The Bicycle Academy – help to get this off the ground

I want to bring to your attention a fantastic project that has started up in Frome. It’s been set up by Andrew Denham, the man who brought us the Cobble Wobble uphill bicycle race.

It’s called The Bicycle Academy – at its heart it’s a framebuilding course, but it’s really much more than that. It’s a way of standardising bikes and parts for Africa where a bicycle is a lifeline for many people. It’s a bicycle workshop, it’s a supplier of bike building parts and a source of excellent bike-building advice.

Or at least it will be if Andrew and Brian can raise the funds to get it off the ground. This is where they need your help with crowdsourced funding.

“A place to learn how to make bikes. You keep the skills, your first bike goes to someone who really needs it.

The Bicycle Academy is a new enterprise providing people with the skills and facilities to design and make their own bikes. Frame building will be taught by the legendary Brian Curtis as evening classes or short weekday courses. As part of the learning process each student will make a frame designed specifically for use in Africa. Once graduated students will be able to use The Bicycle Academy workshop to hone their skills and build their own frames.

Now, to get the project up and running we’re crowd funding The Bicycle Academy and that’s why we need your help. Our crowd funding campaign started on the 1st of November and will finish on the 13th of December. We’ve got the workshop, but haven’t got anything to fill it with – We need to buy brazing stations, a lathe, a pillar drill, jigs and a full complement of bike tools, so please support us by making a pledge”

Visit the site http://www.thebicycleacademy.org/ and if you like what you see, make a pledge. There are lots of different scales of pledge and every little bit helps, you only pay the money if the target amount is reached. Help get this amazing project off the ground.

Published in: on November 3, 2011 at 11:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Quick catch up time

It’s appalling I know. I blog briefly then disappear for ages, necessitating one of these picture heavy catch up pieces. So what have I been up to bikewise?

The first thing was the Endura Lionheart, which was a choice of 100 miles or 100 kilometres. Naturally I chose the 100km (60 miles), even so that was a stupid undertaken given my expanding girth and lack of fitness.

Not only that, because I don’t have a car, I had to cycle to the start from my house anyway – which was 11 miles.

As I lined up at the start in a sea of brand names and tens of thousands of pounds worth of bikes, I felt conspicuous due to my lack of lycra. It was amazingly fun though. Highlights included a horrific blowout 8 miles in that shredded my tyre, marmite sandwiches at the feed station, Fay thrashing me as my legs cramped, walking two of the hills and hitting the finishing straight at 38mph. A brilliant day, well organised AND medals for everyone!

Then I went with the Explorer Scouts to France and we cycled from St Malo to Cherbourg over four days. A wonderful camping and cycling trip with 165 miles covered, it’s going to be the subject of another post.


Then my car finally got taken away for scrap. I’ve been using public transport to get to my business partner’s house every week, it takes me 3 hours and costs me £32.00. So I’ve started cycling there – (or sometimes part of the way there and then the rest by train) – it takes me 2.5 hours and costs me not as much. The route has some lovely views and interesting things to see. I lost my wallet on the test ride to Gingergeek‘s but amazingly found it on the A36 the next day; hooray! then my spoke broke, meaning I had to walk back seven miles; booooo!



There’s much more cycling to come! Perhaps too much. I’ve committed myself to 470 miles over 4 days for charity – I’m going to need some sponsorship. More on that anon.

Published in: on May 16, 2011 at 8:51 pm  Comments (3)  
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British Wildlife as seen from the bicycle (bit upsetting)

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Published in: on March 29, 2011 at 10:21 am  Comments (5)  
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Revolutions – Calshot Velodrome

A low rumble, felt rather than heard, the roar of air in the ears, a shaking woodgrain blur across the vision punctuated by the dominance of a trembling red line which must be stuck to and followed. The rhythmic push and suck of breath, an insistent whirr of chain on cog, pressure on the right of the bar, the bike at a seemingly impossible angle, and speed, always speed. I had entered into a trancelike state, feeling like I could ride like this forever, until the voice of our instructor Ben called me to slow it down gently and come into the centre of the track where the others waited.

