Borders Bike Festival of Scotland rebrands with a little bit of help from a Spanish cycle company

The Borders Bike Festival – a combination of a Marathon mountain bike event and the Selkirk Raid, a mountain bike enduro event – is now known as the Orbea Borders Bike Festival after the Spanish cycle company agree to become lead sponsor. The festival is organised by Selkirk based Durty Events, organiser of the Aviemore Triathlon, Craggy Island Triathlon and the Celtman. Local trailbuilder Pete Laing – who designed the original Glentress 7 Stanes and Golspie trail centres – is responsible for course design.

Paul McGreal from Durty Events said: “We are delighted to be returning to Selkirk for the 2016 Marathon, and the new Selkirk Raid event. The Scottish Borders have some excellent trails, and it’s one of the few areas in Britain that can provide a proven, challenging marathon course over a single loop.”

There are two fully marked courses with distances of 50km and 75km – something for novices, intermediates, and hardcore racers alike.

The 50km course can be completed as either a Marathon, or as the brand-new-for-2016 Selkirk Raid.

There will be four timed Special Stages, all descents. However, for every 5 minutes over a target time, five seconds is added to your time for Special Stage 5. So, dawdle too long at the top of Stages 1 -4, and you risk adding time to your Stage 5 time. Ride too fast and you might be sub-optimal on Stages 1 – 4.

The courses feature a mix of natural and hand-made singletrack, twin-track forest roads and old drove roads. Riders will visit the valleys of the Rivers Tweed, Yarrow and Ettrick. The 75km course will also include some of the very best man-made trail centre routes at Innerleithen. The 50km and 75km routes will include a few special timed ‘Enduro’ sections.

The Selkirk MTB Marathon and Selkirk Raid will take place on Sunday 1st May and the event will be based at Selkirk Rugby Club in the Scottish Borders. The event has been held for around 13 years, and has been organised by Durty Events since 2013.

Chill out to ride and drive safe this winter, urges CTC and AA

CTC and the AA have joined forces to issue a list of winter guidelines to ensure cyclists and motorists share the road safely during the current cold snap.

With lying water now freezing over on thousands of roads, and the sun low in the sky, the CTC and Britain’s largest motoring organisation advising road users to tread, pedal and drive carefully.

CTC has drawn up six tips for cyclists, while AA President Edmund King has reminded drivers to give cyclists an even wider berth in the icy conditions than they usually do (which isn’t usually wide enough).

CTC advises cyclists to:

Deflate – grip is improved by increasing contact with the road. Letting a little air out from your tyres can make a real difference.

Slow down – icy conditions and narrow cycle tyres at speed can be a recipe for disaster. Give yourself more time and, if in doubt about conditions, take it easy.

Keep out of the gutter – this advice stands no matter the conditions, but with the recent rain and following a freeze the sides of roads can be treacherous. Seek the primary position where you can.

Chill pill – if you do hit some ice or a similarly slippery surface, sudden steering movements and sharp braking can see you go from the vertical to the horizontal in record time. Relax and ride it out or, if it’s an extended stretch, consider walking the distance

Stay seen – low winter sun and the longer nights can make the cyclist’s visibility all the harder for other road users. If it’s dark make sure you have the appropriate front and rear lights (a legal requirement) and if in the day, watch out for that low sun – it’s a hazard for all road users.

Dress appropriately – layers are best for trapping in warm air and can help you regulate your temperature while riding. Pay particular attention to your extremities like hands, feet and head, these are all set to suffer more in the cold. Also consider bringing a thermal top in case you need to stop for a long period of time.

AA President Edmund King said: “All road users need to ensure they get into a winter mindset. People need to appreciate that potentially they will not stop in the same sort of distances they normally would.

“This cold snap comes fast on the heels of heavy rain. Puddles have now frozen over and cyclists face a minefield of icy patches, especially at the side of the road where so much water has accumulated because drains have been unable to cope. Drivers need to bear that in mind and give cyclists a wider berth when overtaking.

