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Stupidly steep hills: could you ride up a 50% gradient?; ‘Embarrassing, victim-blaming’ road safety campaign criticised for focusing on cycling ‘skills and PPE’; Climate change councillor calls active travel campaigner a ‘clown’ + more on the live blog

It may be grey and windy outside, but Ryan Mallon is here to brighten up your Tuesday with more news and views on the live blog
05 April 2022, 16:57
Bamford Clough versus Whitby: who wins in the battle of the super-steep climbs?

While we focus our attention today on the almost impossible, hideously cobbled Donkey Path in Whitby, lest we forget Bamford Clough, the 36 percent monster described just last year by climbs connoisseur Simon Warren as the “steepest climb in Britain”. 

So, let’s get all Harry Hill on this – of Britain’s super-steep hills, Bamford Clough and Whitby’s Donkey Path, which is better (or just more ridiculous)?

I’ll cast the first vote for the humble rear wheel spinner Cornmill, captured in all its treacherous glory below, if only for a spot of local pride.

Finally, on the subject of Whitby's Donkey Path, as’s silly challenge guinea pig Liam Cahill is on holiday this week, we've gladly volunteered him to take on the 50 percent gradient in an upcoming video on our YouTube channel.

Now that really would make for an impressive everesting...

05 April 2022, 16:34
Heavy Metal Truants
Heavy Metal Truants – rockers ride from London to Donington for charity

For those of you hoping for a more wholesome link between rock and roll and cycling after the whole Eric Clapton-BMX thing, the Heavy Metal Truants are once again raising money for charity by riding from London’s Alexandra Palace to Download Festival at Donington Park, 175 miles away.

HMT was co-founded by Iron Maiden manager Rod Smallwood and music journo Alexander Milas in 2013, and has raised over a million pounds for charity in the last decade.

While the pandemic forced the group to take on virtual challenges, they aim to celebrate their tenth year by once again riding for three days, from 8-10 June, from London to Castle Donington, the home of Download Festival (and also the site of one of rock’s great concert videos, filmed when AC/DC headlined the old Monsters of Rock festival there back in 1991).

Enjoy a lovely few days on the bike riding through the English countryside, then settle in for some Maiden, Kiss and Megadeth – what could be better?

All money raised will be donated to Teenage Cancer Trust, Nordoff Robbins, Childline, and Save the Children.

To find out more about this great rock and bike collaboration, and how to donate, you can visit the Heavy Metal Truants’ website here

05 April 2022, 16:01
Toronto police issue 17,000 fines for parking in bike lanes last year

While Salford’s newest bike lane has gotten off to a less than auspicious start thanks to drivers using it as a bonus parking bay, on the other side of the Atlantic police in Toronto issued 16,492 tickets to motorists obstructing bikeways in the city, more than doubling the previous year’s number.

The fine for parking in a bike lane in Toronto is $150.

“Parking in bicycle lanes obstructs the use of the lanes and creates a dangerous situation where bicyclists must swerve onto live lanes of traffic,” Toronto police told Global News.

Police in the Canadian city have devoted more time and effort to clamping down on bike lane parking, which one specialist cycling lawyer claimed was “endemic”, as Toronto continues to invest in cycling infrastructure, adding 50km of bikeways during the past two years.

05 April 2022, 15:42
Alaphilippe Stage 2 Tour of the Basque Country (GCN)
Alaphilippe takes first win of the season at the Tour of the Basque Country

World champion Julian Alaphilippe finally broke his duck for 2022 this afternoon, blowing away his rivals on the uphill drag to the finish of stage two of the Tour of the Basque Country in Viana.

It was heartbreak, however, for a quartet of Pro Conti riders – Julen Amezqueta (Caja Rural), Ander Okamika (Burgos-BH), Ibai Azurmendi (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Ibon Ruiz (Equipo Kern Pharma) – who saw their two minute lead over the peloton evaporate in the lumpy final fifteen kilometres.

The happiest rider of all at the finish seemed to be Alaphilippe’s Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl teammate Remco Evenepoel, whose text-book kilometre-plus leadout set the world champion up for what in the end was a comfortable win, while Remco himself stays second on GC behind Primož Roglič.

05 April 2022, 15:07
Stupidly steep hills: downhill edition

An oldie but a goldie, from the 2011 British University cross-country championships:

BUCS 2011 X.C Carnage! from This Is Sheffield on Vimeo.