We were at Calshot velodrome near Southampton for an evening session on the track arranged by Andrew Denham of the Black Canon Collective, and Cobble Wobble organiser. Andrew is the kind of person who makes things happen, (more on his latest cycling venture in another post, it’s very exciting) he had promised us a trip to the track, and this had been booked in for several months. So various members of the Fancy Collective including Matt Wellsted, designer of the Cobble Wobble artwork, Jade Berry, the  design talent behind Black Ink Comms, Jennie Wood, the dynamite PR Avalanche Media, Fay Goodridge, editor of The List, had piled into Matt’s car and followed Andrew and the Black Canon Collective down the A36.

On arrival at the drome Andrew rushed in ahead in order to see our faces as we emerged from the entrance tunnel to the centre of the wooden track. At first glance it’s a daunting prospect, the angle on the berms is 45 degrees at Calshot, there was no one else there inside the massive warehouse-like structure and it’s all very stark. Two wooden benches in front of a series of racks holding the stripped down black track bikes. No brakes, fixed wheel, clipless pedals. My Lemond Etape has a classic elegance to it, despite being alluminium and carbon fibre. These bikes looked lean and hungry. they had one purpose only, to be ridden at speed around a circular track and to hold the line.

We were booked into a beginner session as most of us had never even ridden fixed before or used clipless pedals. Ben, our instructor gave us a pep talk, before quickly getting us onto the bikes and riding round on the inner, flat track. The bikes were easier to handle than I thought they would be.

Next we went onto the slight camber of the inner track, and finally he allowed us up onto the berms – it was incredible. It’s easy to see why track riding is addictive. The speed and concentration are intense, and a strange feeling of calm and well-being came over me as I circled and circled.

For all of us, I think it felt like something we want to do again.

All photographs by Andrew Denham – and big thanks to him for organising this

Published in: on March 19, 2011 at 9:45 pm  Comments (4)  
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The rest of 2010

Sorry for the lack of updates – rest assured I have been cycling since the Cobble Wobble. It’s been tricky finding time to blog about the rides.

My car exploded in summer 2010 (you know it’s bad when the AA man says “Wow, do you mind if I take a photo of the engine to show my colleagues?”) so I have been using public transport, bicycles and shank’s pony to get around. My experiences of public transport are a subject for another post – suffice to say that we have a hell of a long way to go in this country before we can start calling public transport a remotely viable alternative to car ownership – at least in this area.

Mostly I’ve been riding the Brompton – though a shredded tube has recently put it out of action (and there appears to be a shortage of Brompton size tubes – though I’ve got one now), with a little bit of the old MTB for rides to Trowbridge station.

Here are some of the Highway Cycling Group’s doings in the latter part of last year.

Fog bound ride home - Frome

A foggy ride home in the early hours of the morning, deserted roads, piercing cold...

Riding a bike in Frome

Following Matt on his Charge Plug around the industrial estates of Frome - lunchtime blast!

Nice bike

Not sure where I saw this - but I found it pleasing to look at.

Brompton and Phone box

Another early morning ride home

Riding the fire escape on a bike

Ndrw Dnhm contemplates a descent of the fire escape on his bike!

Crazy trike

Crazy trike with stilts and dog!

Matt lines up a shot

Matt lines up a shot of a still life for his Illustration for The Ride Journal, which illustrates a piece by Andrew Denham

Frome 10:10 mass bike ride

The Frome 10:10 mass bike ride

Mixed Grill

The machines ridden in this blog were powered mainly by mixed grill

Published in: on January 17, 2011 at 8:41 pm  Comments (2)  
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The Legend of El Cobblo, Frome Cobble Wobble

I am sitting in the Fancy studio in Frome, on my own, I’ve just taken some Panadol Extra + Caffeine washed down with a free can of Red Bull. My legs are twitching and I’m feeling fantastic. Why? I’ve just ridden the 2nd Frome Cobble Wobble, and played host to a star of Mexican Wrestling. Here’s how it unfolded:

It was months since Andrew Denham of the Black Cannon Collective wandered into the Fancy Studio and commissioned the design and website for the 2nd Annual Cobble Wobble, all the preparation, the sketches, the artwork, the printing, the coding and the testing, all came into fruition for a few amazing hours today.

