone to vaguer,

more nebulous fears. Take some hints

from cognitive behavioural therapy

and try ‘catastrophising’. This

essentially means “blow it out of all

proportion, and now don’t you feel

daft?” More specifically, you engage in

a question-and-answer session with

yourself where you scale-up each


Escape Lancashire

disaster you are imagining, and

analyse the consequences. For


“What if I get a puncture?”

“You’ll fix it.”

“What if I can’t?”

“Then someone will help.”

“What if they don’t?”

“Then you will walk to a bike


“What if it’s too far?”

“Then you’ll call a taxi. Chain

your bike up. Come back for it later.”

“What if there are no taxis?”

“You’ll get a bus.”

And so on… until you’re in the

realms of the really very unlikely:

alien invasion and apocalypse.


Just knowing that you have the right

equipment can ease your mental

worries. But also ensure you actually

know how to use it. There’s little

point carrying a chain-tool if you

think it’s for opening cans of beans; a

fellow cyclist can probably help you

use it, but isn’t it better to have the

confidence of knowing you can deal

with minor mechanicals yourself?

Lots of regions now offer basic

bike maintenance courses.

Alternatively, drag your bike into the

house and fire up some online

tutorial videos.

If you’re planning a multi-day

epic, it could be worth having your

bike serviced before you go. It’s no

Show of strength:

these guns for shires

guarantee of trouble-free riding, of

course. Before our ride, we were all

offered a quick safety check by Colin

Gardner, our local bike tech, and it’s

telling that we suffered only one

puncture and a dodgy freewheel a few

miles from Bridlington. With 25 people

completing 170 miles each, that’s

uncannily good luck.

I had new brake blocks for my bike,

but used a well-worn saddle — this is

not the time to try new seating

arrangements, or new shoes.

Be aware of what terrain you’re

going to face. Most of us were on road

bikes, with some very tasty carbon

numbers among the peloton. However,

all Sustrans routes seem to throw in a

few hundred yards of off-road just to

Remember to fit

pedals, ideally

“Catastrophise your worries —

escalate them in your mind until the

original fear seems absurd”

keep everyone alert. Annie on her

hybrid, Rob on his cyclo-cross bike and

me on my tourer were the smug ones

as we encountered a sea of mud on day

two. The deep-rutted field claimed at

least one victim and many opted to

walk through this short section.

A sat-nav for your bike is a great


idea, but also have a map — ideally one

of the purpose-designed ones if you’re

following an established route. Think

about how you will charge your

sat-nav. We used a combination of

pubs, battery packs and the support

vehicle. Can you read a map?

Familiarise yourself with the concept of

contour lines. You’ll thank me later.

The other things to carry are your

usual long-day-ride gear: a packable

waterproof, spare cash, food, drink,

inner tubes, and so on.

The uncontrollable

With your body ready, your mind alert

and your equipment sorted, you should

be ready for most eventualities. Don’t

let fear of potential disaster prevent you

having adventures. Every day is full of

unexpected events — just get out there

and have a go!

Accommodation choices

Our ride used a combination of options.

We camped for the first two nights, but

for the final night — after all the riding

was over — we took over a hotel in

Bridlington and made ample use of the

showers, beds and bar. We had a van

taking our camping gear from site to

site. Most established routes also have

plenty of bed and breakfast stops, and

don’t forget youth hostels, too.

These established routes, such as

Coast to Coast, often have guidebooks

available which list accommodation

options that can help to narrow down

your internet searching.

Who and how?

This ride, with its designated stops and

support van, was vastly improved

because we did it as a group. With so

many people involved, a small team

got together and formed a voluntary

committee with each person taking

responsibility for a certain area. A

splinter Facebook group was formed

where we could chat about issues, and

there was a group meeting that even

involved a slideshow of frightening

gradient graphs.

We were asked to provide our own

insurance, and for most of us that came

through British Cycling membership,

but other packages are available.

If you are planning a ride with just a

few friends, try to be relatively specific

regarding plans and expectations; this

doesn’t mean you lose all spontaneity

but it will avoid the nightmare situation

of a complete mismatch of abilities.

Don’t fall into the herd-mentality

trap, though. Before you undertake any

long ride, you really need to have

worked out your own eating strategy.

Taking on food little and often is the

key, but individuals vary. You might be

the sort of person who needs a fig roll

every 15 minutes and your ride mate

might suck an energy gel every hour.

Problems arise if you find yourself

following another’s schedule; don’t rely

on watching others. Stick to what you

know works for you.

Rider tips

“A couple of beer recovery shakes

end of every night worked for me”

— Steve A

“Porridge with honey and bananas

then a gel or flapjack every 40

minutes and plenty to drink” — Vicki

“I found that dried fruit gave me the

energy between meals to carry on

(and the Guinness at night)” — Chris

“Head down and just keep singing”

— Steve W

“Hydration. Good sleep. Good

company. Good shorts and chamois

butter” — Annie

“Keep breathing” — Ian



A golden


Two years after London 2012, Cath Harris cycles the river routes

to the Olympic Park to experience the legacy of the Games and

enjoy a slice of the countryside in the heart of the capital city

Words & Photos Cath Harris

It’s often hard to believe you’re

so close to central London


f you’re after flat, easy,

traffic-free roads, and an

affrontingly scenic day out,

then this is the ride for you. If

you lived every glorious moment of the

2012 Olympics and Paralympics but

missed out on tickets for the best

Games in over a century, then this

astonishingly quiet trail running deep

into the heart of London will help put

right that disappointment.

Following the Lee Valley

Navigation past barges and boat

builders, across creaking locks and

vibrant nature reserves and along

reservoirs that hydrate the capital, our

journey sees us to the hub of all things

gold, silver and bronze. And with the

world’s fastest velodrome, a BMX

track, sparkly new mtb trails and a

surprisingly hilly one-mile road circuit

among the first of the Olympic Park

facilities to open to the public, our visit

does not come a day too soon.


Well wood-en you

know it? It’s Cath!

“You can cycle into

the site for free and

skirt the gushing

white water course”


An easy, traffic-free, outand-back

route to the

recently reopened

Queen Elizabeth

Olympic Park

Distance: 27 miles

Big hills: 0


Cafe stops: 2



The Lee Navigation and nearby

River Lea link Hertford to the River

Thames at Limehouse. The Lee is not a

canal in the purest sense, but a

canalised river. Remains of Viking

longships have been found on

Walthamstow Marshes near the

Olympic site, suggesting that the Norse

invaders sailed the river more than

1,000 years ago. Most of the Lee’s locks

were built in the 18th century and, as

the country industrialised, the

waterway became important for trade.

As cargo such as copper, grain and coal

was increasingly carried by road from

the 1960s, the commercial use of the

Lee declined.

Today the Lee must form one of the

prettiest and most secluded routes into

London. Maggie and I join it in

Cheshunt, the home town of serial

champion Laura Trott and the starting

point for the penultimate stage of this

year’s Friend’s Life Women’s Tour. We

are just 13 miles from central London

— the town lies on Ermine Street, the

Roman road that heads north from the

capital — but you’d never know. Just

steps from the well-used train station is

the Lee Valley Regional Park, a long,

lean 26-mile stretch of wood and

parkland, running from the Thames

into Hertfordshire and Essex, much of it

explored by snaking trails. From

Cheshunt they wind to the water’s edge.

We have an early and irresistible

first stop — the Lee Valley White

Water Centre, now fully operational

after reopening for slalom canoeing

and white water rafting. It was here in

2012 that Brits Tim Baillie and Etienne

Stott pipped their compatriots David

Florence and Richard Hounslow to

GB’s first ever canoe slalom gold.

Amazingly, you can cycle into the site

for free and skirt the gushing white

water course, stopping anywhere you

like to watch. There’s a cafe too with

loads of outdoor seating. We save its

refreshments for our return.

We slip beneath the rumbling M25

and cross the Lee at Enfield Island

Village. The village is enclosed by the

Lee Navigation, the River Lea, a flood

relief channel and a weir, and was built

on the site of a small arms factory. A

narrow pathway beyond Enfield Lock

takes us past colourful canal boats.

Behind, the ugly buildings of industry

intrude on the scene, but we are largely

spared the sound of commerce.

Walk on the wild side

Instead, blackcaps and chiffchaffs,

birds that migrate each year from

southern Europe, are tuning up for

spring. Resident wrens, tiny birds that

quiver with the effort of their piercing

song, trill boldly from the tops of

blackthorn hedgerows. These birds and

much other wildlife will find homes on

Tottenham Marshes, which edges

Stonebridge Lock where we re-cross

the Lee. The 100-acre Marshes were

originally a River Lea floodplain and in

the 18th and 19th centuries were used

for waste disposal. In 1882, the Hotspur

Cricket Club formed Hotspur Football

Club so that club members had a sport

to play in winter. The team played on

the Marshes and two years later were

renamed Tottenham Hotspur. By 1905

waters were sufficiently clean for an

open-air swimming pool to be built.

The Marshes were quarried in the

mid-20th Century and the Lee Valley

Regional Park took over in 1972.

Beyond a set of 10 small reservoirs

are Walthamstow Marshes where in

1909 Sir Alliott Verdon-Roe became

the first man to fly a plane built entirely

in Britain. He turned two railway

arches on the Marsh into a workshop,

where he constructed his pioneering

aircraft. During World War One, more

than 8,000 of his Avro 504 planes were

built. The area is now a Site of Special

Scientific Interest having been

safeguarded from development. It has

a range of wildlife habitats; a water

vole would be a lucky sight.


Escape London

The Lee Valley VeloPark boasts

both a track and a road circuit


Unity Kitchen, Timber Lodge, 1A Honour

Lea Avenue, Queen Elizabeth Olympic

Park, London, E20 1DY, 020 7241 9076

Lee Valley White Water Centre, Station

Road, Waltham Cross, EN9 1AB

08456 770606


Stanley Bridge Cycles, 11 Newnham

Parade, College Road, Cheshunt,

EN8 9NU, 01992 623012


Lee Valley White Water Centre: Ride in,

ride around, watch canoeists and rafters

for free,

Lee Valley VeloPark: Ride the fastest

velodrome in the world, try out the new

road circuit or tackle the mtb and BMX

tracks. Booking required.


