Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

We could be heroes

“Barry!” people keep shouting as I ride past. But I’m not Barry.

Photo: Mike White

Barry is the bike. A sleek, vintage machine named after the great Barry Hoban, who once held the record for the most stage wins in the Tour de France by a British rider. I’ve borrowed Barry (the bike) from retro cycle hire experts Glory Days in order to ride the glorious L’Eroica Britannia. Eroica is a bike ride and a fancy dress party combined, part cycle event, part village fete, part music festival. And importantly, your bike, like Barry, must conform to Eroica’s strict rules in order to enter – built pre-1987, shifters on the down tube, toe clips instead of clipless and so on.

Photo: Mike White

Based in beautiful Bakewell in Derbyshire, a choice of three Eroica ride routes circle out and back across the Peak District. Barry and I are riding the 55-mile ‘medium’ option, alongside the Brooks England team. Brooks have very kindly invited Boneshaker along to enjoy a jolly weekend of gin, gentle riding and general appreciation of their rather fine saddles and luggage. Here we all are, just about to set off.

Photo: Liz Seabrook

This is Eroica’s second year on British soil – it originated on Tuscany’s strade bianche, and now has partner events all over the place from California to Japan. A reported 50,000 people have come for this year’s festival experience as a whole, of whom some 3,600 are actually riding. The rest seem happy to camp and laugh and wander among the stalls laden with bikes and bike parts old and new, or just to flop down with a large Hendricks gin, which seems to be everywhere. No bad thing.

Photo: Thom Heald

Photo: Thom Heald

There is a smattering of live music (everyone loves a brass band), a tween-screaming funfair and a mini-cinema tent screening cycling movies. Oh, and about a million dogs, many of them wearing tweed. Really.

The days running up to Ride Day had brought chilly winds, banks of ominous black cloud and the occasional flurry of rain. We shivered as we stepped off the coach from sunny London.

Photo: Mike White

But Sunday brought glorious sunshine for the most part, and the ride itself wove through spectacular scenery – if you’ve not yet ridden in the Peak District National Park, add it to your to-do list immediately. We climbed brave and windswept peaks, bounced across gravel and even forded a river. I took this a bit fast and almost ended up face first amongst the fishes.

Derbyshire’s answer to the strade bianche proved to be the Monsal Trail, with white packed gravel offering authentically dusty ruggedness.

Photo: Thom Heald

Much of the Monsal follows the former Midland Railway Line making it pleasingly flat, with a series of impressive viaducts and dark, dripping tunnels.

Photo: Thom Heald

The on-road sections were mostly quiet and even where we did meet traffic, sheer force of cyclist numbers meant motorists seemed resigned to sharing the road with good grace. As we rolled through picture-postcard villages with butchers and bakers and red telephone boxes, it felt as though we’d pedalled back about sixty years. All the plus fours, flat caps and ancient bicycles around only served to enhance the sense of timewarp.

Photo: Thom Heald

The band of Brooks riders were a disparate bunch: journalists, bike retailers, Brooks staff and Eroica organisers from Europe, the US, Australia and Japan. We all rolled out together happily enough, with much admiration for each others’ bikes. High-end Japanese cyclewear brand PEdALED equipped us with matching socks, whilst Brooks England supplied suitably retro-styled woollen cycling shorts and jerseys. Suffice to say we looked awesome.

Photo: Thom Heald

As the ride progressed we’d separate and regroup, especially at hilltops (where the views really deserved savouring) and the feeding stations, which seemed to pop up in a flutter of bunting every 5 minutes, offering local ale and other sports-performance fare including sausages, stilton and masses of Bakewell tart.

Photo: Mike White

Penultimate pit-stop was in the grounds of Chatsworth House, where plentiful free champagne from Rapha made the final hill a good deal more challenging than it really deserved to be.

eroica chatsworth

Barry performed impeccably, and we all agreed afterwards that riding old bikes is a lot of fun. Mind you, riding any kind of bike is usually pretty fun. The Brooks saddle, brand new though it was, revealed itself to be extremely comfortable. And I’m not just saying that.

Despite its name, Eroica proved not to be heroically hard work. It was very much a leisurely day out on two wheels, more like the great cake-fuelled British institution that is audax than the more performance-focussed sportive.

