i b i k e l o n d o n

Is this London's most extreme bike ride? Danny Macaskill gets in a spin...

It's not every day you get invited on a mystery tour, to witness what was billed as "London's most extreme bike ride".   Planning the launch event for their virtual personal assistant, Cortana, Microsoft had been in touch promising thrills, spills, and world-famous trials bike rider Mr Danny Macaskill. Needless to say, I was excited!

Danny's stunt was kept under wraps right until the last minute, and the excitement built as darkness fell and we cruised up the river Thames on Wednesday evening. Everyone assembled on board snapped pictures of London's most famous landmarks as we neared our destination.

As the London Eye came in to view, so did a barge floating in the middle of the river with a massive slope and loop-the-loop built on top. What was about to unfold became clear, and I was blown away by just how epic the night was turning out to be.

Danny's London stunt is just another string to his bow, following the enormous success of his online videos including the most recent (and I'd argue best) film, The Ridge, which has already been viewed over 20 million times on Youtube.

Apparently Microsoft's Cortana acted as Danny’s personal assistant throughout his training for the event, arranging his meetings, setting appointment reminders, playing his favourite music, warning for bad weather and finding maps.  

He explains; "A career as a professional athlete can be quite hectic and as I prefer to spend as much time on my bike as possible – any help in organising meetings, travel plans and projects is great. This is one of the biggest set-ups I have ever ridden and the location is amazing. To have a five-metre loop floating on a barge is something surreal. I always look for new challenges and the chance to ride this massive loop with the help of Cortana is another achievement I can be proud of.”

Our boat moored by Victoria Embankment, putting Danny's loop in line with the London Eye.  As the crowd waited eagerly, I can't imagine what would be going through his mind.  Was he nervous? What if he fell? 
Would he over-shoot the slope and end up in the river?!

If Macaskill was nervous, he certainly didn't show it.  With a quick spin and a hop suddenly he was off, gathering speed on the steep slope before whizzing around the loop, then delivering a perfectly executed backwards wheelie on his front wheel.  

The crowd (which I noticed included trails pioneer Hans 'No Way' Rey) gave him a huge cheer, and it was all over too soon.

Riding a bike along the river Thames usually involves dodging lorries and massive pot holes, and there's been lots of talk recently about the idea of building a floating bike track down the middle of the river.  That's fine by me, just so long as it includes a 5 metre high loop the loop so we can all have a go!

Many thanks to Microsoft's Cortana for a great evening!


The SMIDSY-killing cycling jacket; we road test the dazzling Reflect360

We're often approached by companies interested in sharing their latest cycling "innovation" with us.  From gloves with built-in indicators, to cycling jackets with special pockets for storing a pizza, we've really seen it all.  So we were pleasantly surprised when a company got in touch claiming not only to have made the most reflective cycling jacket, but that it also started life here in London...

The REFLECT360 cycling jacket does exactly what it says on the tin; it reflects light back to other road users from every angle.  It's not just got a reflective strip or some shiny striping, the entire jacket is reflective, from top to bottom.  

I have my own reservations about 'safe' cycling wear, having started out my urban cycling career wearing a bright yellow builder's vest I grew to loathe.  But I've been pleasantly surprised by the REFELCT360 - here is a cycling jacket designed around safety features that you can actually wear in to the office or the pub without looking like an epic banana.  

I spoke to the founder of ProViz, Anthony Langly-Smith, to find out what inspired him to create the jacket:  "I'd been commuting by bike for about 12 years, and I was seeing lots of people going through Clapham up to London Bridge - on what is now the Cycle Superhighway route - and when I was at the traffic lights I would see three or four other people on bikes.  Now there are 30 or 40 people at every turn of the lights.  Unless you're actually there you can't quite fathom what a big change that was."

"At the same time there seemed to be a move away from cycling products that didn't just look like builder's jackets.  People wanted fitted stuff, waterproof stuff.  It started with me and my brother thinking about what our fellow cyclists might need on our commute to work, and has turned in to our business; now we're selling product in Chile, Colombia, China, Korea, Belgium, Denmark, Australia and New Zealand."

