Interview: Sean Maher, riding-out the recession

Sean Maher graduated in the middle of the worst recession for several decades and found there were no jobs. Unperturbed, he decided to ride-out the recession, literally: cycling 12,000 miles from Cornwall to Capetown.

Sean Maher on Bodmin MoorHow did the idea for the trip come about?

Before I decided to do this trip I was a student at Exeter University. I graduated this year with a high 2:1 in Politics.

My main activity at university was Rugby and I played for the University 2nd XV in my final year.

I decided to do this trip because no matter who I applied to I couldn’t get a job! I thought this would help me boost my skills without having to do another year’s study or wait tables like some of my other graduate friends.

How have you been preparing?

I really started cycling to get to a summer job in my first summer of university. It was 10 miles there, 10 miles back and I did it on my brother-in-law’s old bike which I took the rear brake off, because it was rubbing on the back wheel!

I’ve been planning and training for this trip since the beginning of June, when I should have been revising. I tend to do around 30-40 miles, three times a week on the bike, plus running and walking a lot.

I’ve prepared for the trip by reading every book I can find about the continent and by following other expeditions. Particularly the Listen to Africa expedition. Continue reading

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Take part in Ding Day ’09

ding day logoAre you in London? Do you have a bell on your bike? Excellent, you’re all set to take part in Ding Day ’09.

It works like this: you ring your bell at other cyclists.

The official website explains all: “The idea is to create a fun experience for cyclists and locals in and around London, with the hope of establishing more of a sense of community amongst fellow cyclists.”

So, if you don’t have a bell, maybe you should think about getting one. It might not suit your full-carbon road bike, but hunt around; there are some cool models out there.

Of course, critics will say that a sense of community would be more easily achieved by conversation; at traffic lights, the office bike shed or on club rides, rather than ringing a bell at each other from a distance. Who knows?

You can, of course, follow Ding Day on Twitter.

Interview: Round-the-world cyclist, James Bowthorpe

James Bowthorpe in San FranciscoJames Bowthorpe is currently cycling across the USA, 19 days from returning to London at the end of his round-the-world trip.
If he hits his target, he will do it faster than anyone in history. He took some time out to talk to me for an article in the Guardian, but here’s the full transcript.

How long have you been on the road?

I left London on the 29th of March, I’ve been away five months. Sometimes it feels like a lot longer…

How soon do you expect to finish, and how much are you hoping to beat the record by?

I’m hoping to get back to London mid-September. The current record is 195 days all in and I’m hoping to beat that by around two/three weeks. Anything less would be ungentlemanly!

What’s been hardest part of the trip?

Physically, probably the first three weeks – which were still a part of the training. In general, headwinds are the hardest thing to deal with – they’re so soul destroying. It’s an environmental and physical hardship that becomes an emotional hardship – you just can’t beat them and it can really grind you down.

Getting sick after India was really hard. I couldn’t leave my Thai hotel room for nearly three days, let alone get on the bike. It was a pretty dark time and I did think about getting on a plane home. But eventually I could keep enough food down to fuel the cycling and I just got on and did it. Continue reading

Lance takes Dublin for a ride

lance_armstrongLance’s impromptu ride last week in Paisley attracted hundreds of amateur cyclists – as well as a few pros.

Now he’s doing it again, in Dublin, where he’s hanging out after the Tour of Ireland;

Good morning Dublin. Who wants to ride this afternoon? I do. 5:30 pm @ the roundabout of Fountain Rd and Chesterfield Ave. See you there..

Terrible weather and a bad back forced Lance to pull out of the final stage of the Tour – along with 55 others.

Lance is sticking around in the country to host a three-day Global Cancer Summit.

Train nonsense in Cambridge

Fuji on Cambridge trainI’ve been freelancing in London for the month, but I came back to Norwich this weekend for my father’s wedding. I decided to go through Cambridge; the train left just after work, and it’s not far to Kings Cross from the office.

I usually go through Liverpool Street, but I thought this might be quicker. It turned out to be a lot slower, and I missed part of dad’s wedding-eve meal. Thanks for that, National Express.

I got to Cambridge – halfway there – and tried to change, but I wasn’t allowed on the train. Apparently, “union rules” say that only 4 bikes can be carried at a time. On a train carrying more than 300 people.

I’d have to wait another hour for the next train, the guard told me, when another four bikes could be taken. I looked around the platform and saw 10 waiting bikes. It didn’t look good, so I offered to break the bike down and put it in the overhead compartment – “still a bike, not allowed”, he said.

While I was waiting I watched a train pull up, which belonged to another company. I saw 21 bikes roll on. Capital Connect apparently have a more bike-friendly strategy than National Express. Continue reading

Bamboo frames and the Guardian Bike Blog

Calfee bamboo bikeI reviewed a Calfee bamboo bike this week for the Guardian’s new Bike Blog.

It was an unusual experience, and an unusual bike, but it’s certainly no gimmick – it rode superbly.

I won’t get into that, though, as I’ve covered it in the article itself. All I’ll say is that it was a great bike; really precise, but comfortable enough for a long ride.

The problem is that for a lot less cash I could have a custom Mercian, or pick up an old Merckx in good condition. I think I’d rather do that, but that’s just personal preference. I’m very impressed with what Calfee is doing with bamboo.

As for the blog, I’m pleased the Guardian are taking it on. It seems to be hitting the right note so far, covering things that commuters want to talk about; blind-spots, bike-theft and Boris Johnson. All mixed in with some quirkier reads like this £3,000 bamboo bike review.