Bike Week event registration goes live

Event organisers can now register their events on new smartphone-friendly website.

Bike Week is an annual celebration of cycling, first held in 1923. The Bike Week website has been overhauled and is now smartphone- and tablet-friendly. Event registration is now open.

In previous years, Bike Week events – such as bike breakfasts, family rides and Dr. Bike sessions – have been organised by local authorities, health promotion units, bike-friendly employers and bike shops.

The 2014 Bike Week will be held 14th-22nd June.

Creators of English C2C design a Scottish sea-to-sea route

Twenty years ago, David Gray and Sustrans founder John Grimshaw created the C2C cycle challenge route from the Irish Sea to the North Sea, across the Pennines. It quickly became the most popular long distance cycle route in the UK. The duo are now hoping to replicate that success with a new, 122-mile sea-to-sea cycle route, this time for Scotland. Gray plotted out the original English route before its launch in 1994 and has done the same for the Scottish route, aided by Grimshaw, who was the former CEO of Sustrans. Gray used to be the north east coordinator for Sustrans and now has a cycle holiday business called Chain Events.

Grimshaw and Gray were commissioned by the Upper Tweed Railway Paths group to look at creating a long distance cycle route using dismantled railways in the Scottish Borders. As a result of this they came up with a sea-to-sea cycle route between the town of Annan on the Solway Firth and South Queensferry on the Firth of Forth near Edinburgh. Unlike the English C2C route, which is tackled from west to east, the Scottish C2C runs due north, highlighting the fact that Edinburgh, on Scotland’s east coast, is further west than Carlisle.

The route comprises a mix of country lanes, moorland roads, cycle paths and seaside promenades, and like, the English C2C has two stiff climbs, one over the Devils Beef Tub – a border reiver cattle hideout back in the bad old days – and a long ascent through the Moorfoot Hills. The route then opens out on to a panoramic view (in good weather, natch) of the Lothians, Edinburgh Castle, and the Firth of Forth. The route ends under the Forth Bridge.

The route is designed to be tackled over two days with a suggested overnight stop in or near Peebles, a town that caters to cyclists thanks to the MTB trails at the nearby Glentress Forest, created by Arthur Phillips long before the Forestry Commission took over the provision of mountain bike “parks”.

A map for the Scottish C2C will be available soon. It is sponsored by the local councils, Edinburgh Bike Co-Op, SPOKES and AES Wind Generation and SESTrans.

“Businesses along the route have been primed to expect a new wave of hungry and thirsty cyclists arriving on their doorsteps,” said Gray. “Given the fact that touring cyclists spend around £40 a day on food and accommodation and there are 15,000 every year on the original C2C this new route will potentially bring a huge boost to the local economy.”

Grimshaw said:

“This ride links the Solway Firth to the Firth of Forth by way of three river valleys, the Annan, the Tweed, and the Esk, and the Southern Upland and Moorfoot Hills in between. It uses an extensive length of former railway west of Peebles, combined with the Scottish Borders Council opening the 11km Railway Greenway route from Peebles to Innerleithen in 2013, and Edinburgh City Council’s resolve to open up a continuous coastal promenade route from Joppa to Granton. Whilst these works will take a number of years to complete, sufficient is in place to make this wonderful ride possible in 2014.”

He added: “The ride is only signed south to north at present because from the Devil’s Beef Tub to Lyne the current route must follow the main road down the Tweed valley. Eventually we hope that the proposed routes shown on this map will be opened to bypass all this main road, but at this early stage we are still in negotiation with a number of landowners.”

Chain Events will be running supported rides on the new route from April onwards.

Going electric in the Alps

With electric bikes due to be added to London’s “Boris Bikes” hire scheme next year, Trevor Ward decided to see what all the fuss was about with a trip to the Swiss Alps, where the upmarket ski resort of Verbier introduced e-bikes-for-hire last year in a bid to boost summer tourism.

With all those ski-lifts and cable cars remaining under-used during the summer months, TeleVerbier – the area’s biggest transport provider and also a major landowner – came up with the idea for a fleet of electric mountain bikes to appeal to those who wanted something a bit more adventurous than hiking but not quite as testosterone-fuelled as downhill mountain biking.

Its second summer season as an e-bike operator has just come to a close, with nearly 300 e-bike rentals recorded.

This appears a paltry number compared with the 77,000 people who used TeleVerbier’s lifts to access high pastures for walking and (non-electric) mountain-biking, but the company is pleased with the feedback.

“In general, it’s been very positive, though there were a few complaints about the battery life,” a spokeswoman from TeleVerbier told us.

