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Vai, vai, vai!

  • Posted by alex
  • 11 June 2013
The pace was so hard and fast that your lungs and throat burned when you came off from a set of laps and back to the tent.
We've just got back from a long weekend in Italy, racing bikes at the Castelli 24 hour criterium.

24 hours with Phil Collins*

“I would rather have a kidney removed with a plastic knife in a branch of KFC but we’ll sign up again for next year”

Every June in the foothills of the Dolomites the centre of Feltre is closed off for 24 hours of thundering thighs. The relay criterium event around a 1.8km circuit is organised by our old friends at Castelli and is about as much fun as you can have on a bike unless you own a tandem with the seats very close together.

100 teams of 8-12 riders take to the line with strategies that vary from “we’ve paid for a pro- rider so we are going to get our money’s worth” to “I’m sure the rest of the lads will be along in a minute, I’ll keep going until they get here”. For sheer guts I admire the tenacity of the latter.

The course goes up for longer than is entirely necessary, down for a disappointingly short time and has a long straight section that provides useful thinking time for composing an excuse should you decide to hand over early and a nearby canal if you just want to end it all. The lap finishes on a cobbled section sponsored by the local dentist.

Notable features apart from all the cycling stuff are the tannoy operators taste in music, which lurches from abysmal (Genesis) to please make it stop (Genesis), the chance to see a former world champion emerge from a putrid port-a-loo and the local Sprizzone which seems like an ideal pre-race drink. Like Italian footballers or Michael Douglas it goes down easily.

The combination of sleep deprivation, Sprizzone dehydration and trying to ride as fast as you can tests your mental strength so you WILL hate it for a bit but 5 minutes after it’s over you are booking the hotel for next year.

Great event. Fantastic people. Get some friends together and do it one year. You’ll never look back.

Thanks Castelli for a great event.

*As you can see from the picture Hazel’s bike is a Genesis.

Warming up nicely

Rooftop views and mountains

Assembling our bikes

Fuelling up

Practising the 2 Laps Signal

24hr Start / Finish Gate

Fatigue starting to show

Carbon fibre galore

Busted Cleats

Rain stops racing

Last year's event video.

Riding a bike should be easy

  • Posted by alex
  • 3 May 2012

Isn’t that what we are told? You learn when you are small and, like an elephant, you never forget. What an amazing deal. Once mastered, you have a gift that lasts a lifetime, and even if you part ways for a period of time it waits patiently for you to return. Once bought, it is the gift that keeps giving – health, entertainment, and convenience. So why isn’t everyone riding a bike? Shouldn’t the streets in every village, town and city hum with the sound of rubber passing over tarmac? You only have to observe parts of cities like London, Bristol, and Cambridge at rush hour to see the potential. Hybrids, racers, fixies, bmx, mountain bikes, single speeds, choppers, Dutch bikes, and cruisers all spinning to and fro.

While cycling numbers have increased by around 20% across Britain over the last decade, we lag behind other European countries. The number of cyclists killed or injured sits around 27,000 for that period. This figure is unacceptable and concerns over safety are the main reason many bikes sit unloved in garden sheds up and down the country. This is a terrible shame since cycling represents the elixir to many of our problems. Regular riding can significantly improve fitness levels (goodbye beer belly) and increase life expectancy (hello happy retirement). By swapping an eight mile round trip commute from car to bike, you save 0.5 tonnes of carbon per year – that’s the equivalent of a short haul flight.

It stands to reason that if we want a country that is synonymous with cycling you need to ensure that it is safe. As a result of much hard work by sustainable transport charities and cycling campaign groups we have seen significant progress. Most recently, the Cycle Safe campaign from The Times – coupled with February’s Parliamentary cycling debate - has helped raise the profile of cycle safety. There is much that can be done to improve junctions, slow speeds in neighbourhoods, and provide better road user training. However, this all requires investment – even a small percentage of the road budget could make a huge difference across the country.