Indeed, it was all very British, in the nicest possible way: friendly, inclusive, international, with plenty of tea and cake. And gin.

Our friend Thom Heald took loads of wonderful photos, so feast your eyes on the selection below – and perhaps we’ll see you in Bakewell next year?



Photo: Thom Heald Photo: Thom Heald Photo: Thom Heald Photo: Thom Heald Photo: Thom Heald Photo: Thom Heald Photo: Thom Heald Photo: Thom Heald Photo: Thom Heald Photo: Thom Heald

Photo: Thom Heald




Jude Brosnan

Cycling up to 30 miles a day on her bejewelled ‘Mexibike’ (check the pics below), Jude Brosnan seamlessly combines her love for cycling and writing by contributing to various cycling publications. We were delighted to feature Jude in Boneshaker issue 15, where she wrote and photographed a feature about bikes and VW Beetles in Mexico City. Here Rachel Bonney from michaux.cc speaks to Jude about her creative adventures on and off her bike.

JudeBrosnan Portrait Closeup2

You write for your cycling blog Ispeakbike, as well as for various other cycling related editorials such as Boneshaker. How long have you been blogging about bikes and how do you combine this with your other work?
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write about bikes. I’m a journalist so my work might differ day to day but cycling to everything remains constant so I always have something to write about. Cycling keeps me motivated, I always see things that inspire me. Einstein came up with the theory of relativity on his bike. Yesterday I made up a song about sweary taxi drivers. Basically the same thing.

What inspired you to start your cycling blog Ispeak bike?
I was doing an MA in creative writing specialising in modern urban narratives of the city. My thesis was on mapping ghost bikes in London. I started the blog as a way to document my bike-related research. It sort of stayed and evolved. I want to show everyone that you don’t have to go nuts on Lycra if you don’t want to, you can be a serious cyclist and still look like yourself.

You recently starred as Eileen Sheridan ‘one of the greatest women riders’ in a documentary film about life on her bicycle. Tell us how you landed this role?
It was sheer coincidence. The director needed someone who could ride a vintage racer all day in the freezing cold and my name came up. To turn me into Eileen took over 100 kirby grips. She lives around the corner from where I went to school. I probably cycled past her. We met just after filming and really hit it off.

JudeBrosnan Boneshaker

How has Eileen inspired you as a cyclist in today’s cycling standards?
She was a pioneer in a time where there wasn’t all the bike paraphernalia we have today. I told her I wished she had worn a cap or helmet back in the day because my head was freezing during filming. She loves all the gear that is available today. It goes to show you don’t need anything but passion and determination.

As a female cyclist how do you feel women are represented on the roads today compared to the 1950s when Eileen was queen of the road?
I think I see just as many women next to me at the traffic lights as men. I’ve always cycled; I used to cycle to school so it’s second nature to me.

Tell us about your cycle commute to work – how often do you do it, how far is it, and why you enjoy it?
I live way out west so everywhere is a good 10 miles away. If I just cycled to work and back it would be 26 miles, but I always end up adding extra mileage to that. All my friends cycle, so if it’s someone’s birthday we’ll put on party hats charge up our speakers and ride somewhere far. I love my city and never get bored of cycling around it. It’s constantly changing and I notice new things everyday. I cycle through Hyde Park and see horses. You don’t see horses on the tube.

JudeBrosnan Michaux Handlebartape

How do you integrate cycle style into your everyday wardrobe and what key pieces do you find work best for cycling?
I don’t have a separate cycling wardrobe; I cycled to Paris in jeans. I have a few tricks like always carrying a safety pin to make skirts into culottes so I don’t show London my pants, and layering up because I get really cold. I carry a spare pair of everything. The other day I got so soaked I had to change my watch.

You have a tandem, who do you ride with?
I ride tandem mostly for fun with my sister as stoker. We have taken our Christmas tree home on it and have cycled it from London to Brighton a few times and nailed every hill. It’s our family Volvo and night bus rolled into one. I’m involved with Charlotte’s Tandems, who organise tandems for visually impaired and disabled people. I cycle with a visually impaired lady. We ride around parks and don’t stop talking.