“The low winter sun can also be a particular problem at this time of year, especially as it is at its most dazzling at the end of the morning commute and the beginning of the evening rush hour from 4-5pm, when the roads are at their busiest.

“We would advise drivers to get up at least 10 minutes early to give time to prepare the car. Don’t drive off like a tank-commander, with a tiny hole cleared in the windscreen. Clear all windows using a scraper and de-icer to ensure good all-round vision.”

The AA website provides detailed advice about winter driving and coping with snow, cold and ice, as well as a list of general tips for drivers regarding cyclists.

King stressed: “Cyclists have the same rights on the road as drivers.”

He added: “Drivers should give as much room as practically possible when overtaking a cycle – Highway Code Rule 163 illustrates one car’s width – they may have to move out to avoid hazards like drains, potholes, or other debris on the road that you may not be able to see. And now ice has added to the potential dangers.”

Map shows that car-ownership in cities is less than politicians might think

A new map-and-data merge vividly demonstrates that many urban areas in England and Wales have electoral wards where the majority of people don’t own cars. Some wards in London, Newcastle and other cities have car-ownership of less than 30 percent yet local and national governments continue to plough money mainly into facilities for motorists.

The new map has been created by Tom Forth of Imactivate, a data consultancy based in Leeds. The map uses information from the 2011 Census and the Office for National Statistics, and by plotting this often obtuse data on Google Maps it shows how car ownership in towns and cities in England and Wales is perhaps not as prevalent as politicians and planners seem to believe.

The map also shows that rural areas are highly car dependent, which isn’t surprising considering how public transport to such areas has been cut back over many years, including the Beeching-induced cuts to Britain’s rail network and the politically-motivated bus deregulation of the 1980s.

Forth says Imactivate works with data to “tell stories in a digital world.” He created BusStart, a smartphone app that evaluates bus routes and suggests changes that would better connect people with jobs. Last year Imactivate also used Google’s flight data to discover that Britain’s hub airport isn’t Heathrow but Schiphol, a finding that was reported on BBC Radio 4.

Urban cycle advocates will no doubt use the car-ownership map to show businesses and local politicians that providing facilities that encourages more cycling and walking is economically and socially sound.

Bike bridges and more washed away in Cumbrian floods

At least two bicycle bridges have been lost to floods in Cumbria and several paths and roads within the National Cycle Network are submerged, reports Sustrans.

NCN route 71, Hadrian’s Cycle Way and the Sea to Sea are temporarily closed due to flooding. Many on-road sections of the Network are also affected.

Nikki Wingfield, Cumbria Area manager for Sustrans, and maintenance supervisor Andy Small are currently trying to assess the extent of damage to the network in Cumbria. They are unable to access all sections due to the floods, but have reports of the following damage:

C2C: temporarily closed

Workington to Keswick section closed

Braithwaite: the C2C is impassable due to a collapsed bridge
Keswick and Threlkeld: 1 bridge lost, unconfirmed reports of another bridge lost
Route 71: temporarily closed

Braithwaite: Route 71 is impassable due to collapsed bridge
Route 6: check Council updates before use

Kendal: flooding in town centre and surrounding area; bridges awaiting inspection by Cumbria County Council. Do not use
Grasmere – Keswick: A591 has collapsed
Route 7: advise no travel on this route until cleared for use

Flooding at Carlisle and at Westlington Castle.

Route 72 (Hadrian’s Cycleway): Advise no travel on these routes until cleared for use

Flooding at Carlisle and by the Eden River
Route 700: several sections closed. Check before travel

Flooding at Levens, bridge across Leven at Greenodd closed until cleared by Cumbria County Council
Floods in Lancaster
Route 68

Appleby: flooding and main road bridge awaiting inspection by Cumbria County Council

Long-distance Italian cycle route is smooth & not blocked with barriers, finds co-founder of Sustrans

In September, John Grimshaw and David Gray spent a week cycling on part of the Ciclopista de Sol cycle route – the “Sun cycle path” – in Italy. Grimshaw is the co-founder and former CEO of Sustrans; Gray is the co-creator of the C2C cycle route across the Pennines in northern England, established in 1994. Both are involved with the soon-to-be-launched Scottish C2C. Below, Grimshaw describes the pair’s latest trip.

