Alfie Earl: The Boy Climber

Not many keen amateur cyclists can lay claim to have knocked off three of their bucket list climbs in the space of a few months. Alfie Earl found time to tick off the Tourmalet in the summer. This October he went back to France to conquer Ventoux, then hopped in a car to cross the border into Italy to have a crack at the Stelvio in the space of 48 hours. All very commendable you may say until you find out that Alfie is only 9 years old!

We caught up with young Alfie to find out what his motivation is, what it was like to climb these three mythical mountains and pick up some tips on how to overcome such challenges.

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Brick Lane Bikes: The Hippest Bike Shop in Town

Ride Velo decided to visit the hippest bike shop in London, Brick Lane Bikes. We wanted to find out how and why, ten years on from its inception, this is still the go-to establishment for single speed, fixie and vintage aficionados. 

When ex-bicycle courier, Jan and his partner Feya, decided to bite the bullet, stop talking about it, and set up a bike shop back in 2006, Brick Lane was a different place to what it is today. Back then no one had heard of gentrification, beards and plaid shirts were still the preserve of the lumberjack and the area was better known for bagels and bandit territory. Since then it’s evolved into the beating heart of the hipster. Shoreditch urban living has become something to aspire to rather than run away from.

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Pashley: 90 Years of Passion and Class

Pashley Cycles celebrated its 90th anniversary this year with a ride and picnic through the quaint environs of Stratford Upon Avon. As the participants dressed up in vintage clothing on their retro bikes and took tea and cake in an old fashioned English marquee, you could be forgiven for thinking that this is a backward looking company, desperately clinging on to the vestiges of a time gone by.

But as Adrian Williams their MD, told me on my visit to their factory, “Don’t judge the book by its cover. Open it up and you’ll find that there’s a lot more to us than that.” And in the course of my afternoon there I can say that what I found was, yes, a British company with a rich heritage that does indeed play on the romance of the past. But there’s a lot more to Pashley than that: here’s that rare breed indeed, a British manufacturer that’s winning, expanding and building on its reputation as both a bike builder for the leisure cyclist, and a supplier to business. Pashley, after all, have just won the contract to supply a whole new fleet of ‘Boris’ bikes and beaten some much larger players in the process.

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Eurosport's Carlton Kirby in Conversation

Carlton Kirby, Eurosport’s go-to man for cycling commentary, has legions of fans who tune in for his witty repartee with cycling great, Sean Kelly. Known by some as the ‘language mangler’ and for his ‘Kirbyisms’ (occasional strange musings about, not just cycling, but the very fabric of life) loyal listeners have set up a Twitter account of his humorous comments: Things Carlton Says @saidcarlton. Ride Velo went to the Eurosport headquarters in West London or as Carlton refers to it, “The Feltham Institute for Young Offenders,” to meet the man, learn what it takes to call a bunch sprint on a stage of the Tour de France and find out how to make Sean Kelly corpse on live TV.

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The Velo House, Tunbridge Wells

We’ve been hearing great things about a place called the The Velo House in Tunbridge Wells for a while now. It’s a cycling café, bike shop and workshop that’s been getting some rave reviews so we had to check it out. I got there not a little bit dishevelled, extremely hot and in need of some sustenance having tackled some hilly Kentish lanes that can sure be tough when they want to be. Note to self: check out the elevation profile before attempting a new route.

Velo House was a welcome sight indeed as was the enticing menu. It’s a lovely airy, open space, housed in a former Nat West bank building. These guys have clearly thought hard about how to cater for the passing cyclist. You can park your bike in an outside area with a complementary bike lock, the tables are all covered with maps of the local area marked with popular cycling routes. Then there’s a bookshelf with essential cycling reading - back issues of Rouleur, books on cycling climbs and biographies of riders. Yep, I felt at home here!