At least two trains run hourly from

Stratford London (not Stratford

International) to Cheshunt.


The route diverts before the Lee

Valley Ice Centre to avoid a busy road.

It skirts Hackney Marsh, the southeastern

half of which was used for the

Olympic Park. Oddly, there are no signs

to the park, although the velodrome is

clearly visible once we return to the

road. A new trail leads under the A12

and into the park, where pedestrians

and cyclists share wide paths, including

security staff on two wheels. There’s

not a ‘cyclist dismount’ sign in sight.

Touring the park is easy by bike. We

watch riders sampling the road circuit

that is overlooked by the five Olympic

rings, and cycle between the BMX

track and new mountain bike trails. We

meander towards the Olympic Stadium

before stopping at the Timber Lodge

Cafe. The park’s grassland and wild

flowers have been retained and there’s

ample space for picnicking. If time is

less plentiful and you don’t fancy the

ride back to Cheshunt, there are

regular trains from Stratford Station,

beyond the Aquatics Centre and

Westfield shopping mall.

We choose to cycle and follow

the River Lea rather than the Lee

Navigation for the first part of our

return, pootling through woodland,

across bridges and alongside the sports

pitches of Hackney Marsh. Signs for

NCN1 guide us under a railway bridge

then adjacent to the line, before we

Rolling over the River Lea

return to the Lee Navigation at

Springfield Marina. There are short

sections of juddering cobbles beneath a

few bridges but the ride otherwise is

very comfortable, and five hours from

departure we’re back at the Lee Valley

White Water Centre’s cafe, where dark,

luscious chocolate cake is just too

tempting to resist.

Wooden sculptures confine us in

the parkland that cushions the Lee

from urbanity. All manner of creatures

are carved into the flowing locks of a

supine woman, there to encourage

youngsters to appreciate nature.

Nature and cycling are definitely the

winners on this taste of the

countryside in London.

Lee Valley White

Water Centre

Scene of Olympic

canoe slalom gold



Take the train to Cheshunt

or park at one of two free car

parks immediately east of

Cheshunt Station. Take the

first track on the right, past

a barrier, into the Lee Valley

Regional Park. Follow signs

to the Lee Valley White Water

Centre. Turn right and join the

towpath. Follow to Enfield Lock

and cross the bridge. Turn right

immediately onto the towpath.

Continue to Stonebridge Lock

and cross the Lee again. There

are toilets in the building here.

Continue to Walthamstow

Marshes, turning right before

the Lee Valley Ice Centre. Follow

under the A104 and past the

Princess of Wales pub. Beyond

is Hackney Marsh. At the 12.4-

mile mark, take the track on

the left signed Homerton Road

and join a cycle path to a major

road junction. The velodrome is

opposite. Cross both roads at

pedestrian crossings and join

a track signed Olympic Park.

Follow alongside the river then

turn left to the VeloPark and

other Olympic sites. To return,

cross the same two roads at the

crossings then turn immediately

right to follow the Lea. At a fork

next to the railway, follow NCN1

signs under the line then ride

alongside the rail track on your

left. At a T, turn left towards

Springfield Marina. Keep right

and cross a bridge that leads

back to the towpath. Turn right

and follow the Lee Navigation

back to the White Water Centre

and Cheshunt.

Ordnance Survey mapping © Crown copyright. AM46/13. Created with Memory-Map


Marshes First British plane

built and flown here

Queen Elizabeth

Olympic Park

Relive 2012



Along and around

Loch Leven

Towering mountains, a glassy loch and rolling cycle

path add up to make this a beautiful Scottish ride

Words & Photos Keith Fergus



A dazzling half-day ride

from Glencoe along

beautiful Loch

Leven in Lochaber

Distance: 20.25

miles (32.5km)

Big hills: 0


Cafe stops: 2



Glencoe is essentially famous

for two things — the

Massacre of Glencoe and

hillwalking. OK, I am being

a little facetious here but this is what

probably springs to the mind of many

if you mention the most famous glen

in Scotland.

Certainly Glencoe is inextricably

linked to climbing hills as it is bounded

by a number of classic Scottish

mountains, including Bidean nam Bian,

Beinn a’Bheithir and the notorious

Aonach Eagach, whose two-kilometre

knife-like ridge has long been in the

pantheon of great hair-raising and

vertigo-inducing walks. These craggy,

steep mountains envelop the glen,

striking over 3,000 feet towards the

sky, giving it a brooding atmosphere

all of its own.

This mood is heightened when its

infamous past comes to light. The

Massacre of Glencoe took place on

February 13, 1692 and saw the brutal

slaying of 38 members of the

MacDonald clan by 120 men, led by

Robert Campbell of Glenlyon, after the

MacDonalds had failed to pledge

allegiance to King William.

Yet away from walking and a bloody

history is a network of quiet roads that

link the many villages nearby, granting

the chance to while away a few hours

on two wheels, relishing some of the

finest scenery Scotland has to offer.

One such road is the B863 that

circumnavigates the gorgeous Loch

Leven and extends for some nine miles,

from its western extremity at Loch

Linnhe to the village of Kinlochleven

at its eastern end. Bound on three sides

by steep sided, high mountains, Loch

Leven has a fjord-like quality to

it and the only problem with cycling

around its 20-mile perimeter is that

extra time has to be given, such is the

breathtaking scenery that simply has to

be admired.

My day began from Glencoe Village,

which stands on the southern shore of

Loch Leven. Here I took a wander

around the marvellous Glencoe &

North Lorn Museum, where a number

of exhibits, articles and objects throw

light on the history of the area. But with

the sun shining out of a clear blue sky

and the waters of Loch Leven flat calm,

I was keen to get the wheels spinning.

And so off I went, passing a few dog

walkers and a man with binoculars

looking to see what wildlife could be

spotted out on the water. As I cycled

through the sleepy environs of Invercoe,

the Ballachulish Bridge and the great,

rugged mountains of Ardgour were pin

sharp in the clear morning light.

A gradual, but sustained, climb then

began, something I was glad of as


Escape Loch Leven


The Glencoe Inn, Tyndrum Road,

Glencoe Village, PH49 4HW

01855 811245

The Tailrace Inn, Riverside Road,

Kinlochleven, PH50 4QH,

01855 831777

Loch Leven Seafood Cafe, North

Ballachulish, PH33 6SA,

01855 821048


Glencoe & North Lorn Folk Museum,

Main Street, Glencoe Village PH49 4HS,

01855 811664

The Ice Factor, Leven Rd, Kinlochleven,

Argyll PH50 4SF, 01855 831100


Crank It Up Gear, 20 Lorn Drive,

Glencoe Village, PH49 4HR,

01855 811694


Regular Citylink buses (915 & 916) from

Glasgow to Glencoe Village

the sun had not yet risen over the

mountains on the southern flank of

the loch and the air was cool.

I quickly recognised that the route

would be one of two halves, the first in

the cooler shade, the second in lovely

warm sunshine. The rise in the road led

me high above Loch Leven, where its

fjord-like properties became apparent.

At the top of the ascent I stopped

briefly in a lay-by to gaze down on the

loch’s glassy surface, radiating perfect

reflections of Mam na Gualainn and

Beinn na Caillich.

Mirror images

A wonderful, speedy descent in the

shadow of such mountain luminaries as

Am Bodach and Na Gruagaichean

dropped me down into the quiet and

remote village of Kinlochleven, at the

eastern tip of the loch (Kinlochleven

translates from the Gaelic ‘Ceann Loch

Liobhann’, meaning the head of Loch

Leven). Today much of its economy

comes from tourism, primarily that of

walkers heading along the West

Highland Way and the Ice Factor,

which houses the world’s biggest indoor

ice-climbing wall and is the National

Centre for Ice Climbing, welcoming an

incredible 130,000 visitors a year.

The Ice Factor resides in the old

aluminium smelter that helped

The loch, as still

as a sheet of glass

Ballachulish Bridge

Crossing over the Ballachulish Bridge.

A ferry service ran for nearly 250 years

until the bridge opened in 1975. The

views across Loch Linnhe to Ardgour

are timeless. The Ballachulish Bridge

also bestows a stunning view across

Loch Leven to Glencoe.

Towering mountains

Above Ballachulish stands the

mighty Beinn a Bheithir.



What a place to begin a cycle

from — a perfectly still Loch

Leven from Glencoe Village.

Views of Glencoe

Some of Scotland’s finest scenery

can be enjoyed when circumnavigating

Loch Leven. Here the view

extends to the Aonach Eagach

and the Pap of Glencoe.


Admiring the view in Kinlochleven

Wooden slats

The bridge over the Allt Coire

na Ba, Kinlochleven.

Kinlochleven develop in the early 20th

century. The smelter was part of the

hydroelectric scheme that used the

rivers cascading from the mountains

above and made Kinlochleven the first

village in the world to have every house

connected to electricity. At its height

the smelter employed around 700

people but closed in 1996. However the

Ice Factor, which opened in 2003, and

other outdoor activities have breathed

new life into the community.

After a soft drink and cake in the

Tailrace Inn it was back on the road

and onwards to what would be possibly

the seven finest miles of cycling I have

ever had the privilege to enjoy.

And, as a result, it was not long

before I was off my bike again. Not

because of tiredness (the road just

rolled easily along) but because I simply

had to sit at the loch side and admire

the view. There was not a breath of

wind and the aforementioned Aonach

Eagach and the conspicuous shape of

Sgorr na Ciche (better known as the

Pap of Glencoe) were perfectly

reflected in the water. If I had the

physical ability to do a headstand (not

easy with a helmet on) it would have

been tricky to tell the difference

tween what was land and loch.

The vista was complemented as

t rn, cormorants, oystercatcher and

Pioneering village

Kinlochleven is surrounded by

mountains. The rivers running

from these hills were utilised

to good effect for the village’s

hydroelectric scheme of the

early 20th century.

