Cycling Shorts unleashes Santa’s (last minute) Little Helpers.
We’re up to our eyes in bicycle shaped packages badly wrapped and covered in sticky tape, it’s all got a bit manic, so much to get organised and so little time, so we’ve got together to give you a list of gift ideas that won’t disappoint even the fussiest cyclist in your life.
We’ve split our choices into four perfect price parcels. Let us know what you intend to give, or hope to receive.
I’m going to give you a long list of favourites, a pick n’ mix if you will.
Ideas for the kids… why not go for a Crazy Stuff Helmet, choose a crocodile, cat, eagle or numerous other critters, all for under £30.
Keep your loved ones visible on the daily ride or commute and weekend roaming with this selection of road safe stocking fillers:
Daub the kids (or your own) bikes and clothing with this brilliant Glowtec Reflective Paint, a little pot goes a long way! Besides my bikes I own a KMX Trike Kart which is very low, so for extra safety part of the frame and the wheel rims are painted with this stuff, during daylight you can’t see the paint, but at night when light hits it it’s amazingly bright and a steal at £4.99 a pot. Also try the Glowtec glow in the dark paint if you’re riding in the countryside (it needs pitch black to stand out). What about a brilliant Proviz Triviz Light, this neat little gadget will attach to clothing and bikes, it has a number or light settings and to recharge you plug the battery into your USB hub on your laptop. Genius! and a snip at £29.99. howies reflective Roadsign Backpack, now available for a limited time at £25! Why not pair it with an awesome howies T-Shirt, so many designs to choose from, all classics!
Let people know you’re coming… and with a bit of panache… this Brass Striker Bell does the trick! Personalise your bike with your own Custom Head Badge for £17.00.
For the stylist female rider in your life, why not treat her to some AnaNichoola Goat Skin Kestral Cycling Gloves (fingerless mitts) they are so buttery soft on your hands, well padded and a great value buy at £34.99 (yes I know over budget a bit, but worth every penny). Available in white or black.
For the men… these Bike Chain Cufflinks should do the trick £20.
For the serious roadie… some excellent ASSOS Chamois Cream, I swear by this stuff, it’s cooling menthol feel is great and it lasts twice as long as other brands I’ve tried, it’s a bit more expensive that some others (£13.99) but I think it’s worth the money.
Something to give you your coffee stop fix, why not send some Montezuma’s Doppio Coffee Pip Sweets, get your coffee and sugar rush on the go. If you’re feeling naughty why not try some of their award winning chocolates too! Bean Machine bars and chocolate covered coffee beans. All these goodies start at £2.39 and go up to £4.99.
If only a hot coffee fix will do; then why not go for a Keep Cup, these reusable cups help keep your coffee warm between the coffee shop and the office. They come in a range of colours and sizes and will only set you back £8.50, they fit under most coffee machines to be refilled.
Lets get a bit arty… what about one of the gorgeous prints from friends of Cycling Shorts; Bruce Doscher and Andy Arthur aka Magnificent Octopus. All for around £30, what a treat!
For the collector types why not gather your own peloton, with these great die cast cyclist figures from France, made as they always have been, each is hand painted, available for around £6 each.
Rapha Winter Socks… £15
I’ve spent countless hours in the saddle with cold and numb feet… often extending up the legs until it feels like they’re made of wood. Some toasty winter socks such as these can help make that peg leg feeling a thing of the past!
Keep those feet dry and warm in a pair of Campagnolo Thermo Txn Waterproof Overshoes, these are a real favourite of mine. Slightly over budget but what the hell!
Because you are the revolution!….What about an – RPRT T-shirt £20
It’s book time… ‘Vélo’, £21 from those fine gentlemen and ladies at www.rouleur.cc. A series of short essays by Paul Fournel, he of ‘Need for the Bike‘ fame, beautifully illustrated throughout by Jo Burt. A book the cyclist in you life will find themselves returning to time and again. I’d bundle this with ‘Need for…’ To complete the Fournel Christmas cycling package.
