a journal - cycling, sociology, social media

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Car Park racing: Rampaging in Leeds with Paria.cc

Entering a bike race in a multi-storey car park ! what on earth made me think that was a good idea ? I had a sneaking suspicion that my race wouldn't go that well and I was right, but that's not to say that I didn't have a brilliant night out in the Victoria car park Leeds. Food, drink, music, entertainment and a bike race - seriously, what's not to like ? There was a really friendly atmosphere at the RampageLeeds and I got chatting to loads of people from the Yorkshire cycling scene and definitely made some new friends.

One of my reasons for entering the Rampage was to catch up with the lads from the newly formed Paria CC Race Team. PARIA.cc are a Leeds based company who have been good enough to provide me with some excellent kit that I will be training in over the winter. I have shared some pictures of the kit on my Instagram and they are going to share the blog on their website - seems fair. Sam Morgan is the owner of Paria and an interesting guy, a bit different, very direct, strong beard game, partial to a pint, in fact a man after my own heart, some more on Sam and what his PARIA brand is about later.

The Rampage is part hill climb, part time trial and part criterium from Level 6 to Level 11 of the Victoria car park, which is possibly the nicest multi-storey I have ever raced in. I was a bit dubious as to how suitable it would be for bike racing but it was actually ideal, a really grippy surface, corners you could pedal around with decent length straight section between them. Two riders started together and the fastest went through to the next round, simple - last man standing wins. The Rampage was organised in support of a good cause Land Aid a property industry charity working to end youth homelesness in the UK.

Two way traffic in the car park and the first couple of riders are off. I usually use my own pictures on the blog but this week I am using shots from Leeds based cycling photographer Joe Cotterill whose pictures are top class and way better than anything I managed to get on my IPhone. Check out his work HERE Josef Cotterill Photography I saw Joe's pictures on Instagram @jcz_photos so I messaged him to see if it would be OK to use a couple on the blog. Joe was happy for me to use his pictures and more than that he sent me a file the next day with all the images from the night in high resolution, not only a great photographer but a nice guy - thanks again Joe. 

The guys from the Paria CC Race Team waiting to start, on the left Torquil Hall AKA @torqtime and Tom Harmer @tommyharmer23 on the right. The Paria team kit looked great and a bit different from a lot of team/club designs. Paria apply a design aesthetic that avoids block colours and overly prominent logos to try and bring a different fresher look to team kit. 

  Above, another great shot from Joe Cotterill @jcz_photos, and on the far side making a fast start is Tom Harmer of Paria CC Race Team. On the subject of the Rampage start here's a little tip for you just in case you decide to enter next year, it's a really good idea to get clipped in at the first attempt, just as Tom has done in the picture above. Not like me at the third attempt as you are entering the first corner, result ... race over before it started, although trying to put a positive spin on it, I did take second in my heat fairly comfortably. After chatting to the Paria lads it was obvious that they were pretty serious about what they do and what they want to achieve with the team, but at the same time they came across as being chilled out and up for a laugh.

Talking of being up for a laugh, not everyone at the Rampage was taking things totally seriously and a highlight of the event was watching Dave Burns do the ride of the night on a bike that was, well, a touch small for him. Dave is a man who knows a thing our two about bikes and bike riding though, as he runs a company called I Want To Ride My Bike a cycle tuition, training and coaching business in Harrogate and a really nice fella he is too. This picture courtesy of someone else who I got to know at Rampage Paul Bulmer @the_man_of_distraction on Instagram - great picture this from Paul and it sort of sums up the event for me really.