05 April 2022, 15:06
Classic Geraint…
05 April 2022, 14:37
Pog to dodge Roubaix

We all got a bit excited yesterday when Tadej Pogačar, fresh from doing everything but win the Tour of Flanders on Sunday, posted a sneaky selfie at the entrance to the Arenberg Trench, perhaps the most infamous cobbled sector at Paris-Roubaix.

Alas, the 23-year-old wasn’t finessing his preparation for the Hell of the North (which takes place in just under two weeks) – instead he was reconning the cobbled sections that will make up 20km of stage five of this year’s Tour de France, which finishes in Arenberg.

While he made the Flemish kaissen look almost silky smooth as he powered around the Ronde, Pog didn’t seem too convinced about his ability to handle the much rougher, more unpredictable pave of northern France:

While the UAE Team Emirates rider was bouncing along the pave, video emerged of his angry confrontation with Dylan van Baarle as the pair crossed the line after Sunday’s dramatic finale. Given that we barely ever see the two-time Tour winner flustered never mind lose his cool, you can mark this footage down as something of a collector’s item: 

05 April 2022, 13:41
Who wins – pro on a cargo bike or local on a pro bike?

Estonian pro and Vuelta a España stage winner Rein Taaramäe is currently training in Rwanda as he prepares to ride the Giro d’Italia next month.

But when the Intermarché-Wanty rider swapped bikes with a local for a spot of match sprinting, there was only going to be one winner:

I think we’ve seen this before somewhere...

05 April 2022, 12:36
Eric Clapton BMW Supreme BMX
Bell Bottom Bracket Blues: Eric Clapton’s old BMX is up for sale (yes, you read that right)

Last week on the blog we featured the staggering number of rock and roll stars who have expressed their love of bikes over the years, from Robert Plant, Mick Jagger and Bono to Madonna, ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, Kraftwerk (obviously), David Byrne, Paul Heaton and, ehhh, Richard Coles of the Communards (the cycling vicar – now there’s an idea for an ITV drama). 

Well, it also turns out that Derek of Derek and the Dominoes himself, Eric Clapton, was fond of spinning about New York on his BMX in the 1990s (I’m sure that would have been a curious sight…).

The legendary guitarist-turned raving anti-vaxxer bought a bespoke Brooklyn Machine Works 24” hardtail BMX cruiser bike when he was living in the Big Apple and later had it shipped back to London, where he gifted it to the Kings Road streetwear boutique Fly.

The bike was one of only 36 made in collaboration with American clothing and skateboarding brand Supreme and, I have to say, it does look pretty cool. None of the bikes were made available to the public.

Until now – well kind of. Auction house Sotheby’s is selling the bike for an estimated $50,000 to $70,000. Now you’d have to be a massive Cream or BMX fan to part with that kind of money – or perhaps someone with selective memory when it comes to their favourite musicians (Birmingham, 1976, for one horrifying example). 

If you want to own a piece of, ahem, rock and roll and cycling history (well maybe not history, but it is something), you only have until 5pm to make an offer.

So far there have been no bids…

“Layla, I’m begging, darling please, Layla, darling won’t buy this bike of mine?”

Alright, that’s enough of that.

05 April 2022, 11:48
Stolen Bike: a story for our times
05 April 2022, 11:08
The Koppenberg? That’s only a wee bump – now THIS is a hill…

We were treated over the weekend to a feast of terrifyingly steep cobbled climbs at the Tour of Flanders, but none quite so ferocious as this ridiculous road in Whitby.

Known as the Donkey Track – because that’s the route the poor donkeys were taken on their way to carrying children up and down the beach all day – the road runs parallel to the more famous 199 steps in Whitby, leading up to the abbey and the top of the East Cliff.

Apparently, its gradient is 50 percent, over double the maximum slope of the fearsome Koppenberg in Flanders – and I’m sure the cobbles don’t help much either.

Some foolhardy cyclists have taken it on over the years, with varying degrees of success:

Arkéa–Samsic pro Connor Swift, who was on the attack over the Ronde’s cobbled bergs on Sunday, says he’s only ridden down it, though former Madison Genesis rider Tom Stewart reportedly “made it look easy”.

The thought of cyclists struggling to make their way up stupidly steep hills immediately reminds me of my local leg-breaker, Cornmill, a short and sharp ramp famous for riders comically falling off as they take it on in wet conditions during Dromara Cycling Club’s annual Hilly sportive.

