Archived posts: Bikes

Rapha City Cycling Guides

The good folks at super-smart cycling brand Rapha sent us over a boxed set of their brand new City Cycling Guides to have a look at – and what a wonderful thing it is.

The set features eight small guide books – covering Antwerp & Ghent, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Copenhagen, London, Milan and Paris. Each one is densely packed with information for the cycling tourist, or the touring cyclist, or even just any old tourist to be honest. They each have a short introduction to the city, and feature a mapped day-ride that takes you round the main parts of the city, before diving in to more detail on a few specific neighbourhoods. They’re written and designed by Andrew Edwards and Max Leonard.

By way of example, with the London guide you’re given detailed information about Soho & Mayfair, Shoreditch, Borough, Notting Hill and Hampstead – including shopping, eating, stuff to see and do, and of course a few bike shops and cafés.

At the back of each book there’s also a great (and detailed) guide to the cycling habits of the city you’re visiting – invaluable when you consider the starkly different riding habits of Londoners, Milanese and Parisians.

Each book is illustrated by a different local illustrator: Amsterdam is by Joost Stokhof, Antwerp & Ghent by Sebastiaan van Doninck, Barcelona by Judy Kaufmann, Berlin by Mikkel Sommer, Copenhagen by Simon Væth (pictured below), London by Henry McCausland, Milan by Riccardo Guasco, and Paris by Louis Thomas.

The Rapha website also has a set of additional ride routes for each city which you can download to your bike’s GPS thingamajig if you have one.

Very lovely, and, given that these are produced by Rapha, surprisingly affordable at £25.

Google Maps – now with added bikes

Google, in collaboration with the transport charity Sustrans, has today added cycling routes to its UK maps – showing ‘Trails’, ‘Dedicated lanes’, and ‘Bicycle friendly roads’.

You can now click on any map to show the available cycle routes, and also ask for turn by turn directions between two places, using what Google considers to be the safest / quietest / flattest route – and it generally offers you several different options.

I just tested this out with my morning ride to work – Google pretty much matched the route I ride, though estimated it at 37 minutes, whereas it usually takes about 25 minutes (and I don’t ride that fast).

Worryingly though, the Google route suggested that I go via the Elephant & Castle roundabout, one of the most dangerous junctions in London for cyclists. It’s certainly the most direct route, but I actively use a different route in order to avoid the roundabout. I can’t quite see how it would be considered a “Bicycle friendly road”.

Also, at the moment there’s no way of searching for the routes of the National Cycle Network individually, which would seem to be a really useful, if not essential, function.

But it’s early days for the service – it’ll be interesting to see how it adapts and flexes over time.

Sustrans and Google have also produced a short film to promote the service:

In the meantime, if you’re looking for something similar in map land, with route elevations, and options for fastest / quietest / somewhere in the middle routes, try Otherwise, Sustrans also has a useful, if flawed, app which shows the full National Cycle Network.

Past Present Future

Those clever Diprose boys have been at it again. Not content with producing one of the best cycling magazines around, in the form of The Ride Journal, they’ve just produced this rather lovely book/magazine, Past Present Future, for Condor Cycles.

If you’re familiar with The Ride, it’s a very similar vibe – a collection of essays and photo stories, documenting the history of London bike manufacturer Condor Cycles.

It’s lovely stuff, and it’s really interesting to read the story of the company – far smaller and intimate than we’d previously imagined, and a real family affair.

And boy does it do its job – we came away from reading it totally wanting to buy a new bike…

Past, Present, Future is available from Condor Cycles, Magma, the Design Museum, and Look Mum No Hands.

Conversations on the Coast

Now this is just lovely. We’ve just taken delivery of a fantastic little book, Conversations on the Coast, which brings together a series of short interviews with artists and craftspeople from around the British Isles.

The book is the work of designer and photographer Nick Hand, who set off in 2009 to travel the coast of the British Isles by bike. Along the way he interviewed and photographed a wealth of local artisans – from flute makers to stone letter carvers, from stickmakers to boat builders. He put the photos and interviews together as soundslides on his site Slowcoast, and this book is a beautifully edited version of those soundslides.

The book arrived wrapped in hand-illustrated tissue paper, with a lovely postcard.

The photography throughout is beautiful, and each of the short interviews is illuminating and touching. As a whole, the book is a wonderful portrait of people doing things they love – not for money, not for fame – but because it makes them happy.


End to end, ended

A thousand or so miles. Twenty one days. Just one puncture. A bit of rain, but far more sun. Two slightly sore knees. A lot of Snickers bars. Sheep, sheep, and more sheep.

Yesterday afternoon we finally made it to John o’ Groats, the final destination for our ride from one end of Great Britain to the other.

It’s been an incredible journey. If you haven’t already, do jump over to our Gentlemen Cyclists blog to read all about it.

We’d just like to say an immense thank you to all the guest posters who have filled in in here during the trip. Brilliant work all round.

Our normal ramshackle service will resume next week.

Alistair Hall on the road, still

Hey there folks, hope you’re digging the guest posts. I’m still heading north on our little cycle ride. I’m currently sitting in a lovely little café in Braemar, having yesterday cycled across the Cairnwell Pass, the UK’s highest main road.

All being well, we should pitch up in John o’ Groats next Thursday. And I’ll be back with you from the following Monday.

In the meantime, enjoy the rest of the guest posters. There’s more great stuff on the way.

Alistair Hall, on the road…

Morning, Alistair here, posting from Chester, where we’ve got a day’s break during our ride.