Ordnance Survey mapping © Crown copyright. AM46/13. Created with Memory-Map

Manx shearwater flew by, all perfectly

replicated on the loch’s surface.

I could have sat all day but I pushed

on with lovely warm sunshine on my

back and stunning scenery ahead,

particularly the brutish mountains

above Ballachulish. I sped past the

excellent Loch Leven Seafood Cafe (a

previous visit can confirm its fine fare)

and then through North Ballachulish

before joining the busier A82.

A cycleway kept me off the road as I

crossed over the Ballachulish Bridge. If

I had been a cyclist here before 1975

then I would have had to have taken

the ferry service that began in 1730 and

sailed for nearly 250 years between

North and South Ballachulish where

Loch Leven meets Loch Linnhe.

But today the bridge bestows a

simpler crossing and another

exceptional panorama. To my left,

along Loch Leven, rose the great

mountains of Glencoe while

dominating the horizon to the right,

across Loch Linnhe, sat the shapely

peaks of Ardgour, another wonderful

place for two wheels.

It was then a final couple of

miles back into Glencoe Village

where I sat on a bench beside Loch

Leven, and found it almost impossible

to drag myself away from this

incredible location.


Facing the Glencoe Folk Museum, turn left, follow

Main Street to the B863 and make a right. Cycle along

the banks of the tidal Loch Leven. Once over a bridge

spanning the River Coe keep along past the scattering

of houses of Invercoe, after which the road sweeps right

alongside the lower wooded slopes of Sgorr na Ciche.

A steady climb, in an easterly direction, then follows.

The climb itself is not too steep but it is prolonged, rising

high above Loch Leven where there are superb views of

the surrounding landscape. After a wonderful descent

the road winds its way along the loch side. There is

another steady climb before a final steepish descent

culminates at the village of Kinlochleven. Cycle through

the village along Lochaber Road, crossing a bridge over

the Allt Coire na Ba and out of Kinlochleven along the

B863. The route continues easily along the northern

bank of Loch Leven, one of the most scenic sections of

road in Scotland.

After a short, gradual ascent, the road again drops

back down to the loch side from where a stunning

section continues west, with amazing views along the

loch to the Aonach Eagach and Sgorr na Ciche. The

road hugs the loch side for the majority of this section,

providing simple cycling with a few undulations. It is

a quiet road but there are several tight bends where

oncoming traffic should be watched for. The big

mountains above Balachulish then come into view as

you pass Loch Leven Seafood Cafe (perfect for lunch).

The road then enters the sleepy village of North

Ballachulish and culminates at the A82. Make a left

and follow a cycleway across the famous Ballachulish

Bridge, which spans Loch Leven as it enters Loch

Linnhe. There are stunning views in both directions. The

cycleway proceeds alongside the A82 until you reach

a roundabout. Go straight on and follow a final, scenic

section of the A82, turning left on to the B863 then right

back into Glencoe Village.



One-way ticket

The quiet lanes and canalside cycle paths between Doncaster

and Selby are ripe for two-wheeled exploration

Words and Photos Paul Kirkwood


t sometimes takes me ages to get

around to cycling certain routes.

I’d had this one mapped out for

about 10 years but had been put

off doing it partly because of the start in

central Doncaster, South Yorkshire,

and partly because of the hassles of

bikes on trains. I planned to take the

train one way from Selby, North

Yorkshire, and then cycle back. When I

arrived at the station I realised I’d left

the map on the kitchen table. Drat. The

start had become even more

inauspicious. Following a dash to

WHSmith in the shopping centre next

to Doncaster station. I was soon off on

my return journey.

I began by pedalling through an

underpass below the centre and

crossing two busy roads before finally

reaching the start of the Doncaster

Greenway. Within moments the grey of

the tarmac did indeed turn to the green

of the former Brodsworth mineral

railway and my mood rapidly

improved. I’d escaped to the country.

Above: Following the

Greenway through

Owston Wood

Sights and smells became distinctly

more agricultural as I passed a farm in

the hamlet of Tilts and in a beautiful

wood nearby a fawn bounded out in

front of me. Ah, this was more like it.

Curiously, the woodland path is

concreted, which made me wonder

what purpose it served originally.

The Trans Pennine Trail (TPT),

which I was now following, crosses two

level crossings in quick succession, the

second of them over the East Coast

mainline. I thought about having my




sandwiches as my wait got longer and

longer. I could almost have fitted in a

three-course meal in the time it took for

the four trains to pass and the barrier

finally to open. A road bridge over the

line is under construction so such

delays will soon be a thing of the past.

Rail lines are ruled all over and canals

gouged out of this landscape. Just

as commonplace are pylons and

overhead power lines lacing together

the industrial north.

How long is your village?

Well rested, albeit prematurely, I pressed

on through Braithwaite and onto the

towpath of the New Junction canal.

A striking feature at this point is the

first of three drawbridges. Further up

the canal at Sykehouse Lock was a

modern tower that looked more like

it belonged to Checkpoint Charlie than

a lock-keeper.

Sykehouse claims to be the longest

village in Yorkshire. Quite how you

measure the length of a village and

what exactly qualifies as one isn’t

specified. There’s no disputing that it

has the only windmill on the route.

Now a private residence featuring a

little square room with a view in place

of its cap, it was once owned by

Roy Clarke, creator of Last of the

Summer Wine. I had sandwiches sitting

beside one of the canals of the Aire and

Calder Navigation.

Unassuming Pollington, my next

staging post, had a minesweeper

“A fawn bounded out

in front of me. Ah, this

was more like it”

named after it: the HMS Pollington, no

less. Why? In the 1950s the Royal Navy

took to naming ships in the ton class

after places ending in ‘ton’. Simple as

that. Great Heck has a far greater claim

to fame — or rather notoriety — than

my two previous villages. In 2001 a

Land Rover drove off the nearby M62

and came to rest on the East Coast

railway line causing a crash with 10

fatalities. I diverted to the village to

visit its memorial garden overlooking

the line.

The seemingly distant coastal town

of Hornsea made its debut on the TPT

signs as I slipped briefly into a corner of

the East Riding of Yorkshire and out

again at Gowdall. Having started in

South Yorkshire, bound for the North, I

did three sections of England’s biggest


A gentle ride along the

well-signed Trans

Pennine Trail, much

of it off-road.

Distance: 35.5

Big hills: None


Cafe stops: 0

Taking respite at New

Junction Canal

Crossing Kirkhouse

Green’s swingbridge

Sykehouse: a measurably charming

Yorkshire village

Quiet waterways

evoke reveries of lazy

days on the river


Escape Yorkshire


The Old George Freehouse, restaurant

and carvery, Sykehouse, DN14 9AU.

01405 785635. Large pub with

tables outside.

The George & Dragon, Pollington,

DN14 0DN. 01405 948151. Recently

reopened, lively family pub.

The Sloop Inn, Temple Hirst, YO8 8QN.

01757 270267. Modern pub attached to

campsite with beer garden.


Drawbridge over the canal

at Braithwaite.

Opposite Holy Trinity Church

in Sykehouse.

Brayton Bridge over the canal

near Selby.


A single ticket from Selby to Doncaster

costs £7.70 at weekends and the journey

takes 18 minutes. See for

(infrequent) times. You can reserve one

of the three free bike spaces on each

train by booking your ticket in advance

on 08450 710222. However, this still

doesn’t guarantee one of the spaces, I

was told! The carriage for bikes can be at

the front or rear of the train. Look for the

symbol on the door.


Selby Bike Centre, 49 Gowthorpe,

YO8 4HE. 01757 702385.


Selby Abbey Known as one of the UK’s

finest parish churches, the Norman

abbey was complete in 1230.

Open daily 9am-4pm.

Medieval marvel:

Selby Abbey’s an

architectural gem

county in little more than an hour.

Not bad going. Pollington used to be

in the West Riding so that nearly

makes a full set.

Over the River Aire and up north I’d

hoped for a snoop at Carlton Towers, a

Victorian Gothic country pile that

serves today as a conference and

wedding venue. Disappointingly,

however, one entrance to the estate

was padlocked and the other was fitted

with CCTV and a forbidding ‘by

appointment only’ notice — I know

when I’m not wanted. I made do with a

glimpse of the clock tower poking

above the trees during a swig-stop to

watch the Carlton Towers cricket club.

Slow Burn

The next leg of the ride was one of my

favourites and summed up the whole

route. There’s nothing spectacular

scenically (at this point the Drax power

station rears up in front of you) but flat,

very quiet, lots of interesting twists

and turns yet still easy to navigate

(thanks to clear signage) and without

gates or rough bridleways to slow


progress. In short, a great way to clock

up some undemanding miles on a

sunny day.

After passing possibly the quietest

level crossing in the county (and a

great contrast to the double trouble

earlier) the TPT led me around part of

the perimeter taxiing lane of the

former RAF station at Burn, now home

to a gliding club. This is one of the few

Second World War airfields on which

all runways and most of the hard

standings still survive and it was a

great novelty to cycle on it.

A gap in the hedge — don’t worry,

it’s fully signed — took me towards my

third and final canal of the day, the

Selby, for the home straight into town.

I had company for about the first time

since I passed 14 fishermen in a match

on the canal at Sykehouse. As the

clock struck five I concluded the ride at

the market cross in the piazza in front

of the abbey, a fitting finishing post.

Don’t know why it took me so long:

both getting geared up for the ride

and completing it. Four hours in the

saddle, 18 minutes on the train.

How do you escape

the daily grind when

you live in a windmill?

Market cross: cycling through Selby’s

historic centre

Burn airfield

Previously a base for Wellington

and Halifax bombers during

World War Two.

Ordnance Survey mapping © Crown copyright. AM46/13. Created with Memory-Map

It’d be a shame to bowl by Carlton

Towers cricket club

St Mary’s Church

At Kirk Bramwith, just a short

diversion from Braithwaite.

Some 800 years old, it

contains some of the finest

wood carvings of furniture

maker Robert Thompson, the

‘Mouseman of Kilburn’.

Doncaster Greenway

Look out for four seats

designed by internationally

renowned artist Andy Hazell

and based on railway

locomotives built at the

Doncaster works.