Has to be a book! Not an electronic version to go on the Kindle or iPad, the real thing I mean. For anyone who hasn’t read it yet, Tyler Hamilton/Daniel Coyle’s The Secret Race has to be up there, but I think David Walsh’s Seven Deadly Sins is likely to be the top seller and the one I want to read the most (along with the rest of my family!). As a stocking filler, again for anyone who hasn’t read it, it would have to be Paul Kimmage’s Rough Ride. If you do have an iPad then for £2.99 Lanced: The Shaming of Lance Armstrong is all the old David Walsh articles from the Sunday Times about Armstrong and are well worth a look, especially for those shocked when Armstrong was finally caught out!
Fantastic images by two of the best photographers in the business – a gift that keeps on giving throughout the year. Gruber Images Cycling Calendar
This is a tough one. It’s either got to be a mix or cycling related toiletry goodies such as Hoo Ha Ride Glide for the girls, some Muc-Off Dry Shower for the commuters and some Joshua Tree Salve for the road rash we’re bound to get in the new season!
Alternatively, it’s been a topic on every cycling fanatics tongue of late, but I’ve heard some fantastic reviews on Tyler Hamilton’s book, The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs.
Inside-Out Sharp Cycling Book £10
Giordana Skull Cap – Stops heat escaping through your head when you’re out in the cold.
Registration to the Cycling Development North West Road Race League
Be a part of one of the most successful road race leagues in the country, with over 19 road races, supported by the National Escort Group, next season – visit www.cdnw.org for more information.
Taster session at Manchester Velodrome
Fancy being the next Emma Trott or Sir Chris Hoy? Get yourself down to a taster session at the National Cycling Centre to have a go – check out: www.nationalcyclingcentre.com
There’s only one thing on my list for the Secret Santa category – after his immense year, what could possibly be better Christmas day viewing than a review of Wiggo’s Tour de France victory? You can get the 4 hour edition plus a commemorative water bottle for twenty quid from the Cycling Weekly website, which leaves ten pounds to spend on seven and a half litres of Alpro chocolate soya milk, maybe not scientifically the best recovery drink, but certainly the tastiest… Between them, they should see you safely through digesting the turkey.
Breaking the Chain by Willy Voets RRP £8.99
‘Rough Ride’ by Paul Kimmage RRP £8.99
Kimmage has certainly endured a rough ride both in cycling and journalism, fighting what seemed a losing battle against omerta and the powers-that-be. As cycling looks to (hopefully) be on the brink of massive change, Rough Ride serves as a reminder of a cyclist who never fulfilled his youthful potential as he was generally beaten by juiced-up riders for the entirety of his career. Very enlightening, made even more so with the addition of hindsight. Try and pick up an updated edition if possible. An absolute steal – available at well under £30. One of the best and most honest cycling books ever written.
A huge amount of chocolate! Energy for my riding… honest!!
Park Tools Pizza Cutter – £17.99 – Great for the cyclist who has everything, a small novelty item that shows thought without breaking the bank or requiring knowledge of cycling from the buyer!
100 Greatest Cycling Climbs – RRP £8.99 – A handy little book for the cyclist who fancies self-medicating their lack of willpower with extreme pain.
Marty MacDonald McCrossan:
Would have to be one of my own Wiggo Cartoon mugs or a T Shirt all the way on that one! £12.50 and £20 respectively.
Eddy Vinyl Figure £35
Hmm secret santa now thats always a hard one…I had to go over budget by a fiver on this one http://rouleur.cc/eddy-vinyl-figure
Santa’s Little Helper
Maybe something for the coffee table? What about the stylish book Merckx 525. It’s a beautiful book and any true cycling fan or cyclist would be happy to receive this.
Treat your bike to some luxury this Christmas… Brooks Leather Handlebar Tape £45.
This little curiosity caught my eye, the Lightskin LED Seat Post, contained within the stem is your rear light, not sure how great it is but it looks very stylish £43.
For the cycling mad ladies you can’t go wrong with an AnaNichoola Sun Cat Jersey (£75) and matching Sun Cat Padded Cycling Shorts (£80); both are beautifully made and the shorts have a high waist unlike other brands so you won’t find your back exposed when you lean forward on your bike. The waist is really comfy too, it doesn’t dig in. Available in Black and white (I opted for one of each colour).
Another favourite of mine and great value are the dhb Women’s Vaeon Roubaix Padded Bib Tights, great for winter, they have a zip front and they are really comfortable, only £49.99.