Ultimately, the goal is to get people – young, old, male, female – on bikes for their everyday journeys to places like school, work, and the shops. However, currently around 66% of journeys (two miles or less) are completed in a car. While the number of accidents involving cyclists are a concern, the perceived danger can sometimes outweigh the actual risks. It is important to emphasise that cycling is still a fun, exhilarating, and egalitarian means of getting around. You hear of schools not letting kid’s cycle and adults looking on in horror as you ride past on the way to work. It is important to remember that it’s cycling, not war. Going forward, we need more people on bikes and (much) improved cycle infrastructure to ensure that the fun isn’t taken out of cycling.

Words: Ben Addy

Getting out the door

  • Posted by howies
  • 12 April 2012

Exercise makes me happy. If I run a couple of times a week I think clearer, I sleep sounder, I eat better, I work more productively. I am happier. And yet, I can go for months without going for a single run. What's with that?

It took a chance meeting with Olympic athlete Steve Cram to tell me what the problem is. It's the front door. It's there, and its shut. He told me, "it doesn't matter if you're a professional athlete or training for your first fun run, the hardest part is motivating yourself to get going. If you can pull your trainers on and get out the door, everything else is easy."

The good news is he also told me how to open the door. Its a 2 step process:

1. Set yourself a goal.
Enter a run / bike ride / triathlon / adventure race / bog snorkel.
Nothing too hard, just something you couldn't do today.

2. Tell EVERYONE.
Parents, children, postman, neighbours, doctor, God, Twitter followers,
ticket collectors etc. There's no turning back now.

It works. For example, I haven't been swimming for 5 years. Then yesterday I entered a 1.5 mile swim to the Isle of Wight. I now have exactly 94 days until I walk down the shingle beach and into the waters of the Solent. So today I found my old trunks at the back of my drawer and tomorrow morning I'll be in the local swimming pool.

David came to howies to show us a website he built with a couple of friends to help people with the difficult Step 1.

You can guess what it does. It gets you out the door.

Words: David Wearn

www.findarace.com

Challenge yourself to something new and when you've found a race, let us know where you're racing on facebook, or tweet us with the hashtag #foundarace. You might even find a friend or two to get out the door with you.

Categories:

The Best Seat In The House Isn’t Always In The House

111-Best-Seat-In-The-House
Colour so rich you can almost smell it.
Detail unmatched by any screen on Earth.
It’s like you can actually feel the wind prickle the sweat on your brow, 
as you plunge into the shade beneath the trees.
Because you can.
Real breeze.
Real sweat.
Real shade.
Real trees.
It’s a High Definition, Surround Sound experience like no other.
There’s only one thing better than a 3D IMAX Technicolor sunrise.
A real sunrise.
Ladies and gentlemen, take your seats.
The show is about to begin.

Mike Reed

Illustration: Jenny Bowers

This one

  • Posted by howies
  • 1 April 2011

Save the Velodrome

  • Posted by howies
  • 1 December 2010

Save The Velodrome
Time is ticking for the oldest cycling circuit in the country.

South London’s Herne Hill Velodrome is in danger of closing for good.

Quickly deteriorating, and suffering a lack of funding, the track and surrounding mtb trails are used by hundreds of children.

Olympic gold medallist Bradley Wiggins started his track career  there aged 10. Now future champions race and train helped by a team of devoted coaches and volunteers. A campaign - Save The Velodrome - has been formed by a community based alliance of local residents and the cycling community. Keeping it going will require funding - both corporate and private, as well as ongoing voluntary support.

Perhaps fuelled by a tough economy, and a wider interest in health, cycling seems to be enjoying a resurgence at the moment though - and as more and more people realise the benefits of riding for both their hearts and pockets, this campaign seems to be perfectly timed. So to help keep this important venue alive, please visit savethevelodrome.com and register your support.

With thanks to Judith, Jason and Peter.

Different Sports, Same Soul

  • Posted by howies
  • 1 September 2010

Categories:

Different Sports, Same Soul

Different Sports, Same Soul
Somewhere climbing and surfing intersect. The place where it happens in not obvious, but it exists.