As well as supporting the Paria CC Race Team Sam Morgan here on the left also sponsors Amsterdam based crit racing outfit Team Trouble and he generously donated the winners jerseys for the Rampage. I have got to know Sam quite well and he is happy to concede that in certain situations he sees himself as a bit of an outsider, which is where the idea for Paria and the company name came from as PA-RYE-AH  literally means social outcast. Sam and I hit it off as soon as we met and he is actually very easy to get on with, as long as you like the company of straight talking, honest as the day is long no nonsense northern blokes, which I do. A key tenet underpins what Sam stands for which is, in his words 'don't be a dick' and 'pay it forward' a simple philosophy and typical Sam. (just in case your not sure what he means - UrbanDictionary)
Another reason why Sam and I got on from the start and decided to help each other is that we view the social world of road cycling the same way. During our first conversation Sam talked about what he saw as the inherent elitism around road cycling culture, a feature of the scene that he wasn't really comfortable with and didn't feel a part of. He was referring to those unwritten rules that we all know about and seem to adhere to, from how you should wear your sunglasses, to what kit is deemed to be acceptable or unacceptable. In fact exactly the same topics that I have attempted to explain sociologically in previous posts on the blog HERE Symbolic Violence and HERE Who Has The Power ? These were issues that came up time and again when I was researching racing cyclists for my PhD and became important themes in my my thesis, so I suppose it's no wonder Sam and I get on - we see the world in much the same way.

Did I say earlier that people weren't taking the Rampage too seriously ? Well seriousness levels ramped up considerably when 2017 World Junior time trial champion Tom Pidcock turned up and signed on along with brother Joe.

                                                                                         Another of Joe Cotterills great pictures.
There were bikes of all types being raced at the Rampage, full on race machines, flat bar hybrids, cyclocross and gravel bikes and one of the more unusual (and expensive) was this seven and a half grand Cannondale Ocho F-Si  Hi-MOD World Cup mono fork  'leftie'  being ridden by Guy Kesteven. Guy is another man who knows a thing or two about bikes and bike riding, he should do he has been testing bikes and components for cycling magazines and websites for over twenty years. Guy also has his own rough cut video channel on YouTube, check him out here GuykesTV - Rampaging to see a riders eye view of how absolutely mental Rampage car park racing is, its only 5 minutes long and definitely worth a watch. There's also a glimpse of Dave Burns furiously pedalling his 'mini bike' and my other new mate Paul Bulmer coming in a close second to Guy on his 'leftie'.

Final pic this week from Joe Cotterill of Tom Pidcock demonstrating the cornering ability that helped him take the win at the 2017 National Circuit Race Championships, but despite his skills it was equally talented, and incredibly fit sibling Joe Pidcock who took the overall senior win on the night.

The Rampage will be back next year and I have heard that it is going to be bigger and even better. I for one will definitely be having another crack at it, obviously I will be practicing my clipping in technique over the winter ... or should I go MTB and flat pedals ? anyway I've got a year to decide.

I have some really varied stuff coming up on the blog in the next few weeks so please call back, thanks for reading. Until next time, as my mate Sam would say 'pay it forward'.


Sunday, 30 September 2018

The Plane Spotting Edition

I have to confess to have developed a bit of a thing about planes during the summer. It started on Instagram when a random picture of a 'crashed' jet popped up on the explorer page and before I knew it I was frantically searching for its mystery location. After some fairly extensive research on Google Earth I found where it was and thought to myself ... I am going to have to go and have a look at that. So that's how I found myself in the middle of a moor in north Northumberland taking pictures of this.

I had a rough idea where the plane was located and set off on my gravel bike hoping to ride straight up to it. Unfortunately that plan didn't work out as the ground conditions made riding the bike completely impossible. Despite the fact that I was up on the moor after the driest few of months of weather for years the ground was still a complete bog. So once I caught sight of the plane in the distance it took an hour of real struggle to get to it carrying my bike, of course leaving the bike and just walking to it would have been a lot easier but where's the fun in that ? and the Instragam pictures wouldn't have been as good either.                                                                                        (Instagram @tony_rees123 click on the right or see my previous Instagram post here)

The plane is a 'T-Bird' a Lockheed T33 Shooting Star sub-sonic jet trainer. Although it appears to have crash landed on the moor a more likely explanation, especially considering it is in the middle of a bog is that it was probably dropped in by helicopter. The wreckage of the jet is on the edge of an RAF firing range so it was probably placed there as a dummy target.

At this point you might be thinking that leaning my bike against a plane that is used as a target wasn't the most sensible thing to do but as you can see it's in really good condition and despite the fact that it has apparently been there for thirty years it doesn't look as if they have managed to hit it yet, so I wasn't too worried.

