Bicycle Maintenance Tracker

Feedback Sports have launched a free useful iphone app, designed to serve as a comprehensive component log for users bikes. The tracking tool records the price, weight etc of each component of the bike, and also serves as a maintenance log to remind riders when the last maintenance was carried on on their parts.
The app makes it simple to have a record of the complete maintenance history and component breakdown of multiple bikes, which might come in useful when selling or showing the bike history to the local wrench. At this moment in time there doesnt appear to be an android version (boo!) but maybe thats something Feedback will develop for future releases. Download from the itunes store here

HOTN V

Sunday 13th saw the welcome return for the fifth edition of Raphas 'Hell of the North' ride. A now annual occurrence on the lanes & gravel tracks of Hertfordshire, the event serves as a fitting tribute to the queen of the classics, the Paris-Roubaix race. 
The day involved navigating with a route card through a sun-soaked 70 miles consisting of gravel tracks, muddy forest trails, winding country lanes and some of Hertfordshires roughest (and smoothest in parts) tarmac.
Perhaps the most notable addition to this years event, which in my opinion has been the very best of all past routes, was the surprise at the feed station... a lap of an outdoor velodrome! With the H-Van duly parked in the centre serving a much needed caffeine kick to tired legs (not to mention those juicy oranges) riders entered the outdoor velodrome at Welwyn Garden City and could live out their daydreams of a lap around the track, in my mind it was sunny and I could hear the crowds of Roubaix! In actual reality Blandine & I just rolled round practicing out victory celebrations :)
Blandine has it dialled!
With the weather being particularly well-behaved of late we escaped any smattering of Belgian Toothpaste, in fact just a modest amount of filth compared to years previous. Admittedly I have to say, I much prefer it this way, im not one for being a mud-junkie, nice to get home with non-claggy mechs and cables! 
Anyway, the event was muchos perfect, id highly recommend downloading the gpx file above from the website and giving it a blast yourself. Of particular highlights were the lanes after Welwyn, super nice through a forest and then out into some peachy lowlands. tasty indeed. 
 
Ending with a well earned leffe beer & frites at a pub in the recesses of a sun-drenched Barnet is always a decent way to finish a ride. Actually, I indulged in neither, and had another 20 miles or so to get back to the dusky corners of West London, but it was so ace to see a slew of riders kicking back in the sun to watch the possibly one of the most exciting finales to Roubaix i can remember for the past few years. Bravo to our friends over in Kings Cross for putting on such a cracker of a ride. I dearly look forward to the sixth edition!
*addendum - yet again I failed to complete the whole course. A combination of a fashionably late depart from Ponds Sq, coupled with a desire to see the race unfold led to my partner in crime Blanders & I craftily traversing from Velodrome to pub via a secret shortcut. YES we know we suck, and that's the beauty of this event... iv NEVER managed the whole route as there's always an incident, be it punctures, exploding rear derailleurs, or in this case, laziness ;)

Roads To Ride - Ma1131

One of the jewels in the Mallorcan crown is a fairly quiet road, the Ma1131 that weaves its way exquisitely away from the iconic coastal road of the Ma10 linking the western town of Andratx right across the spine-like mountain region of the Serra de Tramuntana to the eastern resort of Pollensa. The Ma1131 leads down to a dead end, the picturesque Port de Valldemossa.
The 5.8km road winds the rider down a beautiful woodland descent, with each of the nine hairpins teasing a little more with each turn, revealing a progressively more seductive view of the coast each time the road opens out. Dropping down 1200ft in an exhilarating plunge towards an inevitable coffee at the one restaurant of the port,  one could be worried about the ascension back up and out of the Port as you make your way back to Valldemossa proper town. 
However the rise provides such a stunning journey from the port back up into the realms of civilisation, one cant help but be untroubled by the climb, legs wilfully turning the pedals - the very opposite of an unpleasant slog it seemed. The shallow walls of ancient stone provide guidance away from steep edges, and lush trees offer welcome shade to the sides of this narrow little peach.
This small but incredible climb is well worth a trip should you find yourself on the sunny cycling haven of Mallorca. Make a day of it and ride the coastal route of the Ma10 from Pollensa direction, tackling the Puig Major in reverse direction via Gorge Blau. Not only is it an absolute blast, you will be richly rewarded with a 14km descent before beginning a rolling climb hugging the Balearic Sea coastline as you make your way down to the Ma1131. Enjoy!