From the station turn left through the underpass

using the cycle path beside the carriageway. Bear

left over North Bridge and at the Three Horseshoes

pub fork right still on signed cycle path. Cross a

footbridge (with slope for bikes), pass under the

railway, turn left towards main road. Cross it twice

(using the crossings). Turn right and, after 100

yards at the car wash, turn left down Centurion

Way which becomes the Doncaster Greenway.

After about half a mile turn right onto the signed

Trans Pennine Trail (TPT) and follow it all the way

to Selby.

Note: To divert to the Great Heck memorial

garden leave the TPT just after crossing the canal

at Pollington. Turn left down East End. At The

George and Dragon pub bear right up Pinfold Lane.

At crossroads turn left signed to Great Heck. The

gate for the garden is on the left just before the rail

bridge and opposite a lay-by. To complete a loop

back to the TPT go over the railway, bear right,

pass under the motorway, turn right at T-junction

(onto the A645) then left to Gowdall where you will

pick up the TPT signs to Selby again.



Hungary for more

You don’t have to be completely mad to endure Eastern European

winters, but it does help you enjoy the first ride of spring

Words and photos: Simon and Dóra Hursthouse


e live in north-eastern Hungary,

my Hungarian wife and I, and

we have just survived another

winter. Winters here are cold

with a vengeance, and only slightly more

tolerable when you hear how others are

coping. Take for example the Hungarian

acquaintance who phoned his cousin after

hearing the horrendous weather reports.

“How are you bearing up to the cold?”

he asks.

“So so. It’s only minus 17,” says the cousin.

“Minus 17!? I’d heard reports of minus 30.”

“Oh — you mean outside!”

It really is constricting. Then slowly,

unbelievably, colour trickles back into the

landscape and the first warm sunshine feels

like a friendly arm around the shoulders.


Hurrah! It’s time to dust off the bike. Come the

first nice sunny day we grabbed our child

seat-equipped tandem and pedalled off to

gawp at our surroundings and have a picnic in

the Aggtelek National parkland where we live.

We chose an easy route down the broad,

sweeping Bódva river valley to lunch al fresco

with a couple of cosmopolitan farming friends

10 miles away. It is such a pleasant, virtually

traffic-free and wildlife-rich area that we don’t

need to venture far before we feel we have

already seen so much. With toddler Emma

safely on board, we’re off.

The village we’re leaving is called Szögliget,

which translates as ‘nook in the woods’. This

particular nook is 40 miles from the nearest

Tesco. It’s a picturesque hamlet of 600 mostly

old souls who take thrift to new heights.

Informing one recently that I’d composted my

old shoes, I was advised next time to first

stamp some washers from the leather because

“you never know”.

Forming an impressive backdrop to this

green and pleasant place is a 460-metre high

hilltop on which you can make out the pale

limestone remains of a castle. It’s a fiendish

ride up, but on a clear day you can see

“A nod to the farmer in his

tractor and — crikey! — we’re

actually leaving the village

for the first time in months”



fitted. That’s new! We’re only a mile from home.

On into the valley and it’s farmland as far

as the eye can see. Though this is an A-road to

Slovakia, you’d never guess: no traffic. Oh wait

— here comes the baker’s van. Ten minutes

later, a car on Slovak plates. And that’s it.

The hills loping around us have the kind of

symmetry found in a child’s drawing.

“They are so naive, these hills,” I shout to

the stoker, giddy already from simply

cycling in sunshine. It is such a grand

valley and we always see wildlife here.

Glinting in the sun, the train tracks follow

the roadside and disappear ahead. The

ridgeline of these hills is easy to admire

while humming along on the flat. One

in particular catches the eye, with its

flattened top. This hill, Esztramos, was

once a source of limestone for cement

until miners discovered the otherwordly

grotto within. Today it’s a World Heritage

Site concealing two deep underground

lakes. The Park was later established to

protect its myriad subterranean

treasures, the limestone karst here

having more holes than Swiss cheese.

We eventually come to a village

holding a small market

presided over by Roma.

“New jeans?” asks my

wife as we wheel by.

“No — probably made

in China,” I answer,

suddenly unsure of

my point.

The shops — for there

are shops here — have little

in the way of signage to

reveal what it is exactly they

sell. The locals know, and

that’s presumably good

enough for the shopkeepers.

We pedal on, past an

ice-cream parlour still

closed for the season then over

a level crossing.

“Emma asleep yet?” I holler.

“Not now, she’s not. She’s

looking around.”

“What’s that in that field? Black and white.”

Life of luxury: tending to

the back seat driver


A flavour of cycling in

north-east Hungar

beautiful Aggtelek

National Park

Distance: 20 miles

Big hills: 0


Picnic stops: 1

Emma, clearly already deeply

embarrassed by her parents

Clean drinking water tastes

so much better from a brass fish

Slovakia’s High Tatra peaks bordering Poland,

over 100 kilometres away. Today, however,

we’re avoiding hills; our destination is

Freedom Road three villages away. A wave to

the beekeeper, a nod to the farmer in his

tractor and — crikey! — we’re actually leaving

the village for the first time in months.

The road out has further deteriorated

following the thaw I see. Tut-tut. It has already

blown a shock absorber on our car, but on our

tandem we slalom potholes with care. We pass

the elderflower cordial plant, a new distillery

and lumber yard, then on across the meadow.

Deer often graze here, and occasionally we see

wild boar. Today, only a solitary buzzard

perched on a decaying bale watches us pass.

Joining the main road by the local bakery, and

what’s this? The bakery is having solar panels


Escape Hungary


We have rented out a holiday let,

Juniper Cottage, on the fringe of

Hungary’s Aggtelek National Park, for a

decade, attracting many birdwatchers

and butterfly fanatics and a fair few

cyclists. As cyclists and English

speakers ourselves, we are well suited

to helping guests get the best from

their stay, whether road rides, off-road

or a mix of the two is in order. We have

mapped out rides up to 100km in

length, though most visitors quickly fall

in line with the relaxed pace of life here,

exploring as the fancy takes them

various out-and-back rides from the

doorstep that often involve ice-cream.

To commemorate our 10th season we

are offering a special price of just £10

per person per night for Juniper

Cottage guests throughout 2014. Hire

bikes and tandems can be arranged,

and all parties receive a free map of the

area, homegrown veg in season, and

our assistance whenever they require it.


See or



Most UK airports run flights to

Budapest, with EasyJet, Wizz Air and (new from East Midlands)

generally offering the most competitive

prices. The Hungarian capital is three

hours by train from the Aggtelek

National Park. Closer by far is Kosice

airport in Slovakia, just 25 miles away

(from Luton with Wizz Air). We offer a

free transfer service to those arriving by

train or to Kosice airport.

“Is it a cat? Can’t see without my glasses.”

“No! It’s a stork! First one this year!”

And sure enough there it is, stalking on

long legs for frogs and small mammals.

“All the way from Africa. Or is it Israel?

Amazing, isn’t it?”

Past a stable, an old water mill, a copse of

aspen, and Freedom Road is now in our sights.

The grass verges beside the tarmac are

charred from burning, a punishable offence

that seems to go unnoticed. I once chanced

upon someone nonchalantly setting fire to a

bone dry grassy hillside in a nearby vineyard.

“Come to help me put it out, have you?” he

laughed, glassy-eyed. They make their own

wine here, you know.

I can see from our shadow on the road that

Emma has nodded off. Better go gingerly, the

tarmac is bad here, too. We’re really in the

sticks now or ‘behind God’s back’ as the

Hungarians say. “You’re behind God’s back,” I

say to my wife. No response. Nothing like a bit

of a frisson on a tandem ride, I think to myself,

and notice vole holes and anthills on the

blackened verges.

At our destination we meet our friends for

a picnic and between us we put on quite a

spread. We’ve pedalled 10 miles on flat valley

roads and aren’t the slightest bit puffed, but

boy are we peckish. It’s fine weather for it,

and as we natter we first hear, then spy a

Green Woodpecker up high in a

neighbour’s walnut tree, its silvery throat

catching the sun. Perhaps that’s why the

Hungarian word for this bird is ‘spoke’, as

in wheel.

Riding back home after lunch we

glimpse deer darting into undergrowth

but the stork is nowhere to be seen. Feeling

pleasantly full, we mull over the proposal our

farming friends had put to us over lunch,

which after the stasis of winter suddenly

seems the most preposterous idea.

“There’s no way we could look after their

farm while they’re in Kathmandu. 60 hectares!”

“Six hundred! You’ve no experience. No,

there’s no way,” says the voice of reason.

“We turn for home with the

sinking sun glancing off our

chainwheels and casting a

mesmerising reflection”

All that fresh air and pedalling

is tiring work, you know

“That would be a catastrophe,” I

conclude, and leave it at that.

Our daughter’s shadow is on the nod again.

“You don’t realise what a break this is for

me, not having to be constantly watching

Emma. It’s so relaxing. We can all just admire

the view,” says my wife.

We turn for home with the sinking sun

glancing off our turning chainwheels and

casting a mesmerising reflection upon the

road. We pull up slowly by the garden gate so

as not to wake Emma. Too late. She opens

her eyes.

“Well? What did you reckon to that then?”

we coo.

“MORE!” comes the reply.

Hearts melted, we declare winter

officially over.











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Climb every

Alpine mountain

Alpine climbs are special, as Jocelyn Mack found out when she took on her first European

ride in the heart of Switzerland, by testing out the route for the new Etape Suisse sportive

Words Jocelyn Mack Photos Bart Hazen, Maurice Parrée



A preview of the

forthcoming Etape

Suisse sportive

taking in a tough

Alpine climb

Distance: 1

Big hills: 1


Cafe stops: 1

So long, farewell: the breakaway goes

but the chasing group are closing...

It hard to be neutral when it comes

to Switzerland’s natural beauty

Lush meadows splashed with bright

purple, pure white and the golden

yellow hue of delicate flowers, clear

waterfalls cascading through the

jagged Alpine rock and the melodic jingle of

cow bells; you would be forgiven for thinking

that, at any moment, Julie Andrews would run

over the crest of a hill in full soprano mode

belting out, “The hills are alive….”

