On Le Tour de Boldmere

I got up early this morning to slog up Pipehill to await the arrival of the Boldmere Bullets phenomenon on the latest leg of Le Tour de Boldmere. They were on stage 7 round Cannock Chase and I could see from their route on Strava they would be swinging by the roundabout on Pipehill some time after 7:30. As I approached the roundabout I just missed the first group as they whizzed through but five minutes later the next group arrived.

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I first came across the Boldmere Bullets in an article a couple of weeks ago. I’m not a roadie, though I do ride a road bike. In Lichfield there are loads who go out socially and competitively with Lichfield City Cycle Club or from the Freedom Cycles and Run & Ride shops. You can’t have failed to see the Zipvit kits around the lanes north of the city or the groups of mainly young men pushing each other on. I’ve heard stories from those who go on the rides about how they try to drop each other and about the hierarchies within some of the groups. I enjoy riding with others but in a way that supports the whole group. Dick swinging antics just don’t appeal at all to me.

So hearing about the Bullets and their description of themselves as a collective intrigued me. One of their stated aims is that they don’t drop riders on a ride, encouraging new riders to join and not feel they are letting people down. Instead they have designated riders who will ‘taxi’ any riders home who can’t meet the pace of the different bunches. With confidence and a few rides newbies would soon improve their pace and find their place in one of the groups. In a less supportive environment they may not return after one bad experience. They describe themselves as a totally free, resource based collective. Not sure what that means but it seems they are able to build relationships with local companies and sponsors to bring benefits to cyclists in the collective. Their aim to build a stronger cycling culture is one I share and it looks like they may be able to be outward looking and inclusive in the sometimes narrow world of fast road riding.

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They claim to be the Midlands biggest Strava group. I don’t use Strava, I have a thick phone not a smart phone, but as well as Le Tour and an impressive collective amount of miles rode each month, they are having fun with the format too. I’ve been thinking about some fun short rides for Strava round Lichfield including one on the cobbles round the Market Square and down Bird Street. Maybe it would work if I stuck a tablet in a bag over my shoulder. The volunteers in the collective seem to be paying close attention to nurturing a wider cycling community with women only rides and ones for families planned. They’ve got themselves some natty looking kit and even their own beer to buy at one of their regular social do’s. I’ve been invited over to meet them and hope to get down to Boldmere sometime in the next few weeks to talk to some of them in person and report back on what they are like. So much to ask them about, i’m really looking forward to being able to do it.

BMX flash mob meets Lichfield mini mass

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Lichfield Dérive tonight and I missed it, was stuck in a field putting up tents. The last Friday of the month Critical Mass style ride meets at Speakers Corner at 6:30PM for a bit of fun. Got home to find these words, photos and a video from someone who was on it.

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“Going past the skate park and all of a sudden there was 15 or so lads on bikes who joined us, being playful and helped us to stop a bit of traffic around town. Then on Christchurch Lane they got the chance to show off a bit. (VIDEO HERE)

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Then after they said ta-ra and made their way back to the park we rode round for a bit before thirst and hunger took over. It was fun, wish the BMXers had stuck around a bit longer. Maybe next time.”

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Cycle Rides For All taster ride this Sunday in Lichfield – fun, free, family friendly

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It’s been two years since the Cycle Rides For All volunteers did the taster ride from Beacon Park. That day there were over 70 people taking part in this free, family friendly short ride of just 3.5 miles. Trained volunteer marshalls ride with the group at the front, rear, alongside and also ahead to give the group a smooth run on the roads and cycle paths of Lichfield. With all the hype surrounding the tour and the Commonwealth Games at the moment and the recent good weather as many people as possible are encouraged to come along with their bikes and join in. Meet at The Swinfen Broun Pavilion in Beacon Park (on the other side of the lake to the playground) at 11AM, not the usual 10AM start.

Midsummer night’s ride

Another day another pre-ride, this one for Cycle Rides For All on Sunday. It was a night of long shadows so I took the camera and set out early.

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I’m not a bike nerd nor claim to be an expert but this was just the nicest thing i’ve seen around town for ages.

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It feels like the height of summer, a perfect evening for a cold drink and a chat.

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Rays Ride – Veteran Cycle Club 21st July 2014

Alan, a V-CC member and previous contributor to this blog, has sent some photos and words for publication from a V-CC ride he went on this week:

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We started from the carpark at Bancroft House Museum and its parkland setting in suburban Wolverhampton and threaded our way through the parks and early 20th century housing estates to join a rather muddy, shale surfaced old rail track shared with walkers, runners and other cyclists. After five miles we stopped for refreshments at a restored converted station, now a cafe, and parked the bikes, from a 1925 Sunbeam roadster and two late 1930’s touring bikes to 1950’s Wolverhampton made Viking sports and other machines, an early mountain bike and a new hybrid. It was busy but we were well looked after and after an hour or so of gasbagging we left the wooded surroundings of the cafe and were back on the road to join the Staffs and Worcester Canal towpath for the home leg.