The metal straps over the cockpit have been added to discourage people from climbing inside. I should stress at this point that the plane is on open land with a small road not that far away. I didn't have to climb over any fences to get to it although there were some raised barriers with a sign saying 'NO ENTRY WHEN DOWN - LIVE FIRING' ... even good Instagram pictures wouldn't have tempted me to ignore that message.

On Tuesday evenings through the summer I compete in the TLI organised races at the Croft motor racing circuit near Darlington, a former RAF base which is still used as a private airstrip. In the twelve year that I have been racing at Croft this was the first time that I had actually seen a plane. I had a really good chat with the pilot and part owner who was just as interested in my bike as I was in his plane.

The plane was was built in 1965 in Germany and is owned by a syndicate of four friends, they paid £16,000 for it, flew it back from Germany and spent another £4,000 bringing it up to UK specification. So 5K each and they are up and flying, which sounds like pretty good value to me.          I was third in my age group in the race that night and took home £5 in prize money and immediately decided that from now on all my winnings would be going in to my 'aeroplane fund' ... shouldn't take me too long.

So on the hunt for a secondhand bargain I popped up to Teesside airport to see if there was anything available and look what I found a 'doer upper' ! It's a bit lop-sided I know and clearly needs a bit of work, but how hard can it be, really ? I mean it was only a few weeks ago that I single handedly put a new derailleur hanger on the 'Cafe Bike' (in under two hours) The only problem I could see at this point was that they were probably going to want a bit more than was currently in my 'aeroplane fund' - yep still only a fiver. 

A couple of weeks later while out training and with the heat wave continuing I happened to be passing another airstrip, this time the home of our local model flying club - so obviously I had to pop in to check out the planes. I spent a very enjoyable hour chatting to a smashing bunch of fellas, all members of Stockton Model Flying Club.The club has been going for over fifty years and has 150 members who own the 14 acre site where their airstrip is located.  My visit got me thinking that getting in the air with a model plane might be a bit more of a realistic option, especially as yes you guessed it, still only £5 in the winnings !

The Ribble Pro Cycling Aero 883 gets even more aero with the addition of what's left of one of the planes after a crash landing ... oops that looks expensive, maybe even a model plane is going to be a bit out of my price range ? I wonder if one of the nice chaps would lend me a plane ? 

Final (model) plane of the summer and of this weeks blog a Spitfire taking off over the Ribble Aero 883  and another sunny training ride interrupted by my plane spotting obsession, and this one doesn't even fly, its on a pole !

That's it for this week and hopefully that's it with the plane spotting thing, thanks for humouring me and reading this far. 
Next time on the blog: Bike racing in a multi-storey car park, its fast, its furious and it hurts ... a lot !


Sunday, 16 September 2018

A bike shop under a bridge ... and a brewery.

The Backyard Bike Shop is somewhere that I have wanted to visit for a while but not managed to get to, so when I heard that the business had moved from its previous location in the Ouseburn Valley on the north side of the river Tyne to the south side of the river it seemed like a good opportunity to pop up for a visit. I must confess that I was a slightly puzzled why Nic Vieri  had decided to move his business from the upcoming Ouseburn area, a cultural and creative quarter to the east of Newcastle city centre to the quayside in Gateshead, which on the face of it didn't seem like an obvious location for a  bike shop - well I was totally wrong there and the reasons for moving to the new location were immediately obvious as soon as I got a first look at the location.  

A glorious July afternoon on Tyneside just taking a moment to enjoy the view of the magnificent Tyne Bridge and on the right a first glimpse of the creative container community that I had come to check out. Picture by Collab Media

Nic has moved to become part of a brand new independent container community nestled right under the iconic Tyne Bridge on the Gateshead side of the river. The community has been developed around the By The River Brew Company a micro brewery with an  adjoining tap room.  

Its just as well I was driving or I might not have even made it to the bike shop, as twenty craft beer keg lines in the tap room represent an awful lot of temptation, anyway getting a bit carried away there talking about beer time get back on track and talk bikes.

Nic Vieri owner of the Backyard Bike Shop is a proper bike guy and it was great to spend some time chatting with him about all things cycling. Nic's strategy for the shop is to specialise in repairs and high end custom builds and over time he has built up a network of reliable suppliers allowing him to source even the rarest and most unusual frames, wheels and components.