Quality unisex items that won’t disappoint are the TwoZero Verso Hi-Vis Cyclone Cycling Jacket, available in Black or Yellow, in a range of good sizes and well made, price £54.99. For a few pounds more for a limited time is the Visijax Signalling LED Cycling Jacket, this jacket is really well made, it has a soft feel and is extremely bright, there are reflectors all over the jacket and integrated front and rear lights with indicator lights when you lift your arms. It’s a great jacket with the lights off and you’re like a neon christmas tree when the lights are switched on, no one will miss you in this thing! Limited offer prices of £58 – £78 (depending on size) from an RRP of £149. It should also be a hit with gadget lovers in your life as Stephen Fry was spotted wearing one in his latest series ‘Gadget Man’. The other unisex item is a wonderful New Zealand Soigneur Merino Wool Retro Cycling Jersey
Monkey Bike Wheel Lights… for kids and proper big kids! Turn your spokes into a party of patterns and colour. £39.99
RPRT fluo Helmet Sterling – Keep visible, safe and sound even in the Christmas rush on the dark icy winter nights.
Nick Dey & Felix English:
Nick says: Has to be the Rapha Merino bundle especially with their current discount. Not cheap but how can you not give socks, etc, for Christmas? £90 with 15% discount.
A really bright rear light (not sure which one) or a luminous jacket (again no preference) to show someone how much you care. You can never be too safe out on the road, so anything which makes you more visible in my mind, even though in the case of the luminous jacket you can probably see it from outer space is a fantastic gift!
Channel the great Eddy Merckx on long winter rides.
Molteni Retro Long Sleeve Jersey
Everyone consider’s their bike a piece of art, so there’s no better way than to display them in the home than with a bike shelf like this wooden beauty from Urban City Bike Shelves www.urbancitybikeshelves.com
Castelli Leggera Jacket – This is one of the best rain jackets that I have ever owned (and I have owned a few).
British Cycling Membership and Race Licence
For under £100 you can have £10m liability insurance and personal accident insurance if you buy the Gold membership package, together with loads of other offers plus if you purchase the racing licence for £32 if you’re over 18, you can compete in various British Cycling events! Visit www.britishcycling.org.uk for information about the racing licence.
A nice set of pedals. E.g. Look Keo 2 Max Carbon Pedals
For the most friendly, secure and satisfyingly fantastic cleat click you could ever wish to experience, invest in some nice pedals for your bike. Money can’t buy the confidence and assurity you get from a quality pair, meaning you can keep the power down for longer without any niggling fear of pulling out of a cheaper pair. An excellent investment that will last.
For a hundred quid, you’re approaching serious territory – if it’s for someone who spends a long time on their bike, how about a gift that keeps on giving? The Brooks Swift saddle is an example of hand-crafted British finery, a piece of leather perfection that, once worn in, will be more comfortable than anything else on the market, and will last… Well, last longer than the bike you fit it to.
A voucher for a massage, really need it, on a bike every single day for hours can do anyones back in! …and preferably a hot young lady.
Foska Novelty Jerseys – £48.99 – Great jerseys worth a giggle and surprising comfortable. Comes advertising Road tax, Baked Beans, Newcastle Brown or Cornflakes amongst others.
Tacx T3075 Cycle Motion Stand
Jonathan Tiernan-Locke: & Jack Holroyd:
Lezyne Super Drive – £99.99
What JTL says: Super bright and compact little unit, and very well made. Just leave it on the winter bike and never get caught out in the fading light again. Flashing commuter mode through to full power where it’s good enough for MTB night rides!
What Jack says: A 500 lumen light under £100? This baby is seriously bright. Whether commuting through London or climbing the Pennines after dark, this little sliver of CNC aluminium will really light up your life.
Camelbak All Clear
And finally, Camelbak has a cool new biotech offering that uses an ultra light long lasting battery with a UV light to clean and purify water from “iffy to safe”. Made for travel to some remote parts it’s great for the car or hiking or just to be on the safe side. Retailing for $100
Marty MacDonald McCrossan:
A nice expensive bottle of Montepulciano!
