Posts Tagged ‘cycling’

Bike & Go review

Friday, August 11th, 2017 | Sport

Elina and I are considering getting back into cycling. So, I did what any self-respecting young professional would do, and went out and bought a fancy bike at the cost of nearly £1,000.

Actually, I didn’t do that. What I did do was to spend £3.80 hiring a bike from Leeds CyclePoint to see if we could both still ride a bike.

It turns out that you really do never forget how to ride one. It must be 15 years since I last rode my bike and I was rather cautious about stepping back on. But as soon as your foot goes down you’re back in old habits.

The scheme is called Bike & Go and you cannot really go wrong at £3.80 per day. You can register online and get started straight away: you don’t have to wait for your membership card to turn up.

It has plenty of features, too: a kick stand, an integrated bike lock and easy-to-use hub gears.

That said, as your day-to-day bike, it wouldn’t cut it. It’s incredibly heavy. I struggled to lift it by myself. It barely fits in the lift in our apartments (might be a problem with all bikes). The seat is rock hard: even a few minutes riding leaves you sore. The brakes don’t fill you will too much confidence, either.

But, overall, it does the job. For the price of a cup of coffee.

Tour de France

Friday, August 4th, 2017 | Sport

I have never watched cycling before. For the obvious reason: that men peddling away on bikes for five hours does not sound that interesting.

However, when you are working with Sky Sports, you sometimes get caught up in the excitement. It happened with golf, and now it appears to have happened with cycling, too.

Plus, I have stopped watching Formula One since Sky announced they were getting almost-exclusive live coverage of it. So, I am in the market for a new boring sport to watch. Cycling seems an excellent candidate.

Not as boring as it looks

A cycle race may seem like a bunch of people riding around for hours before sprinting towards the finish line at the very end. And, to a large extent, it is that. It is much easier to ride together in a peloton, so that is what happens, especially on the flat stages.

But it becomes more complicated than that. Riders can “attack”, which means they cycle off up the road and the peloton has to decide between chasing them down or letting them go. Cycling by yourself or in a small group is tiring, so it then becomes a competition to see if they can build up a big enough lead to hold off the peloton when they speed up towards the end.

Tour de France has four different jerseys:

Jersey Description
Yellow jersey This is the most prestigious one: and the one Wiggins and Froome raced for and won. It is a sumation of your time for each stage: the one with the lowest is the winner. You also get time bonuses for winning stages.
Green jersey The points jersey. You get points for winning stages, intermediate sprints (designated points along the route) and reaching the top of hills first.
Polka dot jersey King of the Mountains. This is given to the rider who scores the most points from reaching the tops of hills first.
White jersey Best young rider, similar to general classification but with an age limit.

So, lots going on. And because different riders are aiming for different jerseys, tactics change a lot. It’s a team sport. If you want to win a sprint, for example, it is easiest if you have a line of team-mates to get you in the perfect position.

Or, if you are competing for the yellow jersey, it makes sense have some of your team mates attack. That way, the yellow jersey is forced to either chase them down, tiring himself out so you can pass him at the end, or leave the attackers to the stage, taking valuable time out of his lead.

Grand Depart in Leeds

There are four big races in cycling, known as the grand tours. These are the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, Vuelta a España and Tour de Yorkshire. Some people dispute whether the latter is really a grand tour.

But Yorkshire is certainly a hub for cycling. In 2014, the Tour de France started here, with the Grand Depart starting on The Headrow in Leeds. I was there.

This year’s tour

Chris Froome took the win in relatively easy fashion. While his winning time was narrower than his previous victories, and he briefly lost the yellow jersey at one point, it never really looked in that much danger given how dominant Team Sky was.

The real outrage of the tour was that Warren Barguil was awarded the combativity prize. He rode an excellent race and won the King of the Mountains jersey fair and square. But how anyone other than Thomas De Gendt, who spend over 1,000km in breakaway groups (mostly leading them), could be awarded the combativity jersey is a mystery to a novice cycling-watcher such as myself.

Image courtesy of Wiki Commons.

How does track cycling work?

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017 | Sport

Did you experience a little confusion when watching the Olympic action at the velodrome last year? I certainly did. So I looked it up. Here are the ins and outs of track cycling.

Road cycling is pretty straight forward. People start at one point and then try and ride to the other point as fast as they can. The one who gets there first is the winner. Things get slightly more complex when there are stages and time trials, but the basic idea remains the same.

This is not so with track cycling. There are different disciplines and whole new skills to be learned with each one. This guide takes you through the most popular.

