wednesday video


from their rapha site
To the outside world, Vietnam is associated with many things; years of war, endless rice fields, exceptional cuisine. What it is most certainly not associated with, is riding mountain passes on road bikes.

The hillside town of Sapa, located at the edge of north-west Vietnam by the Chinese border, was the start and end point for the second ride of the Rapha Continental Asia. Sapa, a market town in Lao Cai province, lies in the shadow of Phan-Xi-Pang (pronounced ‘fan-si-pan’), at 3,143 metres the highest mountain in the region. Phan-Xi-Pang belongs to the Hoang Long Sien mountain range, the south-eastern outpost of the Himalayas, known by some as the “Roof of Indochina”. At 1,500 metres above sea level, Sapa has a subtropical climate in summer and a very temperate climate during the winter.

We arrived during the rainy typhoon season (the same time of year as the hurricane season in the West). We knew there was a risk of tropical storms but, experience tells us, this is often the best time of the year to see Asia, a time when local culture shines through unhindered by tourism.

The weeks leading up to our expedition were spent storm-watching and we were fortunate to be in Sapa between two big weather systems that brought seven typhoons to north-east Asia; kismet, or so we thought. We sent an advance party a day ahead to check the routes and logistics, aware that Vietnam’s infrastructure is not the most organised. It was a good job we did, as word quickly came back that a rethink might be needed on a number of fronts:

“Day one route currently has a massive landslide across the road about 70km in, no way we will get the bikes through. Day two is little more than a dirt track, mountain-bike material. We need to change hotels, there’s a huge landslide 4km from the entrance and we could not get the van through. May also put a stop to day three’s loop.”

Undeterred, the rest of us gathered at Hanoi airport to catch the overnight ‘express’ train to Sapa; it would take more than eight hours to cover the 317km to Lao Cai province. As with any journey of this nature, getting there is half the fun, especially when it comes to carting bikes and luggage through the mazy streets of Hanoi and across rail tracks to board an old, slow sleeper train.

From Lao Cai it was an hour’s transfer up to the equally sleepy Sapa, with its 36,000 inhabitants, nestled up in the valley. The guys had managed to book us into another hotel, run by a French patron, who turned out to be cycle-racing fanatic. The revised plan was to ride two out-and-backs from Sapa, taking in a total of 347km and 8,934m of climbing, short of the original plan by about 120km and 2,000m respectively.

With one at 41km and another at 30km, the climbs in the area are long, pretty steep and often Alpine in profile, as is the landscape – the French name for the mountains in this region is the Tonkin Alps. Stands of pine and jagged peaks can beguile you in to thinking of the Colombier or Galibier but then you round the next corner to be confronted with steep slopes carved into rice terraces. The descent and climb to Lao Cai and back to Sapa is the most Alpine-like, with switchbacks and some sweeping, snaking (and very fast) sections.

On the first day, it poured with rain non-stop and we found ourselves riding for long stretches on roads undergoing resurfacing. The continued rainfall also ensured there was plenty of mud and debris.

A highlight of the day was our diversion to a small Hmong settlement along a road once barred to tourists as a consequence of Christian missionary activity in the area; the Hmong traditionally practice shamanism and venerate their ancestors. It’s very likely we were the first outsiders to go up this road for some time and certainly the first to do so on road bikes.

Heading north, away from Sapa, we turned right into a beautiful valley that felt like it was just ours for the day. After navigating some pretty muddy, wet sections, we ended up going as far down the valley as we could before we hit a road that was simply too rough to ride. More stones and boulders than dirt, it was a reminder that landslides remained a very real threat in the area.

We rode back the way we came, which called for a long, 41km climb out of the valley and to the highest pass above Sapa, at 2,006 metres.

The drag out of the valley included a stop for a mechanical in another Hmong village, where pot-bellied pigs, chickens and water buffalo roamed around. The children and women of the Hmong seem to do all the heavy work, carrying tremendously heavy loads from one place to another, while the men travel about on their motorbikes. This is far from an unusual sight in Asia and I have seen old ladies carrying 60kg sacks of pebbles up steep slopes.

The following day gave us good weather with just a couple of short showers and periods of intense heat. We again headed north but continued up and over the highest pass and down into the valley below. About 6km into the descent we hit an unmade construction road that continued for another 20km or so. We continued along the valley floor as we skirted round the Phan-Xi-Pang range.