Shutt Velo Rapide Active Softshell Jacket £99.00
Affordable, well made, great design and fit… what more do you look for in a jacket?
Something Under the Tree
For this price range I’m starting with my favourite winter jacket. I really love my Le Col Ladies B3 Winter Cycling Jacket, everything about the design is perfect in my opinion. A couple of my friends have road tested my jacket and it doesn’t seem to matter if you’re tall or short, busty or less so the design works. My favourite feature is the extra long thumbhole sleeves which my friends and I all found brilliant. There has been real attention to details on this jacket, the finishing is excellent. It looks great, feels great on, fits perfectly and is really well made. Wicks well, and keeps you snuggly warm and dry. This is going to be a favourite for years but I can’t wait to see what Le Col do for the girls next season. £234 pricey but worth it, you’ll get year worth of wear out if it.
To accompany the jacket and complete the look why not try the Le Col Unisex Padded B3 Winter Tights £159.99, same as the Jacket, beautifully made and really comfortable (speaking from a female perspective).
If Santa cares to listen I’d love a set of Elite V-Arion Parabolic Inertial Rollers (£229.99 current price), during the winter months there’s nothing better than staying toasty warm and still being able to give yourself and the bike a workout.
The other item to catch my attention was a pair of ASSOS Zegho Crystal Glasses £223.99 (normally £279.99) I’ve heard good things about them but not had a chance to try them out for myself, they have good eye coverage to protect from any unidentified flying objects that may be airborne (and if you temporarily take flight) which I like, they also have great reactive lenses at the top so going in and out of shade won’t leave you temporarily totally in the dark as the bottom third of the lens will be clear… so I’m putting them on my little list… I can but hope.
Karcher Pressure Washer… around £200
I used to dread coming back from a muddy MTB ride or wet road ride in the lanes…not anymore. What used to be a lengthy and freezing cold chore is now less than a minutes work!
Thule Bike Case – Let your bike travel in style and safety, just in case you can’t wait for spring.
A GoPro HD Hero 3. These little cameras are so much fun to play with regardless of what you’re doing. I sure had a great time watching my descending videos this year!
David James, Heather, Anna & Nick Dey:
David says: I would have definitely said a Go-Pro Pro HD Camera, but the price has crept up too much, so there’s can’t be anything better than a Garmin 500 with the cadence sensor and heart rate monitor to see how your training is going, or in my case to tell me just how unfit I am!
Nick says: The Garmin Edge 500 GPS performance with heart rate and cadence. £199 (Amazon) to £229 (Wiggle) depending one where you shop. A fine little bike computer that makes for very useful analysis with Strava.com. If, like me, you get lost a lot, then the Garmin Edge 800 is the perfect bike buddy – but too pricey for this category.
Heather says – ‘A trusty favourite at Cycling Shorts Towers, this computer is small yet will still monitor your heart rate, cadence and track your trip with GPS – a brilliant buy if you are looking at building on your performance next season.’
Anna says – ‘Always popular, one of the most picked item’s on last years list, I’m picking it again. If I had the cash though I’d splash out on the Garmin Edge 800” title=”Click to buy the Garmin Edge 800″ target=”_blank”>800‘.
Anything with Yak leather must be worth the money!
Rapha Grand Tour Cycling Shoes
Rapha Hardshell Jacket £240
Mavic Aksium Wheelset
Worried about trashing your carbon deep section wheels on potholes? Then invest in a paid of Mavic Aksium wheels – superb value for money and make a great spare wheelset – have a look at the following link for more information: www.bike-treks.co.uk
Association of British Cycling Coaches
So you want to improve next season but can’t afford a coach? Why not become a coach yourself through distance learning with the Association of British Cycling Coaches? Prices start at £250 and you don’t have to qualify as a coach if you don’t want – but the content of the course will be invaluable in helping you exceed your targets – check out: www.abcc.co.uk
Tacx Galexia Roller Trainer £245
A turbo trainer. “While away the wintry hours safe in your garage or shed, away from the perils of black ice and the dark. You get the additional benefit of working off all those mince pies, and you’ll definately notice a massive difference in your riding as the training pays off. A perfect motivation booster, if all seems lost in your bid to get fit for next year.