One of the Backyard Bike Shop recent creations combining classic Italian styling with up to date components. This Tommasini X-Fire is kitted out with Simano Dura-Ace on Kryserium Exiliath wheels and completed with Deda finishing kit. I am not really a fan of Italian bikes as a rule but this one I like ... a lot.

Literally underneath the Tyne Bridge, if anyone knows of a cooler location than this for a bike shop then please let me know where it is. Of course anywhere you suggest must also have a coffee shop/cocktail bar, brewery and a tap room oh, and a restaurant, did I mention the restaurant ?

Along side the bike shop is TRAKOL an eatery specialising in primitive outdoor cooking  indoors ... apparently. Didn't get a chance to sample the food unfortunately but the restaurant looked great, and serves only British produced meat cooked on British charcoal in an open kitchen.

Nic was a great host and gave me a full guided to tour of the development - including the very impressive brewery and tap room.

Just tell the guys at Backyard Bike Shop what your dream bike would look like and they will make it a reality. To make dreams come true Nic has a couple of expert mechanics on his team who both also race bikes at a high level. By coincidence I know one of them, Zeb Kyffin a real rising star of north east cycling who just happens to ride for Ribble Pro Cycling - small world is cycling.

Another recent build a Cinnelli Superstar with Campagnolo Record 12 speed, Miche SWR wheels and finished with Deda Superleggero, I really like this picture and this build.

The coffee shop adjoins the bike shop and is only separated by a mesh screen so you can enjoy a coffee while you watch your pride and joy being worked on. 

When the guys in the bike shop down their spanners for the day the coffee shop transforms into a really cool cocktail bar. Above a house special the Nitro Cold Brew - could easily become my new favourite drink. 

 Capturing content on the quayside and plugging the blog with help from Collab Media 

As if a brewery, tap room, bike shop, coffee shop, cocktail bar and a restaurant were not enough every weekend the vibrant Hawker Market opens for business. Right next door to the Backyard Bike Shop it's a great place to go for craft beer and a fantastic selection of street food from a range of independent traders. 

Final picture this week, a night shot of the container community under the Tyne Bridge where the Backyard Bike Shop is located. If this image doesn't make you want to pay them a visit I don't know what will. 

Sunday, 26 August 2018

2018 That summer when we hardly ever needed to wash our bikes

I decided to take a break from writing during the summer, with a very full race season (a little too full as it turned out but more on that later) which entailed a lot of weekends away at races, along with holidays and a couple of other significant events I knew I wasn't going to be able to give the blog much attention. 

Even though I had decided on a blogging sabbatical before the temperatures began to soar it turned out to be a good decision as what a summer 2018 has been - way too nice to spend any more than the absolute minimum amount of time office bound.

So for this my first post back after my break I am starting with a quick summary of my summer of 2018, the year when we hardly ever had to wash our bikes or wear our arm warmers. More detailed posts on some of what follows will come over the next couple of months so just some snippets this week to get things in some sort of order and refresh my memory as much as anything else.

My race season Part 1:

My last blog post was on the 13th May just after I had completed the TourofTheAbberleys and what a great race it was. The day after I got back I raced a 30 mile TLI handicap at the Croft motor racing circuit, my 5th race in four days and my racing season was in full swing. I ended May having had thirteen race days in the month - this was a mistake. What I should have done (with the benefit of hindsight) was take a short break after the Abberleys, because I didn't rather than getting fitter from racing my form slipped (badly) and after some promising early season results I was finding every race a real struggle. More on this, what I have learned and how the rest of my race season went in a later post.

Above - 20th May - The TLI National Circuit Championships at Oulton Park in Cheshire I was feeling okay for this one and still had a bit of form but managed to miss the break and finish 11th which I wasn't too disappointed with in what was a quality field and a very aggressive race. Picture courtesy of  VeloUK - thanks Larry.

Above the start of the TLI Lapierre Series Round 5, The George Darlington Memorial RR promoted by Liverpool Century Road Club - big field, great circuit, perfect weather, legs felt good ... proceeded to crash on lap one of seven ! Thankfully I got a relatively soft landing in a wheat and field escaped with a cut finger and some grazes and without any major damage to the bike so it could have been a lot worse.

