Jack Thurston heads to the remote heart of Wales to witness on a brand new kind of long-distance cycling challenge
10 May 2016 | Posted by Jack Thurston | Categories: Bicycles, Correspondence, Events, Monthly highlights, Travel & Adventure Cycling
Since its first edition in 2013 the Transcontinental Race has captured the imagination of amateur cyclists looking for the next big challenge. Multi-day, unsupported events like the Transcontinental makes demands that go beyond physical endurance. Riders must be totally self-sufficient on the road, from navigation to finding food and rest and dealing with mechanicals. As I’ve written before on the blog, these races evoke the heroic spirit of early years of road racing far more than the tightly controlled and carefully choreographed professional peloton. Yet races like the Transcontinental are also thoroughly modern affairs. Riders can make free use of the most modern bike technology and the very latest lightweight bikepacking gear, they are tracked in real time using the latest satellite technology and their Twitter, Facebook and Instagram dispatches from the road add texture and emotion, making for a thoroughly post-modern way to watch bike race.
A bicycle fit for Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
6 May 2016 | Posted by Oliver | Categories: Bicycles, Correspondence, Curiosities, Friends, Monthly highlights, Travel & Adventure Cycling
The Chaps over at Sven Cycles have been darlings of the handmade bicycle scene for many years, but this year a rather special project crossed their path, the Forager. It is fair to say it is something of a unique machine, designed for the British foodie Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to take out on his trips to the forest to forage for wild foods. With inbuilt cooking system and numerous compartments to carry home the plunder, no wonder it was an award winner at Bespoked.
With the bicycle now on display at our flagship store in London, B1866, we decided to catch up with Darron from Sven and find out a little more…
Julian Sayarer joins The Brooks Blog on the eve of the Mayoral Election in London
27 Apr 2016 | Posted by GUEST | Categories: Bicycles, Correspondence, Monthly highlights, Urban Cycling
Cycling used to be a little bit deviant. We used to wait – a few of us – at traffic lights on sunny days, and alone on rainy ones. People on bikes were often a bit different, or at least from the margins: environmentalists, aspiring pro riders, people with little money or, at the very least, a very British type of eccentric. In London that’s started to change – slowly at first, and now ever faster. The city’s residents have started to demand air quality that doesn’t kill them, transport options that don’t cost an arm and a leg, and – very often – simply roads to cycle on safely. Cycling now says no more about a Londoner’s identity than the fact that they want a nice, convenient way to get around their city.
Juliet lifts the lid on some sensational Spanish riding
21 Apr 2016 | Posted by Juliet Elliott | Categories: Bicycles, Correspondence, Friends, Monthly highlights, Sports Cycling, Travel & Adventure Cycling
Last week, the husband and I took a short break in Girona, where we set about cycling the best routes we could before stuffing ourselves with food and falling asleep at about 9pm every evening – pretty much what happens every time we go away together – we’re so romantic like that. There was a time in the not too distant past where you’d have to wrestle a pint/shot/wine glass out of my hand as the hour approached midnight but now I find riding at threshold makes me slur and stumble enough to be a really cheap date.
Luke introduces the latest racers to join the Brooks' Stable
14 Apr 2016 | Posted by GUEST | Categories: Correspondence, Friends, Sports Cycling, Urban Cycling
It all started on the top floor of an East London car park – the 5th floor.
Originally a meeting point for ‘Tuesday Night Tricks’, where people tried ride backwards on fixed gear bikes, it quickly became a focal point for the London ‘fixie scene’. We would meet up, drink Red Stripe, talk aerospokes and ride around London.
When the bicycle was invented the roads were terrible, and so were the maps. But not for long.
13 Apr 2016 | Posted by Jack Thurston | Categories: Art & Design, Bicycles, Correspondence, Friends, Monthly highlights, Travel & Adventure Cycling
If it feels like we’re in the middle of a bike boom, it’s nothing compared to the 1890s. This was the decade when the world first went bicycle crazy. Bikes had evolved from a unwieldy and dangerous penny farthings with solid tyres to the now familiar bicycle with two equal sized wheels, diamond-shaped frame, chain drive and inflatable tyres: a bike that anyone could ride.
It meant people could travel further and faster than ever before. The only question was where to go, and this turned out to be quite a conundrum. For a start the roads were in a terrible state and road maps were years out of date and little more than sketches that failed to show if a road was bowling green smooth, boneshakingly rocky or an impassable quagmire. It was therefore fortunate that the same advances in engineering that gave birth to the bicycle were also revolutionising map-making. What’s more, many of the new maps hitting the market were designed specifically to help cyclists explore the countryside.