You’ve got to like someone to spend two hundred and fifty quid on them – if you like them that much, it would be a good plan to do something to make sure they come back to you, so why not make sure they can see their way back home after a winter training ride? The Exposure Revo is a dynamo powered light that’s available for road and off road disk hubs, so there’s no need to worry about keeping your battery charged and at 800 lumens there shouldn’t be any problems seeing where you’re going.
My current tv cost me about 20 quid, it’s so old school, I’d like a big tv that I can hook a laptop up to so I can watch all the latest bmx videos!
Tacx Booster Turbo Trainer – £231.99 – A winter trainer suitable for long term use, the Booster is a solid piece of kit for moving the bike inside in bitter conditions.
Kask Vertigo Helmet – £164.99 – As worn by Wiggo and Cav, this helmet is a serious piece of kit. It’s super lightweight, increasing the comfort from the already stonking padding. Add in it’s beautiful looks and you’ve got a winner.
Cycling clothes – Nothing makes me want to ride more than a new cycling kit
This year Interbike was showing bright NEON colors for Spring for Women at least.
Who said the 1980s were over!! But for cycling gear it makes great safety sense and fashion sense too.
Pearl Izumi has cycling and Tri-athlete wear in blue, black, white with neon green accents. From $80 to $150. Giro was showing some Empire cycling shoes in everything from the traditional black with bright GIRO pink inners, naming and laces with matching soles to some really glow in the dark neon green show and traffic stoppers. Retailing for $299.
And Giro also has a line of nice open helmets in blues and silver to protect and add extra styling to the outfit. Retailing from $40 to $275.
Genesis LED Light from £195
New front light. I’d love to have the more expensive one but that’s over budget so it’s this baby.
Marty MacDonald McCrossan:
Having had Yanto in the commentary box with me a fair few times over the years I would have to go with one of his Arcus Winter Jackets methinks!
Dream gift… The sky’s the limit!
Well obviously if a budget is no option I could go on forever, but for me I’d be happy with a WSD [Women Specific Design] Trek Madone 7, being a short girl these bikes really work for me…. Oh and maybe a set of custom made V-Sprint Wheels… yes please!
Ok… I hear you, coffee does feature quite heavily on this list… but we like a good espresso here at Cycling Shorts, so we would really love a top notch machine to help us though the day.
For the cycling gent who has everything… a Dashing Tweed Reflective Stretch Tweed Cycling Jacket, this design is cutting edge even though it takes inspiration from 16th century equine armour. The underarms are open for ventilation and the classic tweed is woven with wool mixed with modern reflective fibres. It’s yours for £850!
If I was truly dreaming then a I’d like a Pro Women’s Cycling Shorts Cycling Team!… you never know… it could happen!
2013 Cyclo-cross World Championships, Louisville USA: Weekend VIP tickets, Flights & accommodation… approx £1000 (other ticket packages are available).
This is something I’d love to go to; the atmosphere at ‘cross races is incredible and I’m sure the US won’t disappoint. An awesome weekend of racing, with foghorns, chips and beer!
Fuji Altamira SL – It fits perfectly into the Thule Bike Case and takes the ride to at new level.
Four offerings here. Firstly in terms of equipment it simply has to be a custom build Serotta Ottrott SE. The frameset comes in at £6,499. It’s a journey!
But what about an experience you will never forget? My choice would be Flanders Week with Nico and his fantastic team at www.go4cycling.com. It’s as close to pro riding as many of us will ever get. Ride the Ronde van Vlaanderen, Paris-Roubaix, and several classic routes under the watchful eye of the Lion of Flanders, Johann Museeuw; fully supported as only the pro’s know how. Follow the pro-races at several points as the Go4cycling team play ‘Belgium hopscotch’ across Flanders for the Ronde, the midweek Scheldeprijs and Paris Roubaix. Keep up with the race via a satellite feed in the ultra-comfy bus. But best of all, don the VIP pass, enter the service course and watch the teams prepare, chat to the riders, the DS’s, the mechanics and support staff. Fully embrace the the flavours, sounds, and energy of an elite Race. A week never to be forgotten. Genuinely classic.