The final climb back to Sapa turned into a competition with small victories all round. An unseen mechanical meant one of us was left straggling with nothing but the occasional rallying call from the support car to keep him going as the others had ridden out of sight. It was a lonely trudge home.

Travelling back to Hanoi on the sleeper later that night, we shared experiences and discussed the dramas of the trip. It was awe-inspiring riding but we were lucky to ride with so little incident. A week later, another typhoon passed through the area and 19 people died in landslides and flash floods.

This trip would not have been possible without Long Troc from xedap.org, not to mention the great logistical support in Vietnam from Dan and Joe of Marco Polo Travel Adventure Company (Vietnam Mountain Bike). Thanks also to the management of the Victoria Sapa Resort & Spa.

The haunting beauty of the region had a profound effect on all of us that were lucky enough to ride in the area and the hope that we might someday return is perfectly captured in the words of Call of the Mountains, a traditional Hmong folk song:

“The mountains call me, they always have. They’re calling me now, and I will be back there someday.”

 

Assynt video from VIMEO


“Well, the only way I see this happening is in an extended ride north. When I say that I mean a long, terrible, trying trip…” Wally Maclean, The Idea of North by Glenn Gould, 1967.

A very interesting cycling video from Rapha. With amazing footage and a lovely poetry. This video is a fantastic short documentary about a cycling trip in the harse but beautiful weather conditions of the UK.

The first Rapha Continental UK ride had its fair mix of weather – rain, then sun, then a bit of hail, then sun again – changing from one valley to the next, or as one storm cloud succeeded another in the wind. Luckily, the snow held off until they had finished riding.

The rise of the Gentleman Cyclist


From the Guardian:

Most cyclists I have met are conscientiously contemporary in outlook, aware of their responsibility to both environment and community. The slight smugness this can engender is one of the things the gridlocked motorist so hates about us.

But if an increasing proportion of bike-related marketing is to be believed, this modernity is but a veneer, concealing a moustachioed Edwardian, keen as mustard on a spot of biking with his chums. Is the return, I began to wonder, of the sanitised class fantasy Downton Abbeyleading cyclists to embrace their inner General Melchett?

Browsing some of the increasingly popular retro bike designs recently, I came across the Old Bicycle Showroom (“Purveyors of Fine bicycles to Nobility & Gentry“); and I met Pashley’s owners’ club of “jolly chaps”, who look more Friedrich Nietzsche than Fausto Coppi. Then there is the Tweed Run, issuing its dress code like a public school prefect: “Now look here, proper attire is expected“; and Rapha, with its series ofGentlemen’s Races, and clothing for gentlemen.

Needless to say, this foppery is a million miles from the emergence ofcycling as a popular activity in the 1890s. Seventy early cycling clubs were named after the campaigning socialist paper The Clarion (founded 1891), with its ideal of fellowship. The brief aristocratic fad for cycling petered out when the bike became too popular to be posh.

It has, as Tim Hilton’s memoir One More Kilometre and We’re in the Showers relates, “belonged to a lower social class” ever since. Until, that is, the recent popularity of cycling among wealthy men persuaded some marketing departments to rewrite the history of cycling. But does this retelling make any sense?

The idea of a gentleman’s race (in which the whole team has to stick together as a group) makes for a good outing, but has little to do with the ruthless and sometimes drug-addled history of professional bike racing. And the Tweed Run, despite the semblance of tradition, has only been going since 2009, when it began under the sponsorship of Brooks saddles.

Brooks are perhaps the most promiscuous users of this kind of heritage porn, though their evocation of a fantasy past makes some concessions to modern feeling. One of their most popular recent posters features a Brooks-clad couple protecting a fox from the advancing hounds. Its originality comes from embracing the heritage aesthetic, while rejecting the more specific historical associations. We look like 1930s aristocrats, the ad seems to say, but we certainly don’t behave like them.

This marketing does make some sense when selling equipment which hasn’t changed significantly in over a century. To their range of leather saddles, Brooks have been adding product lines from early catalogues to meet the demand for retro chic. You may have to pay £872.30 for a 1930s-styled jacket, but at least you don’t look like a traffic bollard.

It’s the same story with other British heritage brands. Traditional bike bag manufacturer Carradice has seen a significant improvement in sales since rebranding its bags as “retro cool”, as its marketing analysis candidly explains.

