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A ‘Peak’ Playground

Empty roads - Peak District

I’ve been very fortunate riding each year in the countryside surrounding Girona. Or, as Dan Craven so succinctly puts it, the ‘capital of racers’. Beautiful weather, smooth roads and varied routes from the sea to the mountains; it would be easy to describe this region as a cycling paradise.

Changing weather - Peak District

But whilst it’s fun to fly down to Spain to share these roads with the off-duty professionals, I try to never lose sight of the wealth of good riding we have on our own doorstep. It might often be obscured by our weather (April was a washout with thunder, lightning and stinging hailstones) but we are blessed with a rich landscape of varied beauty. With empty roads and green spaces never too far from home.

Wet roads - Peak District

Often, I suppose, we are schooled in what we know. Whenever I’m in Girona, what always strikes me as particularly interesting is how the Catalan locals describe their riding habits. Anything less than 18°C (really a rather pleasant temperature in the UK) they claim requires cold weather clothing to combat the ‘chill’. The well-known Rocacorba climb, with sections peaking at 13%, is described by adopted local David Millar as ‘brutal’; yet UK based riders often find themselves struggling up gradients in excess of 20%. Climbs may be longer on the Continent but the British Isles has an abundance of the ‘short but sharp’ variety that often prompt interesting reactions from non-native professionals riding the Tour of Britain.

Roaches - Peak District

Closer to home, living on the western fringe of the Peak District affords me a wealth of routes that offer quiet roads and stunning scenery. Windswept moorland partitioned by dry-stone walling, steep-sided valleys edged with pine woodland, reservoirs mirroring the shifting clouds; the National Park offers a rich tableau of routes and vistas.

Bend in the road - Peak District

Perceived by some as rather bleak and forbidding, with experience what is revealed are the subtle changes our weather brings. The sky can dominate, often with complex layers of grey, but when the light does break through it illuminates the tones and textures of heather, gritstone and flowing water.

Goyt Valley - Peak District

Mow Cop, The Cloud, Thorncliffe, Gun Hill, the Cat and Fiddle, Wincle – my local climbs, evocatively named and with gradients that trace the change from the lush pasture of dairy farms to the sparse grazing of the sheep that dot the hillsides. Circular routes with saw-toothed Strava profiles that can easily encompass 2,000m of climbing. Hard riding but offering easy access for wheeled escape and adventure.

Over Thorncliffe - Peak District

Early out - Peak District

Words and photos by Chris Hargreaves (@openautograph).

Rob’s Cannondale Caad10

Rob's Cannondale Caad10

Rob’s Cannondale Caad10 is the first road bike in his predominately fixed gear collection of bikes and has been used to race, commute and ride. Paint by the talented Doktor Bobby in Das Rad Klub team colours.

Rob's Cannondale Caad10

Rob's Cannondale Caad10

Rob's Cannondale Caad10

Rob's Cannondale Caad10

“I bought the bike second hand two years ago, having been to watch a few Bristol South CC Club mates road racing and being hugely inspired to give it a go. I had previously only ridden fixed and it took me quite a while to really get along with it and learn to love the road bike, and as a result It spent the first 6 months of its time with me sat next to my bed being ignored, but now its certainly the bike I do the most mileage on. I’m not much of a believer in ‘summer’ and ‘winter’ bikes, and prefer to just have something solid and dependable that I can race on, commute on, and generally enjoy riding and using without fear of wearing out or damaging bits. ‘race what you can afford to replace’ is phrase that I try my best to adhere to. (if anybody has any old 10 speed tubs they are looking to move on, send them my way!)’m not very good at leaving bikes alone, and after changing basically everything on it from stock spec I managed to persuade Bobby to give it a coat of paint. My team kit is pink and blue so I figured that would be a good way to go, but wasn’t sure exactly what he would do. A few weeks later the frame was returned to me and I couldn’t be happier with it. It definitely goes faster now.”

Rob's Cannondale Caad10

Rob's Cannondale Caad10

Full spec list:

Cannondale Caad10 54cm frameset
Cannondale Hollowgram SI Chainset (53/38)
105 5700 shifters / Ultegra 6700 mechs
Ultegra 6800 brakes
Dura Ace 7400 Hubs / H+son Archetypes
Cannondale Compact bars
Ritchey WCS Stem and Seatpost
Selle Italia SLR XP Saddle
Fizik Super Tacky bar tape
Vittoria Open Corsa 25mm tyres

Hopkinson England Louis Bag review

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I remember an Audax ride over Exmoor once where I followed a chap with a leather tool bag attached to his brooks saddle. The corner was folded up, creased and worn from years of bending up to get inside the flap instead of opening it properly. It looked great all aged and used but it was the reason it looked like that which I loved even more. Peeking out from inside were some gold and red stripes. A proper energy snack, a Tunnocks Caramel Wafer. On every ride, half way around he would reach back, bend the flap open and pull out that Tunnocks bar.