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Ian Cleverly, Editor of Rouleur in Conversation

We were excited at the prospect of meeting Ian Cleverly. After all he’s the managing editor of what many regard as the best cycling magazine on the planet. Yes, excited and not just a little bit intrigued because, from what we understood, he doesn’t immediately fit the bill of a typical Rouleur reader: a punk who played in a 1980’s band called King Trigger; a self confessed technophobe who turns his nose up at Garmin computers and Strava data; a Cyclo Cross fanatic and lover of the aesthetics of steel framed bikes. 

Rouleur started up in 2006 when founder, Guy Andrews, came up with the idea of a cycling magazine that offered a bit more than “fitness specials, pictures of bunch sprints and road tests of £1000 bikes.” The vision was to produce a beautiful magazine with serious writing in it for the discerning cyclist. It fitted in perfectly with Rapha’s philosophy at the time and Simon Mottram (Rapha’s CEO) put his backing behind it. 

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A Day In The Life of A Tour de France Photographer

Our appetite for images of riders in the Grand Tours and Classics knows no bounds: the stage winner, arms aloft in victory; a GC contender crashing out; the look of determination, pain and sacrifice of the climber. Every day these pictures are shared around the world on Facebook, Twitter, websites and millions of copies of old style newspaper print.

We caught up with Dutch photographer George Deswijzen, a freelancer who has worked on the Tour de France, Amstel Gold Race, Fleche Wallon and Liege-Bastogne-Liege to mention but a few of the races he has covered. He tells us what it's like amid the chaos and excitement of a Grand Tour, how to capture that moment on camera that tells the story of the day and what it’s like to ride pillion on a motorbike during a race. He also offers some interesting and unexpected future career advice for fellow Dutchman Tom Dumoulin as well as some considered thoughts on rider safety.

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Marc Lotz: Back on the Road After Racing

What does a professional bike racer do when he retires? David Millar went into commentating for ITV, some like Bjarne Riis end up as directeur sportif, while Chris Hoy is trying his hand at racing cars at Le Mans. So we were intrigued to meet Marc Lotz, formerly of Dutch team Rabobank who had recently returned from an 18-month tour of Africa, not on a bike, but in a converted fire engine!

Marc took part in the Tour de France five times as a domestique for his team. He also won the prestigious Haut Var in France and came second in the Brabantse Pijl. As a professional for Rabobank from 1997 to 2004, then a year with Quickstep, he also rode la Vuelta a España as well as countless other races in Europe

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Atelier Passoni

It was love at first sight when we saw our first titanium Passoni road bike.  So we just had to interview Passoni MD Matteo Cassina to find out how his passion for Passoni started with shopping for his dream frame and ending up with him buying the company: there’s something about Passoni that fuels those emotions. And finally this August, we made it to Monza, to the church of the god of cycling, to the bike factory or atelier, as they like to call it, that has no equal.

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Pantani: a Tribute to Italy's greatest climber

When Marco Pantani died in 2004 from a suspected drug overdose in a hotel room in Rimini, 20,000 people formed a two mile queue to pay their respects at his funeral. 'Il Pirata' remains one of the most loved cyclists of our time. Monuments have been erected in his memory on the Mortirolo pass, the Col du Galibier and in his hometown of Cesenatico. Meanwhile the Giro d'Italia celebrates his legacy with the Cima Pantani, a mountain stage of the Grand Tour dedicated to him each year.

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LIOS: A War Heroes' Tale

We’ve been privileged to meet and write about some incredible characters at Ride Velo: think of Maurice Burton’s single mindedness on the six-day circuit, Beryl Burton’s extraordinary accomplishments in competitive cycling, not to mention the self-belief and passion for his products that drive the likes of Matteo Cassini of Passoni. Meanwhile Mark Fairhurst’s vision that leads him to create such iconic cycling prints always inspires. But the courage, fortitude and determination of one man we met last week perhaps rise above even these remarkable people.

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Café du Cycliste - the Interview

The Cote d'Azur was looking more gris than bleu the morning Ride Velo turned up to interview Café du Cycliste boss Rémi Clermont. But the soggy weather didn't dampen our spirits when the elegant new café cum shop came into view in the old port of Nice. Rubbing shoulders with the super yachts moored outside, this slick cycle 'hub' reflects the hard work and vision of owners Rémi and business partner Andre Stewart, a Mecca for the aspirational cyclist in the South of France. 