Pashley has increased sales despite the recession by focusing on its Britannia range of heritage-styled bikes. They come with a little badge of a trident-bearing, union flag shield-wielding Britannia figure, for those riders who like to imagine themselves ruling the waves while cycling to Tesco.

For a longer perspective from within the trade, I spoke to Ninon Asuni from The Bicycle Workshop. Was this preppy look – it plays very well in the US market – putting off more down-to-earth cyclists, I wondered? She pointed out that the retro revival has had the thoroughly positive effect of encouraging the restoration of older bikes, which are a great solution for the stylish cyclist on a budget. The wide range of stylish, comfortable bike gear keeps people cycling all year round, and in bad weather. And the marketing, she suggested, was mostly good fun.

Some of the marketing – especially Brooks’s – is witty. It’s sad some bike companies feel the only way to make their products seem new is by associating them with this delusional world of jolly chaps, obscuring cycling’s traditional ideal of fellowship. Though as Downton Abbey shows, our fantasy of an aristocratic past extends far beyond the world of cycling.

The attention of big business is, at least, a sign that cycling has become culturally mainstream, a bit like football in the 90s. It has come of age. Like football, it’s losing its history of fellowship, which is being replaced by a marketed, corporate identity; it even has a “coming home” moment of sorts in the Olympics next year, where Mark Cavendish looks set to do well. The recent Intelligence Squared debate about cycling, addressed by high profile literary figures such as Will Self, as well as celebrated cyclists like Graeme Obree, would have been unimaginable 10 years ago.

Where cycling differs from football is that the majority of cyclists participate as well as spectate. The benefits of cycling’s high profile – facilities, driver awareness, and so on – can therefore be shared widely. But when you do go out, just remember, chaps: if male cyclists reckon it’s worth shaving the legs to reduce drag, just think what that walrus moustache is doing to your performance.

Rapha Survey (via cork grips)


another one from cork grips ….. nice photos from Rapha survey

Rapha Survey Photos from Rapha’s Survey blog- one part street style and two parts bike check, how did I not think of this first? Photographers from London, Tokyo, Los Angeles, Melbourne, and New York contribute their snaps of cyclists from all walks of sartorial and bicycle style. Heavy on the male side but there’s a handful of ladies with some nice rides such as the polka-dotted young woman and her Harry Havnoonian. … Read More

via cork grips

Rapha Etape Jerseys now on sale



Rapha have unveiled the official jerseys for this year’s Etape du Tour. £50 / $65

Two Etapes du Tour will run this summer, Acte I, from Modane to Alpe d’Huez, on Monday July 11 and Acte II, from Issoire to Saint Flour, on Sunday July 17. The Acte I Etape Jersey is on sale now, with Acte II available from Friday. Both retail at £50.

A lightweight summer race jersey made from highly breathable polyester, it has a full-length zip, side-panels and a slim, race-fit. The design of each jersey has been inspired by a Tour stage winner with Acte I based on Joaquim ‘Tinho’ Agostinho and Acte II on Pierre Le Bigault.

Etape caps, t-shirts and musettes are also available, along with a Le Tour music album, on sale from www.rapha.cc or at the Rapha Mobile Cycle Club, which will be at both stages.

Meanwhile, the 2011 Tour de France celebrates 100 years since the Col du Galibier was first climbed, paying tribute to the infamous ascent not once but twice, scaling the 2,556m ascent over consecutive stages.

And Rapha have a manufactured a sportwool Galibier jersey (£135) jersey and produced a video in tribute to both the climb and 1998 Tour winner Marco Pantini. Watch it at www.rapha.cc/galibier

Look Mum no Hands – Bike coffee culture


Now that London’s cycling subculture has reached the level of a populist movement, bike cafes like Container CafeLock 7 and the summer pop-up Rapha Cycle Club are the city’s latest hip hangouts. A recent addition is Look Mum No Hands, a bar, cafe and workshop in a lofty garage space on busy Old Street in Shoreditch. If you’ve visited any other haunts in East London, you can imagine the place: Edison light bulbs, a staff sporting asymmetrical haircuts, old tires and bike parts hanging from exposed ceiling pipes. Vintage bikes and heirloom tomatoes dress up the window displays, and a scattering of desks and built-in benches fill up most of the room.