Pedalling out of a hole in Cala Millor 

Races every weekend along with a lot of driving began to take its toll and I realised that I was well and truly cooked, struggling just to get round races never mind get results. So having managed to dig a big hole of fatigue for myself a weeks holiday in Majorca in June came at just the right time. We had planned this break to come at the half way point in my race season with the intention of just doing enough training while I was away just to maintain fitness, but as my form had deserted me completely and I was really fatigued I was forced to have an easy few days of recovery/cafe riding. I felt a bit better by the end of the week then promptly got ill with a stomach bug when we got home which was far from ideal, Calla Millor was really nice though we enjoyed it.

First ride in Majorca and I am colour coded to the max with this killer shoe/sock combo, a Pinarello rental bike and a zebra, yep legs don't look great ... didn't feel great either.

By the end of a week of gentle cafe rides and not much else the old legs were starting to look and feel a bit better.

A bridge, a bike shop and brewery.

A summers day in the 'Toon' taking in the Tyne Bridge on my visit to the The Back Yard Bike Shop at a 'creative container community' the ByTheRiverBrewCompany in Newcastle. I was lucky enough to get a full tour of the shop and the rest of the Hillgate Quay development from the man behind BackYardBikeShop Nic Vieri.

The TheBackYardBikeShop is literally underneath the Tyne Bridge right on the quayside. If there is a cooler location than this for a bike shop anywhere, I would love to know where it is (answers on a postcard please) Nic has created something really different and the location and set up is so impressive it definitely deserves a full blog post - coming next month.

Plane Spotting

At some point in the summer I developed a bit of a thing for aeroplanes - this came totally out of the blue (pun intended) sounds a bit weird I know but it happened. I think it started with Google Earth, you know when you see something on there and think to yourself I am going to have yo go and have a look at that, so I did.

And that's how I found myself on top of a moor in North Northumberland dragging my CX bike across a bog to take pictures of a 'crashed' jet plane complete and in remarkably good condition including the engine - the things I do for Instagram.

From one extreme to the another and my plane spotting phase continued. This time with a visit to my local model flying club, where I spent a very pleasant hour chatting to the members, admiring their planes and watching them fly ... and crash, oops. I have enough aeroplane related stuff for a full blog post with loads of cool pictures along with the story of how the jet plane ended up in the bog, plus a Spitfire taking off and a plane landing at a bike race - don't miss it.

My race season part 2:

As I write this its still on-going, not many races left, but two of them are LVRC National Championship races, the criterium champs at Milton Keynes on September 8th and the Road Race Championships at Stratford on Avon on 7th of October - I will let you know how I get on.


Sunday, 13 May 2018

Two 'Tours' - A big one in Worcestershire and that other one in Yorkshire.

The Tour of the Abberleys is the most prestigious race for veterans in the UK and a flagship event on the LVRC calendar. The Abberleys has been going for twenty years and is a three day, four stage race in Worcestershire with an opening time trial followed by three fairly tough road stages.

Above the start of stage three, it was my first time in Worcestershire and what a beautiful part of the country it is. Tough, undulating roads for bike racing though and stage four of the Abberleys is particularly difficult with two really big climbs on the finishing circuit.

I am not going to write an I did this and then this happened post on my Abberleys weekend, partly because to be honest after a distinctly average opening time trial I went on to trail in at the back of the race on all three road stages and appeared near the bottom of the results every day. But that didn't stop me from having a brilliant weekend and really enjoying the race from start to finish, of course the best May bank holiday weather for years helped a fair bit.

To take on the organisation of any bike races is a big job so to organise four races over a bank holiday weekend is a huge task, however Mike Amery and his team of over seventy helpers ensured that the whole weekend went without a hitch despite the appearance of some last minute road works. Thanks to the glorious weather Mike was able to conduct his pre-race safety briefings outside the Great Witley village hall race HQ and with invaluable help from the Midlands Bike Marshalls the racing felt really safe all weekend.