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We joined at a double lock and took photos and then made good progress towards Wolverhampton. Then the path began to deteriorate into a narrow foot wide dirt ribbon and after a couple of miles we picked our way past an angling match and chatted to the fishermen as we passed. Fishing was not good they said. Nor was the path which was now a narrow tunnel of hogweed with nettles. I was not alone in the odd slip and foot down department. This challenging section finally ended at a major road bridge and the last road leg began with a testing short climb or walk and chat and then all downhill to the park where a brass band was playing a medley of classic tunes to end the day. With Ray’s historic knowledge of his neighbourhood and a different 12 mile ride I was glad I went.

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After the rain, the rides

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A few things coming up in the next week or so covering the spectrum of our local cycling culture.

Lichfield Fixed Gear Tuesday Cruiseday (22nd July) is a short pub run this week to Whittington or similiar. Meet at 7PM at Speakers Corner, Dam Street, Lichfield.

Freedom rides are road rides out of the Freedom Cycles shop at the bus station in Lichfield on Sundays and Tuesdays. Contact the shop for more information.

Lichfield Dérive is on the last Friday of the month (25th) meeting at Speakers Corner, Dam Street at 6:30PM for a fun ride round town.

July’s Cycle Rides For All is the short 3.5 mile taster ride round town next Sunday (27th). Meet at The Pavilion over the other side of the lake from the playground at 11AM (not 10AM as usual) in Beacon Park.

The North Lichfield Bike Train starts soon too and like everything above is absolutely free and open to all. Get stuck in.

On a Quest

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I’ve been helping a friend to research recumbent trikes, a while ago we had a trip out to try a couple. Today we went to Shifnal to visit Quest88 as they had a demonstration model of a particular trike he wanted to try, a Hase Lepus. It was a beautifully engineered and fantastically specifed bike, it looked such fun to ride. Unfortunately I was a bit too big to have a go as well.

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Quest88’s core business has developed to help people with physical and learning disabilities through cycling and walking aids. They manufacture themselves and also sell other brands all over the country. Their knowledge about the bike we went to see was excellent, Nick who made adjustments for my friend had spent a week with Hase in Germany learning about the range and had rode coast to coast on this trike so knew from experience what it was all about. It perhaps wasn’t the right bike for my friend. The staff told me that a big grin on peoples face was the sign it was. We will try again with another one of the Hase models, perhaps at Quest88’s other base near Shrewsbury where you can take the bikes for a proper ride. Quest88 will also be exhibiting at the Cycle Show at the NEC in September where I think we will go for the chance to look at more recumbents as well.

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Recently I found out about a company in Burntwood called RGK Wheelchairs who are doing similiar things in the wheelchair world, on my doorstep and I had never heard of them. Thanks to Martin, Rob and Nick at Quest88 for sharing their time and expertise, it sounded like a really great company who were doing some useful and life changing things for people.

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Re:Cycle got wheels – this Saturday at Curborough Community Centre in Lichfield

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Looks like it’s going to be a fun (hopefully dry!) day at Curborough Community Centre this Saturday. We are going to be there helping people learn to maintain their bikes, doing free repairs and offering advice alongside the local PCSO’s who will be security marking bikes for free. We will be bringing along some of the donated bikes we have as well, mainly kids bikes shown above and a 26 inch wheel adult mountain bike too and all available for free, long term loan. More info about the fundraising event here. Looking forward to it.

Re:Cycle at North Lichfield Summer Fete this Saturday

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On Saturday 19th July there is a fundraising summer fete and barbeque being held at Curborough Community Centre to raise funds for both the centre and North Lichfield Initiative. We have been invited to take our bike renovation and skill sharing project Lichfield Re:Cycle along by the local PCSO’s who we will be alongside on the day. The event runs from 12:30pm until 6pm with our volunteers there from when the doors open until about 4:30pm.

Our project and volunteers are based in the North Lichfield area and most of the people who have used the project are from around here to. The sort of bikes we rescue from being scrapped are being used by people to get to work, to take the kids to school or simply for fun and exercise. By helping people learn how to maintain their own bikes they are being used more as well. This summer we will be doing confidence building rides around North Lichfield for families to learn how to ride safely on the road in traffic.

Bring your bike along for a check up, minor adjustments or advice. There will be a selection of bikes available to take away on free long term loan on the day. We will post a photo of what we have at the moment later in the week.

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Courier Favour

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At the place where I volunteer this morning, things were running out so I offered to go and fetch some toilet rolls and milk. Was a bit wobbly with 24 loo rolls hanging off the handlebars but I managed it. It got me thinking about cycle couriers and how they get about town, nipping in and out of traffic, taking shortcuts down alleys to beat the motorised alternative. Not a great deal of traffic or shortcuts in the sleepy city though. So for the next few weeks I offer you the free cycle courier service for journeys within Lichfield. Library book overdue and needs returning pronto? Home delivery from Netherstowe chippy? Pick up that objet d’art from Wintertons? Deliver that birthday card cos you missed the last post? I’ve got the fixie, the cycling cap, messenger bag and disregard for my own safety. At your service.