Ok, I know that was Austria, but the von

Trapp family did escape over the border to

Switzerland at the end of The Sound of Music.

(In real life they actually escaped to America,

but I’m sticking with the Hollywood version.)

Thankfully I didn’t have to flee any

dictatorships to visit Switzerland. Instead,

I was lucky enough to be invited to preview

the routes of the upcoming Etape Suisse; the

one-pass 80km Albula Tour or two-pass

150km Albula/Flüela Challenge. As this was

my first European ride I was going to take on

the single pass of the Albula.

Guiding the 20-strong group was Robert

Simpson, co-founder of the event, and a

number of the investors who have helped to

fund the project, which has its inaugural outing

on September 5-8.

Switzerland may be more associated with

Toblerone chocolate and winter sports, but the

Alps make for good mountain biking and

hiking routes and the Swiss roads are long and

smooth — perfect for a spot of road cycling.

High point

Our ride began from our hotel, the Grischa,

opposite Davos Platz train station. It was

only 9am but we could already feel the sun

beating down on our necks. I smeared factor

20 on every patch of skin that wasn’t covered

by Lycra.

We were immediately led out onto super

smooth roads, and even though it was the

weekend the roads through the town were

quiet. The ride took place at the beginning of

June, although during the winter season Davos

is rather more bustling.

The municipality has a few strings to its

bow. It’s the highest city in Europe, sitting at

1,560m (5,120ft) on the River Landwasser;

is home to the country’s biggest ski resort;

and it is host to the World Economic Forum.

This is an annual meeting of top business

people, political leaders and intellectuals who

come together to discuss pressing issues that

are affecting the world. The theme of this

year’s meeting was: ‘The reshaping of the

world: consequences for society, politics and

business’, and it’s a pretty big deal as they book

out the whole of the city for around four days

at the start of the year.


Escape Switzerland


If you fancy splashing the cash and experiencing

a spot of cycling in luxury, then head to to find out more.

Prices start at £1,250 and there are packages

for both the rider and non-rider (price does not

include flights).


I flew Swiss from London City to Zurich. Swiss

flies from most major UK cities and return prices

start from around £190 per person.


If you choose to do this ride of your own accord

you’ll not be short on places to stay. We stayed

at the Grischa das Hotel, Talstrasse 3, 7270

Davos Platz.

For more options head to


You certainly wont be bored in this area of

Switzerland. There are more than 700km of

hiking trails, a local golf course and Davos Lake is

the focal point for water sports, not to mention

the winter sports.

The village of Monstein is a short bus journey

from Davos Klosters and is home to the

highest-altitude brewery in Europe, billed as

“the last beer stop before heaven”. The local

restaurant serves Monsteiner Bier, but a brewery

tour is available if you call in advance.


This country is peppered with UNESCO World

Heritage sites and one of these is the Albula

Bernina railway line, regarded as one of the

world’s most spectacular routes. The trains have

big glass windows that curve onto the roof so you

can see the beautiful Alpine scenery easily. It

travels across the Landwasser viaduct and climbs

without the help of cogwheels across Europe’s

highest railway Alpine pass, the 2,253-metrehigh



This gives you unlimited travel on consecutive

days on trains, trams and buses. It also includes

free entry into 470 museums and exhibitions.

Adult prices start from £182 for four days.

“The summit’s just round the next

corner... probably”

Underneath the arches: a viaduct

frames a wooded chasm

Snowbanks signal the approach of the

Albula Pass’s highest point

With the smell of sun cream wafting

around me, it was difficult to fully appreciate

the clean Alpine air and the sweet scent that

spilled from the meadows as we whizzed by.

Just a few miles into our journey, though,

we found ourselves in darkness. We had

entered the Tunnel Landwasser. On part of

this is a beautifully impressive, six-arch

viaduct that rests on five tall pillars which

part of the Albula railway runs over, but

unfortunately you can’t see it from the road.

The shelter of the long tunnel offered a

respite from the warm morning, but it soon

got rather chilly and I heard a few echoes of,

“It’s freezing!” and “I wish I’d put my base

layer on,” bouncing around the dark

cylindrical space. Although a few riders were

sensible enough to bring lights I was glad to

see the natural light at the end of the tunnel.

We were soon basking in the sunlight once

again and as I heard the clicking of levers and

clunking of chains up ahead, I guessed we had

hit our first climb — my first Alpine climb.

Although it had the famous sweeping bends

these ascents are known for, this climb was

short, and while it was tough it was nothing

compared with what was to come.

Mountain roads meander through

majestic Alpine scenery

As we made our way through small

villages that lay in the shadow of the

mountains, we caught up with a number of

locals out enjoying a day of riding.

Search for the summit

Leaving village life behind us, the road began

to wind, like a matt black ribbon, around the

foot of the Alps; the rugged mountain rock on

one side, the wide chasm of the valley, dense

with conifer trees, on the other. This false flat

section had us pushing and the challenge of

riding the Albula Pass began to loom large.

This was my first European ride and what

a baptism of fire. The Albula Pass is 20km

long and averages six per cent in gradient. It

certainly wasn’t easy, but it sure was worth it.

If you’ve never done an Alpine pass before,

I encourage you to pack up your bike and take

on the challenge. It’s difficult to compare it to

anything in the UK as our climbs are so

different (a lot shorter for a start) but it’s such

a great experience, and with a backdrop of

such beautiful scenery, it’s something that

should be on your riding list.

While the climb is 20km long, there are

flatter sections where the gradient levelled

“This was the first time I had cycled in the Alps, and the climbs

were much longer than anything I had ridden before. I found them

quite tough and was relieved when the green pastures gave way to

snow, as I knew we were nearing the top! At the end of the ride I

was tired but felt a huge sense of accomplishment”

Eleanor Doody


“Cycling the route of the two-pass

challenge was an amazing, once in a lifetime

experience. It was challenging but such an

exhilarating ride, in fabulous Alpine scenery”

Sarah Doody

Camaraderie of the climb: riders are

united by two-wheeled toil

out, which made it perfect to rest our legs.

It was one hell of a great place to stop.

Surrounded by the majesty of the mountains,

with a soundtrack of trickling fresh springs, we

took in the view of the valley below. It’s hard

not to feel good about yourself when you look

back and realise how much you’ve climbed

— even if you might not be at the top yet!

The road, on the lower section of the

Albula Pass around the village of Bergün, is

wide, but it narrows as it continues to wind up

and around the rock, nearing the summit.

With the numerous bends and switchbacks we

encountered, it was impossible for us to see

the top, which kept us guessing as to when we

would reach it.

Generally the road has very little traffic as

there is a more preferred pass for cars, but the

weekend that we rode was also a bank holiday

and many sports cars, both classic and

modern, passed us on their mission to enjoy

the view on four wheels.

The road was still lined with lush

coniferous forests and as we passed by part of

the Bernina railway and under the arches of its

bridge, I noticed that the group had split

considerably, with those of us less used to this

style of riding taking our time and pushing on

(very) slowly, but surely.

That’s the key to a successful climb — you

have to take your time and go at your own

pace, and remember it’s a ride to be enjoyed,

in scenery that demands to be admired. Each

time I felt myself staring down at the tarmac,

caught in the monotonous pushing rhythm of

my pedalling, feeling the sweat build up under

my helmet, I took a moment at the next inlet to

rest, refuel and appreciate where I was.

Then all of a sudden the snow-capped

peaks that were once just a distant view were

there right beside us. And where we were once

sweating under the sun we could now feel a

chill, as the breeze passed over the scattering

of snow. Reaching the top is like stepping onto

a rocky planet where there is no life — except

for a restaurant. However high you climb,

there always seems to be a restaurant on the

top of a pass, but we carried on, eager to reach

the descent.


It’s exhilarating to submit to gravity. No

sooner had we been standing on the summit,

proud of conquering a 2,315m high mountain

pass, than we were snaking, childlike, with

grins from ear to ear, down the other side once

again falling into the shadow of the peak.

I’m not sure how long it took us to reach

the top, I guess around two hours, but it took

just minutes to reach the village at the bottom,

La Punt in the Engadine.

After all that hard work it was time for

a well-earned lunch. Some of the group

continued to take on the Flüela on the

two-pass challenge. But for a few of us our

challenge was over, we had been, seen and

very much conquered the Albula. As for taking

on the two-pass challenge myself? Well, I

now have the perfect excuse to return.



Things to do

August and September

Late summer is a brilliant time to take on a sportive, and there are so many to choose from

Key to regions

Photos: Phil O’Connor, Chris Catchpole.



N. Ireland




Isle of Man

East Midlands


West Midlands










Welsh wonders

Tour de Mon

We’ve said before that 2014 is the year of the

bike festival, and the people of North Wales

have their own fantastic cycle event to look

forward to soon with the 2014 Tour de Mon.

Held over the weekend of August 16-17,

the Tour de Mon will see Newry Beach,

Holyhead, transformed into a celebration of

cycling that the whole family can enjoy.

Highlights are set to include a pedal-powered

cinema showing cycling films, live music, the

fantastic Addo Mountain Bike Display team,

and lots of local fresh food retailers plying

their wares.

The festival atmosphere generated on the

Saturday will then be carried over to the

Sunday when the Tour de Mon Sportive hits

the road. There’s a choice of four routes: the

103-mile Mawr, the 75-mile Canol, the 40-mile




❑ Energy gels

❑ Apieceoffruitorcerealbar

❑ Drinking bottles x 2

❑ Spare inner tubes x 2

❑ Puncture repair sticky patches

❑ Tyre levers

❑ Multi-tool

❑ Mini pump

❑ Cape or packable waterproof

Bach and the 6.5-mile family-friendly Tour de

Teulu. But it’s those three longer sportive

routes that have their own special ingredient:

the ‘Flying Mile’ sprint stage. This gives riders

the opportunity to race against the clock over

a perfectly straight, uninterrupted mile along

the runway at RAF Valley.

Entry costs between £31.99 and £39.99,

and participants are promised excellent event

support, feed stations, a goody bag, and a

unique slate medal for finishers.

