If you’re at all interested in cycling, go and buy yourself a copy of Russell Jones’ book on the Swart brothers. It’s a cracking read about a couple of kiwi icons.

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Every now and the we need a reminder of our history.  Or at least something that fills a gap in our collective understanding. Russell Jones’ book The Swart Brothers: Jack and Steven does both of those things perfectly, tracing a cycling family’s narrative arc from back-blocks club racing to could-have-been stories of Olympic dreams, and on the way touching on pro-cycling’s darkest drug-fuelled days.  In doing so it should fan that tiny spark that so many of us carry, that ‘what if…?’ thought that if a pair of brothers from a Waikato dairy farm can make it to the top, then we can too.  It’s a great read, and I highly recommend it. Continue reading

With “Gilets jaunes” riots last year and “le grande grèves” transport strikes this winter, it’s lucky Paris has good cheese and wine because winters here are getting difficult.

Ok, let’s be clear.  Winter in Paris isn’t the worst thing in the world. It is Paris, after all. There are fewer tourists in winter so it’s a little quieter.  It never really gets all that cold, and while it can get a bit drab and grey it’s not really too bad.  It’s just that the last couple of years folks here have gotten pretty riled up and protests and strike action have combined to make living here a bit of a pain.  Not confined-to-barracks bad, but enough of a pain that getting around town is frustrating, difficult, and needlessly inconvenient. Continue reading

Six-day racing is so great it should be on the UN List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

img_2121The Ghent 6-day is wonderful and life affirming and by far the most fun you can have watching other people ride bikes.  It’s a wonderful tradition, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone that’s at all interested in cycling.  Or in human-centred things that bring people closer together in ways that may also include beer.  It really is great.  In fact I think 6-day racing overall is so fantastic – and carries with it so much of cycling’s history, tradition, spirit, and sense of fun – that it deserves wider recognition and the kind of support and protection that only the UN can provide. No really: It’s that good. Continue reading

Organised road cycling began 150 years ago today. Just around the corner from my house.

 

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James Moore (right) and Jean-Eugène-André Castera, the winner and runner up of the first ever road cycling race, 150 years ago today.

Today – 7 November 2019 – is an important anniversary in the history of cycling because on this day, 150 years ago, what is widely acknowledged to be the first ever organised road cycle race was held from Paris to Rouen.  Happy birthday, road cycling!  The fact it started just around the corner from my house gives the anniversary a completely coincidental personal connection that makes me feel a lot closer to it than I normally would. But the fact that something like road cycling has been up and running for 150 years is something that I think is worth celebrating. Continue reading

10 things I’ve learned watching pro cycling #1: We’re not as fast as we think we are.

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Thursday Throwdown at Longchamps

If we’re honest with ourselves a lot of us who cycle in Lycra harbour the idea that we could – if we only had more time to train! – turn pro. Or could have, if we had had a go at it when we were younger.   This is very clearly bollocks and, if we’re honest with ourselves, we know that.  But that gap between secret-dream and oh-so-obvious reality speaks eloquently and delightfully of the things that make us human: we strive for things that we know are out of our reach. For one of the most important lessons I’ve learned watching pro cycling is that we’re not as fast as we think we are. Continue reading

It’s Paris Fashion Week (again), and yes you can totally ride your bike while wearing a suit.

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Not me (obviously), but google “fashion + suit + bike + Paris” and this is what the internet gives you. 

It’s Paris Fashion Week again, and our part of Paris is inundated by limos and luxury minivans with darkened windows.  Street-smart street-style photographers and instagrammers prowl around taking photos of each others’ shoes and hoping for a glimpse of something fabulous or famous.  For most of the rest of us it means dodging traffic and navigating the bike lanes as the the limos deposit their precious cargo as close as possible to the shows. It’s both tedious and wonderful all at the same time.  And this year, we even got to watch one of the top-line shows. (And by that I mean “watched over the fence”.  But we were there! It counts!) Continue reading

What’s the price of loyalty? 500 Swiss Francs and a shot at the maillot jaune

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Watching it on the telly is almost as good as being there.  Almost.  George Bennett ripping-it up the Tourmalet

The sports pages back home last week were full of the ‘almost but not quite’ stories that make sports watching great. First there was the cricket, then the kiwi netball team kept the theme by losing thrilling semi-final game at the Netball World Cup.  (They dished out some impressive redemption by winning the thing overall, so there’s that.)   But the one that I’ve been keeping my eye on has of course been George Bennett’s  brush with awesomeness at the Tour.  George almost had a hand on the coveted yellow jersey, but stage 10 was a stark reminder of what the “professional” in “professional cycling” is all about. Continue reading

Even when you catch it on an off-day, the Tour de France is still pretty awesome.

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Me, George Bennett and Tom Scully at the start of Stage 4 in Reims

The Tour really is (men’s) cycling at its most ridiculous and wonderful best.  It’s a rolling circus that has no parallel in any sport: if it takes a village to raise a child, it for sure takes a village to run the Tour.  The last couple of years we’ve been able to play the #EmbassyOfCycling card, and get some great backstage access to the Tour to give our kiwi riders some support and a social media shout-out.  This year though the security has been beefed up, and we couldn’t quite get across the barriers.  But we still managed to catch up with the New Zealanders riding the Tour and give them a hearty “kia kaha!” on behalf of our fellow kiwis. Continue reading

How cool is BMX? Very. Get into it.

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Cycling is a wonderful thing, and I’m super happy that I’ve been able to experience quite a bit of it at the highest level. Obviously, by “experience” I mean “watch”, but this weekend I managed to fill in a glaring gap in the my cycling-experience bucket list by heading to the outskirts of Pairs to support a group of kiwi riders in the latest round of the UCI BMX Supercross World Cup.  BMX is on the fringes of my cycling universe, but I’ve gotta say, based on my experience over the weekend, I’ll be paying a lot more attention. It’s a wonderful, intense, spectacular, gateway-drug of cycling and we should all be more into it. Continue reading

Don’t be afraid to take to your carbon fibre road bike with a crowbar and a mallet.*

*Just do it really, really gently

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Those hardy few of you that keep track of my blog should know by now that it’s more about cycling in general, and less about me cycling in particular. One of the things I enjoy about that is the realisation that things that keep me from riding are actually pretty rewarding. Like, sometimes I take quite a bit of pleasure from almost-but-not-quite completely f—ing something up and only just managing to snatch victory from the jaws of expensive and embarrassing bike-maintenance defeat. Continue reading

If 2018 was the year of dockless bikeshare, 2019 is the year of e-scooters. They’re everywhere.

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This time last year the streets of Paris were littered with half-arsed dockless bike share bikes – we were literally tripping over them. But as time, vandalism, and the growing reality that the bikes were actually pretty crappy ran their course, the various schemes faded away to the point where you’d be luck to find even a MoBike out in the wild these days.  Times sure have changed.  This year, dockless e-scooters have sprouted like so much tinea around the feet of Paris monuments, and I suspect most Parisians will find them just as irritating and difficult to get rid of. Continue reading

Paris-Roubaix 2019: this time I am going to sugar coat it. Because I watched it with a bunch of cycling-mad Belgians and it was brilliant.

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There nothing like a bunch of cycling-mad Belgians to give you a deeper appreciation of just how fantastic bike racing is. Those guys really know their craft, and aren’t afraid to show it.  There’s nothing like going off the deep end with full immersion cycling experiences. So when the chance to watch the 2019 Paris-Roubaix with a group of friendly and well-connected Belgian (and kiwi) bike fans, of course I jumped right in. Continue reading