If you’ve got a spare eight minutes (and don’t pretend that you don’t), sit back and enjoy the absolute carnage of the 2012 edition:

Needless to say, I tend to ride past the turn for Cornmill when I’m out for a spin…

What’s the steepest climb near you? Let us know – preferably with a funny video or photo (we all need a laugh) – in the comments!

05 April 2022, 10:14
At least let the cyclists use the lanes for a week before you start parking in them, eh?

With Salford’s new Liverpool Street cycle lanes only opening for business last week, you’d have assumed that local drivers would allow for a short grace period before they inevitably start parking in them.

But apparently not…

05 April 2022, 09:53
One of these things is not like the others…
05 April 2022, 09:33
Climate change councillor calls active travel campaigner a ‘clown’

Now we all love a good Twitter spat on the live blog…

Well, yesterday active travel campaigner Adam Bronkhorst was on the receiving end of some pointed online comments from a Conservative councillor, after he questioned why locals stuck in gridlock in Dover – which is currently experiencing increased congestion due to a shortage of ferries – couldn’t just walk or cycle for short trips.  

Chris Vinson, who is the portfolio holder for climate change at Dover District Council, replied to Bronkhorst’s tweet: “Cannot believe you typed this and thought it a good idea to send.

“Dover is hilly. 5 mins in a car is likely 2-4 miles (not a reasonable walk for most). Less than half the population have a bike (mostly the young).

“Dover is REALLY struggling with traffic issues you clown.”

Nothing worse than being called a clown on Twitter in 2022, really…

Some were quick to criticise Vinson’s comments and his apparent ‘pro-car’ agenda, with the councillor – who also works as head of external communications for Southeastern Railway – giving as good as he got in return:

However, others – including local cyclists – defended the councillor’s remarks: 

And on it went, with the pair trading tweeted virtual blows once again, like an online Rocky and Apollo:

Oh God, indeed. 

05 April 2022, 08:13
‘Embarrassing’ road safety campaign criticised for focusing on the dangers of cyclists ‘not having the correct skills, knowledge and PPE’

While their new uniforms may be a rip-off of 2013-era Team Sky, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) seems to have adopted the confused and outdated tactics of Movistar when it comes ensuring the safety of cyclists on the roads.

A cycling and motorcycling safety campaign endorsed by the PSNI yesterday has come in for criticism online after Twitter users pointed out that it is solely focuses on how cyclists can better protect themselves, rather than trying to change motorists’ behaviour, with a number of cyclists describing the campaign as evidence of ‘victim-blaming’.

Organised by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), the ‘2 Wheels’ campaign focuses on the safety of cyclists and motorcyclists. While other police forces used the campaign last year to raise motorists’ awareness of the danger of close passes and careless driving, as well as educating riders on how to stay safe, the PSNI appears to have forgotten about that crucial first part. 

In a tweet that was accompanied by an strange, low-quality illustration (don’t worry, it’s not your eyes), Northern Ireland’s Road Policing and Safety unit wrote: “Over the next two weeks, we will place an additional focus on the safety of cyclists and motorcyclists to raise awareness about the dangers of not having the correct skills, knowledge and personal protection equipment.”

Unsurprisingly, the campaign’s focus on instructing vulnerable road users instantly backfired, with Cycling Twitter uniting to condemn the tweet as “embarrassing” and indicative of “car blindness”.

Graham Finlayson responded to the campaign by tweeting: “Drivers. The danger to me when I’m riding my bike is drivers, in oversized cars, on their phones. Police their behaviour instead of victim blaming. A helmet doesn’t help if you get run over by a 4x4.”

Patrick Eakin echoed Graham’s sentiments: “Motor vehicles. It's motor vehicles that cause the injuries. Every day, killing five people in the UK. Focus on them.”

Belfast bike rider wrote: “Wow - let’s talk to cyclists about how it’s their fault that car drivers kill them.”

Tom Flood said: “Same old weak and backwards messaging but this time they can’t even be bothered to use a hi-res/legible version of a terrible communication. This is how little we care. Checking boxes.”

“Two weeks instructing cyclists and motorcyclists on road danger. They must kill 50+ people on NI roads every year,” Brian Shannon sardonically noted.

And, finally, someone got around to analysing THAT image:

Ryan joined as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.

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