Charity fundraising £500: why not sign up your loved one for one of the splendid Action Medical Research century rides? The ‘must ride’ UK event of 2013 is the Ride London Olympic route sportive on 4th August. Relive the glorious memories… Cav’s heartbreak, team GB’s chase, and, if you really need to, Vino’s success!
Charity fundraising £1500: ride from London to Paris with a hundred plus other like minded souls and be there when the centenary Tour de France finishes, and Cav wins, on the Champs Élysées. When: 17th to 21st July 2013.
I’m sure it would be very easy to list endless number of presents in this section, but whenever I’m in a position to spend a decent amount of money I try to give that extra bit of thought and apply Epicurus’s philosophy and say to myself “Would it really make me happy?”. So is it the latest carbon 29er hardtail MTB that first springs to mind the one that would make me really happy? After some deliberation it is a resounding, no. Just riding a bike should bring happiness, not the type of bike you are riding. So on those lines, I think if money was no object I’d love to be able to go to a remote community somewhere in the world, with a lorry full of bikes for people who may have never ridden one before. I reckon they would have so much fun the look on their faces would be worth far more than anything money can ever buy! I’m not sure everyone would want this as a present, but it certainly ticks all the boxes with me.
Twice in one stage can’t be missed. Hopefully to see Chris Froome outsprint Contador to the line.
I absolutely love love love the TDF 2010 paintings by Sarah Halliday and can imagine they’d look fantastic in every one of our ‘training rooms’. And at Price On Demand, I can imagine they’re pretty pricey!
And if art isn’t your thing – a week (or 3) cycling in the pre-alps with VeloVercors.com ;)
Condor Lotus Type 1 LC Road bike £5,200
Jaguar XF Sportbrake
For the ultimate team car, this is on the wish list – if it is good enough for Team Sky, surely it should be good enough for your team or club? Check it out at: www.jaguar.com
A Parrotti Roubaix full carbon frameset fitted with Pete Mathews custom wheel set and Campag Superrecord EPS
An Unlimited Budget?! Go hard or go home. Buy a cycling team. Or better still, several. Perhaps you could invest in women’s cycling, or sponsor an amateur team? If the sky’s the limit you would even some money left over to buy the £8,000 bike you’ve always dreamt of. How about the Cervelo P5 Time Trial bike? Buy one of those and watch your 10 mile time trial PB plummet by probably about ten minutes! Stealthy.
The clue’s in the question – if money was no object and Sky was the limit, you couldn’t get much more extravagant than purchasing a celebratory Pinarello Dogma 2 in glorious TdF yellow. You probably don’t deserve it, you probably couldn’t get anywhere near pushing it to its extraordinary limits, and you’d had to have been very, very good indeed for Santa to leave one of these under the tree – but you know you want one. And even if modesty forbade you taking it out in public, wouldn’t it look great hung on the living room wall…
My perfect gift would be for my very own indoor BMX flatland area for me to ride in, with a heater, a fridge, sound system, even a disco ball… and also a new VW Transporter for me to cruise around in to get to my venue with my bikes in the back…. and then a nightclub to put a BMX night on once a month where they only play the music I want and the dancefloor is for BMX riding!… and then maybe a chicken shop to deliver to me wherever I am (I love chicken), all kinds of chicken, jerk chicken, fried chicken, chicken curry etc; all this riding makes me hungry ya know!… Oh and a decent mountian bike so I can ride at Cannock Chase!…. and also a tandem so I can have fun jumping stuff and trying tricks with another rider…. hope that’s ok Santa… I hope I’m on your good boy list.
Brompton M3L – £870 – The Brompton is the iconic british bicycle. Small, convienient and sturdy, this thing turns heads and folds into a couple of square foot for easy carrying. It’s ideal for commuters, for regular city riders or anyone with limited storage space. A definate winner.
BIKND Inflatable Bike Case
This is THE inflatable bike case. Made in Quebec, Canada by biknd. Really cool, easy to use, innovative and so fast to get the bike ready for those short or long destination cycling trips. Priced at $599 it’s about half the price of the industry standard Sci-Con case (but takes half the time to put the bike in or out!) I was totally impressed with it. It’s #1 on my wish list.
Marty MacDonald McCrossan:
Euskatel Team Bus – To me would look great to rock up at the local 10 or Wednesday night World Championship of Criteriums and you’ll be helping to feed the families of the team as well as they have €1million shortfall to pay the wages
this month……I think I would have a jacuzzi fitted as well though!