Despite the occasional suit-wearing office worker who wanders in for lunch, Look Mum No Hands functions as a kind of cyclists’ salon. Serious riders bring in expensive racing bikes for repairs; bike messengers sit in the attached courtyard fueling up with quinoa salads; and curious commuters lock up their bikes out front and come in to use the free Wi-Fi or study one of the giant cycling maps. There are weekly events, from route planning sessions to bicycle film nights, and the bar stays open until 10 p.m. serving up chilled microbrews from France, Italy and Spain.

CINELLI XCR CRITERIUM RACER – Dream ‘pant pant’ steel roadie


Cinelli has been a leader in bicycle design since 1948. Sitting only 10 miles outside of Milan, it stands to reason that design and art also influence Cinelli products. Cinelli is a brand where competition, history, passion and performance have long melded to bring beauty to the sport of cycling.

In an adjacent factory, Columbus Steel is a close compatriot to Cinelli. Columbus began making bicycle tubing in 1919 and has a decorated heritage of powering the likes of Coppi, Merckx, Pantani, Armstrong and countless others.

For this collaboration, the seamless Columbus XCR stainless steel tube-sets are literally passing across the factory floor to Cinelli to make the Rapha Criterium Racer. With geometry specified by generations of building for the strongest, fastest and most fearless in the sport, this frame and fork are intended for the aggressive racer. The Columbus XCR tube material exceeds anything in the market for technological quality and has a higher stiffness to weight ratio than titanium or aluminium, delivering great feel and total confidence at high speeds. Painted Pearl White, except for a polished reveal of the beautiful stainless, and with pink, black and grey race bands, the Criterium Racer marries tradition and performance.

Timing & Process:
The Rapha & Cinelli XCR is limited to only 30 frames/fork per year because of the scarcity of the material. Delivery of your frame/fork is estimated for 4-months from time of order.
Cinelli will take orders direct, go to www.cinelli.it to buy your XCR Criterium Racer.

expensive to wear well

Price:
Frame/fork starting @ €3,500 + shipping

Rapha Film – Two Broad Arrows – Ridley Scott Associates


Another beautiful film with Ridley Scott Associates … and Rapha HERE

Rapha and RSA Films present three short films inspired by the people, places and stories of road racing. Johan Museeuw, Sean Kelly and Dario Pegoretti are celebrated in three cinematic portraits exploring the passion, history and drama of the sport.

Based on a trio of story-labels originally found inside the Rapha Club Jerseys, each film brings a new translation: The intense dreamscape of Nick Livesey’s ode to Johan Museeuw, Adrian Moat’s tale of discovery inspired by Sean Kelly and Ben Ingham’s intimate view of Dario Pegoretti in his workshop, all powerful representations of three distinct icons of road racing.

Rapha – A throw of the Dice – Ridley Scott Associates


Another beautiful film with Ridley Scott Associates … and Rapha HERE

Rapha and RSA Films present three short films inspired by the people, places and stories of road racing. Johan Museeuw, Sean Kelly and Dario Pegoretti are celebrated in three cinematic portraits exploring the passion, history and drama of the sport.

Based on a trio of story-labels originally found inside the Rapha Club Jerseys, each film brings a new translation: The intense dreamscape of Nick Livesey’s ode to Johan Museeuw, Adrian Moat’s tale of discovery inspired by Sean Kelly and Ben Ingham’s intimate view of Dario Pegoretti in his workshop, all powerful representations of three distinct icons of road racing.

Rapha ‘of steel’ video


Love this video – produced in part by Ridley Scott Associates

Rapha and RSA Films present three short films inspired by the people, places and stories of road racing. Johan Museeuw, Sean Kelly and Dario Pegoretti are celebrated in three cinematic portraits exploring the passion, history and drama of the sport.

Based on a trio of story-labels originally found inside the Rapha Club Jerseys, each film brings a new translation: The intense dreamscape of Nick Livesey’s ode to Johan Museeuw, Adrian Moat’s tale of discovery inspired by Sean Kelly and Ben Ingham’s intimate view of Dario Pegoretti in his workshop, all powerful representations of three distinct icons of road racing.

It has been a privilege to work with Ridley Scott Associates and such talented friends on these films.

Nice rapha vid – an oldie but a goodie


Rapha cycling clothing…shot with a Canon XL-H1 and a RedRock 35mm adapter(not on all shots) shortly after this I got rid of the RedRock and bought an SGpro…the SGpro is soooo much better!!