Assynt – UK Continental

Assynt, a simply majestic and haunting look at the incredible and bleak landscapes of Scotland, for the first outing of the Rapha UK Continental project. Do yourself a favour and down tools for 5 minutes, grab a coffee and get lost in this charming video…

Bespokery

This past weekend I visited the very lovely ‘Bespoked’ handmade bicycle show in Bristol. Making a day of it I set out with a very good chum for a wonderfully sunny daytrip, taking an early morning train out from London. The exhibition showcased some great UK framebuilders complimented by different stands encompassing the many different spheres of the current cycling scene. 
There’s no denying that cycling has become more popular than ever, with many different builders popping up over the last couple of years. One only has to browse the internet for proof of such a burgeoning scene, and on a daily basis im consistently amazed at some of the beautiful and lust-worthy bikes and kit popping up all over the place. Bespoked, making its maiden voyage into the world of bike lust with a roaring success of a show last year, returned bigger and better, with a whole host of exhibitors showcasing some delish bikes & fodder.

First to greet visitors at the top of the entrance staircase was a collection of extremely anticipated builds. This year marks the efforts of Rapha to globalize their unique ‘Continental’ programme, and at Bespoked were 4 of the frames to be used in the UK continental rides. Ricky Feathers bike, that Max Leonard will throw his legs over for the uk rides also won the ‘Best Road Bike’ category for the show, and its really not hard to see why! Lush detailing, and as you’d expect from the Perrn St mob, that timeless black with a dash of pink componentry.

The three other frames garnered much attention, with Donhou building a disc braked steel beauty, complete with wound up forks, Brian Rourke crafting a beautifully proportioned frame for the towering rider Graham, (and curiously unlike most large frame sized it actually looks fabulous) and the Robin Mather displayed, with its funky decal. 

The UK continental project will see six talented riders undertake a series of quintessential rides across the British isles, documenting the landscape and weather fluctuations of our country in the typically rapha-esque aesthetic. Watch their website for more information as the rides are undertaken.

James points out that only one bike used any pink on the framework, in a small and eloquent tribute to a sufferer of breast cancer. Unfortunately I blurred the detailing of this meaningful gesture.

The Brian Rourke stand contained a lot of lovely frames, and their race ready beast built up was one mean machine! My friend James is collecting his custom rourke this weekend, and having kept us in the dark for 6 months about the colour scheme, we couldn’t help but wonder if his frame was sat perched upon the wall, staring back at us.

The show had loads of race bikes built using steel, it seems the material has truly made a resurgence, and some of the builds were light indeed.

It was also great to meet Richard, the man behind the Urban Hunter webstore. Iv always been a fan of their, as they seem to stock some really cute trinkets and lines that are exclusive to them (I think they are the only people to be punting those super euro Salice glasses). 

They had some nice things on display at their stand, with some nice racey Italian bits to some serious courier bags for the fixie dudes.

Rowland and I had our hearts stolen by a custom brand called Legend, creating by the man who was the brains behind the Viner bikes. I lusted after a scarlet matted carbon peach, whereas Si fell for a cheeky Ti number…

Rapha Shoes

There’s no denying that those folks at Perren St have been busy this past season, turning out some really nice new products to compliment their three clothing collections, the training & racing range, city range and ladies collection. Their latest offering, set to be a huge hit this summer, is their exquisitely titled ‘Grand Tour Shoe’.

I love the clean monochrome look, similar to the fizik R3 shoes. The perforated upper looks like it will compliment the grand tour gloves really well, im sure an intentional move on Rapha’s part. Im a sucker for anything sparkly and white when it comes to cycling gear, so I have to say for me the white ones win over the black ones, although I reckon the black ones will look suitably ‘epic’ when someone like Kristian House is wearing them drilling up the front of a Premier Calendar race in the rain 😉

The shoes of course feature all those natty little details that we have come to expect from the brand, including insoles emblazoned with Anquetil & Coppi, individual dust bags, reflective heel logo, and a comprehensive arch support system (the Giro SuperNatural system) to tailor the fit to each foot.

A collaboration between Giro & Rapha, the shoes will feature an easton carbon sole, and an exclusive Yak upper made by footwear textile aficionados ecco. Its clear a lot of thought has gone into the execution of these clogs, with rapha pulling in experts within the footwear arena to perfectly execute such a wager into a new area of the market for them. First impressions certainly do look grand for this shoe, I for one cant wait to check them out in the flesh soon.
The shoes are set to hit general release on April 10th, with a comprehensive set of sizes to be offered, from 39-48, including half sizes to enable the best fit. The shoes will drop at £300, no small investment for sure, but I suspect the life-cycle (no pun intended) of these moccs will be plentiful, therefore going some way to soften the blow on the wallet of a buyer. The outlay will also secure some of the top end technology available in cycle footwear today, short of a full custom shoe such as the D2 offerings.
Below are the gorgeous custom decoupage rapha shoes created by artist James Straffon, they are simply stunning! for more info on James’ cycle inspired art, check out his website

Dunedin, NZ Bound

At the end of the month, bianchista is being posted for a 2 month working trip to New Zealand to cover the Rugby World Cup 2011. Il be situated in Dunedin on the south island for a month, before heading up to Auckland to rendezvous with the remainder of the editing team to work the last 4 weeks.