The Cobble Wobble is a hill sprint up a steep cobbled slope in Frome called St Catherine’s Hill. Not to put too fine a point on it, it is a bastard of a hill. Even walking up it leaves me out of breath. So to ride a bike up it, whilst egged on by crowds who stand mere inches from the taped off edge of the course, would seem to be madness. When Nic, of Espace Solutions heard we were riding it, she simply said “The hill we walked up that nearly killed us? S**t!”

Myself and Matt Wellsted of Fancy, for some reason, told Andrew we would ride it. As the day loomed closer, we felt that perhaps it was a bit of a stupid thing to volunteer to do.

So we had a chat, and decided that we didn’t stand any chance competitively, but stood a good chance of entertaining the crowds if we did something a bit daft. To this end, Matt decided to dress up like the chap in the poster he created, and I decided to do it on my Brompton, dressed in a suit, and smoking a pipe.

Meanwhile, as builders of the website, we were contacted by the Mexican Wrestler El Cobblo, who travels the world entering cobbled hill sprints in memory of his brother Carlos, who tragically died of sheer knackeredness on a cobbled hill race in Mexico. He was looking for a base in Frome, and also it turns out, a bike, as his had a puncture and the seatpost was a bit squiffy. We extended the hand of hospitality to this great man and bid him join us on Sunday morning in our preparations.

Sunday morning dawned a bit grey, with the promise of rain. No matter, we assembled at the studio at 1pm to prepare. El Cobblo turned up, fully masked as usual and on checking out my Lemond Etape, deemed it worthy. He was amazed at the lightness, as his own bike is steel.

El Cobblo in the studio

El Cobblo, prior to the race in our studio

I suited up and prepared my tobacco, packing my pipe with some smooth shag. Matt slipped off to Live2Ride to get his fixed cog changed and El Cobblo and I rode to register.

El Cobblo and I ride to the registration point. El Cobblo delighted by the beeping of horns and waves he received.

El Cobblo and I ride to the registration point. El Cobblo delighted by the beeping of horns and waves he received.

Having given our names and collected our numbers, I took El Cobblo down to Live2Ride to meet up with Matt. El Cobblo chatted with his fans, telling children to eat more vegetables and meeting some of the opposition. Then we headed up the hill and waited in line for our turn on the Cobbles:

El Cobblo meets the Angel

Andrew Denham meets El Cobblo

At the Start of the Cobble Wobble

Gradually, we inched towards the Start. All to soon I was at the start line, I lit up the pipe, got it going and launched myself sedately up the hill. In my lowest gear, I spun the cranks wildly, tinging my bell. On approaching the corner where Stoney Street splits off I decided it might be quite funny to signal right. This was a bit of a mistake, the bike veered madly to the right and I thought I was going to spill all over the cobbles. Somehow I managed to stay upright and got the bike pointing in the right direction (up) again without putting a foot down. The crowd pressed in and clapped and cheered.

Your author on the Cobble Wobble

Your author on the Cobble Wobble, picture by Jez Cope

The smoke filled my lungs as the hill became steeper and steeper. Soon I had no oxygen left, just smoke, the pipe was running hot and my head felt lighter and lighter. As I approached the finish line I could hear the tannoy blaring that I was a proper ‘chap’, by then I was almost blacking out from oxygen starvation, but approaching a state of shamanic bliss. I aimed hard for the finish line and got over, only to find I still had to ride the exit shoot. I took the pipe out to do that and my head was swimming. There were pats on my back and even a hug from some fellow.

I looked behind me to see El Cobblo finishing, still on the bike and screaming to the sky that this was for his brother Carlos!

The press crowded round the mighty Mexican, he was interviewed for Red Bull TV, The local rag, bloggers. Parents pressed their kids forward for him to shake their hands. He beat his chest mightily, and spoke of his love for his late brother, the crowds wanted more, but I could see he was eager to leave.

We rode in silence away from the hordes, his cloak flowing behind him as the children who ran behind us dropped away, holding their knees and panting. El Cobblo did not look back, he raised one fist in salute, and I turned to see a small boy with his own fist raised in imitation, receding round the corner.