MSR 2014

Congratulations!

Have to throw out a HUGE congratulations to my colleague and friend Bryn Lennon, who last night scooped the coveted title of 'Sports Photographer Of The Year' award, alongside the 'Specialist Portfolio Of The Year' at the annual Sports Journalist Awards for his sterling cycling work
Iv had the privilege to help edit Bryns work both on assignment and remotely, and honestly believe he is the best in the world at editorial cycling coverage, telling the story of the race as it unfolds. Each year I get to head to Paris to have cards thrown my direction on what is often an incredibly chaotic day that comes at the end of three weeks brutal graft put in by Bryn and others on the tour. To see him get win these awards is a lovely testament to the consistent quality of his output. Add into that Bryn is also a huge lover of the sport, and this definitely translates across in his work. 
You'll see a lot more from Bryn & Getty this forthcoming season, with the launch of our new aptly names 'Velo' collection, covering a whole gamut of top global bike races. The content will soon be made embeddable also, so bloggers and online media outlets look to fill your editorial with high quality free images from an award winning shooter and some other excellent photographers.
But for now, let us here at Bianchista HQ throw our cycling caps in appreciation to Bryn and his richly deserved accolades. Chapeau chap!

The Three P's

There seems to have been loads written about 'womens cycling' of late, it has without doubt become the subject matter du jour of the world wide web-o-sphere, with loads of people offering opinions and ideas, some good, some a little ott. So! I thought id throw my hat, or rather cycling cap, into the arena and throw my incredibly humble quiet opinion into the noise & hubris out there.
For me, it can be broke it down to what I like to call "The Three P's". Positivity, Participation and Playfulness! That's pretty much how I can sum up what I think works for me as my experience of being a rider of the female variety.
Keeping my riding involvement underlined by a key ethos of positivity never fails to keep me coming back for more. Its the removing (or adding if that's your bag!) of pressure... its riding with friends and sharing in their achievements or just that simple common bond of sharing time in the saddle, the ups and the downs! I cant think of a better example of this positive attitude focusing on friendship than the Les Filles Racing Team. Keeping riding lighthearted makes the miles and long slogs easy. For me its about not over analyzing things and just simply getting out there and enjoying it with other happy like-minded individuals. I believe its the best buzz there is.
 I believe events that encourage "participation" are key to enhancing the experience of cycling for females. Its not about buying the latest gear, having the latest bike or knowing the lingo or politics of the professional level of the sport... its just simple participation. From grassroots right through to serious racing. There's truly nothing better than events that welcome, encourage and cater to riders across all levels. I can think of two examples off the top of my bonce that really stood out for me last year - firstly the Rapha Womens 100, a super successful global initiative to get women across the globe to ride 100k on a set date. Using everything from strava challenges to digital media integration to build a community of female cyclists, what unfolded was a lead-up and execution of a worldwide ride that saw women from every corner of the planet come together and share a memorable day on the road. The emphasis wasn't on speed, fitness, level or any other competitive element, but simply sharing the experience of the day with the vast female community, making friends and travelling new routes with new riding companions. Of course it goes without saying, im absolutely ecstatic its back for a welcome return in 2014. Secondly I popped down to an event called the VeloJam, run by Ana Nichoola & the Mule Bar Girls team. This was an amazing day of track racing at Herne Hill velodrome, with races for every category of ride, from complete beginner through to the top tier. The racing looked amazing, but more importantly it had this amazing inclusive vibe about it. As much encouragement and entertainment was to be found with the newb races as there was with the super pacey ladies. It should be noted that the Mule Bar Girls also run regular women-only track sessions at Herne Hill, teaching skills and just genuinely trying to give something back to whats becoming a flourishing scene within the south.  
Pic © Huw Williams
Lastly I think 'playfulness' is something I hold dear to my heart. With cycling, there's an intrinsic childlike joy of being on the bike. Strip away all the training, suffering and seriousness of cycling for a second and you cant deny that at the root of it all is a sense of youthful unfeigned escapism. Its the feeling we had as a child roaring down the big hill on the estate, daring each other to see how long you can withhold from pulling the brake lever. Its zipping down a quiet country lane and screaming with sheer glee! 
The above thoughts aren't to be seen as any meaningful kind of manifest or principles, cycling shouldn't be analyzed away into such granular concepts. It should be about joy and freedom. Its a very personal thing we choose to share with others on the road. Look out for each other & do your best to encourage and help people into this amazing sport of ours. Anyway... the last 20km of Milan - San Remo are unfolding so il draw this stream of thought to a close. Happy riding all!