The 50 pedal-assist bikes available for hire are all Swiss-made Stromer ST1 models, and the first thing you will notice is the weight. These are veritable mammoths at just under 30 kilos. That includes a unique, purpose-built frame design – where the battery is concealed in the down tube – 27 gears, hydraulic disc brakes(including a regenerative braking system which effectively preserves battery life) and proprietary dashboard showing four levels of “assist”.

Boris’s e-bikes probably won’t be this high-end – a Stromer ST1 costs around £3,000 – but then they won’t have to cope with hills as big as those around Verbier. Having said that, you’d have to be pretty brave – or incredibly strong – to want to attempt to pedal one of TeleVerbier’s Stromers up any slope with more than a 7 per cent gradient, as the slightest miscalculation or loss of balance could see you being flattened beneath nearly 30 kilos of steel. Fortunately, that’s what the ski lifts and cable cars are for, though even the downhills can be problematic. One of our party had her bike topple over on top of her when she couldn’t support its weight after braking to a halt at a junction.

But if you have a pair of biceps like Popeye’s, then the bikes are a lot of fun. Though far too unwieldy for Verbier’s extensive network of downhill MTB trails, they are perfect for the more gentle, meandering hiking trails (where bikes allowed), and you can choose your own level of “power mode” – ranging from battery-friendly “Eco” to juice-sapping “Power” – with the press of a finger.

While hard-core mountain bikers will no doubt dismiss the e-bikes as toys, and experienced cyclists will claim it isn’t “proper cycling” unless the physical effort makes your eyes bleed, others are more likely to appreciate the benefits from having a 36-volt electric battery inside your down tube.

And in case you were wondering, those batteries are supposed to be good for around 25 – 40 miles. But just in case, most of the restaurants/cafes along the walking trails have recharging docks.

Need to Know:
The price of renting an e-bike ranges from 20 Swiss Francs (approx. £14) for one hour to 50 Swiss Francs (£35) for a day. A day lift pass for the Verbier area will cost you an extra £20 during the summer. For bike purists amongst you, Verbier Bike Club provides guides and tours – both on and off-road – in the Verbier St Bernard area.

Cycle the Dales with just 340 days to go before Le Tour is in Yorkshire

The Tour de France – the world’s biggest annual sporting event – celebrates its 101st running with three days in the UK in 2014. A spectacular ‘Grand Depart’ in Leeds on 5th July will see hordes of tourists flock to ‘God’s own county’. The route the racers will use goes through some incredible scenery and if you want to get there before the pros do, the Yorkshire Dales National Park has launched a ‘cycle the Dales’ website which promotes the region for cyclists. The website has route maps for family rides, one day rides and multi-day rides as well as information on great climbs and other useful information for cycling in the dales.
The Yorkshire Dales – with some of tge finest landscapes in the country, with limestone formations contrasting with the heather clad moorlands and valley bottoms full of meadows, dry stone walls and scattered with field barns – will be part of stage one of the Tour de France.

Cycling is the perfect way to explore the area. You get to see more and feel more in touch with the countryside around you, and you can be fully justified in stopping for a slab of cake or a pint of locally brewed beer.

There are fabulous cycling opportunities, from gentle routes in the valleys to some challenging climbs over the moorland that separates them. From the wild and remote northern dales to the rolling farmland in the east, the cycling is always memorable for the fantastic scenery and beautiful villages.

Just want a reminder for when Le Tour will be in Yorkshire? The ‘cycle the Dales’ website has a countdown clock.

Find bike-friendly accommodation on the fly

The Bike Hub smartphone app already directs users to bike shops and now people can use the app to locate bike-friendly accommodation.

Beds for Cyclists, a cycle-friendly accommodation website, has teamed up with CycleStreets and Bike Hub to offer cyclists accommodation information on their mobile phones. Cyclists can now find cycle friendly hosts on the CycleStreets and Bike Hub cycle journey planner apps.

Martin Lucas-Smith of Cyclestreets said: “Beds for Cyclists is a fantastic resource for cyclists and to have this information at your finger tips when you’re out on the bike is going to help a lot of tired riders find a good place to stay.”

Sam Howard, marketing director for Beds for Cyclists, said: “I am delighted to combine the accommodation information we offer with the cycle route app market leaders.”

Beds for Cyclist’s hosts also now have local cycle hire providers shown on their profiles. In partnership with the UK cycle hire directory, the three closest cycle hire centres within 20 miles are listed on the host’s profiles.

“It is notoriously difficult in the UK to travel on public transport with bikes and this will overcome that dilemma for many people who want to go on a cycling holiday. Beili Neuadd B&B and bunk house shows off these new features very nicely,” said Howard.