Your bike has a definite Mexican theme. What is that all about?
In the past few years I’ve done a few stints in Mexico City. I love cycling around that city too and did some stuff with Ecobici, the Mexican version of Boris Bikes. Cycle culture is rapidly growing over there. They close this main road every Sunday so families can cycle around traffic free and there are lots of bike groups that meet up and go on rides including the bicitekas. I did a little project on bikes and VW Beetles that is on display in Look Mum No Hands (and featured in Boneshaker issue 15). I got this bike soon after I returned to London. I always personalise my bikes so it was only fitting that this one was decorated in homage to all things Mexican. I call it my Mexibike.

Jude Brosnan is a brand ambassador for cycling accessories company Michaux. Read more interviews with inspirational female cyclists in the #michauxwoman series on michaux.cc

You can follow Jude on her blog ISpeakBike

Photos of Jude courtesy of Rosie Holtom

Copenhagen Bike Messengers

You know you’ve got that elusive work-life balance sussed when your work is your life(style) and vice versa. The Danish cycling nuts behind the website Ride Copenhagen have created this rather awesome Boneshaker-esque video that focuses on two bike messengers from Copenhagen, Jumbo and Fergie, during the pre-event for the European Cycle Messenger Championship 2014, which took place in Stockholm during July.

These bike messengers have not only dedicated their working lives to our two-wheeled friends, but they’ve also immersed themselves into a social circle of fellow fixie fanatics. This small community of Danish bike messengers host an array of national competitions, such as fast n’ furious alleycats, urban hill climbs and Strip Naked While Holding A Track Stand champs (we’re not kidding, just watch the video). For these bike messengers their job is about so much more than just money; it’s about speed, friendship, gear and the sense of freedom. We totally get that.

Cycling a stage of the Tour of Britain

There are few sporting events that mere mortals can emulate better than a professional road race. Fancy a knock-up on the centre court at Wimbledon? I don’t think so. How about a kick-about on the hallowed turf at Wembley? Dream on. But a chain gang along the same roads as the pro cyclists? That’s entirely possible, as I discovered when I joined NFTO pro cyclist Dean Downing and some fellow hacks for a taste of Stage 3 of this year’s Tour of Britain – an epic 180km route through Mid Wales from Newtown in Powys to the Tour’s only summit finish on The Tumble in Monmouthshire. Cue some climb stats: approx. 450m of climbing over 6km at an average gradient of 10%. Yup, it hurt.

The Tumble

Fueled with the obligatory pre-cycling sustenance of porridge and coffee our mini peloton left Drover Cycles in Hay on Wye – led by owner Luke Skinner who organised the ride – to complete the final 80km of the Welsh leg of the Tour of Britain, the UK’s biggest professional cycle race that sees 20 teams of six riders vying to claim the coveted gold jersey over eight stages. As we wound our way through the Monmouthshire countryside it was abundantly obvious why the county is known as the cycling capital of Wales and is a popular training destination for major road cycling teams. Undulating roads with long, sweeping descents and the occasional punchy climb, which made me curse that my bike wasn’t fitted with an 11-32 cassette, were the order of the day. As was coffee and cake at the rather spectacular Gliffaes County House Hotel that overlooks the River Usk.

Number crunching my Garmin stats it certainly put into perspective the sheer pace of the professional peloton and the incredible speeds that the pros attack climbs. My reasonable 10km/hr pace up The Tumble was made to look entirely pedestrian when Dean powered past me and was a speck on the horizon within seconds. But this part of the world is not one you want to speed through without raising your head to absorb the visual beauty of Mid Wales and the Brecon Beacons; unless, of course, you’re getting paid to stare at your stem in a pro peloton.

Although Stage 3 of the Tour of Britain route officially finishes atop The Tumble, after taking in the breathtaking view at the summit there was one more thing I had to do: descend. 28 minutes of tough ascending were transformed into 5 minutes of 50km/hr downhill exhilaration. Highly recommended. As is road cycling in Mid Wales.

The Friends Life Tour of Britain started today in Liverpool City Centre and the pros will be tackling Stage 3 through Mid Wales on Tuesday 9th Sept 2014. For more information visit www.tourofbritain.co.uk.

For top-notch accommodation in the area Danyfan is a beautiful self-catering house at the foot of Pen-y-Fan in the Brecon Beacons, where the owners Emma and Stevie will ensure that all your cycling needs are met. For booking enquiries or information about many other cyclist friendly accommodation in the area visit www.breconcottages.com