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Kent's New Cycle Pub - The Freewheel

Was there something in the air last May? Two cycle cafés we visited (London Velo and the Bicicletta Cafe) launched then. And this Easter weekend we visited the The Freewheel on East Kent's coast, which also started rolling last spring. It's the only cycle pub we've ever heard of - although they serve plenty of cake and coffee too. We were attracted by the prospect of three of our favourite things in one place; bicycles, good food and a beer garden on a sunny afternoon! What's not to like? Ride Velo met owner Adrian Oliver.

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Cartoonist Dave Walker

There are cycling slogans and cartoons everywhere - mugs, T-shirts, tea towels... but most of them are not that funny! That is, with the exception of Dave Walker, who has become the go-to cycling cartoonist of our times. Although he claims his works are more 'diagrams' than cartoons, his acutely observed drawings are perfect pen and ink reflections of our two-wheeled obsession, and now Bloomsbury Publishing have commissioned him to produce a book of his work. Ride Velo went to meet Dave and his two furry friends at his home in South Essex.

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Beryl Burton

Watching the play about the life of Beryl Burton, last week, Ride Velo couldn't help but notice some similarities between her and her namesake, Maurice Burton, whose pro cycling life we featured recently. Both riders were from working class families who discouraged them to take up cycling; both showed the same steely grit and determination against the odds but were ultimately not given the recognition they deserved for all their great achievements. And neither could take it when beaten by their own children! Maurice pushed his son Robbie into a hedge when beaten up Star Hill, and Beryl refused to shake hands when beaten by daughter Denise in the National Championships. 

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Eliza Southwood

Chatting to artist Eliza Southwood is like peeling an onion; her life story unfolds in layers, each perfectly independent of the other. Famous for her stunning cycling prints and commissions for the V&A, Sustrans, Rapha and more, I would never have guessed that her former careers included being a professional flamenco dancer and a horse stable hand in a Pythonesque anarcho-syndicalist commune in Tuscany! There is certainly more to this London-based producer of iconic cycling images than meets the eye...

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Dear Susan - Vehicles of Optimism

“I’ve always built stupid shit and it’s always been really fun. I think you’re not allowed to start a bike business until you’ve built a tesla coil and electrocuted yourself!” So says Petor Georgallou, founder of bespoke bike frame designers, Dear Susan, and artist, sculptor and film-maker.  We went to his trendy, but freezing, East London workshop to meet the man, find out about building custom made bike frames and, hopefully, receive some pithy, weird and off-the-wall sound bites. We weren’t disappointed.

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Maurice Burton - Life After Racing

Many successful sportsmen have struggled with their personal lives at the end of their sporting careers. Who can forget the images of a washed out Paul Gascoigne, overweight and dependent on alcohol, struggling with his demons as he tried to make some sense of his life after a glittering, but not entirely fulfilled, career as a footballer? Of course the cycling world is no different: Marco Pantani suffered a terrible decline into drug addiction that tragically destroyed him. Even the apparently unshakeable Eddy Merckx floundered after retirement for a while, as he sought out a life in business as a prefabricated building salesman before being persuaded to go into the bike building business!

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The All New R.E.W. Reynolds

Many of us who get into cycling immediately start chasing down the lightest carbon fibre bikes, and snap up replica apparel as worn by our pro cycling heroes. After we’ve been riding for a little while, however, we look back at the history and heritage of cycling, learning about the great riders as they tackle the most iconic climbs. Images of pain, heroism and grit etched on the faces of the true stars of the sport, such as Hinault, Simpson and Coppi put the likes of Contador and Froome in the shade. And the clothing… well you only have to look at the shocking new Tinkoff-Saxo kit to know that the teams of the 60s, 70s and 80s just oozed style and sophistication compared with their modern equivalents. 

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