I stayed at the Premier Inn in Kidderminster for the weekend which is about twenty minutes drive from Great Witley where the Abberleys is based. I mention this only because I had not realised until recently how bike friendly the Premier Inn hotel chain is Bikeswelcome. They don't just tolerate cyclists, they actually want our business and are more than happy for you to keep your bike in your room, unlike some places I have stayed.

Above another glorious morning in Worcestershire before the start of stage three with fellow north east rider and winner of the 'Abberleys' in 2003 and 2011 Paul Stubbs. There was a great atmosphere all weekend and as with all LVRC and TLI age related events the racing was extremely competitive  but everyone remains friendly and supportive with plenty of advice and encouragement on offer.

Above Neil Baxter and John Cann of Blumilk.com completed the north east contingent in the race and both were competitive in all four stages. I met loads of people over the course of the weekend and one of the first I got to know was Craig Moody (Giant Halifax) who was really strong riding in my race but in the 'C' category. Craig and I got talking on day one and soon realised that our sons knew each other and had raced together as Juniors, its small world cycling. It was also really good to meet blog reader and fellow cycling academic Doctor Mark Corbett from Worcester University riding for Worcester St Johns CC. Mark is an authority on the relationship between cycling bio-mechanics and muscle fatigue, a really nice guy and an excellent bike rider, click on this Link DocCorbett for more on his work. Someone else I got to know and who I took some advice from that helped me during stage four was Sean Kilroy of Cambridge Vets another classy rider who went on to finish 2nd on the final day - thanks Sean.

An impressive display of trophies for the overall and category winners at the Abberleys on display in the village hall. In my category 'E' for riders over sixty we had a race within the race and I finished 7th out of the 14 who started which I was pretty happy with to be honest, although it was more to do with my dogged determination to finish all four stages when some of the other old boys didn't, rather than anything else.

While I was away enjoying my tour in Worcestershire the sun was also brilliant for the riders and spectators at the Tour de Yorkshire. I watched the highlights every night in the Premier Inn and while it doesn't really compare with the Abberleys the TdY also looked like a well organised little tour ...


After I got home from Worcestershire I had the opportunity spend some time chatting with Tour de Yorkshire stage one winner and local hero Harry Tanfield and what an entertaining cafe stop it was. When I say 'chatting with' it would be more accurate to say 'listening intently to' as Harry was on great form and he came out with so many fascinating details and insights that I wish I had taken notes or recorded what he was saying.

Harry had us in stitches with stories of loosing his phone (during a stage), loosing a wheel after puncturing (left it in a hedge) and chasing back on for 50k after loosing contact with the peleton after his puncture while wearing the blue leaders jersey. The crash for Alex Patton in to an on-coming car while helping Harry back to the race didn't sound quite so funny, in fact it sounded horrendous.

A couple of things stood out for me from listening to Harry's often extremely detailed and sometimes hilarious account of the TdY, one is that power and knowledge of power is everything at the top level. Harry is one of those people who have that uncanny ability to accurately recall the details of a race almost moment by moment as it happened and watts were a constant theme throughout the conversation, how many he was producing at a particular time, how long he could sustain it for and what he needed to produce at some specific and crucial moments in the race, absolutely fascinating stuff.

Not only did Harry talk about his own power numbers but he is also able to accurately assess the power capabilities of other riders, this was particularly useful during the break on stage one which as we know stayed away and from which he went on to win and wear the leaders jersey. The fact that Harry was determined to be in the stage one break and made it happen illustrates this. In his own words: "It wasn't a case of floating in to a move, it was me who initiated it from the start, got it going, drove it and got us the gap". Which leads to another thing that struck me about Harry's attitude to the race and to the World Tour 'stars' that he was racing against - he was not phased to be racing against and beating the biggest names from the biggest teams in professional cycling ... not phased at all ! Well done 'H' absolutely brilliant mate.

Equally enjoyable for me was watching #theteamthatrock the girls from BoomPods/Edco/NRG competing at UCI level for the first time in the Asda Womens Tour de Yorkshire. A brilliant performance by the team and great to see another of my friends Ellen McDermott produce an outstanding ride to finish 18th on stage one. Something tells me that we will be hearing a lot more about Ellen in the future.
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