As well as showing the quality of the roads, a good cycling map must show where the hills are. Most road maps of the time ignored hills altogether or else depicted them as cartoon-like hillocks reminiscent of the days when medieval map-makers would liven up a large expanse of water by drawing in a few sea monsters. One popular map style of the time was the strip map. These showed a single route in considerable detail but failed to give a sense of the road network as a whole.
A nineteenth century strip map. Beautifully drawn but designed for the wealthy gentleman riding in in a stagecoach than for the independent bicycle traveller
Guest Blogger Bike Snob NYC gets a boo-boo
24 Mar 2016 | Posted by Bike Snob NYC | Categories: Bicycles, Correspondence, Friends, Monthly highlights, Travel & Adventure Cycling, Urban Cycling
Recently, at the very tail end of a ride, my friend and I made the fateful decision to take a little detour and tack on an extra dirt section. It was the sort of prolong-the-fun gluttony of which we’ve all been guilty, and with which we tempt fate, like accepting the infamous wafer-thin mint in “The Meaning of Life.” Sure enough, fate took note of my greed, and she rewarded it with a crash and a busted digit.
Therefore, exactly one week later to the day, I resolved to redeem myself and avenge my finger (specifically my right thumb) by undertaking the exact same ride.
Only this time, I resolved, I would not crash.
I undertook my pre-ride preparations with near religious solemnity and even donned the same stretchy vestements I had worn on that fateful day. This was partly to acknowledge the significance of the journey I was about to undertake, but it was mostly because they were still sitting there on the drying rack from the week before. I did, however, select a different bicycle, since I figured bar-end shifters would be easier than STI levers to manipulate with my compromised hand:
Boneshaker's Jet McDonald drops by to tell us about his latest project
7 Mar 2016 | Posted by GUEST | Categories: Art & Design, Correspondence, Curiosities, Friends, Stories, Travel & Adventure Cycling
Cycling and philosophy do not seem like obvious companions. Some would say the only thing that links the two is a preponderance of beards. However, philosophers have always wanted to take things apart to see how they work, much like the budding bike mechanic, and then put them back together again and see how they roll, much like a kid with a new bike. There is something so exhilarating about cycling, sweating up a hill and then racing down again, that it offers an unparalleled insight into the boundaries of human experience. What does it mean to feel pain and pleasure closely aligned? What does it mean to sense the whole extent of your body stretching and easing into the rough tread of a good ride? Can we measure these experiences objectively or are they only in the mind of the rider? What, after all, is the mind?
Philosophers love this stuff. It’s like chocolate cake to them. Or croissant if you’re a continental existentialist.
There’s a great story about the young Bertrand Russell (some would say the foremost British philosopher of the last hundred years) and the young George Bernard Shaw (big time orator and playwright, massive beard) detailed by Craig Brown in “Hello Goodbye Hello: A Circle of 101 Remarkable Meetings.”
Juliet heads into the darkness in search of some peace
1 Mar 2016 | Posted by Juliet Elliott | Categories: Bicycles, Correspondence, Friends, Monthly highlights, Travel & Adventure Cycling
Though we’re now past the shortest day of the year, if you get your kicks from hightailing it on two wheels and feeling the rush of wind in your hair, February through March can be a bit of a bummer. The days still seem too brief and it can be hard to juggle work, family, chores and cycling and fit everything in whilst there’s still enough light to see what you’re doing.
Long thought unsurpassable, 2015 saw two exceptional mile-eaters take on cycling's Year Record. Jack Thurston looks back at how the oldest and toughest record in cycling was finally broken.
25 Jan 2016 | Posted by Jack Thurston | Categories: Bicycles, Correspondence, Monthly highlights, Sports Cycling, Travel & Adventure Cycling
In Ancient Greek mythology, Zeus punishes Sisyphus for his avarice and cunning by condemning him to repeat forever the same meaningless task of pushing a boulder up a mountain, only to see it roll down again. The notion of punishment by arduous, never-ending and ultimately meaningless toil is not confined to Ancient Greece. In traditional Chinese folklore a miscreant named Wu Gang faces the divine punishment of forever chopping down a self-regenerating osmanthus tree that grows on the moon. The cycling equivalent of these mythical tortures is the Year Record. The thought of getting on a bike, riding for more than twelve hours only to get up the next day and do it all again, and again and again for a whole year makes me shudder. I’d rather fly to the moon with my felling axe.
Sisyphus by Titian