Xtrem sportiving

Staying in North Wales, for sportive supermen

and wonder women, how does the chance to

take on the UK’s longest and toughest one-day

sportive grab you? That’s what the organisers

of the Chain Reaction Cycles Etape Xtrem are

promising — a total of 226 miles and

approximately 13,000ft of climbing.

Although a new event, the Etape Xtrem

will be run as part of the Etape Eyri sportive in

Snowdonia. Entries will be strictly limited to

100 and online registration will open at

midday on Monday September 1. If you

think you have what it takes to tackle this

absolute monster ride then register your

interest at the website below and be one of the

first to receive the Etape Xtrem online

registration link.

And don’t worry, you’ve got plenty time to

prepare. The Etape Xtrem and Etape Eyri

don’t take place until Sunday June 14 next

year. However, with that kind of challenge,

it probably wouldn’t hurt to start getting in

shape soon!

ABBREVIATIONS: CF changing facilities, ET electronic timing, FS feed station,

ATC affiliated to charity, EOL entry on the start line, EM electronic mapping

up some good climbs to keep your legs

warm and there will be locally baked

cakes at the feed stops to refuel.





HQ Newry Beach, Holyhead, LL65 1YA

How far 6/40/75/103 miles

Entry £31.99/£35.99/£39.99

CA says Set on the Isle of Anglesey, the

Tour de Mon has route options from 6.5

to 106 miles. The cycling festival will

kick off on the Saturday with live

entertainment, activities, and local

food. There are plenty of local

accommodation options if you want to

make a weekend of it.







HQ Linwood Leisure Centre,

Renfrewshire, PA3 3RA

How far 66/101 miles

Entry £30/£55

CA says Formally known as the Glasgow

100, the two routes here are brand new

but still take in the many lochs that dot

the landscape here. Both routes will

guide riders out through towns, into the

country and lead to the coast before

making their way back.





HQ York Uni Sports Centre, York,

YO10 5DD

How far 40/67/102 miles

Entry £30/£55

CA says Find out why the Tour de France

came to Yorkshire by taking on some of

the roads around the White Rose County.

But fear not, you can do a few less miles

than the pros with choices of 40, 67 or

102 miles. The routes will take in Castle

Howard and some of the rolling roads of

the Yorkshire Wolds.






HQ Bohunt School, Liphook, GU30 7NY

How far 12/30/60/90 miles

Entry £17.50

CA says From Hampshire you will make

your way further south, rolling through

the countryside to push your way over

the South Downs. With a fun route of 12

500,000 bikes are

stolen every year

Get insured


Devon knows why so many

riders love the Jurassic Classic

miles there is an opportunity for the

younger members of the family to get in

the saddle too.





HQ Stratford Manor Hotel, Stratford

upon Avon, CV37 0PY

How far 40/62/100 miles

Entry £22/£26/£28

CA says To get used to riding in a mass

participation event there will be a ‘ride

the route’ session prior to the ride. This

will also help you check out what

distance is suitable for you.





HQ Exmouth RFC, Devon, EX8 1DG

How far 50/100/160km

Entry £18/£28 (plus sponsorship)

CA says Devon can be a tough place to

ride, especially when you’re pushing up

the many tors that dominate the

landscape. The Jurassic Coast will offer



HQ The Fry Club, Keynsham, BS31 2AU

How far 61/91 miles

Entry £30

CA says The Mendip Hills has a few top

areas including Chew Valley Lake,

Cheddar Gorge and Burrington Combe,

which has featured on the Tour of

Britain. Cheddar Gorge has many caves

and was where Britain’s oldest,

complete human skeleton was found

— that should keep you pedalling.



AUGUST 22-25




HQ Harby TBC

How far 200 miles

Entry £95

CA says A four-day event cycling the

route of Queen Eleanor’s 1290 funeral

procession. It may sound a tad morbid

but the route takes in many historical

landmarks along the way, starting in

Harby and finishing in London at

Westminster Abbey. You can join the

ride for just one day if consecutive days

of riding is too much.


Events August-September 2014

No premium

increase if you live

in a city. Cover from

only £16 a year!

here offering up a few surprises making

sure you’re kept on your toes, in and out

of the saddle.



Get insured






HQ Dungarvan Sports Centre,

Co. Waterford

How far 12/50/100/160km

Entry £36/40

CA says This two-day event begins on

Saturday with a 12km family route with

the main sportive routes of 50, 100, and

160km on the Sunday. The routes will

tour around West Waterford and

provide an achievable challenge with

the 160km being designed for those

with good fitness levels, as you’ll be

taking on four tough climbs.






HQ Wellsway School, Chandag Road,

Keynsham, BS31 1PH

How far 114 miles

Entry £30/£55

CA says Make your way from city to city

on this route from Bristol across to the

capital in one day. Riders will pass

through five counties, before finishing

in London. Don’t worry about pedalling

back as there will be return transport to

Bristol provided.





HQ Hawick Rugby Club, Mansfield Road,

Hawick, TD9 9AW

How far 46/106 miles

Entry £15/£23/£25

CA says With no fewer than 10 climbs on

the long route this will test even the

experienced riders, but a shorter route

with just five climbs makes it a more

manageable event should you wish for a

less arduous way to enjoy the beautiful

landscape of the Scottish Borders.




HQ Chancellor’s School, Brookmans

Park, Hatfield, AL9 7BN

How far 30/60/100 miles

Entry £18-£20

CA says Sitting just outside of London

Put your fitness to the test

in a sportive this summer

there is some pretty good rolling

countryside, away from the hordes of

traffic, making for good cycling lanes.

Riders can even take on ‘Little

Switzerland’ — coming just six miles

from the finish, it’s a real sting in the tail.







HQ Calais TBC

How far 2,926 miles

Entry from £750 per rider

CA says You can take on this epic ride

solo or split the miles by riding in teams

of 2, 4, 6 or 8. The two-week event will

see riders travel through Germany’s

Black Forest, cross the Austrian Alps

and Mont Ventoux before finishing at

Europa Point in Gibraltar. Just thinking

about it is making us tired.






HQ Three Counties Showground,

Worcestershire, WR13 6NW

How far 46/74/104

Entry £25-£35

CA says Our sister magazine, Cycling

Weekly’s, outing around the three

counties of Worcestershire,

Herefordshire, and Gloucestershire. The

routes will provide you with good views

of the Malvern Ridgeway and have you

pushing up the long, gradual climb of

Malvern Hill. Hope for a clear day so you

can enjoy the view out to the Black

Mountains of Wales.



AUGUST 30-31



HQ North London TBC

How far 300 miles

Entry £99-£249

CA says Through Cambridgeshire and

Lincolnshire the clock will be ticking to

complete the route from London to

Newcastle in just one day. The route

will be split into seven sections so you

have time to rest and refuel, keeping

you on target. A well-earned

celebratory breakfast will be awaiting

riders at the finish.






HQ Essex County Cricket Club,

Chelmsford, CM2 0PG

How far 39/67/102 miles

Entry £30/£55

CA says Make your way through the

Essex countryside and help raise funds

for sick babies and children. The three

routes will head out through quiet

villages and farmlands with the roads




HQ Goodwood Motor Circuit,

Chichester, PO18 0X

How far 35/50/70 miles

Entry £20

CA says There will be lots going on at

the motor circuit with vintage stalls,

refreshments and a 1957 Airstream

trailer exhibiting too. Then, of course,

there are the three cycling routes to

choose from. Sorry guys, it’s a

ladies-only ride.





HQ Burgess Hill town centre TBC

How far 23/43/65/95 miles

Entry £30

CA says The ascents will keep coming

thick and fast on the longer routes as

riders take on Toys Hill, Pillow Mounds

Hill, Kidds Hill, and the infamous short

but steep Cob Lane Hill — and that’s just

a few of them! But never fear, if you’re

looking for just a short few miles there

are 23- and 43-mile routes available too.






HQ Richard Rose Morton Academy,

Carlisle, CA2 6LB

How far 34/64/86 miles

Entry £18/£21/£24

CA says A new Giant Killa route of 87

miles has been added this year for the

more hardy sportive rider. The routes

take on some Lake District terrain and

head into the Eden Valley skirting by the

River Eden. With shorter 34 and 64-mile

routes most riders can get in the saddle

and take on a ride around the Lakes.





HQ Catmos College, Oakham, LE15 6RP

How far 58 miles

Entry £25

CA says The event will mix on and off

road so you’ll need a cyclo-cross or

mountain bike to tackle the routes on

this one. There will be a variety of

surfaces from tarmac to uneven trails

with the odd brook thrown in for good

measure. Don’t forget a change of

clothes — you could get a little muddy.







HQ Plumpton College, Lewes, BN7 3AE

How far 12/30/60/90 miles

Entry £7.50/£17.50

CA says There will be a short few miles

to warm the legs up before pushing up

and over the long climbing bends of

Ditchling Beacon; just keep reminding

yourself how great the view is to help

you keep pedalling. You should be able

to see the sea from here where you will

drop into Glyndebourne and Alfriston

before heading back to the finish.






HQ Hornchurch Football Club,

Upminster, RM14 2LX

How far 40 miles

Entry £25

CA says If you’ve got a mountain bike

tucked away then wipe the mud off and

head out to take on London to Southend

Off-road. The 40-mile route will take on

tracks, trails and unmade paths through

Hornchurch Country Park, Rainham

Marsh, and through Benfleet to take on

some of the Olympic mtb course before

finishing at the seaside town for a well

earned ice cream.




HQ Wythenshawe Park, Manchester

M23 0AB

How far 62/100 miles

Entry £20

CA says If you want to tick off that nice

round 100-mile or 100km ride then the

summer is a good time to take it on. This

route meanders from Wythenshawe

Park and heads out to Northwich taking

in the quiet surroundings of Delamere

Forest before reaching the halfway

point at Nantwich. It’s then time for the

journey back to Wythenshawe Park.