I will be taking my bike (although which one is still to be decided!) and il be looking to ride on most days, bar the big game days. Should you be local to the area and fancy showing me the very best of your treasured local routes, please do drop me a line at the email address above. Also feel free to ping any garmin route files that may be of interest. Im currently digging out a plethora of warm fleece-backed lycra in anticipation of temps in the 4 degree range eek!

Hiatus

Advance apologies, as from tomorrow il be off to Mallorca to ride for a week, meaning bianchista updates will be thin on the ground. Upon my return I hope to have some nice images and features to share with you, including a write up on the pop up cycle cafe out there. In the meantime may I suggest the following web portals as a recommendation for you to get a hefty fix of all things bicycle. Enjoy!

Ladies, Equality, Style

A pithy subject I know. Fear not readers for bianchista doesn’t intend to ride upon her soapbox to wax lyrical about all the inequality and disparity within racing and specifically ladies arcing. No, these words are merely a stream of my consciousness if you may – born from a sapling of a conversation had at the weekend over as particularly interesting post ride flat white (or three). I got thinking about what I like about cycling, what inspires me as a 26 year old female amateur cyclist, who does not (yet) race (this is something that may change in 2011….watch this space), who are the role models I have, whom do I look at as ‘cool’ ‘hip’…whose style I wanna channel when throwing out some KM’s with the boys of a weekend.
Its about equality right? For me, the women I think are super-cool-no-questions-asked are those fierce yet feminine, aggressive girls serving it right up along with them men week in week out. I ride with guys and i love it. I want to be as fast as them, hurt people on the hills as much as them, I want to be right there with the lads when turning myself inside out on an 18% wall of tarmac, I want to drop those suckers on a screaming descent (something I’m not ashamed to say I’m fairly gung-ho at….given the exorcism of all fear of crashing after my accident!)

I look at some of these girls who can hold it right with their male counterparts and its so incredibly inspiring and a kind of philosophy I buy into as a rider firstly, and as a girl secondly. I love when out on a group roll and I’m right up there on the climbs, or happy to drill it when taking a pull on the front. I mean sure, there’s going to be plenty of times when the men are too strong, but showing this grit and mixing it up in a fearless way is something that instantly secures respect of any fellow rider, male or female.
There’s a handful of riders out there I love because they go hard and they are fast without abandon. Browsing the Rapha Continental rider page you can see the addition of a quick lady into the fold in Carey Schleicher-Haselhorst. I love the idea that a lady is turning herself inside out along with those nippy lean guys on these gruelling rides. You have riders like the glamorous butt-kicker Heidi Swift, putting some serious hurt on the US cyclocross scene, and always looking glam (check out her nails!). Don’t get me wrong, its not about looks here, its about being brisk, pacey, and encapsulating a gritty but feminine style. There’s nothing I find less appealing personally than a defeatist attitude when it comes to riding, when ladies always assume there going to be slow and don’t want to attempt to mix it up with the boyo’s on the weekend rollouts. Wasn’t everyone slow at some point of their riding lifetime? I’l always chase a wheel up a climb, regardless of whether its a rapidly-disappearing-from-my-horizon-because-hes-so-quick kind of affair. Its that trying that makes it all so worthwhile. See…. us girls like to suffer too!.

Maybe that’s what I love to see in ladies cycling…it can be summed up as simply as I like to see girls willing to make themselves suffer for the sport. This is true equality…. forget the arguments women have lower average speeds and the races are a shorter mileage, its truly equal in the sense that we are more than capable of making ourselves suffer and hurt every bit as much as the boys out there, and that’s something any detractor or chauvinist cant take away. Riding hard and ‘giving it a go’ as they say = true panache in my book. Check the painface out below of Liz Hatch, drilling it right at the front makes me want to jump right in there and chase down wheels. 

The longing for this equality even comes down to the clothes for me. I make no secret of my hatred of these companies who insist on offering us hot-pant style shorts (unflattering for the most) or adirning every bloody item with a horrible sprawling Hawaiian flower. Its a lame stereotype we want this kind of stuff, whereas I actually just want the style of the men’s items cut for the female form! Probably why companies such as Craft and Rapha are receiving glowing reports from ladies donning their clobber for those training runs. Anyway… enough on that….

Should you want some sites to visit that fly the flag for super fast and tough-as-nails ladies, look no further than the excellent I Get Cross blog of UK fast girl Claire Beaumont of Rapha Condor ladies team. Some great posts there its a definite bookmark. Also check out Heidi Swifts Grit & Glimmer, some great musings on all things ladies & cycling. Also worth a peep is top racers Maryka Sennema’s little project.

So ladies…. suit up, jump in the saddle and go hard today. It cant fail to disappoint….