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January 2, 2023 / / Blog

2nd January 2023

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 318: Chris Boardman explains Active Travel England’s Capability Fund

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Chris Boardman

TOPICS: Active Travel England‘s new £32.9m Capability Fund


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 318 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered on Monday 2nd of January 2023.

David Bernstein 0:27
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Tern Bicycles. The good people at Tern are committed to building bikes that are useful enough to ride every day and dependable enough to carry the people you love. In other words, they make the kind of bikes that they want to ride. Tern has e bikes for every type of rider whether you’re commuting, taking your kids to school or even carrying another adult, visit That’s t e r n to learn more.

Carlton Reid 1:02
Happy New Year. I’m Carlton Reid and welcome to another year of the Spokesmen podcast, which has been coming to you non-stop since 2006. Amazingly, it’s now 2023 and on the first working day after the festive break there’s this here announcement about a new 39 million pound fund that plans to empower local communities to create people-friendly environments through design. Active Travel England’s new Capability Fund will, the words of the press release, “create a national network of experts to work with communities, enhance high streets and make regional roads safer for everyone.” Working with the willing, Active Travel England will be doing what urban designer Brian Deegan did so well in Greater Manchester and that’s engaging with people, asking them not whether they wanted to limit car use but what they wanted their streets to look like and how they wanted them to function. Brian is the Director of Inspections at Active Travel England and I teased Active Travel Commissioner Chris Boardman over whether the Capability Fund was a sort of cloning exercise, replicating Brian’s expertise in lots of local authorities … but first I asked Chris to explain a little bit about the fund and the announcement.

Chris Boardman 2:45
The emphasis is a lot less on encouraging people and more on enabling them. And then when you start digging into what that means some of its political some of its psychological. But a lot of it is capability behind the scenes. So the point of this and it sounds rather melodramatic, but it’s true: we need to build an army of engineers and local officers who are capable of delivering to a consistently high standard across a whole country. And this fund is part of starting that. So it’s to enable local authorities to make active travel even higher value than it already is by by creating in-house capability. So reduce their dependency on consultancies. And it’s the start of several large announcements this year to get people ready. So they’ve got a pipeline of schemes that we can start delivering consistently as we go forward. So active travel is it will become a mainstream part of transport.

Carlton Reid 3:49
You’re basically cloning Brian Deegan. So you’re creating lots of Brian-Deegan-type people in local authorities, is that kind of is that the template?

Chris Boardman 4:03
Yeah, well, Brian’s, obviously our director of inspection, and he’s worked for decades in this area and knows that both politically, and technically we’d right down to how high is a curb what is required to enable people within the laws of this country to get around easily under their own steam and feel safe doing it. So that’s why we we put them in that position. Now we need people like that in every council across the country, or every council that wants to, you know, they think the important bit that we’re also injecting here is choice. That’s what this is about giving people a genuine choice in how they travel, because one of those choices is underrepresented. And we need skilled people who can navigate the system. Now that the reason I said engineers and local officers or officials is because it’s different. It needs to be cost done for each local authority, what it is that they’re lacking some engineers but the the knowledge amongst local councillors on how to do it and how to how to conduct an effective consultation that takes people with you doesn’t exist. So the training is in a different space. Whereas somewhere else, they’ve got great political will, and they’re frustrated that they officers aren’t capable of delivering. So that that comes from years and years of knowledge. And over the next, while by the spring, we hope that we’ll have a package of training for all authorities to help them develop their capabilities,

Carlton Reid 5:41
is that the way it started? £39.2 million is that is that where the money is going on things like training up to make these mini like, Brian Deegans. And it’s like, you know, when you when you put money down for a brand new cycleway or new bus route, or, you know, a widening pavements, whatever, that’s capital, that comes out of one fund. But when you actually want to do stuff with council officers, that obviously comes out of a different pot, revenue. So is that what this is for, to fill in those gaps?

Chris Boardman 6:15
To a large degree, yeah. And the reason it’s, it’s slightly more opaque than that is because it needs to be customised. But ostensibly, is to create a national machine that produces a pipeline of high quality schemes across the country, and then need to be consistent across the country. So wherever you are, you are, you see, you see a sign with with a bike on it, or somebody walking and you know, you’re going to have a good experience. So this scheme is about creating that capability within all the local authorities who want to do it. And obviously, that’s a rapidly growing number for, I mean, for a lot of people because they simply can’t afford the status quo, or realising rather, that we can’t afford the status quo. So when people go, there’s, you know, there’s hundreds of millions for active travel, it doesn’t just design itself, that capability isn’t the map consistency is what we need, probably more than the quantum of cash, we, we actually need the consistency and the ability to design and deliver when cash is available.

Carlton Reid 7:20
So criticisms potentially, could be I’m not this scheme in particular, but just, you know, people want infrastructure first. So you kind of you’ve kind of got people who just say, Look, we just want infrastructure, forget anything that you know, is ancillary to that just give us infrastructure. And then the other criticism from from a totally different point of view will be these kinds of things aren’t a nanny status? And why do we need people to tell us how to cycle how to wear all these kinds of things? So so how do you, how do you square those two circles?

Chris Boardman 7:53
Well, the environment is, is everything, you know, we can dance around, we can look at all the stats about you know, we know that we’re inactive and costly health service a billion pounds a year and all of that. But the only thing the reason we’re gonna get on a bike or, or walk to school every day is it’s the easiest choice. And it feels safe, simple as that. And so did the job of active travel endurance is to strip away the noise and go, but what really makes a difference. And it’s safe space. Number one is safe, convenient routes, where I want to go continuously. And that’s what we have to focus on. Once that is there, then you can start giving people the tools to use that space. So by kind of schemes and really inject into bike training, bikeability training, specifically concentrated in the areas where you’ve created safe space. So the layers of things that are needed. But I’m tempted to use a metaphor of baking a cake really you need, don’t you need all the ingredients and you need them in the right proportions, and you need them added in the right order. You know, otherwise you just end up with with stuff that’s inedible or unusable.

Carlton Reid 9:04
Now, am I right to be thinking that this is not new money? So this isn’t a government announcement of this is a brand new pile of 39 million pounds, a big pile of cash, new, this is coming out of your existing budget and you’re just apportioning it?

Chris Boardman 9:20
Yeah, there’s no you know, there’s no disguising the fact that last year is the politics last year meant that things got slow down, you know, we had, we had three prime ministers in a matter of months, and behind them as a team of people and behind them as another team of people. So all of that changes in the decision making is, is slowed down. So we’re several months behind where we want it to be. But we’re now very much on the move. There’s been some great activity in the last few weeks. And we’re finally getting out a lot of the stuff that we wanted to do in active travel, I’m pleased to say is there very highly valued in inside the Department for Transport. And politically, there’s really good support for it now as well. So, as I said, I hope this this will be the first of several announcements over the next few months. This is the one that enables people to use and capitalise on everything that comes next. But no, it’s not new money. It’s part of the £2 billion dedicated funding that was promised in 2020. And now we’re actually in a position to start to, to utilise it and make sure it’s spent properly. I mean, to set up an entire business, which was Active Travel England to deliver that and make sure it is spent properly. It’s something that’s incredibly technical ask anybody who’s who started a business. So we’re well into recruitment, we’ve had to put officers in place, those are now open all of the mechanics of creating first a national machine that then can drive the regional machines. So it’s, it’s quite exciting, actually. And exhausting. I think it’s, it’s taken a long time to get here. But at last, we’re ready to actually start doing the job at pace. And consistently.

Carlton Reid 11:11
And how hands off or potentially even hands on is the DfT? How much leeway do you have, Chris?

Chris Boardman 11:18
DfT is an essential partner. I mean, we’re an arm’s length body, we choose how we deliver government’s policy, how we how we get this mission done, that’s down to us. But we have to interact with buses and trams and trains and national highways and department for health, even over a DCMS, you know, and my other role in Sport England, they’re also a statutory consultee in the planning system. So there’s so many partnerships, you we have autonomy in how we deliver the mission, but we have to work really closely with other people, if we, if we want to do it well, and forming those relationships is well underway. Now. I’m really quite excited and enthused, actually by the level of enthusiasm and desire to see change that we’ve encountered.

Carlton Reid 12:09
Is any of that to do with Jesse Norman? Or is there something that it doesn’t matter who the individual is you think this is baked in now?

Chris Boardman 12:17
I think it’s essential who the people are individuals are critical. I mean, if if I could have walked into parliament, and looked into into the rows of seats and said, right, pick a minister, then then Jesse Norman would have been it. We have we’ve known each other for several years. He understands politics very well, obviously, he’s done a considerable stint at Treasury, which is very helpful. And he actively asked for the active travel brief. And that’s really important that that you get somebody who’s chosen to be here who wants wants to make a difference. So it’s quite exciting. We’re really, really looking forward to working with him closely over the next year.

Carlton Reid 13:03
Potentially, this administration, as you said before, the we’ve had many changes within even this administration, but but going forward, every electoral cycles, you might have a different administration. So the building blocks you’ve put in place here, presumably, you considered would survive any change of administration, perhaps even be strengthened in a future administration?

Chris Boardman 13:33
Well, not wishing to, to sidestep your question. This, this should go beyond politics. This is for any administration, who purports to follow the evidence, until want to do the thing for a community, then this is where you end up. You know, I mentioned earlier that people are doing this because they’ve realised they can’t afford not to. Well, that’s where we started in Greater Manchester four years ago. What’s it cost you to travel as you are now? Can you afford it? And I think there’s been a turnover of people that we’ve worked with from officers to politicians, in the last few months, often have come at this fresh and gone ‘why are we doing this’? And then they realise, well, I have to, I’ve got climate commitments that we absolutely have to meet. We’ve got a health service that is, is being well, severely burdened, shall we say, by by inactivity, you know, one in six deaths in the UK is down to inactivity, and I mentioned a billion pounds and it costs nearly 8 billion pounds to the economy. You look at all of those, and then you follow the thread and you realise that active travel is a huge part of the solution. It’s the transport mode that punches above its weight. It’s a it’s a quiet but powerful industry that is growing, not necessarily because people think ‘I love cycling’, you might absolutely have nothing to do with cycling but they realise that there’s never been a more important time in history to allow people to get around under their own steam. So our supporters have amassed for different reasons. But they all end up in the same space because it’s the cheapest, quickest, most logical answer. So I would expect, fully expect and I’m highly confident that the active travel agenda will just get stronger and stronger and stronger.

Carlton Reid 15:27
I’ll stop Chris there for a quick message from this show sponsor from my colleague, David.

David Bernstein 15:34
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Carlton Reid 16:44
Thanks, David. And we are back with Chris Boardman. Do you think your your time obviously in Manchester will cover this? There’s the answer to this. But do you think devolution helps with this going forward so that nine times out of the whole of of of the Tyneside region is going to have a Manchester style administration? So do you think those kind of localised regionalized administrations are going to be much more powerful going forward for for what you would like to see happen?

Chris Boardman 17:25
Yeah, well, the macro and micro are, I mean, this is this is huge change delivered at a very, very local level, you know, hyper local, this is me going out the front door to go to the shops, or to go to the train on the tram station. And that’s where the change happens. And then you scale that up. Now, the time in Greater Manchester, was invaluable. And it made me realise that local councillors are in charge of climate change, because you realise that if there’s a local councillor, and he’s got a majority of for somebody screaming in his face about removing the car parking space, and his job is to represent that individual who he knows and has known all his life, then if they don’t change, well, you scale that up and nothing changes. Therefore, you you know, climate change is severely impacted and health and all the other things that I mentioned. So we need to give that local councillor what they need to be able to go, Well, we’re going to remove that car parking space, but this is why it’s good for you. This is how I’m going to get you or hopefully this is this the method I’m going to use. So we arrive in the same solution, we both want the same thing. So it’s, you need to mesh the two things together. And devolution can very much be a part of that, I think, I think it needs to be to go further at the moment. I mean, that local politicians need the powers to do interact with the strategic road network. There’s work in the pipeline, as we know about pavement, parking all of these things. But devolution can very much be a part of it. And I was in Newcastle a few months ago and had a look around. And I saw the work that had been done to stitch bits and pieces together to make a cohesive network and, and the desire that was there. But without that local desire. It doesn’t happen. And just to add on. I mean, that’s one of the reasons that I mentioned earlier. This is about choice. If there’s a local authority or an entire region that has no interest in increasing active travel, then good luck to them. And we will not be forcing anybody to work, but we won’t. We won’t do things badly. So we will learn to use the overused cliche, we will work with the willing and create examples at such a scale that they become on a global and that’s already happening.

Carlton Reid 19:58
And these examples that you have to create via local authorities will come mainly from Do you think existing officers being trained up? Or do you envisage councils maybe actually creating jobs that take this on board,

Chris Boardman 20:16
It should report our support is proportionate and targeted, and there’ll be more on this and then in the next few months, but a local authority who has no, no trained officers doesn’t know how to conduct consultations, but is rocket keen to do it, then we’ll help them with training, excuse me. And with schemes that they can win up from where they’re at, at the moment, and we’ll try to help them grow as fast as possible. For those that are already, excuse me, like Greater Manchester to Birmingham, and the West Midlands in particular, who are already on the journey and already have people in place, I have the capability to deliver and I’ve learned a lot of the lessons, we’ll both will just say, hey, crack on, you know, the standards will check you meeting those standards, but crack on, and tell us what you need. Because we have to do it. If we’re going to deliver government’s targets of 50% of all journeys, cycled, or walked by by 2030, then we’re going to have to work with those that are already capable intensively, and we’re going to have to work with concentrations of people are, but that doesn’t mean that other areas that are just turning to this will get left behind, they absolutely won’t.

Carlton Reid 21:35
Because in the press release, it says the fund could see up to 1300 new green jobs created across England. So where are those jobs coming from?

Chris Boardman 21:44
Well, you have to design, you have to design and you have to consult all of those, all of that capability, which is why it’s called Capability Fund is generally people, you know, you, you need people to be able to go and speak to local communities and run a really effective consultations that help the people that design the network that they want. So we have to have a network of networks and a machine to create that. And this is a very personal thing, changing how people travel in region and giving them real choices, the ones that they that will actually change behaviour. And all of that is people. So I think that’s an underestimation. And that’s, you know that that’s specifically to dob with this fund and how it can be used. And it says up to because again, it’s a choice. And it’s quite possible, that that’s where all of this, this, this particular fund will go on engaging people officers capable of conducting all those tasks.

Carlton Reid 22:52
So urban planning courses and schools and what have you 20 years ago, wouldn’t have had a great deal of active travel in there wouldn’t probably even much bus stuff either, it would have been pretty much predicated on cars, cars, cars, cars, that presumably has changed over the last 20 years. And then the throughput of trained people we’re gonna get out of these courses and be much, much more aware of, of mode other than the car. Is that something that you’re seeing that you’re seeing that the old guard are falling away, and you have a new thrusting bunch of millennials perhaps, who are now wanting to change the world in the way that they’re the people who before changed the world, but for cars, and now changing the world but not for cars?

Chris Boardman 23:43
I think we’re we’re, we’re actually we are and have been on the same side. You have to bear with me with this one. What we haven’t realised it. And I think that’s that’s a key difference that certainly the learning in Greater Manchester, if if you say do you want to ride a bicycle? People say no. But do you want a place that’s quiet and you’d like to sit? And you can you can let your kids walk around on their own and or go to school? Yeah, I’d like one of those things. Would you like to save money by having one less car in the household? Not not driving, but but one less car? Yes. That’d be great. What would you need for that to happen? Well, I’d have to be sure the kids were safe. Okay. What would that look like? Well, you know, there’s no real fast cars everywhere. So lower speed limits where you live? Yeah. Yeah. And they’d have to get across the main roads. So you mean like crossings or well lit underpasses? Yeah. Yeah, those things. Okay. So you mean this? So, so that’s the key, I think, for me, is that we start to talk about the outcomes of all of this, we start to talk about what does this actually give me that I value in a language that I choose so that it could be money saved? It could be time saved, it could be easier life, it could be a better place to live, it could be something for my kids. I mean, you probably saw the piece on Kesgrave High School that we did a few months ago, I was just can’t believe was embarrassed the fact that we didn’t know about this place, you know, nine, eight to 900 kids every day 61% ride to school and we went, that’s got to be a mistake and to go to see it. If you actually talk about kids getting to school and being able to avoid bullying, because they don’t have to be kettled, on a bus after school, all of the benefits that this can bring, if you speak to people about that, then suddenly you’ve got common ground. And I think that’s absolutely critical here that we actually want the same thing. And we know that by the fact that when we introduce high quality cycling, and walking facilities in an area, give it a couple of years, and people would fight you tooth and nail if you wanted to take it away. So we know the majority want the same thing, just not everybody has realised it and doesn’t see it in the same way. So it’s it’s the way that we’re going. And there’s examples all over the world, maybe you’ll be very familiar with Paris, you know, which is, which is one of my favourite examples, because it’s not the most people travelling actively, but it’s the one that’s changing fastest. And it’s a it’s a society that’s close to ours. And seeing what’s happening there. And they, they play to another part of human nature, which is, which is positive peer pressure, really, it’s just a case of here’s somebody doing something and I’m feeling a little bit uncomfortable not doing it well, the more of those examples that we can create in our country, the better.

Carlton Reid 26:46
Going back, I mean, absolutely, Paris’s is kind of poster child for that. But going back to Kesgrave, Ipswich, my theory on that and it is just a theory out you can’t can’t pin this down was the United States Air Force dropped 2000 bicycles on that community in in the Second World War. And as far as I can tell it, it was the only United States Air Force or any military base that that just dropped so many bicycles out at one time. That must have, I posit, created a community of people riding around the the air force base, they must have then gone to the local pubs, but and that must have created a community of cyclists. And that’s why in the 1960s, the local authority decided to put those those those cycleways in for that particular school when it was when it was expanded. So just putting bicycles getting getting people with bicycles, I mean, maybe that’s even why by Paris, you know, with the Velib scheme, you get more people on bicycles, you almost don’t need many of the other things is just get people on bicycles?

Chris Boardman 28:00
Well, that would be true if you could introduce 1930s to 1960s levels of traffic at the same time, because that that, that that theory has just missed the fact that that that they started with much quieter and safer space. And I think if you dropped 2000 bicycles, now, you wouldn’t have much of an impact because people still wouldn’t feel safe, and they still wouldn’t want to go on a road with cars that are travelling fast around. So I think that’s the difference. I mean, the story of Kesgrave is definitely you know, worth exploring and local farmers. And when they sold the land. They they one of the stipulations was now to keep the network in place and build around it, not over it. And I think I’d have you ever been there?

Carlton Reid 28:46

Chris Boardman 28:48
I mean, you’ll see it’s not perfect by any means. And it’s not shy. And there’s lots of shared use and all the things are not supposed to work. But it works because the core of it is there. It’s joined up, and it deals

Carlton Reid 29:00
Yeah, it’s a network. I think the word you said there before was that was the key there. It wasn’t isn’t just two or three cycleways beside a road. It’s a quite a dense network of very, very different kinds of facilities.

Chris Boardman 29:13
Yeah, and the underpass to get to the school itself is just horrible. The I guess 1980s on the past that, you know, volumes of people have made it usable, you know, the safety numbers, natural security,

Carlton Reid 29:27
and that was that was built in something like 1964, 65. So it’s because very early. Yeah, for what they were doing. Yeah.

Chris Boardman 29:35
And it’s, it’s horrible, but it functions. And I think that’s key. I mean, there’s a lot of lessons to be learned from that area. I was almost relieved to find that when we spread out I went on a tour down there for a full day and we wrote miles around the whole area that move away from that. That probably what is it 10 square kilometres and it’s very normal. Still very car dominated. And it was almost a relief, to be honest. But they’ve inherited something and then built on it, and made it work for them. But it’s just a brilliant test case of what happens when you give people what they need. And it’s great to have an example that’s not in London.