That is exactly the proper type of thing the Louis Bag by Hopkinson England should be used to carry. That and some beer for your picnic. I’ve been carrying tools and a tube inside but I don’t think that’s quite the gentlemanly thing to do when it’s made as well as it is. It seems kind of crude to put tyre levers and other grubby bike stuff in there.

Established in 2015, Hopkinson England specialise in high-end handmade British cycling related products. Louis is the name of their family pet Louis the Lurcher which explains the dog stamped into the lid and as part of the logo.

On the right bike, something steel and handmade, the Louis Bag looks great and the leather matches nicely with Brooks England saddles and grips. You can hang it from the saddle, handlebar or top tube and it fits perfectly inside a bottle cage. I prefer on the saddle but like the versatility. Each bag is handmade in England and comes with straps to mount it, attach it to a belt or carry it on your shoulder too.

Available in four different colours for £195 it’s expensive. No doubt about that but this is a handmade product made in England from ethically sourced leather. It has the classic look which I love and is made exceptionally well.

Where to buy: Hopkinson England
How much: £195

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Aroe x Morvélo – Limited edition collaboration jerseys

Aroe x Morvélo

Morvélo are pleased to announce the launch of their collaborative project with renowned graffiti artist Aroe. View the entire collection.

Aroe is a name that is well known and respected in the graffiti world. Hailing from the UK, he has the honour of being part of the World Famous graffiti crew MSK (Mad Society Kings) who operate out of Los Angeles. It was Morvélo’s privilege to work with such a talent and visited him last year to create a collection of very special one-off pieces of art for a limited run of their Road and MTB jerseys.

Forgoing any digital manipulation the cycle jerseys use only the custom artwork created by Aroe, demonstrating his skill with the spray can and his ability to use an array of colours to create striking and unique pieces.

The pattern, fades and colours are all from a spray can using Aroe’s considerable skill in blending and combining a multitude of colours. Unlike most fades which simply use two colours, Aroe’s fades comprise of five or six to retain a depth of colour throughout the fade.

Aroe is a true graffiti purist, everything he does is hand painted; he would never dream of using sacrilegious tools such as stencils or projectors to create his work. He has left his mark all over the world, painting on every continent and leaving some of the most unique pieces of graffiti around.

A Corinthian Endeavour by Paul Jones

A Corinthian Endeavour

A Corinthian Endeavour by Paul Jones is the story and history of the National Hill Climb Championship. Hill climbing as a pursuit in cycling is an oddly unique thing to the British racing scene. Often seen as an end of season time trial event, over the years has been the proving ground of British pros, and more often, that of a specialist with a talent for suffering like no one else. Outside England this form of racing is very marginal. Here it is, for those that know, a real test of a riders ability to ‘dig deep’ and to allures riders and spectators alike for these reasons.

Buy here from Mousehold Press

A Corinthian Endeavour

 

Paul’s book is the only I’m aware of and is a fascinating read. Covering the greatest riders, courses, bikes and more. Especially fascinating is the British pros who seemed to use it as an opportunity to win and springboard their abilities. But then the specialist who makes the hill climb his main goal and focus is a special breed, who seem to shun biscuits… Why I never made it as a hill climber (and stopped after one event).

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For those interested in British racing, this book is a must have. It puts some interesting context in to the history and narrative insights to the top riders of each decade on how they thought. The book is intelligently written with enough humour to stop it turning into a geography teacher’s slide show – dry. What is better is that Paul himself has been a very accomplished hill climber himself so the insights are truly felt.

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The Adventure Dispatch – Steve “Doom” Fassbinder

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We have been following The Adventure Dispatch series since it started and it always delivers some of the best ride inspiration out there. View more videos from the series on the Specialized site.

“In this episode of The Adventure Dispatch, we sync-up with Steve Fassbinder in the timeless red deserts of the American West for an adventure that pushes the boundaries of a bike’s perceived limitations. Fly in to the middle of nowhere, take a Fatboy through the sandy darkness, do a first ascent of a monster crack, rip through narrow slot canyons, discover some left-behind oddities, and pack-raft the Dirty Devil River before calling it a trip. This is the kind of project that Steve and his ilk live for, so come along for the ride—we promise that you’ll leave inspired.”