Anthony's latest product to come to market, the REFLECT360 range, has been garnering lots of interest with positive reviews on BikeRumor, the Evening Standard, and the Guardian among others. I found it was not just in reviews that this jacket got lots of attention; during our road test other cyclists came up to me at traffic lights to ask where it was from and where they could get one for themselves, astonished by the reflective quality now the nights are growing dark.

"We launched the jacket in February and suddenly we had so many people coming to talk to us, taking photos, wanting to know about the material, wanting to know how this product came about. It was astonishing.  The success has bred an entire line; a rucksack cover, a vest, a gillet and a children’s jacket."

So what about the jacket itself? How does it work, and what's it like to ride around town in?

The waterproof material is covered with thousands of tiny microscopic glass beads which reflect light, throwing back light that approaches it from any angle.  The jacket itself is a well constructed design for cyclists, with taped seams, waterproof zips and pockets, a longer tapered back for good positioning on the bike as well as lots of adjustable seams and flaps to increase or decrease its breathability.  It feels strong and sturdy and should last well.

Riding around town I found the jacket fitted well, performed brilliantly in the rain and stood up to everything London's mucky roads could throw at it.  Whilst the material is a touch on the warm side, the addition of under arm vents helped me to keep my cool.  I'm usually highly sceptical about the sort of claims made about these kind of products, but my reservations about the effectiveness of cycling "safety" kit evaporated too - I did feel noticeably more visible whilst riding around town in the jacket, and I think it would be invaluable on darker country roads.

London's cycle scene inspiring products which in turn help London's cyclists to feel more safe? We like that very much.

The REFLECT360 cycling jacket is available at Evans Cycles, Halfords and most good bike shops, or online directly from ProVisSports here.


With 48 hours to go, your voice counts! If you do one thing for cycling this weekend, do this...

You need to send an email to consultations@tfl.gov.uk by Sunday night saying why you want London's new Cycle Superhighways to be built. Doing so is really important and a chance for you to actually make a difference to London.  Read on to find out why...

It's been a fast and furious few weeks in the cycle campaigning world, with lots of behind the scenes activity and meetings trying to get as many people as possible to signal their support for the Mayor of London's hugely ambitious "Crossrail for Bikes" cycling plans.

As most of you know, there's been some very cloak and dagger lobbying by some business interests who are desperately trying to kick the plans in to the long grass.  With a Mayoral election coming up, delaying these plans means they risk not being built at all.  And now there's just 48 hours for you to contribute and make a difference...

Space4cycling protestors travel down the Embankment, the route of the proposed the east / west cycle superhighway.

These Cycle Superhighway plans are from being won.  There's bad news to come with Westminster Council proposing all sorts of mad ideas like painting bike lanes down the middle of the Mall as some sort of Cycle Superhighway alternative.  In short, they'll do anything to avoid having to address the sinful cesspit of shame that is the current state of Parliament Square, where the route is currently planned to go.  Later today (Friday) the CBI will submit their response to the consultation.  I've seen a draft and I'd be charitable if I were to say that it is hopelessly outdated in its approach to how cities really work.

Westminster's bonkers plans to send cyclists down the middle of the Mall with fast moving traffic either side of a painted strip. 

Of course, this late flurry of negative attention is not a mere coincidence.  With 14 cyclists killed on London's roads in 2013, six in a two-week period this time last year, no-one wants to be seen to be publicly saying they *don't* want to see improvements (real improvements) for people on bikes.  So in a classic lobbying tactic these last minute submissions are coming in right on the line in the hope that everyone will go home for the weekend and not notice the "against" voices quietly doing their thing.

It sounds so sinister, doesn't it?  Like some kind of crazy conspiracy theory.  I'm fully aware of this, but this is the score with lobbying in London it would seem...

Luckily, the wider business community in London is much more enlightened.  CyclingWorks.London have been collating positive responses from organisations to the Cycle Superhighway plans and they've been inundated - almost overwhelmed - with businesses saying "Yes" and "Build it, Boris" to these plans.  This week alone the University of Central London, the English National Opera, the Civil Aviation Authority, the City of London Police, Universal Records and many others have piled in with their support, joining Microsoft, Unilever, Deloitte, the Royal Bank of Scotland, Olswang LLP, Herbert Smith and many, many others. 

Just some of the very long list of business names who support the Mayor's Crossrail for Bikes.