Carlton Reid 30:19
Hmm. What have I was Ipswich? About 50 miles out 45 miles out from London? Yeah.

Chris Boardman 30:25
Pretty easy train journey.

Carlton Reid 30:27
Mm hmm. Yeah, very much. So. Right. So this this announcement on second of January, do you think it’s technicall press will pick up on this rather than mainstream? What do you think is gonna happen with the announcement?

Chris Boardman 30:46
I don’t expect and don’t require it to be to be hugely newsworthy. I mean, it’s, it’s the start is to get ready for a sustained big push that’s coming throughout the year. And I think there’s bigger stories in the pipeline. So this is just a case of, we’re letting people know that there’s 32 million pounds worth of funding now available for local councils and local authorities to start getting ready to deliver a network of networks.

Carlton Reid 31:16
So people, I’m talking about people here as in the general population, can expect to be consulted. And and taken on board by Brian Deegan clones and asked what they want, which was what you were saying before about, you know, do you want this and it turns out to be that’s what they actually want. So we can expect much more localised planning on the ground, in certain areas?

Chris Boardman 31:45
I’m not quite sure that where the question was there, I think consultation is a big part of it, and the capability to run and good consultation. And harping back to Greater Manchester again, the best thing that we did that was give the pen to the people who lived there and said, Okay, first of all, you don’t have to draw anything, when you don’t have to do anything. But if you did, where would you go? And what’s in your way? And what would you do about that, and we helped them to design something that worked for them around their shops and local communities in places where they knew that they, and that ownership was absolutely everything. And that’s, that’s been witnessed across the country has been really effective when you give people a choice. And I mean, a genuine choice, including the choice to do nothing, you end up getting to the same space. But the choice is really important when you’re talking about people’s homes and their communities. And this one will be heavily weighted towards making sure that capability is there. And the training to be able to do that consistently.

Carlton Reid 32:51
That you talked about people’s homes, their residential road. There’s bete noire, I’m sure you come across it all the time in media interviews, when you get asked about this, but LTN low traffic neighbourhoods is absolutely seems to be the the most hated thing from from from, from some commentators, you know, that’s taken some sort of freedom away from them. But LTNs have got this reputation of inequity, in that you’re in effect, giving facilities to middle class people. And if you’re forcing the traffic, the motorised traffic away from residential streets, and people’s houses go up in value, etc, etc. But then you’re actually forcing the motor traffic to go on the boundary roads, which then makes it people live on those boundary roads, and they tend to be poor people live on those boundary roads. So displacement, how do you get around the fact that any measures to make it nicer for people to walk and cycle can actually make it worse for other people? Because it increases traffic on their roads, much traffic on their roads.

Chris Boardman 34:06
There’s, there’s no, there’s no solution. And God knows we’d all love one. There is no solution that says we’re going to change how we use our streets that is pain-free. And that’s why it takes political will. And that’s why political will is one of the things that we require. We know as we mentioned earlier, and you’ll be well aware of with the likes of Waltham Forest, is that once you’ve pushed through that for two years, if it’s a well designed scheme, or well considered, then people prefer it. And we know that 70% of the stuff that was done during COVID and attracted a lot of those headlines has been made permanent because people wanted to keep it and that hasn’t made headlines, the fact that actuallt Low Traffic Neighbourhoods or whatever you actually want to call them, it’s just local traffic management really, and traffic being managed for the type of roads that it is where it had been allowed to be repurposed for moving traffic is actually it’s a very sensible and, and just a standard thing to do. I mean, there’s lots of lessons I think to be learned. I’m not sure packaging them up into one big thing that’s visible, and it’s change all at once is necessarily the way to go. I think it can be done in stages. Rambling a bit here, but I think LTNs are, if you actually describe the content I mentioned earlier, the outcomes there most people agree, yes, I want that. Then there’s going to have to be, there’s going to have to be some compromise, if you want to induce to introduce choice back into society. And I think when you talk about choice of kids travelling to school parents with prams, this disabled, don’t feel that they have to travel in a vehicle all the time, because actually, the pavements work for them, they’re clear, the crossings are all in the right places, then all of those things people want, we need to make sure that this is portrayed as the this is what it actually gives you. This isn’t taking away, it’s actually given people something back that they’ve lost.

Carlton Reid 36:23
Can society, can British society, create this, this nirvana of people walking, cycling, taking the bus, all these different modes? Doing that more? Can you create that and have elevated levels of car use? Or do you have to have a reduction in car use to get the former?

Chris Boardman 36:51
I think you’re almost talking about the same thing. If you if you make space for your kids to walk to school, or ride to school or scoot every day, then you don’t need to drive them there. And that’s that’s where the chicken or the egg and where the pain comes as your the discomfort is that change over period, because you make the space and then the behaviour changes to make the space, then there’s not enough of it the moment places where it’s saturated, particularly at rush hour. A match that’s the political hump that you have to get over time. And again, it’s show that that change happens. And I think I think that’s the juxtaposition that’s where the political will is required for that first step where people don’t necessarily they’re worried about change. And they don’t can’t see the alternative until they’ve experienced it; a lot of people won’t change until they can experience something. And so to create that takes courage. And I think, just to go slightly sideways, where we often get it wrong. And we’ve actually been alluding to it subconsciously all the way through there is by we pose the wrong question. If we pose what’s the place you live look like forget cycling and walking, what’s it look like? And what would you give up for that? Or what would you change for that? Would you like to have one less car? And I think we need to really think carefully about the questions that we’re asking. So a counter question to the one you’ve just asked me was, what happens if we don’t? What happens if we don’t? Can we afford it? Do you like it? And I think that’s, that’s probably the underlying the most important thing is that we need to start asking the right questions.

Carlton Reid 38:46
So do you think you can get the Daily Mails — and I write for the Daily Mail — but do you think you can get the Daily Mails of this world onside and how?

Chris Boardman 39:03
I don’t know, is the answer. I’m not sure I should care. Because I, I can’t we have to spend time creating a message that’s attractive and asking the right questions. So you know, if we don’t do this low traffic neighbourhood how are you going to tackle climate change? Do you like it? And there’s there’s lots of things and wouldn’t you like your kids to be able to get around under their own steam? I think the asked constantly asking the right questions. You know, what happens if you win? What have you won? It is there’s there’s a there’s a raft of really good questions that make the nice thing about questions. They cut through emotion and connected with the person and make them stop and think and you won’t win them all. This is not this is not a an easy journey change. Culture change never is, it’s always slow, and it’s always painful. So the best way we can do it to come back to the start, is to work with those that are prepared to go through that first bit of discomfort. And take people through that slightly scary bit of change, and then create examples. And to hark back to Greater Manchester, again, when we went when we put our draft network online, way back in 2018 and asked people for their opinion, just put it out there and said, tell us what you think the biggest complaints were ‘where’s ours? Where’s our bit? They’ve got it, we haven’t got it.’ And that’s, that’s the kind of battle that you want. So I’m not I don’t think we we can and we should try to persuade everybody. We should just speak to the evidence and the evidence of outcomes that have been seen elsewhere and crack on. Because what happens if we don’t?

Carlton Reid 41:00
Thanks to Chris Boardman there and thanks to you for listening to episode 318 of the Spokesmen podcast, brought to you in association with Tern Bicycles. Links about the Capability Fund can be found on the show notes at The next episode will be with a Critical Mass campaigner looking to change hearts and minds through song … that show will be out soon but meanwhile, in 2023, get out there and ride.

December 22, 2022 / / Blog

22nd December 2022

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 317: Masterplanning Milan: Real Estate Developer Reshaping the City With Active Travel

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Stefano Corbella, Sustainability Officer, COIMA, Milan

TOPICS: Parking Minimums, Forests In the Sky and Dutch-style cyclist roundabouts in Milan







Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 317 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. The show was engineered on Thursday 22nd of December 2022.

David Bernstein 0:27
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Tern Bicycles. The good people at Tern are committed to building bikes that are useful enough to ride every day and dependable enough to carry the people you love. In other words, they make the kind of bikes that they want to ride. Tern has e bikes for every type of rider whether you’re commuting, taking your kids to school or even carrying another adult, visit That’s t e r n to learn more.

Carlton Reid 1.01
In the previous episode, I had a coffee and a cycle-related chat in the new Eroica cafe in downtown Milam. I’m Carlton Reid, and apologies for my croaky voice—I was at a Newcastle United match last night and may have shouted a wee bit. Anyway, the visit to Milan was a research trip to visit Porto Nueva, a formerly neglected part of the city, but which has been transformed by urban developers such as COIMA. The most famous part of this regeneration project is COIMA-commissioned Bosco Verticalle, or vertical forest, two high rise apartment buildings covered in trees and plants. I was part of a study group given a quick and inspirational tour of the tallest of these towers, and from near the top, I could see some of Milan’s new protected cycleways. I also spotted a Dutch-style roundabout and a Cyclops-style staggered road junction on a busy arterial. Later, I interviewed COIMA-sustainability officer Stefano Corbella at this junction, and then we walked through an urban park built over another arterial and chatted about the changing face of Milan and how private developers work with cities on increasing the number of active travel journeys.

Carlton Reid 2:16
Stefano, where are we are we are we in Milan right now overlooking this road? What is this road?

Stefano Corbella 2:43
This is Via Melchiorre Gioia, one of the main streets that connects the outskirts of Northern Milan, to the to the city centre going towards the Brera neighbourhood, one of the most historic and nice

neighbourhoods in Milan.

Carlton Reid 3:04
So, we’re on a pedestrian bridge over the road, yeah, flanked by each side by bike paths, how new are those bike paths here?

Stefano Corbella 3:13
Yeah, those bike lanes we developed as part of the Porta Nuova development.

There was nothing at all before we started working on the project. And we added approximately four kilometres of cycling path integrated with later other development that the city of Milan is done.

Carlton Reid 3:38
So this road was wider here. So there was more lanes for cars. And you’ve taken one lane away.

Given to the cyclists and the pedestrians?

Stefano Corbella 3:48
Exactly, exactly. And this was part of the bigger master plan that connected the four neighbourhoods and around because the Porta Nuova project stands for about one kilometres in length. And for a total of 190,000 square metre of total masterplan, which include the park and so on. So the it was important for us to create

a connection for pedestrian cycling, separated by, by design with from the vehicle or vehicle or roads.

Carlton Reid 4:25
So we’re not just walking past where you work. For COIMA. You’re the sustainability officer. Founded in 1974,

which is the developer of a number of plots, projects in Milan, but we are now walking through

into the park. So what’s this park?

Stefano Corbella 4:46
This is BAM, Biblioteca degli Alberi di Milano, is a park that we developed on behalf of the city of Milan and then now we manage to an agreement with the city and we take care about

Security, maintenance, but also and most important cultural activity and culture activation in in our neighbourhood.

Carlton Reid 5:10
And we are higher than road level here.

Stefano Corbella 5:14

Carlton Reid 5:14
So this is on stilts this is your this has been built up above the arterial road or the rest of the road.

Stefano Corbella 5:21
Yeah, on top of the road. Yeah, exactly one of the key issues of this master plan. And the challenges that we face when we started the design was the fact that the Melchiorre Gioia, and Via Della Liberazione were cutting in four corner it was to street just cut the, the entire site in the middle. So in order to make the public spaces more appealing, more quality to give quality spaces, we lift everything up about six metre. And we work with the landscaper to gently make the landscaper not even perceiving these six metre differences between ease or a neighbourhood that is down there with the Bosco Verticale. And the Piazza Gae Aulenti, that is here where we are walking at the moment.

Carlton Reid 6:16
So describe because this is the famous one that many people will have seen photographs of I’m sure what we can see now the as you said at the Bosco Verticale, so what is what is this?

Stefano Corbella 6:25

Bosco Verticale is a residential development, there are two towers, which we design with the I think the smart idea and interesting idea to implement trees, but I mean real trees, we have trees, about four metre high, five metre high in the balcony of the, of the,

design because it was nothing new in some ways because there are plenty of green spaces on balcony but this scale that we put into this project and the size of the trees that was the you know the the things that was pretty new.

Carlton Reid 7:28
Was it 2015 when it was finished?

Stefano Corbella 7:30
Yes, pretty much.

Carlton Reid 7:32
And then no well now what so we won’t be hearing the the car noise any more because it’s it’s as you say six metres below us. Yeah. So come into a very modern Deluxe office complexes are parked over that way but this is still a very vibrant space Yes 6pm at night.

But tell me what this was before before that obviously the road is here. But now what is this whole area what was it?

Stefano Corbella 8:02
It was a former railway yard. It was used in the beginning of the 19th century, then the train line was pushed back a little better. And but the area was left there for decades now with the abandoned railway with the you know nothing. They’re only you know, ground polluted by you know, the things that happen in in a railway and in the municipality of Milan and other developers try to develop the area for decades until a back in 2004, 2005 COIMA with the joint venture of investor started the development of Porta Nuova and with the with the entire site in one go, no and that was pretty amazing because finally, the project succeeded. We have been lucky that different mayor of Milan that pass through the time that we build everything

promoted the site promoted the development so we have been able to complete the project in fairly good time and at the end that we completed.

Carlton Reid 9:21
So your colleague Kelly in one of her talks of the day was talking about how when Isola when that was like reconnected yeah so you could you could then walk across from Yeah, in fact the park to go across you no longer had to go across the railway line or the busy road. That was a very joyous.

Stefano Corbella 9:39
Absolutely. Isola in the Italian word and in English is highlands and highlands because was surrounded by the former railway yard. And in order to get there from the city centre was a kind of a journey because you have to go through the railway. You have to

a tunnel within the train. So it was not an easy travel despite the distance from each other and Brera it few 100 metres but was completely blocked by the former railway yard. So when we open up the Piazza Gae Aulenti, and we have been able to connect it through that passage was was a kind of

joy moment for the residents of Isola.

Carlton Reid 10:32
And the bike infrastructure, the bike paths that are there now, were they planned originally or was this a later addition?

Stefano Corbella 10:39
No, no, it was all planned was all planned all the pathway. The design of the landscape was planned since the beginning. We build up in in phases, but there was a part of the plan that works, actually, after the project in the city of Milan also increased the connection further, because they

they find out that that was a good connection through Isola and the city centre.

Carlton Reid 11:11
So do you monitor as a developer do you monitor how many people are arriving by car, how many people arriving by metra, because we are surrounded by public transport here.

Stefano Corbella 11:22
Yeah, yeah.

Carlton Reid 11:23
And how people many by bicycle? Foot?

Stefano Corbella 11:25
Yeah, we we have a close monitoring of the pedestrian footfall, which has now reached more than 10 million people here in the Piazza Gae Aulenti. We are working to increase that footfall to 15 millions in the next few years by

addressing the cultural events here, the leisure

people enjoy to live in Porta Nuova and better it is because make the site more attractive and more livable and so on.

Carlton Reid 12:09
Now, COIMA is also involved in a Porto Ramona.


Stefano Corbella 12:17
Porta Romana.

Porta Romana

Carlton Reid 12:20
At least one of those is correct.

Which is going to be the site of in 2026, the Winter Olympic Village.

Stefano Corbella 12:30

Carlton Reid 12:31
That has obviously the the student accommodation on top. Yeah, that’s, that’s, that’s that’s kind of your part of the development. But underneath, there’s an awful lot of car parking space, which in today’s presentation was was very much you know, this is a very boring bit, we’re not going to talk about this very much we’re going to what the surface stuff, but then there’s an awful lot of space underneath — is it half? — is car parking.

Stefano Corbella 13:02

Carlton Reid 13:03
So, is that

And I kinda know the answer to this is that the municipality having a parking code. So, if you have a development you need x number of car parking spaces?

Stefano Corbella 13:16
Yeah, there is a national law which obliges new developments with certain end with a certain typology of building use to provide for parking space and that is a mandatory requirement.

Carlton Reid 13:31
So, there is no way you can avoid that?

Stefano Corbella 13:35
There are only few places where you can not apply that law and is in within historic centre like Rome, because obviously, there is no physical space to create or you know, technical difficulties to create any basement in such a historic centres. But for other for other parts of typically, all the development has to provide that amount of capacity even though in some cases, we as a developer, we know that we will probably not need such amount of parking.

Carlton Reid 14:12
This is student housing …

Stefano Corbella 14:13

Carlton Reid 14:14
… you’re building and students famously probably do not have their own cars so you will not need all that space.

Stefano Corbella 14:20
What we have done, what we are doing, is that the first level of parking, we design and we will build with a slightly higher floor to ceiling height.

with in order to build up some flexibility to repurpose that area in the future if we will be able to change the use of that.

Carlton Reid 14:42
Do you think it will be used as parking during the Olympics for the month but you haven’t yet but then maybe afterwards is you so no, no, I’m gonna say look forward and do so far with this law?

Stefano Corbella 14:53
That is going to be a kappa there’s no way we can change. One day if this law

will be no, no longer applicable. And because the car parking we expect that will be used less and less, especially in well connected cities, we will have a lot of space that is unfit. No? And so the idea is let’s build a floor that would be able to accommodate other function. So to use the space, otherwise, we will have an empty space for nothing.

Carlton Reid 15:25
Yes. So many cities or many countries around the world are removing those or trying to remove those parking minimums, because this …

Stefano Corbella 15:34
France, London

if you’re closer to public transportation, you have a derogation on that.

Carlton Reid 15:41
So, do politicians in Italy recognise that other countries are removing the parking minimums be no matter what other countries are doing we should remove parking minimums because from a sustainability point of view, parking minimums now kind of crazy.

Stefano Corbella 15:57
Yeah, I don’t know.

I certainly hopw that with this will be taken into consideration by future legislation, because I think in some places make totally sense not to push for that amount of parking, because sometimes we believe is not needed. So it’s a waste of money. It’s

an impact on on the environment, because you build more space for for things, but we will see. Hopefully, they will at some point will be taken into consideration.

Carlton Reid 16:35
And going back to this development here. Again, something that I think it was Kelly, who mentioned this was that in the in the original master plan, the there was much more of the roads that are around here. were much, much worse, supposed to be much narrower. Yeah. cobbles, maybe. And it was the municipality who said no, leave it as a highway now. So do developers, such as yourselves? Try and do things and municipalities, for whatever reasons, push back? Are developers actually, further ahead of what we need in this world?

Stefano Corbella 17:21
Sometimes, yes. But it is as as you know, it’s it’s a negotiation, you know, we may not see something that the municipality see or they have in the plan, what we can do is to try to demonstrate our, you know, thesis with calculation, we are the, and we always have

all the all the things works, and we don’t want to necessarily narrow streets, because they look pretty, we want the street that works for the purpose of the function that have to do. So we have transport consultant. And if we believe that

street could be smaller is because there’s there’s a calculation that demonstrate a simulation that demonstrate that, but you know, is a negotiation with the municipality, and sometimes we win the discussion. Sometimes we lose the discussion. At the end of the day, I think the project is, is is is beautiful is a nice place. People love it.

Carlton Reid 18:37
So are he roads that are out, basically are outside of your development. So the exterior one, obviously the one that’s coming through here, you’re above it, you’re not you’re not interacting with it below, but the ones outside. So that’s the municipality who have put

the bike paths in? Or is there?

Stefano Corbella 18:58
No, no. As part of the in for this project, because it was so big. And in general for big, huge urban regeneration project.