Back at the Old Church School, I asked El Cobblo if he was staying for the party. He shook his head, and said no, there is a race tomorrow in Spain that he must attend. He looked out over the rooftops of Frome, but I could see that his stare was thousands of miles and twenty six years away. We said our farewells, he shook my hand, thanked me for the use of my bike. And was away.

I raced back to see Matt start his run, as the first of the Fixie riders. The rain had started to come down, thinning the crowds and making the Cobbles slick and treacherous. He put in a hell of an effort and finished with a respectable time:

Matts race face

Matt's Race Face

Matt goes up

Matt goes up - encouraged by a man running alongside and shouting

Then, the elation. I got a t-shirt, some badges. The post-mortem of the rides, the times.

The whole day was superb, but it’s not over yet. As designers of the Cobble Wobble and website builders, we got free passes to the Red Bull party.

I’m off there now.

But, I will be thinking of El Cobblo, and his lonely quest.

Adios Amigo.

El Cobblo

PS: If anyone has any pictures – please let me know!

Published in: on September 19, 2010 at 6:57 pm  Comments (4)  
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Old School Shorts – Cycling Short Film Special – Riding home on moonbeams

On the last Friday of every month, the studio where I work most of the week puts on a short film night. As we’re based at the Old Church School in Frome, we call it Old School Shorts. With the Cobble Wobble looming close we though we’d ask the race organiser, Andrew Denham, to curate the event.

Andrew Denham is part of the Black Canon Collective – a group of mountain bikers who are often to be seen bombing around the forest at Longleat – sometimes dressed as superheroes – always with big grins on their faces.

Andrew chose the films for the middle section of the night. There were some crackers, from Minibike battles in Portland, to mad tricks on Scottish Streets. We managed to watch the brilliant RSA/Rapha film Two Broad Arrows by Adrian Moat (it’s no longer up on the Rapha site). As ever, we peppered the evening with music videos, vintage adverts, and amusing cat films. All projected up big on the wall of studio while we lounged around on sofas and swivel chairs, munching on pizza and nibbles and drinking beer.

Old School Shorts bicycle film night

All in all we had about an hour and half of films with two intervals. It was great to finally meet @westfieldwanderer from Radstock who I’ve been conversing with on Twitter for ages. We had a good chat about bicycle commuting, local hills and AtoB magazine.

Afterwards, Ed took some photos of the old bikes and parts that Andrew had collected to be donated for The Bristol Bike Project and we returned to the studio for music videos, Guess who games, more food and drink and good chat. People took turns on the VJ ing and we watched a myriad of films, from helmetcam madness, to Bats for Lashes videos via Vanilla Ice and Guns & Pork, my favourite part of the VJ section was a film of Andrew putting his shed up on his allotment.

Things wound up just after midnight, and I loaded up the Brompton for the ride home.The streets of Frome were doubly quiet, because I was suffering from a bit of a head cold, my hearing in my left ear had disappeared. As I’m half deaf in my right ear anyway, this meant that I could barely hear a thing. Not that there was much to hear, I didn’t see a single car moving until I left the town. I took it slowly through the streets, freewheeling wherever I could, and gently riding up the hills in the lowest gear.

On leaving the town I suddenly noticed the moon, not yet full, but incredibly bright. The wooded hill down to Oldford, normally a pitch-black potluck ride of guessing where the kerb might be, was transformed into a gently lit flight through a luminous forest. As I turned up the hill towards Beckington I pulled over to look out over the valley – gloriously rolled out before me in and picked out in sharp electric detail by the witchlight. The stark black of the distant hills, the sulphurous streetlamps of Frome itself, the deteriorating skeleton elms that lined the slope, all seemed so vibrant and hyper-real, and I was struck with an unsettling feeling that the same scene by daylight was not the true view, but merely a reflection of what I was seeing now.