The devisions between those "for" and those "against" led Evening Standard journalist Ross Lydall to go so far as to say there was only a "50/50 chance" of the Cycle Superhighways ever being built.

And with the consultation plans closing on Sunday, now it is your turn to get involved.  If you can find twenty minutes to add your voice as a London cyclist, then you'll have strengthened the chances of these ambitious bike tracks being built and the Mayor delivering on his "Go Dutch" election promises.

You can go through the step-by-step consultation on the Transport for London website, which you can find here.

Alternatively, you can send an email to consultations@tfl.gov.uk with the subject matter "East West and North South Cycle Superhighway consultation" with you own comments.

Perhaps you want to explain how you'd like to bring your kids in to town by bikes safely?  Or maybe you are particularly excited about a certain section of the route and the wider calming impacts it will have, like at Parliament Square?
Maybe you work on or near the route and this will make your commute to work a safe and inviting option all year round?

Perhaps you have other reasons you'd like to see these routes built; maybe you voted for the Mayor on the back of his "Go Dutch" promise?

Maybe you'd like to send a note supporting the broader concept, or perhaps you love a particular part of the scheme like a certain road closure or safe space for cycling where currently there is none.  You can make critical suggestions for improvements too, of course (I've asked TfL to ensure they use angled curb stones to make sure cyclists can use the full width of the lanes.)

The point is, the agenda is set by those who show up and now more than ever before we need the real voice of Londoners to be reflected in this consultation.

So please, take the time to pen a note to Transport for London this weekend and help to make the city where we live a better place for everyone.

Share |

Bikes no enemy of London's night-time economy as theatres flock to support Cycle Superhighways

In a clear sign that the West End's thriving night-time economy and cycling can go hand in hand, the Mayor of London’s plans to build new Cycle Superhighways are finding support in the theatre industry.

Support grows for Space4Cycling in London

The Royal Opera House recently joined Shakespeare’s Globe theatre and the Young Vic in pledging their support for the ambitious cycling plans, which have come under attack from some corporate groups.

In addition, scenery constructors Factory Settings Ltd and theatrical lighting suppliers White Light Ltd have also backed the proposals.

The two superhighways will join up existing and planned routes to create the longest substantially-segregated urban cycleway in Europe, running 18 miles from Barking to Acton.

They will have the capacity to move 6,000 people each hour, the equivalent of 20 extra Tube trains or 82 additional London buses.

Proposals to introduce night time parking charges across the West End in 2011 caused consternation for theatres and evening entertainment venues, but the opposite seems to be the case for the Mayor's bold cycling plans.

Chief Executive of the Royal Opera House, Alex Beard CBE, said in a statement:

“Like many organisations in London, a growing number of our 1,000 employees cycle to work. I am sure that an even larger proportion of our team would cycle if they felt comfortable and safe on the roads. It is also clear that cycling is used by an increasing number of visitors to the Covent Garden area and indeed our audience members

“We value employee satisfaction, health, and freedom and that’s why we endorse the plans outlined by TfL to create new segregated routes through the heart of the city. The proposed north–south and east–west routes will help us attract and retain the employees our business needs to continue to thrive. They will make London a more attractive city in which we can build and run our operations.”

Riders calling on the Mayor to build safe space for cycling pass through London's West End on a recent bicycle demonstration.

In November 2012 dancer Sofoklis Kostoulas, 31, was killed in a collision with a tipper lorry whilst cycling on the Bethnal Green Road, east London. He had recently performed in the London 2012 Olympic festival. Twenty-year-old actor and model David Poblet was killed whilst cycling on Tooley Street, south London, in March 2011 just days after completing his auditions at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art to study a BA in acting. Fourteen cyclists were killed in London in 2013, six in a two-week period last November.

CyclingWorks.London is a group coordinating business responses to the cycling proposals. Their spokesperson Chris Kenyon said:

“We’re thrilled to have the support of some of the biggest names in London’s theatre industry for these game-changing cycling proposals. If built, the Cycle Superhighways will allow many more Londoners to get to and from theatres, restaurants and the West End in a safe, sustainable and enjoyable manner

“More and more businesses recognise the importance of these plans in helping to keep their employees safe, their businesses attractive, and in helping to make London a smoothly-running global city.