There’s uban agreement between the developer and the public authority, and typically happens that the developer has to pay taxes for the building that they built, and for the urbanisation, and that is two way, you can pay by cash to the municipality or you can give back in equal value infrastructure works. So we take we we’ve been taking care about the design of everything, including the public spaces, all the infrastructure, and we built on behalf of the city. And then once we completed the ownership

was given back to the city so we did everything and we gave back to the city

Carlton Reid 20:00
Because outside when we’re when we’re very high up, and we’re looking down at everything you had some from from I’m a I’m a bike geek. Yeah. I kind of know the infrastructure that’s been built here. But there’s like a roundabout. Yeah. With it’s like Dutch style roundabout. Yeah, the priority to the cyclists go round it outside. And then at the junction where we started the UK, that’s that’s called a cyclops junction, where the red is for the pedestrians and the cyclists, it gets, you know, cyclists and pedestrians across these major, major junctions. So were they, you might have built them, did the municipality provide the designs for them?

Stefano Corbella 20:44
No, we did the also the design and we had to, you know, get their approval from the municipality. You know, everything has been designed and built by us. There are certain rules that we have to follow those design guidelines, specifically provided by the municipality, so we had to follow those guidelines. Once we completed the design, we gave back to the municipality for approval, we had to provide the bill of quantity than the cost because obviously, you have to match the equivalent of the taxes that you have to pay so and that has to be checked by a third party. And in order to match the equivalent amount of money that you have to give back through taxes. But the design is, is all by as, approved by the municipality.

Carlton Reid 21:36
At this point, let’s take a quick commercial interlude with my colleague, David.

David Bernstein 21:40
Hello, everyone. This is David from the Fredcast, and of course, the spokesmen. And I’m here once again to tell you that this podcast is brought to you by Tern Bicycles, the good people at Tern build bikes that make it easier for you to replace car trips with bike trips. Part of that is being committed to designing useful bikes that are also fun to ride. But an even greater priority for Tern is to make sure that your ride is safe, and worryfree. And that’s why Tern works with industry leading third party testing labs like EFBE, and builds it bikes around Bosch ebike systems which are UL certified for both electric and fire safety. So, before you even zip off on your Tern, fully loaded and perhaps with the loved ones behind, you can be sure that the bike has been tested to handle the extra stresses on the frame and the rigours of the road. For more information, visit to learn more. And now back to the spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 22:50
Thanks, David. And we’re back with COIMA’s Stefan Corbella as we continue our amble through BAM.

Rather than looking at this this particular project where we are now going just in general across maybe any number of projects that COIMA is involved now are going to be involved with

do you see the pedestrianisation that you have here and the bike paths? Do you see that as something that that’s only going to get bigger and bigger and bigger in the future?

Stefano Corbella 23:23
I totally agree. In fact in Porta Romana, we are actually doing the same exactly the same things. Porta Romana has two lines of train cutting in the middle of the master plan. We are rising the landscape to get across with the park get across the railway. And we are building up like a bridge the

the forester spacer the suspended forest in this case, that cover with a pedestrian path, all the two train lines. So in the landscape will be way better. The train will pass without any any interruption. And most important pedestrian and cycling paths will pass without any trouble and problem without crossing any cars.

Carlton Reid 24:19
And so in the London Olympics, and I’m many of the Olympics, I guess there were the roads because London’s a very congested city they had VIP Olympic lanes. So only a Olympic officials, athletes could drive in these lanes. Is that something that?

Stefano Corbella 24:39

Well, the, the I’m not sure. What I know is that within the Olympic village or the there are there will be a protection around it. And certain parts of the street will be restricted for security purposes. But I’m not I’m not

aware about the street that is being given the VIP path? That I don’t know.

Carlton Reid 25:06
Okay. And do you envisage athletes and people who are connected to the Olympics to use bikes to get around?

Stefano Corbella 25:15
I don’t know.

I don’t know. I don’t know.

Carlton Reid 25:19
Because that isn’t part of the sustainability plan. No, we need X amount of people to be not in cars?

Stefano Corbella 25:26
No, there is no requirement. Although all the Olympic village and the building that we are built, building, there is quite a huge cycling storage for the future student because we will build the Olympic village but then the buildings will be converted straight afterwards into the student housing. And the idea is to make it very design and the properly the building in order to make these changes very quickly. Because the academic year starts in September. So we want to be sure that we have the students that can use the buildings straight after the Olympic

Olympic season.

Carlton Reid 26:14
And every chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

Stefano Corbella 26:19

Carlton Reid 26:19
So as a developer, you may provide very, very good bike paths through Olympic village and through through here, etc. But then when people get outside of the perimeter there, then just the municipality, yeah, is what they provide. Now, do you lobby Do you ask the municipality look, if we’re going to build all these fantastic bike lanes here, can you please make sure that this extends to the Duomo, extends to here, extends to the station?

Stefano Corbella 26:52
Yeah, it’s, yeah, when we when, as I mentioned, we have traffic consultants in our projects. And obviously, we we check the continuity of the bike lane, and you know, not to build a bike lane that is 100 metre long and then start and stop in the middle of nothing. No, because that will be

will be okay, but a waste of money.

Carlton Reid 27:22
So I know this is Isola as an island. But yeah, so you’re not looking at a development as an island and you provide great stuff. You know that for the plan for it to work it has to be an area.

Stefano Corbella 27:35
Yeah, yeah. And to be honest, at the beginning, I remember that the beginning of the project.

to tell you on other things is the city of Milan has changed the the mindset, in bike lane, in green areas, and so on. I remember 15 years ago, 20 years ago, the municipality or in general the city was sceptic about planting trees. Now the city of Milan has a plan to plant 3 million trees, now is completely change their mindset fortunately.

Carlton Reid 28:35
I was in a brand new cafe that opened this afternoon on Via Tunisia. Eroica.

So that’s a famous race in Italy. And this is the third cafe. And the manager who I was speaking to there, had had just been speaking to in fact, they left as as I came in, with the mayor

with about five or six people from the, from the municipality, yeah, talking to the manager and looking at this new cafe. Now, the managers said, and I know politicians will say anything, but the mayor said that they are very serious, very serious about getting rid of cars.

Stefano Corbella 29:21
Yeah, I know.

Carlton Reid 29:22
And is this something you’ve heard before?

No, no, no.

Stefano Corbella 29:40
it’s a much more pleasant city with less cars, way more pleasant. And

Carlton Reid 29:48
But is it feasible though?

Stefano Corbella 29:52
Yeah, yeah. I think I believe in certain in certain areas, with well connected public transportation

it should it could be feasible.

But, you know, we will see how we develop certainly is an improvement of quality of the city. That’s for sure.

Carlton Reid 30:11
I should do my research here. But how long is the mayor being the mayor for? How long has he got left? And if if a city mayor went to the city’s resident and said, I’m going to be taking lots of cars

out of the city, would that mayor be voted in again?

Stefano Corbella 30:31
He just started his second mandate? So he has other almost four full years. He’s just started the second mandate. So has a long way.

Carlton Reid 30:44
Would he be voted in again? And this is a hard question, but would he be voted in again if he had a plan to remove many cars? Is that something that you think Milan people would be?

Stefano Corbella 30:53
Well, that would be I think, Milan has several things. That will be one of the many. I’m not sure they will, these aspects will be key to

Carlton Reid 31:09
being voted in again?

Stefano Corbella 31:11
I think there are many other reasons. I think he’s done a very good job. And, you know, there’s four years to, in front of us.

Carlton Reid 31:21
So it’s a good sign that he’s he’s going into a bike cafe.

Stefano Corbella 31:24
Exactly. That’s definitely a good sign.

Thanks to Stefano Corbella and thanks to you for listening to Episode 317 of the Spokesmen podcast. Links to COIMA’ developments, including Bosco Verticale, can be found on the show notes at The next episode will be on the role of data in getting more people on bikes, but meanwhile have a Merry Christmas and here’s to a green and happy New Year and, as always, get out there and ride …

December 13, 2022 / / Blog

13th December 2022

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 316: Milan to banish cars, Mayor promises manager of Eroica Caffe

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Andrea Benesso

TOPICS: Eroica cycling cafe in Milan.


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 316 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered on Tuesday, the 13th of December 2022.

David Bernstein 0:27
The spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Tern Bicycles. The good people at Tern are committed to building bikes that are useful enough to ride every day and dependable enough to carry the people you love. In other words, they make the kind of bikes that they want to ride. Tern has e bikes for every type of rider whether you’re commuting, taking your kids to school or even carrying another adult, visit That’s t e r n to learn more.

Carlton Reid 1:02
I was in Milan the other week and popped into the brand new Eroica cafe in the city centre. The mayor and his entourage were there also. And after they left I asked cafe manager Andrea Benesso whether Mayor Sala really aims to reduce the dominance of cars in this most motor fixated of cities. I’m Carlton Reid, and I enjoyed cycling along Milan’s new cycleways, including the one that got me to the Eroica cafe. This cycling themed cafe — owned by the 25-year-old-this-year Eroica ride has taken over a former car accessories shop. So maybe that’s a sign of things to come. Here’s my chat with Andrea …

Andrea Benesso 1:55
So, henre we are sorry for.

Carlton Reid 1:57
That’s okay. You have important guests.

So good to meet you. Thank you for

Andrea Benesso 2:04
thanks to you for being here.

Carlton Reid 2:05
Oh, that’s okay. So this is really new, like a week.

Andrea Benesso 2:09
Actually is the first day because we opened 15 days ago, but then COVID

There was a COVID problem with the staff. Okay, so

today is the second day yesterday was the first one.

Carlton Reid 2:25
So you are quite busy for being very, very new.

Andrea Benesso 2:28
Yeah, it is very good too. Yesterday it was also the first event with a bike traveller, and we had 300 people here. It was super cool evening. Very nice.

Carlton Reid 2:39
Who was the bike traveller?

Andrea Benesso 2:40
Is Lorenzo Barona. He travelled from South Africa to Siberia.

This year, and then three years ago, he pedalled the inci barrier during the winter is a super tough and super nice guy, but he’s very young. He’s 26 years old, but he has already a lot of stories to tell and also is an inspiration.

Carlton Reid 3:03
Like my son, my son, he’s 25. And he is in Morocco right now?

Andrea Benesso 3:07
Really? Great. Yeah, great.

Carlton Reid 3:10
So this is the fourth third cafe?

Andrea Benesso 3:14
Actually is the second one because the first one is in Padova.

This there is another one but I very small in in Tuscany …

The second one is in Tuscany, but it’s very small. It’s more like it’s more like a shop than a cafe. And then there is another one in Barcelona, which actually is the first one but it’s not.


the ownership is not from by Eroica. It’s something is a little bit different. I can say that this is the second one.

Carlton Reid 3:56
Is it a

name a brand name or owned by one company?

Andrea Benesso 4:02
Yeah, one company, one company, one company. Yeah. And half of this company is Eroica and the other half is

an entrepreneur of

food and beverage


Carlton Reid 4:19
Who’s that? Who’s the who’s the partner?

Andrea Benesso 4:22
Is Totaro.

The name of the family is Totaro.

Carlton Reid 4:26
Okay. And

with the event,

so you kind of make money on the event only at certain times. This makes money throughout the year. Is that the reason for cafes or what there is a cultural reason.

Andrea Benesso 4:42
First of all, it’s a very nice story to tell because, you know, the founder of Eroica is Giancarlo Brocci is a journalist. Yeah, he’s an extraordinary man with a lot of stories. It’s very interesting person. And he always is he has a nicer about it because he says that we

When he was a really little kid, I mean, three years ago, four or three years old, four years old, old, he was already able to read. And he did Tuscany of 60 years ago. And most of the people was unable to read. And so they old man, T two came on the cafe over the, you know, the old Cafe Italian Cafe era, to read the Gazzetta dello Sport about cycling. Because, you know, 60 years ago cycling in Italy was was everything more than football more than politics more than everything. So Brocci grew up reading Gazzetta dello Sport to the farmers and very humble people unable to read reading about Coppi and Bartali and Tour de France and everything else. So great.

So when Giancarlo grew up and become a man, he invented Eroica and the roots of Eroica was in a cafe. Because his first experience about cycling was reading newspapers about Coppi and Bartali in a cafe in in Tuscany. So the idea of taking back right corner on a cafe was there since the beginning. Okay, and so the idea behind that Eroica Cafe is to take this spirit, these emotions, you know, it’s very traditional of the values of historical cycling the values of historical cyclists back here and in Milan is very interesting, because you know, Milan is like London, you know, everything is very fast about business.

But the idea is to take here, also the idea to take time for your passions, for values to meet people to enjoy food to enjoy a coffee, and wine. It’s not all about cycling is, is especially about one viva, you know, it’s while leaving.

Carlton Reid 7:08
Yes. So that moved on my next question. I guess you’re not just attracting cyclists here. These are people who are probably not cyclists.

Andrea Benesso 7:15
Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

Carlton Reid 7:18
It’s a way of branding it and

setting that

is an aesthetic to attract a general.

Andrea Benesso 7:31
Exactly. You said. You said that perfectly. I mean, that cycling, is this a starting point?

To speak about everything about life, you know that the claim of Eroica is?

Common with me because I don’t remember exactly in English is.

Yeah, exactly. You know,

moving to the cafe

is the beauty. Exactly, and the trailer with a common question, and this is about cycling. But is this about life, you know, it’s not only cycling. So what we like to do is to take people here, and to enjoy this value, even if you’re another cyclist. But a cycling is a starting point, because it’s fascinating.

Carlton Reid 8:18
But in Italy, do you think the general population and I’m talking to like a UK perspective? Yeah, where a cycling cafe would not be terribly exciting to a general population. But do you think in Italy, because maybe cycling and the sport of cycling is more recognised? This is more mainstream that it would be an analyst difficult question, but it’s more mainstream in Italy than perhaps it would be in another country?

Andrea Benesso 8:43
I have to say that in Italy, we have a stronger you have a stronger roots on cycling

on a cultural point of view, because of you know, Giro d’Italia is something that when I was a kid a little too, a little kid, I saw that every day on on TV, because for my father, it was a tradition, you know,

Carlton Reid 9:04
You’re a cyclist?

Andrea Benesso 9:05
yeah, sure.

And, and for every men of my age, and or even older or younger, to see Giro d’Italia is a tradition that you can’t avoid.

And so it’s it’s true that in Italy, cycling is for everyone. If you’re even if you’re another cyclists, you know what we are talking about. But I think that now, everywhere in the world, I also in England, in England, I was there a month ago. I think that more and more cycling is, is becoming global because it’s

isn’t not more about racing. It’s about enjoying life, enjoy moments,

being good and

Doing good moments with friends so or even alone, but you know when when you’re alone and you feel good on a bike, you’re living good.

Carlton Reid 10:08
So dolce vita?

Andrea Benesso 10:10

Carlton Reid 10:11
So what was this building before?

Andrea Benesso 10:14
Yes, very fun.

Carlton Reid 10:17
There’s an auto on the …

Andrea Benesso 10:19
Yeah, exactly. It was a traditional shop of

motor and bike pieces.

motorbike or motorbike. Motorbike a PC is very can be in Italian in English. Exactly. You know when you small parts.

Carlton Reid 10:37
Okay, accessory.

Andrea Benesso 10:39
Yeah, accessory. Exactly. So it’s very fun because we decided to take the

brand outside to leave it here because it’s fun to to read from cars to bike. You know, it’s a it’s a nice and fun evolution. Yes, yes, absolutely.

Carlton Reid 10:59
Swords to Ploughshares.

Andrea Benesso 11:01
Yeah. And also the details that you can see inside this one. And this one is old. It’s the old elements of the of the traditional shop.

Carlton Reid 11:13
Okay. And then you have bikes hanging on the wall, some some new bikes, the Canyon.

Andrea Benesso 11:19
Yeah, yeah, sure.

Carlton Reid 11:19
That’s obviously a new gravel bike.

Andrea Benesso 11:22
Yeah, because Eroica is not only classical bikes, but it’s also gravel bikes. It’s also modern cycling, but it’s also with

traditional style. I mean that even if you bike, if you buy a carbon gravel bike from a Canyon, or from Colnago, that’s okay. But we ask you to pedal it with Eroica style. I mean, enjoy your moment. Enjoy your life. And after the ride, have a beer with your friends, meet people.

Carlton Reid 11:56
It’s more than 25 years old now. It’s been a surprising amount of time.

Andrea Benesso 12:01
Yeah, it’s 25. This is the 25th year of Eroica is very good.

Celebration is it was this year.

There were 9500 people taking part to Eroica in Gaiole. And we are talking about one one of the greatest nonprofit cycling event in the world. With people coming from everywhere in the world, more than half of the people was from abroad. And that means that your that you had the possibility to meet their people from Japan that took one week to come there to find an historical bike to pedal and it’s you know, it’s a very stronger

Carlton Reid 12:54
The strade bianche, you can you can there’s a on the website, you can ride the route, even when it’s not the event.

Sure, you can the event it the route is mapped.

Andrea Benesso 13:01
And yeah, because this is the this is very important because it is not only an event, it’s a community movement, if I can say that. So it’s important to say to everyone that

Eroica one, first of all to promote

an area which is Tuscany, and style. And you can do that every time in during the year not only during the event.

Gaiole in Chianti, which is the main stage, I can say that to have the Eroica is a very small community and town. But now it’s an international, small town about cycling. Everyone in the world knows. Everyone in the world knows that Gaiole in Chianti thanks to Eroica.

Carlton Reid 13:49
And so this is a gravel bike. So strade bianche, gravel roads.

Andrea Benesso 13:54

Carlton Reid 13:54
So this was this is many, many years before gravel cycling.

Andrea Benesso 13:59
Yeah, sure.

Carlton Reid 14:00
Gravel cycling is way ahead of the trend. But you’re also you’re in other countries. So on the placemat here. You’re talking about other countries you’ve expanded to. Yes, South Africa …

Andrea Benesso 14:14
Yeah, a lot of countries.

I don’t know remember exactly the number I think more than 15 countries in the world, California, Japan, South Africa,

Carlton Reid 14:25

Andrea Benesso 14:27
Eroica Britannia and

yeah, that is

you know, a symbol in some way of how these values are international are not Italian are for everyone. Every cyclists can enjoy this kind of

way to pedal and to enjoy moments.

Carlton Reid 14:53
Where do you come from so we know where the buildings come from, but where have you come from?

Andrea Benesso 14:58
I’m ….


Ciao. Ciao ciao. I’m from Padova

Carlton Reid 15:05
Workwise What were you doing before this?

Andrea Benesso 15:08

I, I work for Eroica.

Carlton Reid 15:15

Andrea Benesso 15:15
I work organisation already.

No Eroica I, the first,

the founders of Eroica are from Tuscany. Giancarlo Brocci is the first one is the real founder. There are now many people that work for for Eroica, right the family is so big family now.

Carlton Reid 15:37
How many people?

Andrea Benesso 15:41
I don’t know exactly the name the number. But

in only in Italy, I can say more than 10.

And if you consider also Eroica caffe, I can say more than 30 people.

So it’s like a

big family. And what I can say about that is that you can feel that to every people that work in Eroical family is very passionate about the Eroica, even if you’re some people inside the Eroica family is not a cyclist, but it’s not, it doesn’t matter.

Carlton Reid 16:18
And then the model is your first days loads last night was an event. So this is what you plan to do your hang ups.

Andrea Benesso 16:29
Yes. You can imagine right a cafe as something with the two souls and one is on our cafe and restaurant, where you, you can come here and enjoy the food or Ryan or a cafe. And the other one is cultural space, cultural space where you can enjoy events, or bike rides, or

many moments

that we build for every

kind of cyclist, road cyclists, gravel cyclists or bike travellers,

urban cyclists, we have to, we want to we want to be the house of every kind of cyclists, every kind of people that use bikes. You’re during his day, and your race is life.