HQ Selby Abbey, YO8 4AA

How far 30/60/100 miles

Entry £15/£20/£25

CA says All three routes here are

relatively flat making it a good event for

working on your average speed. Leaving

from the town of Selby, which sits on the

River Ouse, riders will head out around

the North Yorkshire countryside. This

sportive will help raise funds for

Yorkshire Cancer Research — what better

reason to go for a bike ride?






HQ Elan Valley Visitor Centre, Powys,


How far 20/50/75 miles

Entry £10/£20/£25

CA says This cross sportive will offer a

choice of both on and off-road, on

challenging but non-technical routes,

and a pure tarmac option so whatever

type of rider you are you can make the

most of the routes around the

Cambrian Mountains.





HQ Exeter Racecourse, Kennford,


How far 60/108/180km

Entry £30/£36

CA says Pushing up and over the climbs

of the moors on Dartmoor, the three

courses here will also have you taking

on coastal roads heading towards

Teignmouth. If you want to embrace

your competitive nature the 100 and

180km options will give you a chance to

go for a QoM or KoM as you take on a

timed climb of Haytor, which rises

1,200ft over 3.7 miles.





HQ Kilmallie Community Centre, Fort

William, PH33 7JH

How far 100 miles

Entry £25

CA says This might seem like a fair few

miles to tackle in a single day, but

without the pressure of timing, you can

make the most of riding at your own

pace. The feed station at the halfway

point even has a cafe if you fancy

stopping to enjoy a spot of lunch. You’ll

never be too far from water as the

routes skirt many lochs including

Sunart, Eil and Shiel.




HQ Huntingdon Racecourse, PE28 4NL

How far 47/61/95 miles

Entry £20/£30

CA says Keep your eyes peeled for all

the church steeples that make up

much of the skyline of this route — as

the event’s name suggests, you’ll

nearly always be chasing one. You will

travel through Cambridgeshire,

Bedfordshire and Leicestershire,

pedalling through quiet villages and

lanes. If you live nearby then why not

head out and ride?







HQ Land’s End TBC

How far 969 miles

Entry £950/£1,150/£1,600

CA says An iconic challenge cycling

through the UK. You can take on the full

nine-day challenge or opt for just a few

days of the route. Places have sold out

for this year but you can head to the

website to register your interest for

next year’s challenge — and you’ve got

a whole year to train!







HQ Thruxton Motorsports Centre,

Andover, SP11 8PW

How far 24 hrs

Entry £60 (+sponsorship)

CA says Gather a few mates together

and ride as many laps of Thruxton as

you can in 24 hours. If you think you’ve

got the stamina you can even take on

the challenge solo in this non-stop

endurance race. A single circuit may

only be 2.4 miles long but there are a

few technical sections to keep you







HQ Thruxton Motorsports Centre,

Andover, SP11 8PW

How far 100 miles

Entry £30/£55

CA saysIf you don’t fancy riding for 24

hours but are looking for a season

challenge, then take on 42 laps of the

smooth traffic-free circuit, which means

you’ll have clocked up a century. You

can even make a weekend of it and

cheer on the riders on the 24hr race.






HQ Blackheath, London, SE3

How far 280 miles

Entry £149 (+sponsorship)

CA says There’s a different way of

tackling this famous route and that’s by

doing it in just one day. The route will be

split into seven sections of 40 miles so

you can swap in with your team-mates

or just make the most of a rest before

the next leg. There will be a celebratory

breakfast waiting for you at the finish,

24 hours later, in Paris.






HQ Oxford University Rugby Club,


How far 20/50/80 miles

Entry £15/£27/£32

CA says A great excuse for a pedal

around this university city and it’s a ride

that most of the family can join in with

choices of 20, 50 or 80 miles. As well as

exploring the city the routes also guide

riders out to the surrounding

countryside including the Cotswolds.






HQ Middlesbrough Cycle Centre, Marton

Road, Middlesbrough, TS7 8AR

How far 30/70 miles

Entry £15/£20

CA says If all that talk of the Tour de

France last month has given you a

hankering to hit the roads of Yorkshire

then this sportive could be ideal. The

30-miler is gently undulating while the

70-mile route presents more of a

challenge with 1,646m of climbing.






HQ Sharpham Road playing fields,

Cheddar, BS27 3DR

How far 100/160km

Entry £24

CA says For the less fit, the 100km route

weaves through the Somerset Levels

and takes in the villages below Crook

Peak before heading back, while the

160km route takes on a series of three

tough climbs: Cheddar Gorge, Penhill

Mast and Burrington Coombe, to

descend Shipham Hill back to HQ. There

are showers back at the finish so you can

head home refreshed and invigorated.




HQ Godden Green, Sevenoaks TN15 OJU

How far 80/130km

Entry £30

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Events August-September 2014

CA says This annual cycle ride is

organised by the Rotary Club of

Sevenoaks Amherst so you can be sure

they will show you around the best bits

of their local area. From Claygate you will

make your way to Three Chimneys and

back through the small village of

Sissinghurst, home to Sissinghurst

Castle with its beautiful gardens and the

hamlet of Curtisden Green.





HQ Aireville School, Gargrave Rd,

Skipton, BD23 1UQ

How far 50/100 miles

Entry £35

CA says Here’s a chance to ride in Chris

Hoy’s slipstream as he takes on his own

challenge around the White Rose

County. Featured on the routes will be

Malham Cove, Park Rash and Fleet

Moss, which is the highest road in

Yorkshire. You can fuel before the ride

with a free breakfast and tuck into a

post-ride meal back at HQ.




HQ Car Park Number 8, Goodwood

Racecourse, PO18 0PS

How far 44/76/104 miles

Entry £25/£28/£30

CA says This area is peppered with lush

copses and woods and is home to the

large Kingley Vale Nature Reserve. The

routes will wind their way around the

ancient woodlands and wetlands with

the longer route heading out to the

Meon Valley. Once back at HQ you can

treat your legs to a post-ride massage.






HQ Zoë’s Place Baby Hospice, Ash

Green, CV7 9JG

How far 310 miles

Entry £99 + sponsorship

CA says A twist on the iconic route

from London to Paris, starting instead

from Coventry. Set over five days, you

will be fully supported along the way

while helping to raise money for

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babies suffering from life-limiting

conditions. After all those hard miles,

there’ll be a celebratory atmosphere at

the finish in Paris.







HQ Aberdovey TBC

How far 30/60/90/100 miles

Entry £19-£29

CA says Places are limited so head to

the website if you fancy a ride around

the Cambrian coast. The routes start

from Aberdovey, following the coastal

road to Fairbourne, before making their

way onto Penmaenpool. Here’s where

the steep climb comes in up to

Cregennan Lakes — try to take a

moment off the saddle to enjoy the

great views across the waters.






HQ Waddesdon Manor, Aylesbury,

HP18 0JH

How far 47/68/101 miles

Entry £30/£55

CA says Meandering through both

Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire,

there are three good route options to

choose from: 47, 68 or 101 miles all on

undulating terrain. The routes will take in

many of the picturesque villages around

Aylesbury, while those looking for more

of a challenge on the Champion route

will venture up around Buckingham.






HQ The Blue School Kennion Road,

Wells, BA5 2NR

How far 15/30/60/80 miles

Entry £7.50/£17.50

CA says Your legs will be rejoicing as the

flat Somerset levels provide a nice

warm-up so you can find your stride.

But don’t get too comfy, as the Mendip

Hills and Cheddar Gorge still lie

between riders on the longer route and

the finish line. The variety of ups and

downs will keep you amused, so if

you’re nearby then hop in the saddle.





HQ Swarthmoor Hall Lane, Ulverston,

LA12 0JQ (tbc)

How far 46/57km

Entry £30/£35

CA says While the 46km route has 712

metres of climbing, although the 57km

route may not be that much further it

packs in a few more uphills and totals

1,075 metres of climbing. The latter

will take on Hawkshead Hill and the

climb from Hawkshead village to

Grizedale, which sits in the middle

of Grizedale Forest.





HQ Carsington Water, Ashbourne,


How far 45/77/125km

Entry £20/£22.50/£27.50

CA says Heading around the White Peak

and the Staffordshire Moorlands there

are a few famous climbs here you can

tick off the list. Ramshorn, Gun Hill and

Cromford Hill have all featured on the

Tour of Britain. But the climbs to be

most feared are definitely Riber Road

and West End, which both have 22 per

cent gradient sections that could have

your legs shaking.





HQ Polocini Coffee Shop, Romiley,


How far 43/53 miles

Entry £15

CA says No super long routes here, it’s

all about keeping it short just like an

espresso. There will be pre-ride

porridge to help warm you up and some

grub to look forward to back at

Polocini’s own coffee shop. You can

toast to a job well done with a shot

of espresso.




Shakespeare Autumn 100

HQ Stratford-upon-Avon Park & Ride,

A3400/A46, CV37 0RE

How far 62/100 miles

Entry £28

CA says Summer may be drawing to a

close and leaves beginning to fall, but

hopefully there’ll be a few more

glimmers of sunshine to get you around

Warwickshire. The Cotswolds will

feature some uphill struggles, so don’t

forget your climbing legs.




HQ Churchers College, Petersfield,

GU31 4AS

How far 71/112/155km

Entry £25-£29

CA says No ride around the South

Downs would be complete without

Ditchling Beacon, but once you’ve

pushed up it you can make the most of

the roads that drop straight down the

other side to the coast. You’ll be back up

the Downs though as the routes flow

from the chalk escarpment to the coast.





HQ Bangor-on-Dee Racecourse,

Wrexham, LL13 0DA

How far 85 miles

Entry £62

CA says With full road closures on the

Etape Cymru, you can really dig in and

go for it on this challenging route. As

the season starts to draw to a close it

could prove to be the perfect challenge

if you’ve put the miles in and ticked off

a few longer and hillier sportive routes.

There’s the famous Horseshoe Pass to

take on and a climb known as the ‘End

of the World’. Say no more.






HQ Dover Ferry Port, Kent, CT17 9BU

How far 62/72 miles

Entry £65

CA says Sold out for this year, the

popular event starts with a ferry ride

over to Calais from Dover, where the


t s

into the Parc Naturel Régional des Caps

et Marais d’Opale for miles of

traffic-free cycling.