The Adventure Dispatch - Steve

Brooks Special Edition Copper – 150th Anniversary

Brooks Special Edition Copper

Brooks has created a series of their most iconic saddles to celebrate their 150th anniversary. The saddles are resplendent in all copper frames with hand-hammered copper rivets and black leather. The models available are the classic best-selling B17, its touring counterpart the Flyer, the B67 for city bikes, the B33 for heavy duty, and the Swallow for racing, all delivered in Special Edition packaging. Also to be released is a special 150th edition of the popular Pickwick Rucksack, an all-black version with copper-plated hardware, available online or at select Dealers of Excellence.

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Straying from solo – riding with the Rapha Cycling Club

World's End - riding with the Rapha Cycling Club

It’s rather a cliche but I started to cycle regularly in my middle-age. Initially enjoying the quiet country lanes easily accessible from where I live in South East Cheshire, I distinctly remember looking up at Mow Cop (a local landmark topped by a castle folly and location of the infamous ‘Killer Mile’) and judging the climb to the top as unthinkable.

Of course, time moves on and you progress. You ride further and faster – acknowledging Mr LeMond’s truism that it ‘never gets easy’ – until Mow Cop becomes the warm-up for your rides into the Peak District.

And I invested in ‘better’ equipment. Bikes (please notice the use of the plural) became lighter, more specialised and considerably more expensive. Finally, I reached the understanding that it wouldn’t be unreasonable to term myself a ‘cyclist’.

Bikes - riding with the Rapha Cycling Club

The next step was commuting to work. In addition to weekend rides, most mornings the alarm is set, clothes laid out the previous evening and bike lights charged. The challenge of winter rides with frozen fingers; drying sodden bib-shorts on the office radiator. The first springtime morning with the sun rising; a taste of warmer months to come.

But all of this activity was pursued alone or, occasionally, in the company of one good friend. We did notice cycle club members meeting at a local crossroads before setting out on their Sunday run but never for a moment considered joining them. Too fast, too elitist, too much…

Fast forward to 2015 and I received an email from Rapha with an invitation to apply to join their newly launched cycle club. Note that I had to ‘apply’. Not only was I expected to pay a not insignificant joining fee but I also had to submit an essay describing a favourite ride*. My mind conjured up a basement room at the Imperial Works headquarters with a rather bookish young intern installed at an office desk with a well-fingered thesaurus and a pile of applications that needed marking on their style, punctuation and ability to spell ‘ derailleur’.

Banter - riding with the Rapha Cycling Club

As a Rapha convert – I regularly worshipped at their Manchester cycle store – I was understandably intrigued and immediately sat down with pen and paper to compose my missive before waiting (I admit, ever so slightly anxiously) for a letter of acceptance whilst also pondering my reaction if their reply was a polite but firm, ‘No, thank you’.

To cut a long story short, my application to the Manchester chapter of the RCC was accepted, I paid my fee and bought my members’ only club jersey. All that remained was to ride.

My first club run was actually a ‘satellite’ ride; meeting at Nantwich before heading into the Welsh hills. As my fellow club members pulled up in their cars and began unloading bikes, I felt rather on the outside looking in. On the laughter, the casual jokes and banter. Like a first day at school with the ‘cool’ kids the sole centre of attention. Matching kit, deep section carbon wheels, legs cleanly shaved and glistening with embrocation. And I was nervous. Would they ride too fast, climb too strongly?

Bike chat - riding with the Rapha Cycling Club

As it turned out, I needn’t have worried. Joe, the Manchester RCC concierge, rode with me at the rear of the group and patiently talked through the do’s and dont’s of a club run. Everyone was welcoming as I mixed in with the group and when it came to the climbs, although not the fastest, I also didn’t feel I’d let myself down. And I’ll never forget the exhilaration as, after finishing in the hills, we sped back to our waiting cars. Two up, in matching club colours, through the quiet Cheshire lanes; a snaking line of pink, grey and black.

Since then, and I admit that I’m rather biased, it’s honestly been a revelation and I’ve enjoyed many varied challenges and bike based adventures with my fellow RCCMCR members.

But they’re other rides and other stories.

*I believe this requirement has now been dropped from the current RCC application process.

Words by Chris Hargreaves (@openautograph) and photos by Matt Randall (@mattrandallphotography).

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  • Some ride inspiration taken from @openautograph's photo essay, A 'Peak' Playground
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  • A big #baaw of @rob_borek's Caad10. More shots and a few words up on the site now
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  • Steep ramps and rewarding views on Failand Lane (Dirty Portbury)
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  • Louis the Lurcher @hopkinsonengland ---
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  • Post a review of this lovely looking handmade bag by @hopkinsonengland ---
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  • Who looks pretty in Pink? #giroditalia winners!
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  • Taking the piss, Giro 1973.
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  • This book printed by Mousehold Press, written by Paul Jones, chronicles the British hill climb scene superbly. ---
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  • Looking for a disco to try these out. Party in the front and party in the back.
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