Carlton Reid 17:21
Are there plans for, say, Rome, other cities.

Andrea Benesso 17:25
Yeah, we plan to expand to everywhere in Europe, and also

the States. Eroica Caffe is a big, really big project. Wow. Yeah, there’s a while.

Carlton Reid 17:37
And then you mentioned the urban cyclists. So tell me about, like cycling in Milan, and maybe how it’s, you tell me if it’s changed?

How is cycling here in the city? Is it improving?

for urban cyclists?

Andrea Benesso 17:54
Yeah, it’s improving a lot is not

Carlton Reid 17:59
Such any roads. I was on a bike lane all the way here.

Andrea Benesso 18:01
Yeah. Yeah.

It changed a lot during the last five years. Also, thanks to the last

mayor that was here some minutes ago. And the cycling community is really important, and only in Milan. More and more people

here are using bike bikes to move in the city. So we have a community, a big community, made by different people, I mean, you can find the urban commuters and then

people that use cargo bikes to deliveries, and then

classical road cyclists, and then gravel bikers, every kind of cyclists, the community is getting bigger. And I think that after COVID bike is now our concrete option to move in the city is something that I saw in London for example, I noticed that more and more people are

so that and realise that bike is

often the best solution to move in the city.

Carlton Reid 19:20
Well, I

I am 20 minutes away by by walking. So I was looking on my app should I cycle here should I walk, you know, get my bike out, my bike at the exact all these things I’m thinking about but then there’s the will I can see within about five minutes if I cycle so that’s just for me a no brainer. I got many things to do today. So I will cycle to get here and then I was wonderfully surprised by how many nice bike lanes that were. So So I got like a the breeze, but it is cold right now. Anybody who thinks that you know I’m in Milan and I’m sunningg myself I’m not it is cold here as in the UK, yet there are still

So lots of people cycling. Yeah, they’ve wrapped up incredibly warming at Woodlands. And just as you would be in, in northern Europe, you know, way Northern Europe.

So that’s been surprising that people are cycling. Clearly year round. It’s not a summer thing.

Andrea Benesso 20:15
Yeah, yeah. Cycle all the time. Yeah, yeah, this is

an evolution that I saw during the last three or four years

here need to do we realise that biking is possible also during the winter, I, in my opinion, I can say that it’s better in the winter, if you have to go gloating, then in the summer, when, you know, when it’s very hot, it’s hot. You can have you can escape, you can’t escape.

Carlton Reid 20:45
So what can the municipality do to improve things for cyclists? What because they there’s some bike lanes, I’m guessing they’re not everywhere. So there are some major ones on the major routes, they put bike lanes in, but what else could the municipality do?

Andrea Benesso 21:00
some very complicated matter matter, because, you know, it’s about safety, it’s about culture, it’s about offering people inter modality, if I can say that showed the possibility to take the biker on the underground on the train on the buses. So, I think that you can, you have to work on the bike lanes, build the spaces, where you can cycling safe, but you have to work also on the cultural side,

saying by saying to people that biker is

useful, is some is faster, is cheaper, that is, is almost always the better solution. And it’s not simple to do that because if you speak with a cyclist, you know, you seem immediately it can understand that. But if you if you think if you speak with a peep with a man of 50 years old,

who always used car is not easy to to convince him to switch to a tall bike younger people you think that the younger people is easier in my opinion, because they they are growing up with

a cultural

there they are aware about, you know, the climate issues, and they are not so for them, it’s not important to have a car as a status symbol.

In my opinion, young people

under already understood that we have to convince adults about switching they are about changing their lifestyle.

Carlton Reid 22:51
At this point, I’d like to get across my colleague David for a short ad break.

David Bernstein 22:56
Hello, everyone. This is David from the Fredcast, and of course, the spokesmen. And I’m here once again to tell you that this podcast is brought to you by Tern Bicycles, the good people at Tern build bikes that make it easier for you to replace car trips with bike trips. Part of that is being committed to designing useful bikes that are also fun to ride. But an even greater priority for Tern is to make sure that your ride is safe, and worryfree. And that’s why Tern works with industry leading third party testing labs like EFBE, and builds it bikes around Bosch ebike systems which are UL certified for both electric and fire safety. So, before you even zip off on your Tern, fully loaded and perhaps with the loved ones behind, you can be sure that the bike has been tested to handle the extra stresses on the frame and the rigours of the road. For more information, visit to learn more. And now back to the spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 24:05
Thanks David. And we are back in the Eroica cafe in Milan with Andrea Benesso. And if there were no cars here in such a dream world, would it be very easy to cycle everywhere in Milan Anyway Is it a good city for getting around on a bike?

Andrea Benesso 24:23
Yes, perfect. It is completely flat is more is really small because if you compare Milan to London for example, I don’t know exactly but I think that is

very very small. By in half an hour you can cross Milan.

Everything is very close.

And also a nice thing to say that it is that you feel go outside to Milan in 20 minutes you are in the countryside. So why not?

Carlton Reid 24:55
You will have road groups leaving from the shop?

Andrea Benesso 24:58
Yeah, we’re going out

you plan to do normally it’s probably not know yet, but we are working to do that every week there are there are also other bikes in Milan that are already doing that because it’s nice, you know, to, to enjoy cycling with our friends and to go on the countryside also even in the mountains, going into the mountains from here is not too far it’s something more than an hour by bike.

Carlton Reid 25:26
And where exactly are we? Maybe such that’s a strange question to ask this this for it, but where are we in Milan?

Andrea Benesso 25:34
We are close to the train main train station. So it’s a very one of the most important point of the cities and we are five minutes by bike from the Duomo 10 minutes, you know,

Carlton Reid 25:47
that’s what I’m doing afterwards. I’m gonna

Andrea Benesso 25:48
Yeah, exactly is everything is very close. Yet. This is also

up now, Mara with the city that is becoming more and more cool.

So it’s interesting to be here, it’s a good point for for a bike cafe.

Carlton Reid 26:06
And then I mentioned there that if you remove the cars that other cities are doing that in Paris is doing this and removing parking places and living cars. Is Milan, does Milan have that meant to the municipality? Do they not only want to encourage cycling and encourage walking but also have in their mind that we must actually reduce the number of cars? Do you see that as a concept?

Andrea Benesso 26:33
Yeah, yeah, yeah, we were talking about that with the mayor of the city just yeah, half an hour ago. And it’s

this is the point. Because you have to

push people to use the bike. But you have also to

Carlton Reid 26:51
the carrot and the stick.

Andrea Benesso 26:52
Yeah, exactly. The carrot and the stick is perfectly.

Carlton Reid 26:56
But when you talk to the mayor, that is something that you can talk to the mayor about. And the mayor will say yes, this is what we want to do.

Andrea Benesso 27:05
Yeah, sure. The mayor told told us that he wants to reduce the number of cars in Milan.

And if if you want to if you want to do that, if you are have this goal, you have to do many things.

Carlton Reid 27:22
But when in other cities, other mayors

even breath such a concept, they may not get voted in this next time. So this is very political.

Andrea Benesso 27:36
Yeah, it’s very political.

Carlton Reid 27:37
See, he doesn’t envisage any. He thinks this is a vote winner?

Andrea Benesso 27:43
I don’t know. I don’t know. But you have to be. I think that a good politician has to be brave now, right now, not only about cycling, but also about the environment,

about the quality of life. You have to be brave and to change things, even if maybe a lot of a lot of people won’t be happy about that.

Carlton Reid 28:07
Then many people wouldn’t be happy about that. But maybe the older people

don’t know. We’re all older.

Andrea Benesso 28:14
Yeah, I suppose. Because I hope you know, for me, I have two kids. And I hope that for them that we as generation

of adults will be able to change something. We can’t leave to our children this world like that.

More coffee shops, less cars.

Carlton Reid 28:40
Bicycle themed coffee shops, less cars.

Andrea Benesso 28:43

Carlton Reid 28:45
Thanks to Andrea Banesso there and thanks to you for listening to Episode 316 of the spokesmen podcast.Details about Eroica cafes can be found on the show notes at the The next episode will also be Milan shaped. But meanwhile, get out there and ride.

December 8, 2022 / / Blog

8th December 2022

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 315: World Champion Transportation Cyclist Beryl Burton — Book Chat With Author Jeremy Wilson

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Jeremy Wilson

TOPICS: The amazing Beryl Burton, with author Jeremy Wilson

LINKS: Beryl (Jeremy’s book)


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 315 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was recorded on Thursday, eighth December 2022.

David Bernstein 0:23
The spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Tern Bicycles. The good people at Tern are committed to building bikes that are useful enough to ride every day and dependable enough to carry the people you love. In other words, they make the kind of bikes that they want to ride. Tern has e bikes for every type of rider whether you’re commuting, taking your kids to school or even carrying another adult, visit That’s t e r n to learn more

Carlton Reid 1:02
Liquorice All-sorts. Rhubarb. And a multi-award-winning biography of the hard-as-nails transportation cyclist Beryl Burton who also won a few things, like world championships but not, as author Jeremy Wilson here explains, Olympic medals. I’m Carlton Reid and this episode of the Spokesmen podcast runs long, very long, but listen in and you’ll be as transfixed as I was by Jeremy’s stellar research. His biography of Beryl Burton says it’s in search of Britain’s greatest athlete but, as we discuss, Beryl is probably the world’s greatest athlete, capable in her day of coasting past the best men of her era and, famously, giving them encouragement, brickbats or jersey-pocket-stashed sweets. We talked for two hours and it could have been much more. Are you sitting comfortably, Jeremy?

Jeremy Wilson 2:11
I am, yeah, I’m all good. Thanks.

Carlton Reid 2:13
OK. So let’s leap into it what I loved your book, obviously as as everybody else of course. So congratulations on William Hill sports book of the year. Financial Times best sports book of 2022 Waterstones — you’ve won everything is there anything you haven’t won this year, Jeremy?

Jeremy Wilson 2:32
I don’t know. It’s a bit of a it’s a bit of a surprise and pleasant surprise to to have people say nice things about it. Because obviously, you don’t really know and you’re you’re in a bit of a tunnel when you do these things, you don’t quite know what people are gonna think. And it was really important to me as well. But the family they didn’t they place no sort of requirements or they didn’t ask me to change anything or leave something out or not speak to a certain person. And the big thing for me really was that they thought thought it was a fair portrayal and that they, they learned new things as well, which was nice here because I don’t think barrel was a big talker. You know, it wasn’t that that mentality wasn’t to talk, you know, share your feelings and talk about things that she was always on to the next thing so I think Denise found it interesting to hear what other people thought about her mum and certain stories that she didn’t know as well. So yeah, it’s been lovely to get such a nice reaction to it.

Carlton Reid 3:29
And there’s also Yvonne Reynders also she you kind of like gave her stuff that she didn’t know like you know, the fact she was like you know feeling bad that back that day? Yeah,

Jeremy Wilson 3:41
yes. Yeah, she didn’t it was quite interesting because you could there was such a deep emotional connection between Yvonne Reynders and obviously barrel that you could still see really exists and you can imagine that that would be so because they obviously spent about a decade as main rivals and they would see each other mostly just at the World Championships but maybe at the odd invitation or event you know, even renders could come over to her and heal and barrel might go and do something in Belgium but generally they had this distance and even render speaks no English as I discovered and speaks quite a strong dialect. Flemish dialect which even the people I was with, were struggling with a little bit at time so and obviously Barrow was pure Yorkshire so they didn’t communicate but there was this it was quite touching really because when I got out Barrows autobiography personal best, which I took with me even renders had never seen it and she she thumbed straight away to the photograph section. And of course, she was in some of the pictures. There was a few podiums, and a few pictures of them racing as well. One of them on the Isle of Man and she was quite tearful when she saw them, and she didn’t really know that wider story of what happened to bear or after she finished competing at the world stage, and was quite emotional, really about that and hearing what had happened to bear or very clearly remember Charlie, Beryl’s husband and Denise, Beryl’sdaughter, from seeing them at these competitions. But it got me that I mean, there were so many tangents and that was fascinating about the story. But that one about the sort of the relationship between rivals in sport I found quite interesting to think about, because you can imagine there is a really there, at the time, there’s such ferocious competitors, they probably wish the other one wasn’t there, because they were, you know, they would have had double the World Championships almost without the other one. But I think, over time, they come to almost appreciate the fact that they were racing against someone so good, because it brought them to a higher level, you know, a bit like the tennis now with the Federer-Djokovic era, and you sort of see it in other other sports as well.

Carlton Reid 6:00
So Armstrong and Ullrich.

Jeremy Wilson 6:02
Yeah, that kind of stuff.

Carlton Reid 6:04
I’m sure we’ll get on to Yvonne again, but just kind of like mentioned there that like the shouldn’t know, Yvonne didn’t know her post racing career. And of course, Beryl died young. But what what relatively young, but what you say in the book is you because you’ve gone to interview all of these these people who are racing against Beryl, who are a goodly age and you say in the book, you say, you know, cycling has probably extended these people’s lives, whereas Of course, in Beryl’s case it didn’t. But do you think that you know that the standard thing where you know, cycling is meant to give you an extra 10 years of your life? Did you actually think Beryl’s life was actually cut short by the fact she was so Yorkshire grit and always pushing through? I know you’re not medical so you can’t say that but did you have a feeling there?

Jeremy Wilson 6:58
Yes, I think so. And I think it’s that’s pretty clear because she was she had this illness as a child where she had this attack of the nervous system, and had rheumatic fever, some illness called St. Vitus dance and was in hospital and then convalescing for two years, at the age of 11, to 13. And she was told when she went back home, not to extend herself physically, and she did a medical when she first began work at the age of 15, as well in the tailors called Montague Burton, where she met Charlie Burton. And they again, they found this irregular rhythm in her heart. So she was pushing through that throughout her career, and she did have particularly in her last 10, 15 years, repeatedly looking at the the newspaper and magazine cuttings. She was reporting that doctors were telling her that she must stop she shouldn’t keep pushing herself. Denise, her daughter told me that she and her her dad, Charlie, Beryl’s husband were telling her to stop. I don’t think they wanted her to stop cycling, but they wanted her to stop wanting to go as fast as she possibly could. Because obviously, like, as you said, something that was really nice to see about the book was that so many of her contemporaries, she barely would be 85. Now, if she lived, was still really thriving, you know, her great recollections of what they did a lot of them were still riding their bikes, you know, to their 80s, even 90s in some cases. And so it was a good advert for cycling overall. But clearly Beryl had this competitiveness in her this sort of need to strive to do her very best. And she, she came into the sport with these heart issues that were caused by her childhood illness, and she just ignored it. She just wouldn’t have it. You know, she just wouldn’t stop and that was obviously the spirit that drove her to train so hard and and produce these just extraordinary feats, but it was entwined with her early death, almost certainly, as you say, obviously, medically, I’m not qualified to say for sure that there was a direct correlation. But certainly that’s I think that’s fair to say. That’s how her family feel that’s very likely and she was being told not to push herself and she was still going for it. There was the national 10-mile championships following weekend she was entered. And she wasn’t people assume that because she was in her late 50s. And still riding that she was still sort of turning up in it in a slightly more sociable way. But she was still out there to win in her mind. That was all her friends and people who were cycling at the time said not not not in a sort of nasty way in any way. She was still chat chatty after the races but she couldn’t approach it any other way. She wanted to be the absolute best and fastest she could. And she was still doing huge numbers of miles. There was an interview with her with a BBC that I came across that was from about 94, 95. I think she said, ‘I need 30,000 miles before I’m ready to race,’ you know, because for each season, I think that was the right number. That might be completely ridiculous. I need to do my math. I’m pretty sure that it’s in the book, but I’m pretty sure that was what she said. And that was, you know, when she was in her late 50s. So yeah, and so I found that fascinating that drive that she had, which I think you find in quite a few great sports people. And but it obviously was almost certainly linked to her tragically cut short life really? Yeah, it’s hard. It’s hard to separate the two because it honestly part of what made her or very much what made her so extraordinary.

Carlton Reid 11:00
So I would like to delve into that that psychology because you certainly delve into it. I also in this episode, I want to absolutely talk about how you took her bike and you put it on in the wind tunnel. That’s that’s also fascinating about you know what she’d do today? If if you can, you can, you could compare those two things. I’d very much like to start where you both started and ended your book with this story. And it is it is the story that I guess everybody in cycling knows in it, there’s a there’s a podcast BBC podcast called You’re Dead To Me. And that has a segment called ‘So what do you know?’ and that is the segment where the presenter says, you know, this is the bit that people will probably know about this particular historical figure, and then they massively expand on it. So that the thing that I think most people certainly in cycling, will know is the Licorice All-sorts. So even even I, you know, know that story. And I’m not I’m not the greatest of a cycle racing fan. I’m like more of a like a Tour de France kind of person instead of following every single race throughout the year. But even I know that, that story. So just for anybody who maybe doesn’t know that story. And I’m I’m kind of like maybe being very abusive to listeners here by saying you know, you do or you don’t know the story. But just tell us about the story, because it’s a very famous story. And that the protagonist, who obviously is involved in this story as well, Mac? Yes?

Jeremy Wilson 12:31
Yeah, a guy called Mike McNamara and he was the top men’s time trialist of the time in Great Britain. So time trialling was the main way that people raced in that period in the really, up until quite recently, where now I think the sort of sportives road racing and track racing is become bigger in this country because of the facilities and because of the just the slight change in culture with with how British cycle cycle racing has evolved. But in that time, it was time trialling was very much the way people people raced. And that’s when you’re set off at one minute intervals. And then you essentially ride alone and have a time at the end over a distance or a particular amount of time. So Beryl was going for this 12 hour ride, which is where you do as many miles as you can in 12 hours, but a big competition at the time in in Great Britain. She started behind the men. So then there was 99 men in this race going off at one minute intervals. They then had a two minute gap to the women, I think there was three or four women Beryl was among them. And she was the first of the women to go off. So she was basically set off two minutes behind the field of 99 men who had all started in the in the two hours before Beryl in the morning, and they would all then go ride around Yorkshire finishing on a finishing circuit for 12 hours and accumulate as many miles as they could. It really suited Beryl, this type of race because she had a great phenomenal endurance, but also really good concentration as well. She could she could ride alone for a long time, high level. And she basically just rode through this entire field of men so she had passed 98 of the men. One person that was left was Mike McNamara at the top men’s time trialist of the time he had started last of the men so he had started two minutes in front of Beryl on the road. And he was on course to break the men’s record for the distance that they cycled in 12 hours. But Beryl had done this sort of incredible ride and was basically catching him and actually caught him with about about an hour of the of the 12 hours to go. So she didn’t when she saw him up in front, she didn’t quite believe that it was him she had caught as I say they both caught the other 98 men, which is astonishing when you think about it. But there he was the last of the men she hadn’t caught. And he was on course for a British men’s record, or a world record as well. I mean, no, no, no one in other countries have gotten faster. And she was obviously annihilating the women’s record but was also beating him. And she put in she eventually passed them on this, this lane, which is just south of Boroughbridge in Yorkshire, and as she went past she would always say something to people when she caught them because obviously she caught people all the time and caught men very regularly in these time trials and she’d say thing and there were so many stories of things she would say like, ‘Hey, lad, you you’re not trying’ or ‘stick in there, Chuck’, or sometimes be quite nice, but sometimes in a sort of dry sense of humour, she’d sort of say something quite cutting to these people. And to Mike McNamara, she reached into her back pocket where she’s carrying her food and she passed him a liquorice allsort so she went past and he said ‘ta, love’ and, and ate the licorice allsort. He confirmed it to me while I was researching the book, but it wasn’t just the kind of fairy tale myth type story that had gone down in legend it really was how it went she didn’t really mean it I don’t think as a sort of put me down she just didn’t know what else to do. She went past them and

and the poor guy would then get handed massive Liquorice Allsorts at events.