The journey is going fantastically well so far – we’ve covered about 450 miles in the past week, including the stunning, and stunningly hilly, Cornish coast; some beautiful parts of Devon and Somerset; the Exe Valley; the Wye Valley (we’re now holding out for a Zed Valley); and a host of other splendours.

I hope you’ve been enjoying the guest posts while we’re away – they’re ace aren’t they? And there’s loads more to come too.

If you have been enjoying them, then perhaps you’d care to tip along to our fundraising page, and donate a little of your hard-earned.

See you soon.

Andrew Diprose on The Best Bike in the World

~ While Alistair is away cycling the length of Great Britain, we’ve invited twenty disgustingly talented people to each write a post for our blog. Today’s post is from the very lovely Andrew Diprose, Art Director of Wired Magazine and of sumptuous cycling periodical The Ride Journal. ~

The ‘Best Bike In The World’ might be the one pictured above. Don’t laugh. If you’re wondering, this is my brother’s bike, a modest 2009 Specialized Tri-cross Singlespeed.

1988 and my brother and I started riding bikes ‘seriously’. My grandad had passed away and as it was with part of our inheritance that my dad treated us to a pair of mountain bikes, matching Raleigh Magnums. From there a string of bikes followed, mirroring our ascending enthusiasm, commitment to the sport and take-home pay. The Magnums went the way of hardcore rave and Timmy Mallett but the continued obsession with new bikes has never waned.

I often get asked to recommend ‘The World’s Best Bike’ or ‘coolest hand-built bike’ to glossy magazines. My sad cycle-based obsession obviously precedes me.

As anyone who is into their riding would agree, this is a question fraught with problems… Best bike for what? Best bike for whom? Best bike for when, and where?

As I’m trawling through the ‘nichest’ hand-built bike web galleries and skimming rider review sites, chained to a lamppost in the darkest recesses of my mind is my brother’s scruffy bike.

A few years ago just like the Raleighs, we got matching ‘his and his’ Tri-Crosses. (This, sadly, 21 years since the last matching bikes – nothing changes with the Diprose brothers).

My bike?

Well, I soon came to detest the metallic Green Goblin paint and had the whole thing resprayed at probably half the price I paid for the whole bike.

The ride? Always a bit too short in the top-tube, a bit too upright, a bit too light at the front-end on climbs… The list of small niggles was endless. Everything I did to correct the handling, the bike seemed to buck against it. Eventually I chalked it up to experience took the parts off the frame and stashed it up in the loft.

My brother’s bike?

He loved it.

Soon as his tush touched that saddle he looked comfortable, his gibbon-like arms falling comfortably on the brake-hoods, a grin sweeping across his face. As I wrestled with my beast, he swooped and chuckled. As I swapped out stems and bars, he wore out brakes and bottom-brackets.

He’s got plenty of other flashier, cleaner and more expensive steeds; in fact I think they all are. This bike though fits him best. I’d suggest it fits better than his made-to-measure road bike.

I’d go so far as to argue that, for my brother, THIS is Best Bike In The World.

Many of us spend our time and money searching for The Best, whatever that is. Whether it’s That Shoe, That Chair, That House, we’re relentlessly ticking off ‘must-haves’ and clichéd popular design classics. When do we reappraise those objects we use everyday? Often the design heroes of our lives already surround us, they’re just unhyped and underappreciated.

If only they didn’t have metallic green paint.


~ Alistair is raising money for Cancer Research UK during his ride – please wander over to his Just Giving page and donate a little cash. ~

Time to ride

Right, that’s all from me for a while – I’m handing the blog over to some friends while I do a spot of cycling. Make sure you stay tuned – the daily posts coming up for the next three weeks or so are really fantastic. And hey, if you like what you read, why not trundle over here and donate some cash? (To those who have already done so – you’re beautiful people, thank you!)

End to End

You may have noticed a few posts on the We Made This blog over the years about bikes and cycling – heck, we even have a Bike category in our archive of posts. We like bikes. We’re think they’re great. Which is probably a good thing, as in a few weeks, Alistair is going to be spending rather a lot of time on one: cycling from Land’s End to John o’ Groats.

Here he is, contemplating that fact:

“Starting on August 31, I’m taking a break from design, to jump onto my pedals, and ride from from the southern-most tip of England to the northern-most tip of Scotland. That’s a journey of just over 1,000 miles, across a whole mix of terrains. Here’s what the route looks like – each red line is a day’s cycling:

(Check out the zoomable Google Map of the ride.)

I’ll be riding with my friend Dafydd, and we’ll be riding unsupported, carrying all our kit with us. We’re not trying to do it in a record-breaking sprint, as we’d quite like to stop and look at stuff along the way – so the whole journey should take us 21 days. You can read all about it over on Gentlemen Cyclists, the rather ramshackle blog we’re using to document our preparations for the trip, and the trip itself.

As part of the journey, I’m raising funds for Cancer Research UK, who have saved millions of lives by discovering new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer. If you fancy donating, check out my Just Giving page. My friend Dafydd is raising funds for the brilliant Sustrans, the UK’s leading sustainable transport charity – check out his Just Giving page too.”

While Alistair is away, we’ve lined up something rather special for our readers, with a series of one-off blog posts from an array of frankly disgustingly talented people. We’re really excited about this – we’ve already had the copy and images in for about half the posts, and they’re just brilliant. We’ll start them off on day one of the ride, Wednesday 31 August.

Stay tuned!