It’s all about the slipstream

Much like road cycling, being at the front is hard work. You have to move all of the air out of the way. In comparison, if you are sat behind another rider, it is much easier because you can cruise behind in their slipstream. This is critical throughout track cycling.

Team pursuit

In team pursuit, each team has four riders that have to complete a distance of 3km. Each member of the team will take it in turns to ride at the front, doing most of the work, before falling to the back and allowing the next member to take up the strain.

Only three riders need to finish the race. In theory, the team could go the entire race with all four riders. However, often one rider simply cannot keep up with the pace. Or, more often, the team will work tactically so that one rider does an extended spell at the front, burning all of their energy, before allowing the remaining three to finish the race.

Sprint

Spring is a competition between two individual riders. Distances vary but is often three laps of the track. In sprint races, you will often find the riders going very slowly for the first lap or two. The reason is that if the riders went off fast, the rider at the back would tuck into the front rider’s slipstream, save their energy, and then pass them on the final lap.

To prevent this, the front rider will cruise around at a walking pace, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. They will then suddenly rush off, hoping to catch the other ride unprepared. The other ride attempts to keep close enough to perform the undertake, often riding around the top of the track so they can rush down for a sudden gain of speed.

Keirin

Kieran is a race of 2km. However, for the first three-quarters of the race, the riders follow an electric bike around the track and must keep behind. The bike gradually increases in speed before pulling off the track near the end of the race, at which point it is a free-for-all.

Omnium

Omnium is the heptathlon of the track cycling world. Riders compete in a series of different races including pursuits, elimination races and time trials. An elimination race is a simple race around the track where the rider at the back is eliminated each lap until a winner is found. Omniums will typically end in a points race. This could be over 100 laps, with points given every 10 for the first four riders.

The best pitches for Olympic sports

Friday, August 19th, 2016 | Sport

Some people are simply brilliant salespeople. They have a gift for persuasion. I have always thought physicists must be some of them. They persuaded grant funders that the only place they could put observatories was in the tropical paradise of Hawaii.

Watching the Olympics, I think even they have been outdone though. Consider the successful pitches that must have been made in order to secure our current line-up of events.

dressage

“We are going to train horses to dance.”
“Hmm. Jousting? That’s a sport?”
“No, we just want the dancing included. Maybe a bit of jumping.”

nicola-adams

“Well, it’s just hitting each other really.”

keirin

“It’s an eight lap cycle race. But for the first five laps, the cyclists will queue up behind a motorbike.”

triple-jump

“It’s like the long jump, but the athlete will do a hop and a skip beforehand.”

hammer-throw

“Well, it’s not quite a javelin and it’s not quite a shot put, but man, will they be able to throw that hammer a long way.”

diving

“Yes, it’s diving. But there will be two of them. Doing exactly the same thing.”

beach-volleyball

“Exactly, it’s volleyball. Except with a lot of sand, and the women will be in bikinis.”

Grand Depart

Friday, July 18th, 2014 | Life

Earlier this month, Yorkshire welcomed the Tour de France to Yorkshire for the Grand Depart. Or “T’ Big Setting Off” as we call it in Yorkshire.

People have gone all out for it. There are bikes, artwork, banners, signs everywhere. Even people nowhere near the route have a bike on the wall and a transfer on their shop window.

The turnout was incredible too. So much so that an hour before the race started the police closed off the road to pedestrians and stopped letting anyone else through. All along the route it was stacked with people half a dozen deep.

grand-depart

You would have to have a heart of stone to suggest seeing that wasn’t worth waiting for.

When I was twelve I spent six hours in 35 degree heat waiting for a Space Shuttle to take off. Finally we saw this little dot disappear into the distance and then in the silence some kid said “is that it?” As good as that was, it can’t really compare to seeing the photo above.

Nevertheless, it makes you proud to be Yorkshire. If you have a fancy bike ride you need hosting, we’re your people.

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Freedom on two wheels

Thursday, July 11th, 2013 | Religion & Politics

articleimg-skyrideLeeds_608x376

Last Saturday there was supposed to be a Leeds Speakers’ Corner.

However, a couple of days before, the council pulled the plug on the event because they said the area was in use for Sky Ride, a large cycling event. Or so I was told anyway. So just to clarify, freedom of speech in Leeds is cancelled, in case it interrupts Rupert Murdoch’s bike ride.

What I think is more concerning however, is that the organisers of LSC, decided to accept this and call the event off. Not turn around and say in a polite voice “do fuck off, we have freedom of speech in this country and if we want to turn up to a public space and speak our mind, we will do”, but say OK, that’s fine, we’ll just stay at home and keep our traps shut then.

Perhaps we can stay in and watch some serious analysis on Sky News instead.