La Poursuivants - IWD

Happy International Womens Day! enjoy some inspiration on us to get out there and enhjoy a rare spot of sunshine that seems to have graced our skies this morning in London HQ. Also don't forget this weekend sees a welcome return of the delectable Rapha 'Festa Della Donna'. A weekend of sales across their women's products to mark the launch of the 2014 'Womens 100' incentive (more on that from me in the forthcoming week)

Со́чи

I find myself posting this from the MPC at the Sochi Winter Olympic games park, situated in the town called Adler, in the Krasnodar Krai region, Russia. The temperature is around 6°C, which is decidedly balmy compared to hustling on the runway in -26° as we boarded our transfer in Moscow. Speaking of transfers, I wore the rather luxe rapha merino transfer pants, and couldn't have been more comfier during the 20 hours or so spent in transit.
So, whats this place like? well, if im honest, its in a rather 'unfinished' state. Construction in the area seems to be very much in progress, with a lot of the buildings and sites probably best described as 68% complete.
Wild dogs tend to roam around the joint, situating themselves everywhere from outside the hotel, to waiting along with the media at the shuttle bus-stops.
Cash is king in this part of the world. In fact if you even attempt to broach the subject of card-based payment you will be met with a look akin to as if you had burst into someone's house and smacked their grandma in the chops. Roubles are obligatory, and its nice to carry around notes with 1000 on them, feeling like a king.
Our hotel or 'compound' looks a little like a low security prison, with checkpoints to egress in & out of site. Its about 3km from the Georgian border which is quite mental, and I look out of my windows to a beautiful Georgian mountain range which looks amazing on a clear day. So far its been super rainy and cloudy.. think Manchester in February and your not far off the Adler eco-system.
Food is 'interesting'. Mainly being meat and veg, but not the kind of meat we are accustomed to in the west, its a bit anything goes... the canteen served and ominous concoction called 'beef chicken'. Dried fish is a big thing, and a colleague at what she described as a "greasy meat filled croissant". Needless to say iv skipped brekkie thus far. On the list to get stuck into is Borscht, which my new Russian-savvy pal Harry Engels has recommended I try. Check out his blog & twitter for some cool Sochi updates.
There's not much in actual way to update regarding images, as the games don't actually start for a few days yet. We are doing lots of prepping, ensuring venues can spool content in to the media centre ops crew, and sharking for alternatives to mcdonalds to eat for the next month. Im running a little bit for the commute as I cant handle waiting in the cold for a packed out media bus! keeping the legs sharp as well as the mind hopefully on this trip... 

Likes


Transcontinental

Les forçats du pavé

FP-R1

Liège–Bastogne–Liège

La 'Doyenne' will mark its centenary edition in 2014. The late-April seductive classic in the Ardennes region of Belgium takes riders on a journey through industrial townships, rolling fields, woodland climbs and punctures back to civilisation in the Liege suburb of Ans via the unforgiving gradients of Saint-Nicholas.
The race, a 256km gruelling route, builds drama towards the latter end of the day, with the bulk of its punishing ascents being not-so kindly laid in the latter stages of the parcours. No less than 11 climbs await tired legs, with aggressive riders able to capitalise by punching out on these rises.
La Redoute offers a perfect chance to view the race up close, a tangible experience for the fan of the riders effort and pain. Contorted faces and laboured cadence almost make the professionals seem like us mere humans in their suffering, but the pelotons speed up the climb is about as un-reminiscent of the amateur attempts the day before. Simply devastating!
1999 saw the charismatic Belgian badboy Frank Vandenbroucke dart away like a startled stickleback in a summer stream on La Redoute, and managing to finally shake Boogerd on the Côte de Saint-Nicolas. It was then head down, burying himself to the finish in what was one of Liege's most stylish wins.