Yeah, it became all you ever got asked about. Yeah, there was a an event where Beryl presented him with I think he took it in good spirits. He actually died last year. And but luckily, from my point of view, he was still alive during the early part of the research for the books, I was able to communicate with him before he before he died. And he was obviously a really great figure in on the scene, a really popular popular guy, but he you could tell it did slightly. There was a slight sense from the family that, you know, it was frustrating that his he was sort of remembered principally for this but I sort of said to them, what an amazing thing to be part of you know, it’s a real moment in sporting history where a woman broke not just a women’s best but a men’s as well. And as I say lots of things with Beryl Burton, this was obviously one of them, where she’d done something that just nobody in any other sport you could find a comparison for. So she won something 25 she was the best British or around the 25 times in a row, rode with their daughter in the world championships. They were both in the qualified for the road race. And this that I mean, they were three things straight away that you just could were completely without comparison in sport. So yeah, that that was probably the story that she’s best known for just being the fact that she broke a men’s record, but also just the style with which she did it. And as I say the drama of passing him and giving him a licorice allsort.

Carlton Reid 18:17
As a road historian and I’m also I love the fact that you’ve pretty much pinpointed the exact spot on the road, where there really ought to be a plaque that or some sort of, yeah, hanging there.

Jeremy Wilson 18:29
Somebody said that to me. A guy called John Churchman who was a marshal on the Otley 12 hour, because they were the club that organised it. And it took quite a lot of work to figure it all out. And we really worked hard to make sure we got it right. Someone called Phil Hurt from the Yorkshire Road Club found me the course. Then John Churchman and a guy called George Baxter, who was also a marshall. So they were at different points in the route so they could help me with with knowing exactly where it was that Beryl passed. And also you could there was a lot in the results sheets, and just the media reports at the time and what Beryl and Mike McNamara had said we got it to pretty much the precise stretch of road it was a long stretch of road where you could definitely see somebody in the distance and as I say that was borne out in Beryl’s recollections of it where she could see his jersey in the distance and wasn’t initially certain that it was him. So yeah, for the final chapter, the epilogue of the book, we I cycled the finishing circuit with Denise, Beryl’s daughter, and we sort of pulled over at that point into the had a look up and down the road and just tried to think what you know, her mum might think of what we were doing, actually and Denise sort of surprised me because she took off her she was wearing she had another jersey on top and she took off her and put her Morley she had her Morley club jersey on which is the jersey that her mother always always the club but her mother always raced for and she sort of said I thought I’d put it on for her. And she she didn’t know where it was on the course herself, even though she actually lives quite close, probably only about 10 or 15 miles away. She didn’t she didn’t know where it was, it was another thing because it just her mother was a very sort of Yorkshire person, you know, not much emotion, not much, certainly no showing off or dwelling on anything or no trophies up in the in the house, or she was always on to the next thing. And so she wouldn’t. They weren’t the sort of people that would have really kind of made a fuss about where it was and how it happened. Obviously I did. But, you know, she just didn’t she didn’t know she was that? Oh, I didn’t know this was where the 12 hour happened. I was there. You know, she was there in the car. That day is about an eight year old fortnight. Right? Yeah. 11 year old she would have been but she wasn’t actually she didn’t know which bit of road it was that it happened.

Carlton Reid 21:00
Yeah, that’s fascinating. There definitely should be a plaque. Let’s actually dig into your background. Because we haven’t mentioned that yet. So you’ve obviously been somewhere warm recently, if you want to talk about that. And yeah, and if you could tell us what your kind of your day job is. And then tell us your background in cycling.

Jeremy Wilson 21:20
Yeah, so my day job is, I’m a sports journalist at the Telegraph, but principally doing a lot of football. So I’ve just been to the World Cup in Doha and back after the last 16 phase. So and I’ve been doing that, really, for 20 years, I was at a local newspaper in Hampshire and then worked for The Guardian and The Telegraph for the last 15 years. So look, lots of football but some other sport as well. But I’ve done a few Olympics, and I love doing other sports. But obviously football is so dominant in the kind of sports news cycle, I do end up doing a huge amount of football. And the book really came about because somebody was interested in me doing a book about football and kind of the geo politics of football with the ownership now of teams, obviously from you know, by virtual nation states or some of the richest people in the world that we know about clubs like Manchester City and Paris St Germain and obviously Chelsea before with Roman Abramovich

Carlton Reid 22:26
And Newcastle where I live.

Jeremy Wilson 22:28
And Newcastle now, yeah, that was the premise of this meeting about sort of, and I kind of, I obviously do a lot of stuff around that day to day and I wasn’t that sort of keen to do that for whatever reason and sort of what have you got any book ideas and I was a club cyclist as a as a, as a kid. My family was sort of club cyclists. So I kind of knew the name Beryl Burton, because I was a bit of a sort of stats nerd and I’d look at, you know, records and times and who who’d won the most FA cups and even won, you know, in any sport who’d won an Olympic medals. And, and I remember we had, we used to get this handbook through the post every year, which was the it was called the RTTC Handbook of events for Britain cycling events in Britain, and it had the list of all the champions and records. And I distinctly remember this thumbing through it and, and reading and saying, he’s this, because Beryl Burton won 122 national titles. So the back of this book, it was just B and B. And I remember, I can vividly remember this. I’m not just sort of, it’s not sort of recollection that’s kind of embellished in any way. I remember seeing that 12 hour record that we just talked about, where she bettered the men’s record. And I remember looking at it and seeing it in this book and saying, Oh, this must be wrong. Oh, this is a misprint. And so I think somewhere in my subconsciousness Beryl Burton’s name was, was lodged. And then when, obviously, I didn’t do anything about it for a few decades, and but post 2012 when there was all this publicity, rightly so for all the cyclists that had done so well in the Olympics, and that generation of British cyclists and sort of Bradley Wiggins, Victoria Pendleton, Chris Hoy. I was kind of at that time, there were all these lists of the greatest British sports person are the greatest cyclists and I was looking at them as thinking, what about that Beryl Burton, you know, and I just, I knew she had won loads and loads and loads and obviously she wasn’t being given anything like, due billing in these in these sort of lists of sports people even though she would have surpassed any of them if she would have had a Olympics available to her or had a Tour de France available to her. So it got me it got me back interested and I looked at her her book, which was published in the mid 1980s, Personal Best, and sort of research the story a bit more, and just discovered all these wonderful tangents and sort of subplots because I mentioned her childhood illness, just her relationships with her husband who sort of gave everything up to support her, her daughter, who she ended up competing with just how she went on and on and kind of the circumstances of her early death. You know, when I, when I came back to it and look to hadn’t even realised I wasn’t sure whether she was alive or dead, I just knew that she was this phenomenal athlete. And so I suppose when the more I looked into it from a sort of journalistic point of view, I thought, wow, there’s some fascinating subplots here that you could really get into, you know, the competition with the Soviet Union riders was another one. You mentioned the wind tunnel and you know, how trying to work out how far she is. So there was all this extra stuff from a journalist point of view that I thought, wow, that’s amazing. I think if she just won loads and loads and loads, and there wasn’t a sort of fascinating human interest story, I would have sort of thought, well, you know, is there a book in all of that, but there was just so much else and my eyes were kind of widening, and my jaw was falling closer to the ground, when I sort of the more I learned about her really just thought, this is just an incredible story. And then fortunately, because it wouldn’t have been any fun. And it wouldn’t, I wouldn’t have done it, if the family were sort of very resistant to the idea. And it’d be wrong to say that they were sort of out there, encouraging it, or say, you know, looking for people to sort of amplify her achievements. They’re very sort of humble, not on social media, and not sort of shouting about barrel, but quietly, very proud. And it was a relationship where you sort of build trust over months and years really with them, because it was a four year process, from starting the book to being published, and more than a for just over four years. So they weren’t, as I say, they weren’t looking for it. But equally, I think they liked that they liked the fact that someone seemed to really appreciate what she had done, and really just thought she was as incredible as obviously, privately, they, you know, in a very, as I say, in a very sort of understated way they, they basically agreed that, you know, that she was she was just this incredible athlete that hadn’t got the recognition that she deserved. And they’re just sort of lovely, as I say lovely, kind of humble people that didn’t, they weren’t sort of bragging about barrel, but really proud of her. And also kind of got got this was really important, they understood that you kind of needed to tell the whole story. And we needed to deal with the more difficult parts of her character, like anybody would have, you know, in the difficult parts of the family relationships like anybody would have, but they didn’t, they didn’t shy away from that or say, you know, and, and not want you to speak to someone who might be critical of her, they kind of got that you had to tell it as it was, in fact, I almost got the sense from Denise that she probably got a bit weary sometimes just reading very sort of short superficial things saying you know, that Jan barrel burned, she was amazing, wasn’t she wonderful, full stop sort of thing. She, she, you know, there was a lot more to her story than, than that and a lot more to her personality than that. And fortunately for me, they were they were happy with me sort of delving into that as well as all the fabulous achievements because it’s all interlinked, obviously, and it wouldn’t make sense to do it in any other way. But you never really know how a family member is going to react and to you sort of asking things that you know, quite might feel quite personal but they kind of have that Yorkshire honesty about them, you know, and we’re quite happy to deal with it in the round but obviously they want it they felt it should overwhelmingly be a celebration of her life which hope hopefully it is but it still in that context of of dealing with it as a whole and trying to tell the whole story. So that was that was so important to the project that they were as they were and it made it such a pleasure as well and I’ve said this a few times and I’m on it I truly mean it you know it’s lovely to get on people saying nice things about the book but to have a sort of friendship now with with them and you know, get nice messages from them and Denise is you know, always happy to come to things where we talk about it and the book as well and that’s like the nice been the nicest part really of getting to getting to know them and that that part of Yorkshire so I’m really lucky on that sense that they were as they were about the book.

Carlton Reid 30:01
In those four years of writing, you must have been thinking, from a commercial point of view, perhaps even from a professional point of view, you really ought to be doing a football book, that book you talked about. And this is like, you might be thinking, you know, this is so nice, okay, you might win, you know, cycling of the book year award. But, you know, this is just not mainstream enough. But you’ve made it mainstream. So did you have that inkling of this is so niche, why am I doing this? Or was it always I want to get this story out there. This is really mainstream, and I can make it mainstream. What were your feelings?

Jeremy Wilson 30:34
I did. I mean, that did it did occasionally crossed my mind that you because obviously, it’s quite a lot of, you know, without sort of tunnel way all about the process of it. There’s so many little obstacles or tricky bits or hard moments or parts where other things are going on in your life, when you think, Oh, am I sort of, you know, being a bit hard on my family? And I’ve got two young children and you sort of doing job as well? Are you sort of, you know, is it a bit of a sort of it should I be doing, you know, keep ploughing on with this. But that genuinely just that I didn’t think that much about how it would be received, or whether it’d be mainstream or niche, whether I kind of just stuck with the fact that I thought it was an amazing story. So I kind of hoped that other people would agree. And also, I just felt genuinely such a passion for it myself. And so interested in it myself, I just wanted to do it, I wanted to find out more, I wanted to write about it. So it wasn’t a hardship really to, to do that, rather than something that might be more obvious commercially, because I just thought, wow, this is such an amazing sports story. You know, I’ve been doing lucky enough to do sports journalism for 20 years. And to me, it’s like the most amazing story that I’ve ever come across. So why wouldn’t I want to keep going with it. So that was what keeps you going. It’s just like, wow, this is amazing. And I don’t think you can worry too much about it. I didn’t quite know how it would turn out. But I didn’t sort of think that much about it. Because I was so sustained by my own passion for it really, and just No, of quite, it sounds a bit funny, but it’s quite sort of, you know, you think about it all the time. And you think and I feel quite emotional at times just thinking about the 12 hour record of certain rides, or certain the way she carried on and stuff like that. So it just completely got me, you know, at so many levels that it just wasn’t there, I wasn’t going to stop and I wasn’t going to not do it. Because I was just so into it. Funnily enough, Denise said something to me the first time I met her in it. And I thought about it often. Because I think she sort of met me and thought, Well, we’ll see whether he completes or not really, you know, which is fair enough. I think the same if some stranger come and met me and said, I would like to do this. And she said something about her mother. And she said, and then she says related it to me. She said, Well, if someone really wants to do something they’ll do it. Sounds quite simple, really. And she said that about her mother as well at different times that you can’t really someone really wants to do something, they will find a way to do it. And, and so it wasn’t in a way it wasn’t that hard to get it done. Because I just love the story and so much I really wanted to do it. So yeah, it obviously does take over your mind at different sections. And it was important to balance my day to day work with it. But yeah, just such a fascinating story that I think that was what sustained me, you know, it wasn’t anything to do with whether it did well or not really, it was just it was just I wanted to tell that story. And I think if you have that sort of passion for it, you’re probably on the right tracks because nine times out of 10 other people will find it interesting as well. And there’s so many people that had stories about Beryl as well that you know, even today, even though this last week, I get messages literally every week from people who haven’t read the book sort of have it prompts them a memory or prompt something because she was so out there she was so as Maxine Peake would put it, ordinary extraordinary so so there was all these everyday encounters that people had with her. And I just loved I loved hearing them I still do you know sometimes sometimes wish I wish I knew that before I wrote the book, but mostly

Carlton Reid 34:31
I’ll just jump in there because Maxine Peake of course is the person who wrote the play about Beryl which would brought her back much more into into public consciousness, you know, those those few years ago? So had you seen the play before?

Jeremy Wilson 34:46
No. Do you know what I didn’t know what people thought it might have been prompted by the play. It absolutely wasn’t. But I was delighted when I the first thing I did was listen to the radio play on Radio Four and then I went to see it And I’ve seen it to twice now I went once with Beryl’s, brother, Jeffrey, it was on in Beverly. And we went along and watched it. And then I watched it when it was on in London as well. But I was delighted when I discovered that there was a play because it was kind of like another thing that I thought, well, that’s interesting that people have sort of outside of cycling, have connected with it on that level. And it’d be good to speak to Maxine Peake and understand why she was so interested in the story. So I discovered the play, obviously, fairly early on in the research. And it was just an as I say, another thing that I thought, Well, that’s good, you know, that shows that it’s got a sort of a pool outside of cycling. But it wasn’t it as I said, it wasn’t it wasn’t a trigger to do it. But it was, it was something you couldn’t obviously you couldn’t help but stumble across it fairly quickly when she’s once I started researching. And it was just a really nice extra thing, because it was just fascinating to talk to people who weren’t into cycling the actors, and Maxine Peake herself about what it was about Beryl that had sort of touched them and connected with them. And it definitely has brought it to a wider audience because quite a few of the people I’ve spoken to someone like Dame Catherine Granger, who was a Olympic medalist, as most of your listeners will know, in five Olympics in rowing, she found she discovered Beryl Burton via the play, and sort of was really moved by the these folks, singers O’Hooley & Tidow And did they have to get that right? They wrote a song about they’re all on the back of seeing the play. So it definitely was something that connected with quite a lot of people outside of cycling.

Carlton Reid 36:49
And coming back to you again. Are you a transportation cyclist as well as having that club background?

Jeremy Wilson 36:56
Yeah, to some extent, probably is not as much as I should be. But I do. Yeah, I’ve got a couple of bikes. And I do kind of got ones that I will get out on the road a bit further on in a sort of mountain bike to get around on but I love I love cycling as well. I do love cycling, but not not fast and not competitively, but do a few sport teams. And my my kids are in a cycling club in Hampshire as well. So I go along and and sort of watch them do cyclocross and stuff like that. So, yeah, I love I love cycling. And it’s, as I say, it’s something that my dad was a sort of touring cyclist. So I suppose that’s how we that’s how we came to it. But yeah, I think it’s a it’s a, it’s a brilliant sport. And obviously a real great, healthy, pursuit. When you look at as a discovered from big, big difference from footballers, you can’t you don’t meet many footballers, sadly, that farewell in you know, really late older age above the age of 80. But cyclists there, there are numerous those that are

Carlton Reid 38:04
quite going on, vary, but it’s true. So the transportation cycling in the book is fascinating, you know, that those, you know, long distance ride, she would do the opposite the ride when she died was was a transportation cycling, and then, you know, taking Denise as a baby and then in a trailer, and then on the back all quite modern things to do. Now, you know, this is a middle class, you know, thing to the, you know, like a Copenhagen style, Dutch style thing to do. But, you know, she was doing that, you know, in effect ahead of the curve. So her transportation cycling was just amazing. feats of cycling, amazing, of course, but just she went everywhere by bike and the family and there’s beautiful pictures in the book of you know, Denise, and Charlie, and Beryl, you know, riding together so she, she really lived cycling, did everything on the bike, didn’t she, I mean, she, if she got on the bike, those three hours of ironing she had to do every day, I’m sure she’d love to, to go on a bike.

Jeremy Wilson 39:08
It’s a brilliant thing. Not that many people pick up on that. But it’s such a great point because I think there’s probably a link to why she was so good as well, because she was doing lots of sort of easy miles on the bike, as well as the kind of what she would consider serious training. But she rode her bike everywhere. And she would, she would sort of say I don’t I have a break from cycling in the winter. And she’d really start again in January after the season when sort of end around September. But of course she didn’t stop at all really it was just in her mind. She stopped because she she very much differentiated between those kind of casual cycling and when she was training, but she would at the end of September every year when the world championships were done, and she’d won the British best all rounder for the time trialling when all the races are done, they’d go off on holiday and and Denise would miss the first two, three weeks of the school school term. I didn’t really think much of worrying about that. And they’d go to the, especially when you think of the late 1960s, early 1970s go to Morocco, Sicily, around Italy, France, really quite Canary Islands really quite far out places for for that, you know, for that for that time, and just incredible stories of these touring holidays where they’ve just cycled sort of 30, 40 miles a day. And yet, Denise, that one one daughter, who was Beryl was 18, when she had Denise, she just became part of the cycling routine. So should there be start off on a on a sort of sidecar side carriage kind of thing. Then she was on the seat on the back, no helmet on No, not much strapping in that thing in those days. And then she was on something called a Rann trailer, which looks a bit like a tandem, but it’s slightly different than a tandem. And then when she was about eight or nine was plunked on her own bike and basically it was right there you go if you want to, if you want to go to anything, that’s how you get there you go on your bike and wet and quite often Beryl and would be away for the weekend cycling and Denise it from about the age of nine which simply cycle you know, 11 miles from Woodlesford where they lived to Morley just sort of south of Leeds, both of those two places on her own, you know, to our grandmothers for the weekend. And they went everywhere by bike so if Beryl raced in London she might 50 mile time trial on a Sunday morning, she very often cycle home at the A 170 miles, or she would if you went to a dinner dance. At the end of season all the clubs held their dinner sort of dances should should take a dress in the saddlebag cycle there, go to this event, you know, help wash the dishes afterwards and cycle home again at night. So just went everywhere by bike, she never learned how to drive. So all her shopping trips to work. She worked on a rhubarb farm and she had cycled to work. Everything she did, she’d go for a month, early, early season sort of February, March time to Spain every year. And she would just fly to it was near sort of Mallorca type. No. Gonna get this wrong. Sort of Benidorm, I’m sorry, that’s what’s in my brain, she would sometimes go to Mallorca, but Benidorm was her normal one, and she would just fly there, get off the plane, have a saddle bag full of stuff for the next month and cycle to, you know, very sort of basic apartment. And she would and just train there for a month every year. So she did everything by bike. And as I say, sports scientists were quite interested in that as well, in terms of the kind of easy miles you know, we know the stories of the great African runners and how they kind of walk everywhere and go to, from a young age go to sort of job to school. So it’s the kind of easy, easy activity miles that she was doing, were probably a great foundation for for why she was so good. I mean, she must have we I tried to wake it work it out at one point, how many miles she might have accumulated in her life. And it wasn’t much of a million when you added it all up, because she was riding three 400 miles a week. And as I say, even when she was out of training, she was cycling the whole time. But she had a very clear dividing line, she would sort of say, oh, no, I’m not training at the moment. But she’d still be out on our bike every day. Yeah, that was a real big part of what she did. And they would, that’s one of the things that the older cyclists would regularly point out to me how different it is now because when people race now they’re in the car, to the bike on the roof or bike on the back, get out there, get on the back of it get on some rollers, or a turbo trainer, which is a stationary thing to warm up. And then they will race that’s kind of how how nearly all people who raised do it now whereas Beryl’s generation, you’d, you’d have these hooks on the front of the of the handlebars, and they would put their race wheels on there. And so they’d have these wheels sort of dangling off the handlebars, and they would cycle out to the race, change their wheels race and cycle back. That, you know, that was just how how they did it in that time. But as I say, it’s interesting because I think from a sports science point of view, quite a lot of what she was doing was obviously helping her hugely without quite knowing it as an athlete as well as just the fact she obviously just loved riding her bike everywhere.