HQ Greenhous Meadow Stadium,

Shrewsbury, SY2 6ST

How far 64/101 miles

Entry £32/£35

CA says Known as the ‘secret county’,

Shropshire has many hidden gems like

the 177-mile Offa’s Dyke. The route

criss-crosses the Welsh-English border,

meaning both the climb of Long Mynd

and Wales’s Long Mountain will need to

be conquered.







HQ Frobel College, Roehampton Lane,

London, SW15 5PJ

How far 75 miles

Entry £35

CA says London to Brighton may sound

like enough of a challenge in itself to

some of us, but how about doing it

off-road? You’ll need to dust your

mountain bike off for this one as the

route goes over singletracks, forest


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paths as well as cycle paths. There are a

few challenging sections and of course

a steep, testing climb.





HQ Pratt’s Farm, Grateley, Nr Andover,

SP11 8LH

How far 40/80/160km

Entry £20/£25/£30

CA says Held in memory of prosnowboarder

and keen cyclist Nelson

Pratt, the three routes are named after

his favourite foods. There’s The Chicken

Curry at 40km, Spag Bol at 80km and

The Full Monty is 160km. The routes

take in the Hampshire countryside

raising money for charity CALM.







HQ Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park,

London, E20 2ST

How far 100km

Entry £39 +sponsorship

CA says How do you fancy taking on

the London-Brighton route under the

cover of darkness? The ride starts at

10pm and finishes by the beach in

Brighton for a well-deserved breakfast.

Take on the challenge as part of a team

if a solo ride isn’t for you, and don’t

forget your lights.






HQ Sparsholt College, Winchester,

SO21 2NF

How far 46/63/104 miles

Entry £30/£55

CA says The finale of the Action Ride

100 series is set around Hampshire. The

routes dip into the north of the New

Forest and venture through some

picturesque hamlets and villages just

outside of Salisbury. Watch out for

those roaming ponies!





HQ Smithills School, Bolton, BL1 6JS

How far 35/60 miles

Entry £15/£20

CA says You have a choice of the ‘It’ll Be

Reet’ route at 35 miles or you could be

shouting ‘Ecky Thump’ up the climb of

the Rake on the 60-mile ride of the

same name. Heading around

Lancashire, riders will see the sights of

Darwen, Chorley and all riders get to

tackle the climbs of Anglezarke and

Sheep House Lane.






HQ Parc Bryn Bach, Merthyr Road,

Tredegar, NP22 3AY

How far 33/49/75 miles

Entry £17.50

CA says The organisers describe this as

a “hill-fest of a ride”. There may be

some long pushes against gravity but

with six-mile descents there are some

fun sections to look forward to as well.

The Talybont Reservoir will make for a

scenic last few miles, but like any good

route there’s a sting in the tail with a 20

per cent climb near the finish.




HQ Kirroughtree MTB Centre, Galloway

Forest Park, DG8 7BE

How far 42/67 miles

Entry £25/£35

CA says Part of Cycling Weekly’s

Adventure X series, the Galloway Gallop

heads out into the remote lochs and

valleys of Dumfries. You’ll need at least

a cross bike for this ride as the terrain is

multi-surfaced and mountainous in

places, all set against the backdrop of

Galloway Forest Park.





HQ Abbey Moor Stadium, Glastonbury,


How far 27/48 miles

Entry £7.50/£15

CA says A flat bike ride could be a nice

way to wind the season down,

especially if you’ve done a few leg

burning rides through the year, in the

Somerset Levels. There are two route

choices of either 27 or 48 miles taking

you through the moors and wetland of

this area. Why not head out to

Glastonbury and raise some funds for

the British Heart Foundation?





HQ Beaulieu Palace House and Gardens

How far 20/40/70/100km

Entry £28-£47

CA says One for the ladies starting from

Beaulieu Palace, which is home to the

National Motor Museum. After taking on

one of the many routes there will be a

relaxation and stretching zone back at

HQ and there will be entertainment

throughout the day to keep your fans

amused as they wait to cheer you over

the finish.





HQ Brecon Leisure Centre, Brecon, LD3 9SR

How far 43/66/98 miles

Entry £25/£30

CA says If you’ve always fancied a ride

around the Welsh mountains then why

not head along and test your season’s

fitness? For those of you hardy souls

there’s a 98-mile hilly ride, which takes

in the infamous Devil’s Staircase, or if

that’s not your cup of tea then a 66 or

43-mile route which takes in the rolling

roads Abergwesyn and Llanwrtyd Wells.




HQ Nuffield Health, Wakefield,

West Yorkshire, WF2 7AW

How far 23/45/72 miles

Entry £15/£20/£25

CA says Taking in the highlights of the

the British stages of the Tour de France

including the now famous Côte de

Holme Moss; the infamous Snake Pass

and the Strines also present a challenge

for those on the 72-mile route.



Explore the beautiful lanes of

Yorkshire and feel like a Tour pro




HQ Westpoint Arena, Exeter, EX5 1DJ

How far 42/60/93 miles

Entry £20/£30

CA says Fill your lungs with sea air as

you pedal around Devon along the

seafront at Sidmouth.The route then

takes a scenic view along lanes lined

with patchwork fields, towards Honiton

and Cullompton. There will be optional

refreshments and massages waiting for

you back at HQ.




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The Constant Cyclist

Liz Clammer is a 69-year-old Grandma who has

always used her bike for daily shopping and calling

on friends

Illustration: Andy Arthur

So, who doesn’t remember their very

first bike? Ask your neighbours or

your friends and a nostalgic look can

be seen in their eyes. “Ahh,” they sigh

and the memories come flooding back. Those

who push the pedals, young or old, seem to

have an instant recall of that moment which

was certainly a special one. My father said

that there was a bike for me outside in the

garden, he had got it, he said, “from a man at

work whose daughter had outgrown it”.

There it was leaning against the hedge, an

all-black sit-up-and-beg Hercules with rod

brakes, a small wicker basket attached to the

front handlebars, and a large bell. I couldn’t

ride it of course and straight away I was

lurching and wobbling down the road with

instructions being shouted at me from the

front gate. “Don’t swoop round the corner,

keep to the left and mind the cars”. Looking

back now I don’t seem to remember very

much in the way of traffic at all.

Independence beckoned. On two wheels I

could fly along, fast or slow, just pleasing

myself, at least I thought so. I was soon sent

on errands to the local shops for items

which had been forgotten and the

basket was frequently pressed into

use, containing cakes for tea, sugar for

jam making, and even on several

occasions a joint for the Sunday roast.

But I loved it; pushing the wooden gate

open with the front wheel, then I was

off. Propping it up against a

post box, a drainpipe or a

convenient wall I was

always riding around.

Maintenance was a

complete mystery to me

and one which I never really

considered. A small

rectangular metal tin with a yellow

crayon for marking a puncture, red

patches, adhesive and a small valve

rubber were frequently pressed into

use. No such thing as tyre levers here,

rather handles of old cutlery were

used and the sound of them

falling onto the concrete still

resonates today. A flat tyre,

my father pumped it up; a

worn valve, he repaired it;

my father would take care

of the general maintenance

and keep the bike safe for

the road.

Gradually I outgrew it

and there magically in

the hedge was bike

number two. The black

one had disappeared and

in its place was a smarter blue

one. The complexities of the

Sturmey Archer three-speed

gears were patiently

explained to me and this


seemed to be the height of sophistication.

Gone was the wicker basket and in its place a

black saddlebag with a cream trim. This was

attached to the back of the saddle by two tiny

leather straps and was supported somewhat

inadequately on the back mudguard.

We rode in groups and gaggles; flights of

teenagers pedalling to school, squeezing our

bikes through a tiny gap in the railings,

something that was strictly forbidden.

Sometimes to the beach leaving our bikes in a

tangle of wheels on the pebbles, returning late

at night, our lights flickering feebly in the

dark, certainly only a faint glimmer and not

up to the standards of today. No LEDs then,

only batteries which always seemed to be on

the point of corroding and giving out.

The ‘must have’ accessory of the day was

a grey metal, green lined baize holder fixed to

the front fork to hold a tennis racquet. This

was a greatly coveted item, and we sported

them as a kind of badge of sporting prowess,

no matter that they weren’t often in use.

On to 1976 and at last a brand new bike;

one which was bought with money I had

saved. But alas only one gear — money was

not easily come by. A brown Raleigh Transit

with straight handlebars. My two sons

presented me with a bell which had

footballers on it.

This is a bike I still have. It has since been

enhanced by yet another basket, much larger

than the first, which is in constant use.

Looking at it now in the light of the models

today which look far superior I realise that the

tyres are narrow, and it needs new grips on

the handlebars. Brake blocks have been

replaced, new pedals have been bought, and

the chainrings have been blunted and

subsequently swapped. This was sorted out

by the very shop who had sold it to me in the

first place. This they did without charge. They

were delighted to see the gold sticker on the

frame, somewhat faded and scratched but still

recognisable as their own. I cast my eye over

the smooth and elegant models in the

showroom. They looked wonderful and

temptation stared me in the face. My old

bike was outside and I couldn’t do it.

Living on the edge of the flat fen

country with the city of Cambridge

renowned for its student cyclists

only a few miles down the road,

biking around is just so easy

and something which nearly

everyone does. Bicycles are

everywhere; brand new ones

with the latest technologies vie

with older ones on the roads.

Some have been have been

resurrected from the backs of

garages and sheds, cut down from

rafters, languishing un-ridden for

years then oiled and pressed into

use. Pedalling into the small

market town only last week I

picked up windfall apples from the

wall outside a cottage, read a notice

of a proposed new

development and was passed

at speed by a group of men,

heads down, legs flashing

and with distant looks of

great purpose. I was

tempted to comment, “I’ve

been cycling for years and

years, have you?” However

they disappeared before I could

draw breath. But I had purpose too,

meeting a friend. She said, “I knew

you were somewhere around because

I saw your bike.” It’s part of me and I

hope it will be for many years to

come. Cycling — I just love it.

Each month readers share their cycling experiences.

Submit yours at


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