Bianchi’s 2013 Vacansoleil-DCM Team Bike
A 55cm frame weighs a claimed 895g… yes please!
Let us know your cycling gift ideas.
All the Cycling Shorts Team wish you a happy, healthy and safe Christmas and New Year!
If you don’t see anything that fits the bill, check out last years list by clicking here!
Stranger in the night – dipping a toe into the dark
There’s a lot of buzz about night riding at the minute – what with the massive national increase in cycling since the summer of Wiggo and the Olympics, participation has skyrocketed both on and off road. With our balmy, breezy summer evenings, cycling through August, September and even October is perfectly do-able, but the switch to Greenwich Mean Time rather spoils the party unless you’re somewhere lit. That’s where quality lights come in – but quality can be pretty pricey. If you’ve never done it before, how are you going to know whether it works for you without taking a punt on a bunch of expensive kit. What you need is an understanding shop and an agreeable light manufacturer.
Luckily for me, I live not too far from such a shop. Run And Ride at Hednesford are literally right on the doorstep of Cannock Chase, which gives them access to miles of trails, and they took it upon themselves to hook up with Exposure Lights to put on a tryout evening – the incredibly accommodating Exposure sent along a massive crate of their finest off road light sets, and Run And Ride invited the world to pop up to Cannock one chilly November evening, where they would strap on some serious lighting kit and lead you on a night foray.
I chucked the bike in the back and packed some cycling kit in the car that morning, and headed straight up there after work. Even early on there was a decent turnout, and it was simplicity itself to get signed up. As a nightriding newbie, I put myself at their mercy as to what to try out, and was both startled and pleased to be given a Six Pack to try, a self-contained handlebar mounted light that lit up the trail not unlike a police helicopter search light. I was impressed.
Once everyone was sorted, we were split into fast and steady groups and set out for a trawl around the Chase. Having not ridden off road at night before, it was a fascinating experience – the nature of the visibility makes you hyper-focused on the spread of light before you, and it all seems much, much quicker, the flickering of shadows on uneven ground keeping you on your toes the whole time. I loved it – I can definitely do the winter cycling thing, which has opened up another six months of riding for me. Happy days.
Six Pack is an incredible bit of kit – a single unit with the battery included, on full power it’ll kick out 1800 lumens for about three hours, with medium (up to 10 hours), low (up to 24 hours) and flash settings, the indicator on the back will change colour to indicate the remaining charge, and it’ll drop itself down through the modes as it reaches the end of the battery to make sure there’s always a bit of get-you-home light in there. Riding with the Six Pack alone was great on straight or flowing tracks, with the beam plenty wide for most occasions, but when we got into the nadgery stuff, very tight and twisty, I found myself turning into corners blind, my eyes tracking the path round the next corner before I needed to turn the bars. If you only ever rode on fast, open trails, the Six Pack would be great on its own, but if you’re likely to face any tighter turns, I think you’d have to go for a helmet-mounted light as well.
I learned a lot that night – I had a great 12 mile ride out on a Thursday evening, and I found out that riding needn’t stop because the light goes. I even found a great new shop – it must have taken a lot of time and effort to organise, and thankfully they had a good turnout to reward their efforts. The staff were friendly and approachable and incredibly helpful (one poor chap in front of me had his chain snap when he got out of the saddle at speed, resulting in a big swap one way, then a big swap the other way, ending in an oddly graceful flying W into the ferns – thankfully he was fine and one of the Run And Ride crew had the chain back together, (oooo, I’m going to say about 90 seconds after the crash happened, impressive stuff), and there was no hint of a hard sell afterwards, just good banter and useful advice. There’s a reason why people are both proud and protective of their local bike shop – that’s another thing I learned, too.
Massive thanks to Run And Ride and Exposure Lights for a great evening and an extra six months riding a year!
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Bristol Oktoberfest – Better than Munich…
Aaa, summer. How beautiful while it fleetingly lasts, and how sad to see it go. Still, if there’s one thing to look forward to when the nights grow shorter and the ambient temperature drops, it’s the approach of October, because when the tenth month starts, that means Oktoberfest is not far away.