This is a brief record of some of the highlights of our week’s cycling in NE Italy where we enjoyed some excellent cycle routes with details which are of a higher standard than commonly found in the UK on its national routes. We were following parts of Ciclopista de Sol (Euroroute 7 from Munich to Venice) along the Adige River to Trento, the Sugana valley to Bassano del Grappa, the award winning Buke route of the year 2015 Alpe-Adria route down from Tarvisio to Gemona and the railway path from the Slovenian border, past Draga to Trieste.

The routes were recommend by cycle guide Albano Marcarini, and our excellent bicycles were provided by holiday company Girolibero who arranged for them to be waiting for us at Peschiera and collected from Treviso. We used six local trains all of which carried cycles without difficulty including the Micotra train from Udine to Villach which carries up to 125 cycles and ran twice daily. Another highlight was the Trieste/Opicina tram which has carried cycles for over 100 years.

Although we only cycled selected sections the length and continuity of these routes is impressive. They run for much greater distances than do our equivalent national routes in the UK. For example, on the Adige route to Trento we followed 60kms of continuous cycle track adjacent to roads, through vineyards and orchards, along canal banks and on river banks with short sections through small villages. On the Alpe-Adria route we followed the railway path from Tarvisio To Resiutta for 40kms with only a short break through Pontebba.

These distances (and we only followed parts of much longer routes) meant that whole days out, and whole holidays could be arranged on these routes.

In all our travelling we did not come across one single barrier obstructing the route – a common problem in the UK. There were a few slow-down chicanes on older routes, and we found some padded bollards to stop motor vehicles, but this was all. And continuity at junctions and crossings was often very good.

In urban areas the routes were not so clear. Whilst in the historic town centres traffic was slow or the roads largely given over to pedestrians where cycling seemed to be tolerated or encouraged, finding ones way out through the suburbs was not always easy. So for example the Alpe – Adria route bypasses the significant town of Gemona rather than a link being shown. (In May 2015 a new route has been opened from Venzone to Gemona but as yet the way not continued beyond.)

The quality of surfacing was machine-laid and smooth throughout. This by comparison with the UK where hand-laid surfaces are often found, with a consequent bumpy ride.

We had expected to find some exciting bridges, viaducts and tunnels along these routes, and we were not disappointed, particularly on the railway path from Tarvisio where we counted 30 tunnels, numerous bridges and some truly spectacular viaducts.

On the Adige route approaching Trento we came across 3 new bridges of a very high quality, two of them attached to road bridges but of sufficient character and flair to make us feel that we were indeed special as cyclists.

“Kompass” 1;50 000 maps covered all our area and are available from Stanfords in the UK. Although they mark cycling routes, these were not always accurate (See 102 Lago di Garda where the Adige route is shown following the road up the valley, rather than the actual route) and the main routes are not highlighted. Bikeline produce detailed route guides (E.g. Alpe Adria Radwweg) although their publications are almost all in German only. Girolibero produce detailed mapping and route guides for their recommended routes.

So it is possible for an English visitor to assemble route information in advance but it is not so easy for many people to find mapping in Italy itself.

Signing was mainly by way of small stickers repeated at frequent intervals. Whilst these were satisfactory on the long traffic-free sections, they were rather too small on the intricate road sections and once one was missed you are lost. I think that larger stickers, more similar to UK national route signs would be useful.

The routes were well used, especially bearing in mind that we were cycling on a weekday in September during term-time. On all the paths there was a good number of tourists (bringing cash into the local economy) as well as local people enjoying these beautiful cycling routes.

The routes are a great credit to the local government for their vision in delivering a project which must have taken many years of continuous work. They are an inspiration to us to do more, and make our cycling routes to a better standard – we need greater ambition in the UK.