“I would urge other theatres to join the Young Vic, the Globe and the Royal Opera House in supporting these plans.” 

Transport for London’s consultation on the Cycle Superhighways run until Sunday, November 9th 2014.

Business can add their support via the CyclingWorks.London website whilst individuals can join 5,000 others and sign this LCC petition.
Share |

Who will steal Laura Trotts' crown as Queen of the Track? My race report from London's spectacular velodrome


A tremendous season of track cycling got underway at the Lee Valley Velodrome this weekend, when the first round of the Revolution Series returned to London.  With headline names, explosive races and the world's longest track stand competition, there was plenty to keep the crowds entertained.  And with five more rounds of the Revolution Series across the country coming up, and the UCI Track Cycling World Cup coming back to London in December there were plenty of riders ready to show us - and each other - just what the are made of.


In addition to the banks of seating surrounding the track, lucky ticket holders (and this lucky blogger) were entertained from the track centre where a bar had been built especially for the event, just metres from the athletes warming up and within touching distance of the track where riders rushed past.  It's here you really appreciate the pitch of that famous Siberian pine, and the pace these riders push themselves to.  Welshman Lewis Oliva of Team USN pedalled past the 40MPH mark to win the UCI Sprint over visitor Juan Peralta from Spain, showing just what London's incredible velodrome is capable of.

The warm up zone feels like a great, whirling beehive.  Athletes zip in and out on their bikes, toing and froing from the track. Others go wild on the rollers, thrashing them so hard they look fit to break.  Excited media buzz about looking to synch an interview with double Olympic champion Laura Trott as she prepares for her showdown with Dutch star Marianne Vos.  Meanwhile, riders preparing to race stare in to the distance; thinking about their opponents, thinking about their tactics, thinking about winning.  Lights glare and music booms.


I've often wondered what track cyclists think about as they warm up for their races.  There's nowhere to hide in a track centre, with 4,000 pairs of eyes watching your every move expectantly.  There's more than just a little touch of theatre about velodromes.  For all of the bravado of the preparation, no matter how much you rehearse, once you're on the track itself it is time for you to deliver.  No time for mistakes, no second chances.  And plenty of potential for a really fast, really high screw up.


The showdown between Laura Trott and the indefatigable Marianne Vos had been the big draw card for the crowds, but in the end Trott aced it wining six out of a potential six wins in the Women's Omnium.  At the end of the day, her specialisation in track gave her the upper hand over the more generalist competition.  It was the same for Germany's Christian Grasmann and Marcel Kalz from track experts Maloja Pushbikers (formerly Rudy Project RT).  Last year's Revolution Series-winning team came in strong from the start, leading the field by the end of the two day's racing.  The Germans dominated each of their events (and seemed to enter all of them!), and look to be in fine form for the December World Cup.


"The fastest track in the world" lived up to its name, with speeds delivered in excess of 40MPH on the home straight, to the delight of the crowds.  The Hopkins-designed velodrome continues to excel as the most beautiful in Britain and the best for spectating.  With seating stretching all the way round the track, the roars of the crowd follow each rider as they spin round and around, pushed along by a pulsating wall of shouts and cheers.


Maldon-born Alex Dowsett was a popular addition to proceedings, with perhaps the biggest cheer of the night reserved for when he lapped the field in the Madison Time Trial.  And the HOY Future  Stars - the up and coming talent of Britain's younger track cyclists - made up for their lack of experience with a bucketful of guts, delivering edge-of-your-seat races which belied the rider's young age.


But all told, the night belonged to Maloja Pushbikers.  Keen to capitalise on their elite series win in 2013, they are the team to beat for this year's Revolution rounds.  Will newcomers Orica Green Edge or seasoned hands Sky be able to keep up?  And in the women's field, can anyone face up to steal Laura Trott's crown as queen of the track?  It's going to be an exciting season of track cycling ahead.


The UCI Track Cycling World Cup is hosted by London at the Lee Valley Velodrome from 5th to the 7th of December - tickets are still available for some sessions, but are selling out fast.

The Revolution Series returns to London in February for two more days of high octane action.  Tickets - including exclusive track centre passes - are on sale now.

You can catch the highlights of this weekend's Revolution Series Round 1 on Channel 4 on Saturday morning at 7AM and afterwards on 4OD.

Share |