Phone Home

The Masqueraders

So Rasmussen drops the bombshell, the bombshell some had expected, others maybe not so much. He claimed he taught the Canadian 2012 Giro D’Italia winner Ryder Hesjedal how to dope using EPO. Hours pass after the famously black-balled Dane unveils these claims in a press conference, forcing a meek apologetic PR release from Hesjedal confirming the claims.
Ryder claims the discretion dates back to 2003, handily outside the 8 year statue of limitations. Thus the end result is the cyclist has escaped any technical violation, and therefore no sanctions will be bought against Hesjedal.

The thing that angers me about the issue of dopage within cycling, and let us be clear here, the sport is mired in controversies of the doping kind, is not the initial discretion of doping. Sure, I know its wrong per se, but that isn't the thing that riles me as a fan, as someone who dearly loves cycling. How many of us are innocent of a bad decision, of an action that galls us with shame, of doing something we knew was wrong? Id wager not many are pure and without sin. So its not this initial misdemeanor that angers and upsets me, it is in fact the lack of moral fortitude these guys have in absolving themselves of their wrongdoing. It’s the weasely cowardly way they are only uncovered as cheats by others, by forces out of their control. Hesjedal is the last on a recent line of these such characters.
The insincerity of their ‘confessions’, conveniently timed just after they bow out of the sport, or as their hand is forced, serve as a kick in the stomach to the fans. They apologise, ask for forgiveness and re-assure us of the authenticity of current performances, yet all the time they would have continued to keep their dark secrets locked away. Look at the cowardice of Michael Barry, in 2010 decrying Floyd Landis as a liar, even questioning his state of mind "Who knows what to know. He has lied and denied things. I don't where he is mentally at right now." yet fast forward almost 2 years to October 2012 and the stance of the Canadian somewhat performed a 180. “I doped. It was a decision I deeply regret. It caused me sleepless nights, took the fun out of cycling and racing, and tainted the success I achieved at the time”
Rich words after conveniently closing his career and retiring just before the statement. The same can be said of Stuart O’Grady, announcing his retirement from the sport a mere 24 hours before he was named by a French Senate report claiming he returned a suspicious EPO sample in the 1998 Tour de France, indicative of EPO usage. With the likes of O’Grady & Barry, they were outspoken in their anti-doping beliefs, both being vocal critics within the pro peloton of the rampant doping culture that blighted the sport over  the last two decades. Its this two-faced omerta viewpoint that makes me angry as a fan. The way riders like Ricco, Di Luca et al are vilified as evil-incarnate, the way their dirty performances cast asunder whilst riders like Barry, O’Grady & Hincapie ride off into the sunset, their veneer tarnished minimally and their hero status bafflingly intact.

Again I reiterate, its not so much the actual act of doping that infuriates me, I understand that the sport was engulfed in the inferno  of EPO, a dangerous arms race that most had to engage in to compete. That’s no excuse, plenty of riders did choose the right path, sadly most exiting the sport, or even worse, as we all know the case of Christophe Bassons.

Im just a fan of the sport, im not looking at cycling through rose-tinted glasses to believe cheating doesn't occur. It does occur, and sadly due to human nature will probably always occur. Im just so very tired of these ‘disclosures’ that serve nothing but to save face and work as a PR measure for the riders. Don’t mug us off with these insincere utterances, we deserve more than that. We are the ones cheering, supporting the industry, buying the bikes and the products that sponsor your teams.
Is truth & reconciliation the answer? I don’t know, but I sure as hell know Im sick of being lied to. I want a sport I can be proud of, something all of us can hold out head up high for investing our time and passion in.

Mamnick Hibell

Thom over at Mamnick has created the most beautiful looking leather shoes inspired by the touring legend of Ian Hibell. The shoe, named after its rugged-muse, is handmade in Derbyshire in homage to its inspiration of Hibell. 100% leather the shoes are available in both a black & brown flavour. Perfect for a spot of touring of city riding, these will look dandy both in & out the saddle. 
There's also a very nice little piece about Hibell over at the Mamnick journal.  

Pin-Ups

Spotted over at the very cool Atelier du Velo online shop. Head on over to check out some cool unique vintage bike bits.