Carlton Reid 44:56
And of course, famously and from a narrative you know circularity point of view for somebody writing a book she died on a bike as well as she’s delivering birthday invitations in going through Harrogate. She basically keels over. I actually read from your book here now, rather than you know, flicking through and finding it so this is a bit where you describe how she dies on our bike basically. So “it is a unique and yet instantly recognisable sound, the wearing of a bicycle wheel freely rotating until it slowly stops not because a brake has been applied, but because the momentum from that last push up pedal has gradually ceased. It was the dading — this is beautiful this — it was the fading sound that accompanied the last breath of Beryll Burton, after she collapsed on the side of the road in May 1996, while riding her bicycle on the outskirts of Harrogate while delivering invites for her 59th birthday.” So that’s kind of evocative, but also so circular. It’s almost perfect, but I know nobody wants to die, of course, but as her has Denise pointed out in the book, I mean, if she wanted to die, or you know, she would definitely want to die on a bike and she wouldn’t want to get old and be infirm. She kind of … it’s almost too perfect. It’s weird but it’s perfect.

Jeremy Wilson 46:16
Yeah, no, and I was a bit there was a sort of hesitation in almost describing it in those terms, because obviously you’re describing such a tragic event. But they did that was very much how the family felt obviously they wished it would have been decades later. But they definitely that there was a comfort that she died doing what she loved. And you know, a moment where she would have probably been lost in her thoughts because she just loved she would say that she loves cycling for the mental side as well how it just freed her of the sort of stresses and worries of the world which I think a lot of people exercise and cycle for that reason. So you’d imagine she would have been in a in that that mode whilst whilst whilst that happened and there was a quote as well from her when Tom Simpson famously then sort of France cyclist died on his bike going up Mt Ventoux in the Tour de France has different circumstances because he was racing to the point of exhaustion, exhaustion at the time, but it was reported that his last words were put put me back on my bike. There’s no again, it’s a story that might not be 100% accurate, but Beryl, there was a quote from Beryl that I found where she said he could have no finer epitaph than than saying that so I think it gave you a clue as to how she might view the circumstances of her own death, but obviously, just decades, sooner than everybody would have wished. But that yeah, there there is a sort of Maxine Peake said there’s a poetry to how that happened. And and as I say, the family different I know, both her brother and daughter do take some comfort from the fact that that was that was how she how she died, the jockey AP McCoy that he was the 20 times champion jockey I spoke to him about Beryl because I was interested in how the longevity it was very similar to him to keep going that number of years. And he he was very taken with the circumstances of Beryl’s death, and he said, it’s perfect as well, you know, because, and he said that if he felt the same, because obviously he’s stared down the barrel in a different way, when he’s fallen off horses, and you know, it’s a sport where there are fatalities and he he was very quite moved by that and taken by that and said that as well. And it was that that stuck with me as well that sort of mindset of somebody who’s so passionate about their sport but as he and Denise said it was just sort of you just was wished it would have been when she was in her late — thirty years later — was but yeah, very, very sort of that that does really you know, get to me to think about that you know, is is very evocative as you say and moving.

Carlton Reid 49:18
It’s quite unusual and not not just in the you know, the fact you didn’t get to 80 years old, but when when cyclists die as we all know it tends to be you know, when when motorists knock into them and kill them so you know, Davide Rebellin, Italian cyclist is just died by getting hit by motorists. So that’s how cycling stars tend to die. Many cyclists tend to die is getting hit by by by motorists, but she’s just keeled over at the side of the road. There was no other involvement. Nobody, nobody saw it happen exactly. But there was no talk of it. You know, she was not knocked from her bike, her heart gave out.

Jeremy Wilson 49:54
Yes, yes. Yeah, absolutely. There wasn’t like an early media report that sort of assumed that that was the that there must have been some sort of road traffic incident. But no, that wasn’t that wasn’t the case. And no, she was that there was a sort of full post mortem. And now it was she had anaemia as well. And it was her cause of death was heart failure and anaemia. But I think from the, I mean, Denise was kind enough to let me see the medical report from the post mortem. And, you know, it was it obviously, her heart had, there was this defect in it from, as I say, from a from a child, and that was very evident in the, in the post mortem so that she had reason she had reason she was risking her life every time she went out on her bike that there was no she was she and she was told that repeatedly through her life. So it wasn’t, in a way, it wasn’t a surprise that she should have that problem. It was one of those situations, which was a horrible shock. But, you know, rationally wasn’t a surprise because she had she had been told this throughout her life that she was, she was taking

Carlton Reid 51:06
Say it was it was it was part and parcel of her life as a cyclist, because it’s it’s, you know, her formative life in the convent that that that illness you had as a child, which would use, you know, quite expertly pick out in the book about like how super athletes, super-elite athletes often have some form of trauma in their childhood, which, which then drives them on to be these amazingly single minded hyperfocused and never satisfied with just one when they’ve got to keep on winning. So that heart problem she had as a child, which obviously, sadly died from was also probably the reason she actually had that career in the first place as a side. Yeah. So in that, that illness, and that, you know, time in the convent drove her and changed her mental makeup.

Jeremy Wilson 51:58
Yeah, absolutely. I think it was absolutely key, I don’t think it was the only thing. I got to the point with it, because it really interesting that that there was some research done in British Olympic athletes. And they found that they grouped them as elite or super elites, and the super elites were the kind of repeat winners, the absolute relentless winners, which barrel would have been one of those. And they had found this sort of staggering proportion that had had some sort of childhood trauma, which could be quite different. It could be sort of parents separating some sort of, you know, violence in the family, or some very, very different types of trauma, potentially. And Beryl’s was that she had this awful illness as a child. But it was really common in these high achievers that seem to galvanise or give them a driving force or sort of need to win a need to succeed and need to do their very best. And she obviously had that I think she also, she, her brother talked a lot to me about her childhood and their family. And she obviously came into it with a great sort of, she already had a kind of perfectionist type personality and a stubborn stubbornness. He, he called it the Charnock way, which was her her maiden name and and said, It was evident in a lot of family members very sort of stubborn, determined people. And then I think the other I think the other factor was what Beryl then was fortunate to discover coming out of the illness because she met Charlie, her husband, who was a club cyclist. And she was fortunate that this group of cyclists in Morley in just outside Leeds, were just so welcoming, so supportive, so but very competitive, as well. So she, the people who are the experts on this childhood trauma, say that it’s kind of three factors, you’ve usually got some inherent characteristic, and you’ve also got a supportive structure around you at the end of it. So it’s kind of not something you recommend, you wouldn’t recommend trauma to people obviously. And it can, it can be very destructive, but but with with those things around it with those inherent characteristics, and also the right support around you afterwards, it seems like it can be this added catalysts that can drive someone to amazing things. And with barrel you can vary, and that was kind of a theoretical model. But with Beryl, you can very clearly identify those other components that they talked about. Because she she she found this brilliant environment to to cycle in that was very progressive, because a lot of cycling clubs wouldn’t allow women but she She, at that time, but she she happened upon one that was welcoming to her and then they obviously became to love the fact that they had this incredible person in their club, and they were really proud of her and really supportive of her. So I think that was important as well.

Carlton Reid 54:58
She was very clearly proud of them too. Because I mean there was a quote but that you mentioned the book where and this is this is her words she’s one of another one of her amazing victories and she said “I have knocked up another victory for Morley and Great Britain” so not you know victory and for Great Britain I’m so it’s like she mentioned have cycling club first, my Great Britain is almost as a as an afterthought.

Jeremy Wilson 55:21
Yeah, that oh, she was was she never she was offered many times to be professional. But there it wasn’t professional in the terms of we think of professional cycling team. Now there was no races or team that you could you didn’t it didn’t open the door to some continental scene of earning lots of money and riding in better races, being professional just meant that you became an advertising tool for a bike company. And there were certain records placed to place records that you could go for. But you wouldn’t you would then be not allowed to race in any of the time trial events, any of the World Championships that she went for, because it was very strict that the line between amateur and professional, so going professional would have been financially quite good because she would have advertised bikes but she would have made no she would have had no very quickly ended her competitive career. So she very firmly stuck with writing for Morley Cycling Club and never went to a kind of a bigger club or anything like that. And she was incredibly loyal and would always talk about them. And I loved meeting all the personalities from the Morley Cycling Club because a lot of them were still alive. And you know, they were Beryl’s, they were Beryl’s team, they were Beryl’s support structure at that time and just again, very, very down to earth. Club minded, brilliant Yorkshire people who are so so so proud of Beryl you know, some of them have got one of them still have one of her world championship, jerseys, rainbow jerseys and

Carlton Reid 56:56
hidden away that nobody knew.

Jeremy Wilson 56:58
He had it under his bed. He went and got it. It was like it was it was still pristine. And he said, I’ve never worn it because when Beryl gave it to me, she said, You can have this but mind you never wear it because you didn’t earn it. And that was the kind of she wanted him to have the jersey but she was like, it’s it’s you haven’t got the right to wear it. But he was so it was in a in a plastic bag. And they kept it look, it looks, although it looks of the age 1960s and was made of sort of cotton, sort of silk it was still it was still perfectly maintained. So they were so proud of her and she was very you’re proud of Yorkshire she would in one of the World Championships, it’s very noticeable. She’s got this too, too. Russians either side of her with the CCCP or Soviet Union jerseys and she’s got a jersey, she hasn’t got a British jersey on that podium. She’s just got the Yorkshire rose on it on it thing she’s wearing. So yeah, very, very proud of that. Of her of her club and, and background. And Morley was very supportive to her because the archives in Morley at the local library have kept one of the really interesting sort of discoveries that kept all this correspondence between Beryl and the Morley town council because they would organise these civic receptions for her when she came back, and they’d raise money, that it was a mill town so that all the workers in the mills and social clubs would club together and sort of raise 100 pounds or something for Beryl. So that to help with her being able to go and cycle abroad in these World Championships. So she had this great relationship with Morley, and they’re wonderful these letters, because they’re very formal to, you know, to and from the town council and Beryl, you know, inviting her to different receptions or, you know, helping with the kind of fun, you know, raffles and, you know, very basics of funding that you could tell that the town really got behind her in that way.

Carlton Reid 59:03
And some of that funding, which which she couldn’t spend any other way was was, didn’t she spend it on, in effect, a record player?

Jeremy Wilson 59:10
Yeah, yeah, for a long time it got to a point where, and Denise that was one of the things that Denise was sort of she was I wondered where that had come. She goes, Oh, that record player still, I think she went and got it for me. She that was in every one of her houses. But it there was a letter from about 19. There’s about 1964 There was some money left over from an event that they had funded Beryl to go and do in Italy. And they were sort of like, well, what, what should we do with it? And they and they weren’t allowed to give the money to Beryl there was this great exchange of letters and they’d written to the British Cycling Federation, and they were like, no, if you give her that 50 pounds or 40 pounds or whatever it was, that was leftover. It might have been a bit less than that. Yeah, that will break that will convene her amateur that will break her amateur status and she will never be allowed to So called for Britain again. So they had to find but they said it is okay to buy her something. And so she chose a record prayer. And there’s a letter she wrote back to them saying, you know, really polite to sort of graciously thanking them for this this gramophone record player that she wanted. And as I say, Denise, wondering how they afforded it.

Carlton Reid 1:00:29
you knew more about the family for certain things.

Jeremy Wilson 1:00:32
Yeah, yeah. Cos, as I say, Beryl wasn’t one for talking about things that much when she she had, she got cancer later in life and had to go for an operation and for mastectomy, and Denise said, Oh, she didn’t tell me till she was in hospital. And she was kind of like, Well, why didn’t you come and see me sooner? And she’s like, well, I didn’t. I didn’t know. So that was, that was just how, how, how it was, I think, that was the way they, you know, they were the way they were. So yeah, she did. She did learn a bit from from from the book as well, which was nice. Obviously, I learned much more from her, but did learn something from the book.

Carlton Reid 1:01:16
And it was amazing what she’s, she’s turning down to to keep that amateur status, you know, things like contracts with Raleigh. And they got to like, the Cycling Industries Federation, you know, gave them an early version of the Reliant Robin, which was, which was like a Raleigh-branded car originally. So they got that. So that that was that was one thing, which they were but they were basically she could have got massive, like Reg Harris style contracts, if she had have gone, you know, one way, but she was very adamant that she didn’t want to go that way.

Jeremy Wilson 1:01:51
Yeah. And Reg Harris was trying to get her to because I think he saw an opporunity, I sense the saw an opportunity to, to sort of represent her because he wrote this great article about, you know, she should turn professional and she could have a future on the on television and after dinner circuit and sort of earn money in that way. But that was when she was only about it was after she had won about her fourth world title. So she would have only been in her mid 20s at that point. I mean, she cycled for another, she was winning titles for another 20 years after that. And it’s so misunderstood what she stood for and what she loved doing this idea that she wanted to be a celebrity rather than a racing cyclist just couldn’t have been anything further from the truth. She never she never had a TV in the in her house because she thought that it might distract her from a cycling you know, never had a phone in the house. Because she thought she didn’t want to be distracted from what she needed to do for her cycling. So the idea that she wanted to be a sort of use it to be a kind of sporting celebrity was just so far from what she wanted to do. I imagine the money at some point must have been tempting they came there was it’s as I say it’s in she describes it in some Cycling Weekly articles of the time, you know, Raleigh would turn up they were living in a two bedroomed council house in Morley. You know, Charlie would do the bikes in the corridor of this council flat. It was a it was a I had a look at it, it was just blocks of house you know, house flat. And he would do the maintain all the bikes in the in the sort of freezing cold corridor in the winter of the of this of this place in Morley, where they lived up until she was a fight that a move when she was she had already won five world titles when they moved and Raleigh kept coming to this to this address with, you know, different contracts for her. But she always she always said no, but it must have been I imagine there must have been some temptation because they they were living very much week to week in terms of being able to afford to cycle, they both worked. And the working was just to facilitate being able to pursue her passion. So I guess there must have been a temptation, but she knew that it would have as I say, because of this strict enforcement between amateur and professional, she knew that it would have been the end of her ability to race basically, in all the things that were meaningful to her. So it was absolutely the right choice for her and just so again, kind of there’s something so noble about her career now where we see sort of modern sport, it would be so different now is something so pure and genuine and about it and actually, in fairness or you know, modern sports people, I think roots still have that basic passion for what they do. It’s probably not their fault, but there’s all the other stuff that’s attached to it now, but I think that can change how they view their sport with some I’m for sure but never Beryl never face that because she just, she just was completely amateur completely did it for the love of the love of it.

Carlton Reid 1:05:11
We do share a sponsor in that she got a bike from Ron Kitching. And I also was sponsored in the 1980s by Ron Kitching who gave me stuff but then Ron Kit gave you know lots of cyclists Yes. stuff in obviously a Yorkshire and Rudding Park in Harrogate, which was, which was very much wereRon Kitching was from so she got she got a Ron Kitching bike. So she she rode that, but really didn’t get a great deal, said she, she wasn’t she wasn’t like, you know, no, absolutely dripping with with she just couldn’t

Jeremy Wilson 1:05:47
know the only things that she could get she she got she got this Reliant Robin car in 1960. Or the family did three wheeler, which Charlie would use to it wasn’t a Reliant Robin, as you say it was a three wheeler it was an early version of a three wheeler the Reliant Robins came later. And they would use it and there’s photographs in the book of it, you know, parked by the side of the road in Belgium and and Denise and Charlie were sleeping in the back of it. While Beryl’s becoming world champion in the age extraordinary kind of stories and this car went in became a bit of a sort of renowned sort of thing around the country because it would it would easily tip apparently, so it will quite often, it will quite often capsize in sort of ditches when Charlie was driving around the the roads trying to keep up with where a Beryl was. And people would have to come and sort of push it back up, right and stuff like this. So I heard lots of funny stories about this car was very well known to everybody. So they got that car in 1960 as a sort of reward it was for becoming she was double world champion that year. And other than that, there was a shoemaker that would that would, I don’t know if they were made any cheaper she’d have these quite often read shoes by someone in Northampton can called Peter Salisbury who would make these custom beautiful leather red shoes for her I don’t know the exact arrangement, as I say in terms of paying but Ron Kithcing. Charlie worked when they moved to Harrogate in 1976, Charlie worked in his bike shops, and I think she more or less had the run of things there, it wouldn’t have been a formal relationship, because you can be sort of sponsored, as I say, because of these rules about amateur and professional. But from what Denise tells me, I think I think she pretty much you know, she could she could borrow whatever she wanted from the bike shop by then. And obviously, Ron Kitching was pretty happy because his, his, his bikes were always in the sort of cycling magazines, because he would nearly all her records were on the sort of Ron Kitching bikes. So yeah, I think she had some help later on in that regard. But other than that, nothing, you know, absolutely nothing, and it would in fact, be have contravened the rules if she had. So she would know that there was there was some receipts at the BBC archive of her sort of, you know, claiming very precise expenses when she went in did sort of record breakers or something like that. And she wouldn’t, you know, very fair with what she claimed she wasn’t, there was no sort of making any money out of out of cycling. And she did tonnes of things for nothing. That was sort of promoting cycling, in terms of sort of TV appearances, or even, you know, she did a load of promotional stuff for the AA bizarrely, and she currently got paid nothing for it. But at that time, it was kind of like the prestige of being invited to shows or being invited to things was she’s she would say, Well, I want you know, I’ve got to I’m representing cycling as a sport and cycling was quite a minority sport at that time. So she thought that it was important that cycling was represented and it was a sort of honour for cycling to, to go to these things. So it was very much that way around in career.

Carlton Reid 1:09:12
Don’t I very much like to talk about some sexism in cycling, and that’s absolutely stands out in the book how staggeringly high the challenges that all women were facing in that era, not just bearable all women. But for now I’d like to actually cut to a commercial break. So let’s take this way with David.

David Bernstein 1:09:33
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Carlton Reid 1:10:43
Thanks, David. And we are back with Jeremy Wilson. And Jeremy as as I’m sure you if you’ve been listening to the the rest of the show, you’ll know has wrote this incredibly fantastic multi award winning book on BB Beryl Burton and and before the break there I was I was kind of mentioning to to Jeremy if he could talk us through some of the amazing sexism you know, we think of today is it being fairly bad and it still is bad, you know, you know, the parity in prizes, all this kind of stuff. But back in the you know, the heyday when when Beryl was raising 50, 60s and early 70s it was off the scale, the sexism and the challenges that women riderss had to had to face back then. Even though they were clearly as as Jeremy talked about with the licorice allsorts story, she was as good as if not better than many of the top men of the of the day. So Jeremy, tell me about the kind of challenges she faced with officialdom so with the with the British Cycling Federation, with the UCI, famously, you know, what, what did she have to get above and beyond before she even had to, you know, athletically win?