Every surfer has experienced it. After every decent session you’re left with frozen moments that are locked into your consciousness – instantaneous images that crystallise in your mind with a vague yet powerful tangibility. These moments evoke the kind of immediate nostalgia as that of Polaroid prints.

You lean into your bottom turn and see the wall of the wave reeling up ahead of you. Click. You hold a stylish body position while attempting to cutback to the power source from out on the wave’s slackening shoulder. Click.

The sensorial cacophony that accompanies the union of man, ocean and earth is particularly evocative of these moments and results easily in the mystic leap between brain chemistry and muscle memory.

Out there on the crag, though, a hundred miles from the coast, climbers experience these moments too.

There is an ache and a fear and a pounding of your heart and an increased intensity of perception. When your body and your mind are stretched to extremes hard-won physical knowledge takes over. The climber’s world is distilled to the square centimetres that surround that finger hold. The universe becomes the angle and camber and extension of that crux move.

A wave is essentially ephemeral. It never truly exists in space and time but is simply a manifestation of natural given form in liquid by the interaction of the sea floor and the energy itself. A rock face is pure energy too – but formed in imperceptible increments over geological time. It is warped and cracked and affected by environmental conditions that stretch over aeons rather than the fleeting moments that form a breaking wave.

Is it too great a leap of the imagination to acknowledge that they are both outriders of the human race’s deep instinct to dance with the elements? Could it be that both surfers and climbers simply play in the beauty and the menace of the planet?

Illustration: Chris Gray

The Golden Hour

  • Posted by howies
  • 1 December 2009

Categories:

The Golden Hour

The Golden Hour
As my cycle journey around the coast of Britain over the Summer has progressed, there is a question that people ask a lot “what’s the best place that you have visited?”. I would say that our coastline is amazing and it’s hard to pick a single place. What is easy though is a favourite time of day.



There is an hour or so in the evening that is magical. The time before sunset, when things calm down, the wind drops, less cars. The skies are amazing and often the low sun will pick out and light a single building on the horizon or throw huge shadows across the fields.


It’s a great time to ride: on Anglesey you are alone on the ancient hills, in Cumbria the hedgerows come alive with birds, the west coast of Scotland has vast dramatic sunsets, and in Norfolk and Suffolk the huge skies light the rich and vast farmlands.


Now the days are shorter and darkness arrives a bit sooner, so there is more of an urgency to find a place to camp or a bed for the night. But if things work out I can drift into a coastal campsite with supper in a pannier with just enough light to grab a quick shower and cook a bit of food. That’s a perfect evening.

Nick Hand
www.slowcoast.co.uk

Sverige år fantastiskt.

  • Posted by howies
  • 1 December 2009

Categories:

Sverige år fantastiskt.

Sverige år fantastiskt.

I am 27. Jacob is 27. I ride BMX, so does Jacob. But that is where the similarities end, as I was born in England and Jacob was born in Sweden.

My local spot was a concrete abnormality where I learned the tricks I saw in all the magazines. Jacob’s local spot was a perfect bank, transitioned at the bottom where he learned all the tricks he could think of, the bank was the side of a cliff.

This is probably the reason that he has an ability of looking at everything in a completely different way to myself and all the people I grew up riding with. Nature is just a part of his life and just like every single one of his fellow country folk they just seem to be so in tune with it. 

If Mother Nature herself walked into a bar she’d give us all a hug I’m sure, just before she wandered over to the outside bar and high-fived all the Swedes before buying them a round, which they would definitely buy back.

I’ve been doing my best to integrate walks in the park, runs on the cliffs, cycling through the woods but I feel strangely alien, like I’m trying too hard. 

It’s not natural to my sort, my lungs are too full of West Midlands smog and although I love the outdoors I just know it’s going to take me a lifetime of being Swedish to refine that look in my eyes when I see nature do something amazing. No matter how hard I try it’s just not there. 

Yet Jacob and all the rest of them do it perfectly, just take a look at a sunset and look into the eyes of a Swede as they say “Sverige år fantastiskt” and that is why they get the high-fives. They are right too, Sverige certainly is ‘fantastiskt’.

Matthew J Adams

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