I continued up the hill, my blocked up ears meant all I could hear was my own breath and the creaking of my jaw. I felt, rather than heard the steady trundling squeak of my faithful Brompton’s cranks as I spun the pedals. In the hedge to left there was a brilliant white blaze of light, as I inched closer it resolved into the shape of an old milestone. I had never noticed it before, despite passing it many, many times, yet here it was glowing fiercely under the lunar influence.

The air on the slope down into Beckington sucked the warmth from the bare skin of my arms, I had enough momentum to get halfway up the hill on the other side. Past the 24hr garage – devoid of customers, over the roundabout, devoid of traffic, past the place where the gypsies camp and hard left before the boundary stone. Ursa Major was a few degrees off horizontal, far to the West a few low and long clouds stretched themselves out above the land, the lights of a distant plane flickered on and off in the space between cloud and earth as it tracked towards the orange glow of Bristol. The lane was narrow, and the moon flung her beams directly over it from left to right, pools of moonlight settled on the tarmac, punctuating the ink-black shadows that leapt from the trees and hedges and hid the stones and cracks in the road. My Wheels seemed to find them without any trouble.

I felt I could ride on into the dawn, but the glamour of the moonlight would have worn off quickly, leaving me cold and tired to endure the long hour before daylight alone.

The village was still and silent, not even the blue flicker of a television set could be seen. The restored clock on top of the Cross Keys softly chimed one o’clock as I folded the Brompton, bid the moon a goodnight and closed the door.

The Warminster Wobble is back

Don’t forget that this weekend (19-20th June) sees the return of the Warminster Wobble. Last year’s event was a great success and Colin and the wobble crew are going through it all again, only bigger and better.

There’s a choice of rides out of Warminster Town Park on the Saturday from 11am – then the main Festival of Cycling on the Sunday 11am-5pm. It’s going to be great:

More details on the Warminster Wobble website.

Warminster Wobble poster

Published in: on June 16, 2010 at 10:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Here’s my idea for shutting down organised bike theft

I am lucky enough to have, so far,  never suffered the horror of returning to get my bike from somewhere, only to find it has gone, half-inched, nicked, stolen. I live in constant fear of it happening though.

Wheel sans bike :-(

Wheel Sans Bike - image from Flickr by Romana Klee - posted under a Creative Commons license

I read this article today on the Guardian’s Bike blog. About how there is a new Police taskforce being set up in London to tackle cycle theft. The idea is to try and find the nicked bikes as they are being sold on via websites and various other channels. I think this is a good idea – not sure how effective it will be.

Here’s my idea, and errr this is a brainstorm so all ideas are valid. Police work with a large group of volunteers who between them own a range of bikes of different costs, conditions and styles. This are geotagged with powerful transmitters (possibly powered by the bike itself?) which push out the bike’s location as it moves (I only say as it moves, as I’m not sure the battery would last long on a transmitter if it put out location while stationary). Or it may switch on and send only once every ten minutes or half an hour. The bike owner then just goes about their normal business. It’s not really a honeypot operation as the bike is not looking to be deliberately nicked. The advantage of using actual bike owners bicycles, is that pro-thieves will have learned the patterns of the owners habits. If the bike is stolen, Police then take over and track the bike to its location for surveillance and recovery – hopefully with the result that they nab a district fence in the process.

In the meantime, not even a really good lock may be enough to deter thieves. Maybe the answer is to have a crappy runaround bike for when you need to leave it locked up somewhere, and save your lovely machine for those rides where your cheeks never leave the saddle save on a long and lung-bursting climb.

Published in: on June 15, 2010 at 1:54 pm  Comments (1)  
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Bicycles outside shops #3 BATH

Sometimes I see a bike in the street that just stops me in my tracks. More often than not,the bike is orange. I seem to love orange bikes. So I had to stop to take a picture, when I saw this lovely bike parked in Walcot Street, Bath:

bicycle fixie in Bath

Really interesting tyre choice, wonderful colour, fixed gear and to top it off, a gold chain, tensioned perfectly.

gold chain - fixie

This bicycle is so fabulous looking that even standing in a pile of dogends and street scuzz cannot impinge its fundamental awesomeness. I’d love to see it in motion.

Published in: on June 14, 2010 at 8:15 pm  Comments (2)  
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