Jeremy Wilson 1:11:57
Well, she was she was very unfortunate in one respect, because she was came along in a sport that where women weren’t allowed in the Olympics. So if she was an athlete, a runner, athletics, or swimmer, she would have they were into the Olympics 50 years before cyclists but for whatever reason, the UCI, which was the world governing body was very sort of male dominated body and wasn’t much interested in in promoting women’s cycling. And it was only it was actually a British woman called Eileen Gray, who was the great champion for getting women’s cycling recognised, and Beryl was, well, she was unlucky in that sense that she didn’t have those competitions available to her Commonwealth Games as well, it wasn’t it was the same position. Eileen Gray was successful in lobbying the UCI to have a women’s world championship events from 1958 onwards, and Beryl kind of first reach world class level in the late 1950s. So she was fortunate in that she at least coincided with World Championships, but only very basic amounts of World Championships. So it was a road race, a pursuit on the track, which is a timed three kilometre race and a sprint on the track. So there’s just three events open to women, which meant Beryl could go for two of those, which was the road race and the time trial. She wasn’t a fast sprinter. It’s a completely different discipline. They weren’t actually her best events, because now there’s a time trial had there been a time trial, she would have been invincible for 25 years, maybe 20 years, something like that. I mean, she was way better at time trialling than the shorter three kilometre pursuit or a road race, but she had those events available to her. And she was seven times world champion in those events. Still, no British cyclists has ever been a double world road race champion apart from Beryl, and no British and no cyclist in the world as one as many perceived medals as her so she’s still excelled. Even though these two events weren’t her absolute best events, but the sort of surrounding stories of the challenges women faced even in these events, even though they had them were vast because they would always sort of not be given the the tires or the kit that the men would they were always given less money for accommodation, less riders were allowed to go, who were women. And also the schedule, the UCI schedule would just shut the women’s races whenever there was a gap in the programme for the men, so they never knew when they were going to race. So when they were riding they would spend let arrive at the track sort of seven or eight in the morning and often be there till like midnight. And Beryl might not know when her sort of World Final would be exactly because it was always done at sort of discretion of the organisers and the organisers were this sort of male or in male committee And they kind of saw the women’s races as sort of an add on that weren’t really that important. So she had that throughout her world. World Championships career, I think where she was fortunate was the club scene in in in Britain as we touched upon the club that she joined Morley. It had women in it and it was very sort of family progressive club in in Yorkshire. Other cyclists at the time would tell me very, very different stories. A lady called Val Baxendine, who rode with Beryl in the World Championships in East Germany. She wrote a letter to try and join her local cycling club and was told well, you can you can you can come and make the tease for us at the event that you can’t join the Club. Eileen Cropper, another lady from Bradford, she knew Beryl very well, she said that she was allowed to join the club but she would they would put that because they didn’t like getting faster she said the lads would put bricks in my my saddlebag when we went out cycling to to slow me down and the prize is for women as well. You know, it’s almost quite comical now looking back, but there’d be things like hair curling tongs, a pouch of washing powder, and stuff like that would be what the women were given if they won if they won something, which and just the way that women cycling was reported as well was was you’d be I’d be sacked on the spot if if I sent in anything that was resembled what you would read in that sort of cycling magazines and national newspapers at the time. You know,

Carlton Reid 1:16:31
you’re the Yorkshire housewife and Yorkshire has that kind of thing?

Jeremy Wilson 1:16:36
Yeah, but also sort of, you know, slender legs that will be easy on the eye for any man or stuff like you know, vivacious bubbly, you know, good looking bubbly personality it was all very commenting on on, on the appearance of the cyclists as much as what they actually were doing. But that was obviously normal at that time because there it was in in sort of print and wasn’t really you know, it was sort of accepted of that’s how it was so very, very different times but obviously Beryl was vital because although she wasn’t a great one for sort of, she wasn’t out there campaigning all the time to for for inclusion in the way that Eileen Gray as I say she was her great champion was but what were Beryl was so crucial was just cuz she was so good, athletically so extraordinary, she completely changed perceptions of women, women’s athlete, women, athletes, and women’s sport and what they were capable of, because this was a time when women weren’t allowed to do marathons in in athletics. They didn’t think that it was almost safe for women to push themselves in long endurance sport. And then there was there was this woman that was actually beating the men in these events. So it completely changed how women’s endurance sport was viewed and respected as well, because you couldn’t obviously not respect somebody who was better than the better than the men at the time. So you had I suppose this kind of mixture of things I did, but I did in fairness sense that that British Time Trial scene was was in the context of a lot of sport was quite quite progressive in its sort of welcoming way. And now actually, the men who who rode with barrel that they love talking about her love her, you know, love, she’s sort of figure that, you know, on the sort of Facebook pages of this sort of oldest cycling in the 60s are these you know, they Beryl was a sort of absolute legend to these men that were sort of regularly kind of beaten by her. There was one guy that said that he was a good, very good cyclist in himself. And he was quoted as saying, if if Beryl Burton ever beats me, I’m gonna bury my bike, you can bury my bike in the garden, and his brother was a very good, good, very great rider Ray Booty who is the first rider to cycle under four hours for 100 miles. And he, there was a speech he gave, and he was telling the story of what his brother said about Beryl Burton, and he sort of just ended his speech with both events came to pass. I, he got beaten by Beryl and he had to bury his bike. I don’t know if the second is strictly true, but they had to get used to you know, they had to get used to the fact that there was this woman who was stronger than them and there was so many stories that I would hear. Along those lines, they’re kind of like folk hero type stories. There was a guy called Roy Caspell, who was the national 12 hour champion men’s champion, and he and Beryl did 100 mile time trial one morning and they were both they were first and second in the event, but Roy Caspell just beat Beryl they were both under four hours. For 100, which was very, very rare for a man or a woman at that time, and he narrowly beat Beryl but Beryl didn’t like the fact that she had she had lost and so she challenged him to to go for another ride through the Yorkshire Dales on the same day, and apparently he sort of they went and he sort of felt for his honour, he had to say yes. And he came back and one of his club mates said that when he came back, he was just begging for mercy. So it was an absolute, it’s actually said, He’s, she’s can’t remember the exact words, but it was, it was a

Carlton Reid 1:20:35
mess or something.

Jeremy Wilson 1:20:37
She’s not a wreck. Yeah, or something like that. And she was five foot six inch women, not, you know, eight and a half stone through this guy was six foot two at the absolute peak of his powers. So she’s just in terms of the respect that I think women’s sport gave, she was hugely important. And the other thing that she did do, she campaigned to have men’s and women’s races in the time trials together. So I mean, it was probably quite as from Beryl’s point of view, a selfish thing, because she wanted the competition, she wanted to ride in the men’s races as well. She was successful in that sort of campaign that she had, but that, mostly she was mostly she was important, I think, in that fight for equality, just because she was so extraordinarily good. As I say, someone could, Eileen Gray was this amazing campaigning figure in the committee rooms of the British Cycling Federation and the UCI, but there were lots of Beryl would have lots of problems throughout her career with the BCF the British Cycling Federation, they were, they were always quite awkward with what she wanted to do, and would try and get her to do different events and things like that. But quite interesting. And quite another thing, I think that’s a characteristic of someone who’s hugely successful, even when she was very young, she really stood up for herself, and she’d do what she wanted to do what she believed was right. And I think that’s it, you know, wasn’t worried about fitting in and doing, you know, not not ruffling feathers, she would, she would do exactly what she thought was right. And if they didn’t like it, you know, hard luck. And they would threaten a few times with her sort of the selection from World Championships because she would insist on doing lots of time trialling, and they wanted her to focus on other events, and they would back down in the end, because it would have looked ridiculous if they didn’t select her for these races. So she actually had sort of fractious relationship with the the governing bodies at different points in our career.

Carlton Reid 1:22:44
So in the book, you’re very, very, incredibly well demonstrated how amazing she is, as as a sports person, in general, compared to other sportsmen or how she ought to be up there with, you know, all the sporting greats. And then you mentioned in in the book about how, in 2016, the telegraph, your paper is one of the culprits of not because it’s they placed her at fifth in the list of Greatest British sports people, you know, behind Gavin Hastings, and Sandy Lyle. Now, do you think and this is a very, very difficult question for me to ask or for you to answer. But do you think with your book now, especially as we’re winning so many awards? Do you think she’ll be much, much further up that list? Now that you’ve been elevated?

Jeremy Wilson 1:23:33
I would hope so. I think obviously, you know, it’s going to have passed, it’s not going to have sort of it not everybody’s going to have noticed notice this and and other things that have been done to promote what she’s, you know, to amplify her achievements. But I think she would be now I do think I do think people and something that’s really interesting. I don’t know if people are just being polite. But when the title in search of Britain’s greatest athlete, I sort of thought I’d have a few people going sort of Yeah, right. Or no, no, that’s ridiculous for this reason, or, you know, whatever. But just isn’t. Nobody’s even tried to argue with the tough times and the Financial Times, reviews of both, both of them said, it’s not hyperbole that the title, and I haven’t come across anyone that sort of really sort of thought no, when you stop and think about it, sort of is a fair case to make there. So I think she would be a lot higher. There was a sort of poll of the sports journalists Association a couple of years ago for the greatest British women’s athlete, and she wasn’t even mentioned in this poll, and I was sort of do I sort of kick off social media about it? And I thought, I’ll wait till after my book, I don’t want it, you know, so it’s a bit early to sort of, and think Jessica Ennis Hill was sort of named as the sort of greatest ever British Britain’s greatest ever sports woman. And you know, as much as Jessica Ennis, who is is fantastic. And I’m not trying to knock what she’s done. If had Beryl had an Olympics open to her shoe in a time trial, she would have won the time trial, in my opinion every years from 1960 to 1980, which is six Olympics. At in adding the pursuit road race, you would have won a few of a few pursuits for sure, maybe one road race, something like that, you know, you’re looking at sort of Redgrave times Wiggins, and then a sort of Tour de France, if a women’s Tour de France was available to her, she would have annihilated the field in a in a, in an in an endurance event of that type day to day being having to ride along miles day after day. I mean, that would have suited her perfectly. So

Carlton Reid 1:25:51
on that on that subject, but let’s talk about you’re bringing her into the modern day, let me tell tell me about the the wind tunnel, and you put a you know, the rider on on the same bike, because you got you got the bike, and you’ve made conclusions from that. So just tell us about that bit.

Jeremy Wilson 1:26:07
Yeah, well, I wanted to try and find a way to sort of benchmark what she had done. And I knew that what she’d done was so phenomenal her times, because her times at the time, her records at the time were the 12 hours we touched on was was actually in excess of the men’s record of the day. But the 100, the 1500 miles, 50 miles, 25 miles and 10 miles, were all very close to the men’s record of the time, way closer than you would normally get not just in cycling, but in athletics swimming record. So she was obviously highly unusual in terms of how good she was. And her record lasted between 35 and 50 years, which again, is just completely unheard of, particularly in a sport where technology advances were so so big, you know, be completely unheard of in athletics, but you’re only really changing the shoe there or swimming where you’re just changing the trumnks, you know, it’s fairly marginal differences. Here we’re talking about a sport with the carbon fibre bikes, the aero bars, the helmets, the clothing, vast, vast improvements, and yet her records still lasted, you know, the 12 hour record lasted half a century. So I knew that I knew that she must be athletically completely out of the park. Unusual. So I was speaking to Chris Boardman about it. I interviewed him and we were talking about Beryl Burton, and he you know, he knew he got he got our autograph as a kid, he got approached to a race. And he said, Well, why? And I said, Is there a way of modelling it because he did a he did the our record on a super bike. And then he did he did the what they call the athlete’s Hour, which was on an old school bike with dropped handlebars, and there was about six or seven kilometre difference in an hour in the two records. And I sort of said how, you know, could you in any way there’s a wind tunnel at Silverstone which which the a lot of the professional teams in top amateur riders use to measure different bits of equipment because they can objectively just analyse the difference in times of various changes you can make to the bike or your position. So a guy called Xavier Disley does this for for some professional teams and as I say top athletes and top and he’s trying to invent things as well all the time to make the bikes faster. And he was like yeah, we could do that you know, it’s not not that difficult really. You just need to get somebody in the wind tunnel on barrels old bike or a bike similar to Beryl’s old bike similar build of person, old clothing, you know, he even said jokingly he said if you can get a wig that’ll be good and I was like okay, we’ll get it didn’t think I was but I did we I had to leave it down to get it to the right Beryl look, but I was pretty look at the photos they’re pretty close. And so we’ve got a cyclist called Jessica Rhodes Jones who’s a good time triallist now and she rode Beryl’s bike with the wig was kindly put the wig on and some of the old Morley cycling club let me the kit and and we did the same with her super bike now with all the carbon bike, Aero Club clothing and handlebars and everything. And he was you basically just measured the drag effect in the wind tunnel of the two and he from there he could then calculate what Beryl’s times would have been on the modern kit. And she came up faster still in the current record at 25 miles, 50 miles, 100 miles and 12 hours. So we were doing was literally changing the kit and nothing else. So you would have literally if you You could have picked up Beryl Burton from 1967 and plumped her in a time machine and plonked her on a super bike. And you know, she might have needed a day or so to get used to it. Although Jessica told me it is much easier to ride the new bikes than the old the one Beryl was riding, they’re much less comfortable. She would have still been beating the records that are out of date, despite changes in training, diet, Sports, Science, everything else, which is literally all we’re doing is picking Beryl up as an athlete and plunking her forward. So the 55 years, which I think is and he said to me, Dr. Disney, who did it, he said, I don’t think you could get an athlete in any sport where you could do that he just couldn’t believe that that was possible. Because even as I said it in athletics and swimming, the technological advances are much, much smaller. But the improvements in 50 years are still absolutely massive now, so it just kind of underlined again, I stayed out of the calculations, I wasn’t like I said to him, it just do it. I kind of expected it to show something amazing, but because because of the reasons I said at the start, but you obviously don’t know what he’s gonna come back with. So I was selfishly I suppose I was pleased that it showed how remarkable she was, but not not completely surprised. I would have been more surprised. If if it was I mean, you know, the 12 hour record was only first beaten five years ago. So I couldn’t see anywhere in the world that that that wouldn’t wouldn’t be much faster if she wasn’t on the if she was on the same kit that they use now. But yeah, as I say, I sort of stood back and let him Let him work it out. So great. And it’s actually that’s got quite a lot of interest as well, you know, that you could do something a bit different and something that’s sort of fairly objective, obviously, there’s going to be you can’t do something absolutely perfect to the second but it’s, it’s a fairly good, good, good guide, I think to how good she was.

Carlton Reid
You know, it’s a fascinating part of the book. There’s tonnes of fascinating parts of the book of course. So I’ve made 1000s of notes here and I could absolutely talk all day with you. And I am very very aware that we have actually been talking for an hour and a half Jeremy which is an awfully long time so thank you for that. Let’s let’s kind of end even though I could talk all day with you about belt but let’s just because she’s clearly hard as nails in in many different aspects of our life. But let’s just just this one I did talk I did say that we would bring Yvonne Reynders the great Flemish rider back in, and that’s just in one of the rides. And this is what Yvonne didn’t know. This particular bit. So just tell me about the ride. Where Charlie, excuse me, Beryl’s husband, she she’s basically had an injury. Yes. And she’s been in effect tied to a track bike. With with a leather toe strap. So tell me about that. Because that that that definitely tells you a lot about her as a person as a rider as an athlete.

Jeremy Wilson
Yeah, that was an amazing, amazing story. She said she was warming up for the World Championships. Off the top of my head. I remember it was Paris, I think it would have been 65 but but she was warming up with a lady called Val Rushworth who was a sprint one of the British sprinters so she was able to help me a bit with this story as well. But it’s in Beryl does tell this story in her book Personal Best as well. And so one of the male cyclists that they were warming up with actually just moved out across and wiped her out when they were do riding around the track to warm up, Beryl went down and great pain in a wrist and they didn’t know what it was is a good a good example of the sexism, Eileen Gray, the British team manager wanted to take her to the medical centre to get this looked at and they wouldn’t let her go in because she needed to be accompanied by a male doctor and need to be accompanied by a man. So the British women’s team manager was not good enough to accompany Beryl to get this checked out. So in the end, she found a medic from another team who sort of looked at it and they didn’t think she was gonna ride and it was obviously really painful. And in the end, it was what do we do, and they gave her an injection which numbs the pain, but she lost all feeling in a in a in her hand. So she couldn’t, she couldn’t clinch the handlebars with one of her hands. So she could with one. So she’s effectively riding one handed in a way. And they kind of thought, well, she won’t, she won’t be able to ride, you know, there’s no way she can ride. And she she, I think from memory, she did this in this it was before the semi final. She rode the semi final with it strapped and got and won. And then she was into the final against Yvonne Rynders. And that was one of the times where she didn’t win, she was silver medal that year. But obviously, she was at a huge disadvantage because of the fact that she had no feeling in one of her arms, but nobody could believe that she would actually ride, Val Rushworth couldn’t believe that she would she was going to ride but that was I think that was just that mentality of you sort of you get on with it, you get get on with it as kind of like what she would say about things. And you know, she had many crashes in life and was always she was always back on her bike as quickly as possible. But just amazing, really, because you would because it’s not just the the being one handed, it’s not just the steering, that would have been difficult. A lot of the power where you grip kind of comes from comes from your arms, it would have said would have must have been really difficult to not just control the bike, but go full out, and then just probably the whole shock of it. But that was what they

Carlton Reid
So when you say strapped, you know, people might think, oh, you know, people have put bandages around it. But this is actually literally strapped to the handlebars with a leather toe strap.

Jeremy Wilson
And yeah they just that was that was I guess that was that those sort of straps were what they used to kind of transport a lot of things at that time, like related things, you know, on the sort of roof racks and stuff like that. They were able to hold her that one thing I didn’t do was find a picture of this, which I would have loved to have found the finding the photography of the era was a whole nother kind of journey of discovery as well, which was which was great fun, but hard work. And I didn’t find I wanted to find a photo of that race, but I don’t know if there’s one out there. So I’m going by the kind of how it was told to me it but as I say Val Rushworth was there. And I met her and it’s recorded in Beryl’s book as well. So but she wasn’t one that would make a thing of it. She knows she didn’t Yvonne Rynders didn’t know, really what what was happening in another race where she had a knee injury when she she didn’t she was going for this record for 24 hours. She didn’t tell people that about the injury afterwards. It was almost deemed bad sportsmanship to kind of talk about talk about why you didn’t win in the immediate aftermath. So a lot of these stories would come out some time later. Because it was that was just the way you just sort of got on with it. And but Yeah, amazing story. There was another one where she did a two uptime trial where you ride with somebody else. And she had a guy called Malcolm Cowgill, who’s the guy that’s got her rainbow jersey preserved and she touched his back wheel and went down on a dual carriageway. And there’s blood sort of pouring down her face, legs and on a bike. And he went, went went stopped to check she was okay and kind of thought, you know, there’s no way we can fit, you know, said should we get an ambulance, what do you want to do? And she was like, No, we’re gonna finish and she got back on the bike and they said she was like cycling in front of me and shouting at me to go faster while bleeding away on the road. And they actually won this two up event where you did you do a time trial with somebody else. So that was her. That was her mentality. You know, there was an anecdote when her daughter Denise was they were warming up together for the world championship road race, and daughter crashed across quite a busy road and knocked herself out on the side of the road. And I said to her What did you know what did your mum say? Say she said all night she completed a warm up, which was a bit like, crikey. That’s pretty, pretty hard. It’s really tough mentality. But I think that was that was kind of the approach to sort of injuries and crashes. And that if you can, if you can physically find a way of carrying on you just get on with it basically. And

Carlton Reid
There’s so much we could talk about because because clearly there was there was much more we ended with rivalry with with Denise later in our life and you know, events and you showed the photographs in a book where she’s not even looking at her daughter says there’s tonnes of stuff, where we could we could carry on going, but I’m gonna recommend people just gonna have to go, we can’t just carry on talking all day. But I recommend people to go and get your book and read it cover to cover and just be amazed by the the life of Beryl. But now my friend Dave, who were riding a few weeks ago, he has read your book. Okay, he recommended it to me anyway. And you know, at that point, I hadn’t read the book. But the only anecdote I could tell at that time was the Licorice Allsorts anecdote. That’s the one I knew very well. And now I’ve got so many more anecdotes. So thank you for absolutely going, you know, so deep into into life of Beryl Berton that we now have all these anecdotes, including strapping being strapped to a track bike in a championship, which is which is amazing. So your book has absolutely open many people’s eyes, I’m sure who weren’t aware of her story, hopefully outside. Absolutely outside of cycling. But just for now, as we wrap up, can you please tell us where we can get this book? And and how much it costs? Give us the give us the biography of your book.