The Bristol Oktoberfest is the second of two classic annual events held at Ashton Court, a stone’s throw from the mouth of the Severn – an eight hour mountain bike endurance race, there are categories for teams of four, pairs, or (for the truly masochistic) solo entries in male, female and mixed forms, with further subdivisions for single speeds and old git racers. As such, it attracts a wide variety of abilities, including the returning Team NTG MTB, back to have a second crack at the excellent single track on offer after our great (if tough!) endurance debut at June’s Bike Fest.
Instead of putting ourselves through the grinding pre-race endurance test of camping, we set some early-morning alarms and charged down the M5 first thing. An early start, to be fair, but given the fairly grim weather in the build up, it was the better choice – on arrival we were greeted by a cheerful Oktoberfest-hat-type-wearing-type who guided us to park on the access road as the camping field was having some hydration issues. Team captain Jonno stepped up to the batter’s plate first of all, taking his place for the Le Mans style running start amongst the hundreds of other riders – I held his Stanton as the galloping hordes charged back up the hill, with more than a few entrants somehow accidently arriving a little late and giving themselves somewhat less of a distance to run. Strange how that happens.
As nine o’clock passed us by, the race started and a great torrent of riders came sprinting past me, a train that ran for maybe ten minutes before the last stragglers pottered by. Jon got a solid midpack start and battled his way through the traffic to complete lap one in under 43 minutes, a lap quicker than some teams who ended up 20 places or more above us – Steve went after El Capitan and logged an even quicker lap, with Luke putting a great performance in position three and me pottering nervously about on the peripheries as the anchor number four. By the time Luke handed over the team scrunchy, I’d been watching bike racing for almost ninety minutes and was tortured by a mixture of performance anxiety and a sense of gagging to get involved. No matter – time to suck it up and get stuck in.
Job number one was to charge through the rock garden, and I wasn’t in there many seconds before a most welcome experience occurred – I caught someone up. This was a bit of a new one for me, as I spent most of Bike Fest getting out of people’s way, and the rock garden’s not an easy place to pass. Consequentially, as traffic backed up behind the pair of us, I felt the onset of a needless touch of pressure and ran ride on a slick section, out of everyone’s way. Cursing under my breath, I joined the back of the snake as we pedalled out of the woods and into the field that loops up to where the finish line was or Bike Fest – and I overtook a couple more riders. Me! Overtaking people! It was just great.
Ashton Court was every bit as wonderful as it had been earlier in the year, the flowing single track largely impervious to the wet weather – the sole concession to the elements was the rather impressive construction of a wooden bridge over a particularly marshy section of trail, but the track rode really well and was little the worse at the end of eight hours of racing. Team NTG MTB’s one lap stint policy worked well once more, the 5.7 miles round the course plenty for the likes of our legs (although again, there were lunatics doing the whole thing on their own – madness, I tell thee) and working out so that we each had three laps, but by the time I rolled into the transition area for the final lap, we were up against it. In a desperation move, I left the saddle bag, Camelbak and pump at the van to save weight and took off needing to lap about five minutes quicker than I had done all day. I gave it everything, I swear, I left it all out on the track – by the time I
started the last climb, I was done for. Then some clown , with a dazzling sense of humour, shouted out that there were ten seconds left – gritting my teeth, I turned myself inside out over the last 200 metre climb, came close to stacking in front of the crowd on the finish line jump, then had to invest five minutes or so in serious hyperventational recovery mode. I’d missed the cut by, oooo, five minutes or so which made the last minute or so of torture entirely unnecessary. Thanks, Mr Clown Man.
Final climb idiocy aside, Oktoberfest was every bit as much fun as the Bike Fest earlier in the year, with an easygoing atmosphere and plenty of riding on a wonderful course. I said it after Bike Fest and I’ll say it again here – if you’ve never done an event like this, don’t be intimidated, your fellow competitors are all lovely people (even if some of them are much, much quicker ), the track is superb, and you will have a brilliant time. Can I add a proviso? I was a bit fitter for the second race, and it definitely made it more fun, but you absolutely do not have to be Thomas Frischknecht to enjoy it. I was more like Thomas the Tank Engine, and I still survived….