Jeremy Wilson
Yeah, I think it’s available. You know, from all certainly independent stores, Waterstones, Amazon, Profile Books was the publisher. So I think all the kinds of outlets that you would expect to be able to, to get a book. It’s it retails at 20 pounds, but I think that it is a hardback book, and it’s pretty, it’s fairly a lot of photos and a lot a lot in there. But I think it’s sort of 15.99 or something like that on Amazon, I noticed. So it varies slightly the price, the exact price of it. So yeah, but it’s pretty widely available.

Carlton Reid
Thanks to Jeremy Wilson there and thanks to you for listening to what has been a much longer than normal episode of The Spokesmen podcast. A click through to Jeremy’s book and a transcript of our mammoth conversation can be found on the show notes at And this has been episode 315 of the Spokesmen podcast brought to you in association with Tern Bicycles. The next episode will be Milan flavoured but meanwhile get on out there.

November 26, 2022 / / Blog

26th November 2022

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 314: Book Talk With Hannah Reynolds and Ned Boulting

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUESTS: Hannah Reynolds and Ned Boulting

TOPICS: Hannah Reynolds talks about her LEJOG1000 book “Britain’s Best Bike Ride” and Ned Boulting discusses the fifth year of “The Road Book.”


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 314 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered on Saturday 26th of November 2022.

David Bernstein 0:27
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Tern bicycles. The good people at Tern are committed to building bikes that are useful enough to ride every day, and dependable enough to carry the people you love. In other words, they make the kind of bikes that they want to ride. Tern has e bikes for every type of rider. Whether you’re commuting, taking your kids to school, or even caring another adult, visit www.tern That’s t e r n to learn more.

Carlton Reid 1:03
Hi, I’m Carlton Reid and this episode of The spokesmen podcast is book-shaped. I talked to Hannah Reynolds about her LEJOG book. But first, here’s Ned Boulting discussing the fifth year of the big fat Road Book. So happy birthday, fifth fifth edition 2018 was the first one and this is this is a big heavy book. And it’s the 2022. So five years

Ned Boulting 1:35
10 kilos. And kilogrammes, you could put it another way or the best part of 5000 pages. Yeah, I think when we set out we we thought about the future. And we thought wouldn’t it be nice feeling to get to five years, and then take it and then go again. And you know, because it’s a substantial chunk of time, and actually can’t when you think about and I take great pleasure, see, for me, this is the whole point of the book, I picked up the 2018 edition. And I actually reread sounds rather vain this actually. But I reread my editor’s introduction from 2018, which none of which I can remember writing, I mean, five years is quite a long period of time. And what struck me is how completely different the road racing world is already in that five year period of time. It’s like, it’s like looking to a different generation of bike riders, you know, it’s quite extraordinary.

Carlton Reid 2:24
I think you mentioned in this year’s editorial about the Gen Z, the the transfer of power across,

Ned Boulting 2:32
And how quickly it’s happened. You know, I think that I think the evolution in road racing is actually accelerating. And I think the following year after 2018, 2019, for me is where it really started to change rapidly. And everything takes I think everything, for obvious reasons in the road racing season takes its lead from what happens in the Tour de France. And that was the year in 2019, where we had this wildly unpredictable ride from Julian Alaphilippe, who really seriously started to pose the question, can you win the Tour de France for France, you know, and ultimately, he came up short, but it was glorious while it lasted. You also had that incredible cameo from various other ridters. But it was Alaphilippe’s attacking spirit, and also his sense of adventure. And his kind of, well, I don’t even I don’t know how long I can sustain this, but I’ll give it a go. That sort of spirit of risk readiness, I think has infected the peloton. And I think that that’s what’s led to these multiple different riders doing what appears to be impossible things.

Carlton Reid 3:38
And in this editorial in the current one, the 2022 you’re absolutely major you suddenly start on the Tour de France. So that’s I mean to a to an outsider, Tour de France is the only race in the whole year and the rest of your book is I’ve never heard of these races. So that’s kind of like, how do you justify talking about the Tour de France in that way in that an enthusiast would be ‘Oh, no, no, no, that that, you know, the, this tiny, you know, minor race in you know, in this tiny area is much better.’ So how do you how do you kind of like, justify going straight into the race that everybody knows.

Ned Boulting 4:17
Well, because it was the race that it was this year. I mean, 2022 is a very particular edition of the Tour de France, not only I think I make the point in the and I’ll come back to that point, Carlton. But I also it’s a slightly wider point that I try to make in this my editor’s introduction this year, that it’s it’s about the Tour de France and July, the month of July because let’s not forget this year was historic because it was the Tour de France Femme which launched or relaunched, I should say. So July and France took centre stage no doubt about it for a couple of different reasons this year. And that’s not to disparage the other races. That’s not to you know, that’s not to decry those people who feel very strongly and for perhaps for good reason. There’s no more beautiful race than Tirreno Adriatico, or the Four Days of Dunkirk. You know, that’s all, that’s all wonderful stuff in great detail and venerable, fascinating racing. But if we’re honest with ourselves, this year, in particular, the Tour de France stood head and shoulders, the men’s Tour de France stood head and shoulders above all the other stage races, I think, because of the spirit in which the two main protagonists competed, because of the spirit with which Tadej Poga?ar, in his young career, still at the age of just 23. He was in July, encountered for the first time in his racing career, a major setback and, and it just bounced off him and his spirit and his contentedness with his chosen profession just shone through as if what we learned about today production was that actually, he’s a racer in the purest sense of the word what he loves about his chosen career is he loves to race every bit as much as he loves to win. I thought that was remarkable. I thought that I thought that Jonas Vingegaard the fulfilment of his very quick project from domestique to Tour de France champion was absolutely extraordinary to witness. But over and above that, I thought that the individual ride by wild van art this year, and everything that we achieved, I think there’s a strong case to argue, look, these things are just conjecture and opinion. But there is genuinely a strong case to be made for that individual performance by Wout van Aert this year, being perhaps the greatest single ride by an individual in one edition of the Tour de France in the whole history of the race. Because never before have you had a rider capable of winning over the same portfolio of different skills. And also being a domestique who rescues the yellow jersey. It was I mean, you know, you look back to the era of Hinault and Merckx and to some extent Anquetil as well. And they were capable of doing certainly in the case of Merckx, doing the things that Wout van Aert did in other words, winning sprint, winning individual time trials and winning mountain stages are coming very close to winning mountain stages. But they they will never domestiques they were never domestiques and Wout van Aert’s interventions as a domestique over and above everything else that he achieved. And by the way, he won the green jersey, and he very nearly accidentally won the polka dot jersey. His other massive intervention in the race was on more than one occasion he rescued Jonas Vingegaard.

Carlton Reid 7:37
You mentioned some of the old guys there, Anquetil, and Merckx so you almost wish that there was a road book in 1969? Because then you could go back to exactly that and go and pore through it. Well, is there any chance? Could could that be, you know, you could resurrect some of these statistics? Could you do an old version of this this book?

Ned Boulting 8:03
Can I just say Carlton, watch this space? Watch this space very closely. Because because that that was, you know, that that thought was sowed in our minds as early as 2018, when in our first year of the road book when I gave Chris Froome, a copy of the Road Book in person. And don’t forget, that was the year that Chris Froome won his last grand tour that was 2018 when he won the Giro d’Italia in that brilliant fashion. And I gave him a copy of that book. And he looked through it. And he’s he looked at me looked me in the eye and he said, What I’m just it’s just beyond irritating, that I haven’t got one of these for every year that I was winning the Tour de France. So we went Oh, yeah, like that. We always had to invent a year zero. And that was 2018. The first year we got it. But wouldn’t it be something to go back in time and pick years? And give them those treatments? So watch this space.

Carlton Reid 8:59
Okay, I just pulled up the history of Wisden’s. And that’s 1864. And yeah, they’ve got they’ve got a bit of a head start. But I mean, that’s basically what you’ve produced here. So for anybody who isn’t about cricket and their cycling, this is the equivalent to the Bible of cricket, the Bible of cycling is that that kind of thing you’ve gone for?

Ned Boulting 9:22
Wisden was very much our inspiration and the managing editor of the you know, the person who does the hard graft in terms of picking out the detail and putting the layout on the page. A brilliant colleague called Charlotte Atyeo. She came she came from Wisden. She for many years, she worked at Wisden. And so she knows how to make a book like that. May I just say that it’s my opinion, Carlton, that you don’t have to validate or disagree with, but it’s my opinion that as a product that sits on the shelf. I prefer the road book in the sense that it’s a nicer book. It’s bigger, the quality of the print and the paper on which it’s printed is significantly higher than Wisden. And we’re very proud of that as well. It’s not just what you read on the page, it’s the way the whole thing feels in the hand. That matters to us greatly as well.

Carlton Reid 10:13
Yeah, so it’s like a quality book of old. Yeah, it’s not full of photographs. It’s not like it’s not a Cycling Weekly, you know, annual, it’s, it’s a different animal, isn’t it here?

Ned Boulting 10:26
Yes. And in the past, you know, there have actually been in not not written in English, but in, in Italian. And in Dutch, there have been books in the past that have done the equivalent of what we do, but they’re no longer in print, and they’ve kind of come and gone. But they were always packed with adverts, and they were printed on magazine paper and a bit sort of like, whereas we knew from the start that if we were going to do this, it had to be an enduring a beautiful project, which actually, it kind of heaped the pressure on us in year one. Because we knew that whichever design we came up with effectively would have to look unchanged and beautiful 50 years from now, you know, so we’d have we had to get it right.

Carlton Reid 11:04
So I’m looking here at the first one, it’s 878 pages, you know, give the frontispiece a few pages too, 880. And that’s the same as the this years one. So you are stuck. Do you think you’re stuck at that? That’s the heft you need? That’s how many pages you need to tell the year?

Ned Boulting 11:25
Tthat’s interesting, I didn’t know its identical. Well, we, I mean, it does vary a little bit. It varied, of course. And this has really historically, it varied enormously in 2020. So if you look at if you were to look at the 2020 edition of the book, it’s like almost half the size, two thirds of the size, perhaps because so many races were cancelled. Yes, we took the decision that year as well to tweak the monogram at the on the spine and actually fracture it to break it up a little bit. And so this is also part of the what the Road Book does is it documents history that sits alongside the racing season. Yeah, I was at I was at the UAE tour this year working at the UAE tour, which is, by the way, something I regret doing and I’m never going to do again. I was there when Russia invaded Ukraine, and a Russian team were represented on the race Gazprom RusVelo, which now no longer exists, it was disbanded very quickly after that. And, you know, when I came to write my report, my reports for the roadbook about the UAE tour, what was going on geopolitically definitely figures in you know, how we remember what happened in February 2022. So the pandemic, the war, all of it is, you know, reflected in, you know, road racing is not immune from its interaction with the real lived world. And so, going back to your original question, I think it’s fascinating that 2020, the 2020 volume is thinner, and it will always look different on the shelf. You know, and people, you’ll look back at that and you’ll go, wasn’t that just the worst of times, and then you’ll maybe pick the book up. And you’ll look at the weird Vuelta that year, that finished in mid to late November. With those long shadows, you know, as the race finished at four or five o’clock in the afternoon, it is virtually sunset. That’s incredible, also and a certain sort of beauty about it.

Carlton Reid 13:18
You also mentioned but very briefly, but you kind of introduced cyclocross a little bit, you even have one one brief, very brief mention of gravel cycling. And then you mentioned the fact that you think you might not be including it until it is its own entity because it clearly only road riders riding these things. So tell us why you’ve put cyclocross and that very brief mention of gravel cycling in.

Ned Boulting 13:41
Yeah, it was it’s an interesting debate that and I kind of appreciate the readers input in this, I think cyclocross just became something we can no longer avoid, in the sense that it was having such a bearing on the way that the road season was was, was being raised with the advent of Vanderpool, Van Aert and Pidcock. Because they had done what they did during the winter and develop this kind of physiological and psychological skill set that cyclocross seems so perfectly attuned to. They were shaping racing, they were shaping road racing, reshaping it. And so I think we thought there’s too much crossover now between, you know, the cyclocross and the influence it’s having on road racing for us to ignore it any longer. And also, it’s, you know, people are really paying attention to it much more than they were. And so, and also, I think our other justification was alright, it’s not on the road, but a cyclocross bike kind of looks like a road bike. You know, it’s not, I don’t think we’re ever will ever include track in the road book. I think that’s a leap too far. But gravel, gravel is definitely on a road. And so in that sense, perhaps it should be in the road book. But at the moment, I don’t feel as if gravel is dictating the terms of road racing. I think the opposite is true. You know, I think road racers are going and experimenting with gravel. But I’ll keep my eye on that. And I think there’s a strong argument potentially in the future for gravel, the gravel series, such as it is, and the new world championships to be included in the Road Book.

Carlton Reid 15:12
You’ve even mentioned, I’d have to look at issues of your own to this before you’ve even mentioned transportation cycling in this editorial, but again, it’s a fleeting mention, but you’ve mentioned it, because that’s your other great love, isn’t it?

Ned Boulting 15:26
Yeah, very much so, Carlton, I mean, I don’t see this as a contradiction. I see it actually as a natural evolution of my own history in cycling, which is relatively young, I suppose, in the sense that this was my 20th Tour de France that I covered this year.

Carlton Reid 15:42
I was gonna say, Yeah, I was gonna … young? 20th Tour de France?

Ned Boulting 15:46
Well, I still feel bad, isn’t it, but I still feel like a slight newbie to a newbie. Even when I speak to people like you, Carlton, I know and understand you’re steeped in the sport. And your your history long, long far predates mine. So I always feel like I’m talking to Pete, you know, yesterday, I was at Brian Brian Robinson’s funeral. First British winner of a stage at the Tour de France. And of course, a lot of his peers and colleagues from similar generation were there as well. And I spent hours talking to Barry Hoban, and Hugh Porter, after after the funeral. And of course, in their company, I barely open my mouth, because I don’t feel like what I have to say is have any merit. Anyway, I digress. The point about the point about my education in cycling is that the sport, the elite, the highest end of the sport, ie the Tour de France, that’s what drew me into cycling as a spectator. But it wasn’t long before I came home from the Tour de France and bought myself a bike. I literally joined those dots, I made that connection. And of course, the first bike I got was wildly inappropriate. And I couldn’t conceive of doing anything other than every time I jumped on my bike, wearing a helmet, clipped in shoes, full Lycra, even if I was going to ride for two miles. And then bit by bit, I’ve kind of understood that I don’t need to do that. And my my cycling has become much more utilitarian to the extent that almost almost cycling now is one trouser leg rolled up, no helmet. And it’s to get from A to B, I live in London, which is very, perfectly kind of like set up, I think, to use the bicycle as a tool for everyday cycling. And bit by bit, you know, I’ve stopped owning a car maybe six or seven years ago, bit by bit. The understanding that the bicycle is an amazingly powerful and accessible tool for us to change our built environments. And the way we go about living our lives has really dawned on me and it’s become something of a passion.

Carlton Reid 17:47
If you haven’t we we really were really grabbed you if we as the cycling as a whole we’ve we’ve really converted you.

Ned Boulting 17:56
Yeah, yes, yes. I mean, and sometimes it’s, it’s very hard to make the case sometimes for elite sports, you know, you know, those rather trite slogans that always wrap around sporting events, like “inspire a generation” and all this sort of thing, you know, and it’s actually the evidence that bringing the Olympic Games to a country actually does much in terms of people kind of like leading a more active and physical lifestyle. But I think the bike does that. I think people consciously or unconsciously, I think they join the dots between watching men and women ride bikes at an amazing level on the television and actually contemplating getting a bike themselves and getting an I think there is a lot of evidence to suggest that, you know, let’s face it, the Tour de France is the biggest single global showcase in the world for this extraordinary invention that’s over 150 years old, but largely unchanged, which is the bicycle, which is why, which is why the debate around the total for the carbon footprint of the Tour de France, which is egregious, you know, a horror show when you think about it, debate around whether or not it is right that the Tour de France even happens on these terms, given how much carbon it emits is actually quite nuanced. Because on the one hand, yes, that’s indisputably a bad thing. On the other hand, like I say, it is the shop window, the bicycle as an invention as a tool as a thing. If you take that you take the Tour de France away, the bicycle disappears from the public consciousness

Carlton Reid 19:42
Well, as a cycle historian I would I would absolutely 100% back you up on that because that’s that’s why these races were, were created. This is why the first promoters of racing they were doing it to promote basically transportation cycling. To get people to think, “wow, you can travel the whole way around France? Oh, that means I can go to the shops on my bike then,” if they can do that I can do this was the reason for race isn’t the Oh, clearly they’ve grown to be a very different thing now. But that was definitely the people who started these races and people who started getting people to go faster on further on bicycles. Yes. So going around the world was another one is all to show people how practical this this machine is. So I 100% agree with you.

Ned Boulting 20:28
Yeah, and I think that message still applies.

Carlton Reid 20:31
But there is a there is a so there is a great argument. I mean, okay, people will might be losing Twitter out here. But certainly, on all forms of social media, there is this this this town and gown, kind of argument of you know, that Formula One, motor racing is very different from transportation driving, you know, we don’t mix those two. So why should we mix cycling, you know, pro cycling, and transportation cycling, but they’re much, much more closely allied than I think most people think. And that argument, I think, is actually not quite so strong as people maybe think.

Ned Boulting 21:06
I mean, it’s very, it’s very hard to gather this evidence cogently and actually present it. And then even if you do, have you ever, it’s very hard to convince people. But I would just say, literally, listen to what I’ve just said, listen to what I’ve how I’ve described my career, or if you like, my lifestyle. That’s it. That’s that’s exactly what I did come. I mean, I was, when I first went to was sent to cover the Tour de France, I was in my early 30s, I was a little bit overweight, I was a person who would not think twice about jumping in my Renault Scenic to go, honestly, quarter of a mile down the road to the shops and come back again. And then I was sent it to the Tour de France. And everything changed. And it changed simply because I hadn’t stopped and thought about bicycles at all. You know, I probably last cycled before then, at the age of about 17, was probably the last time I jumped on a bike. So between the age of seventeen, and that’s so common, isn’t it? In our experience, you know, we ride our bikes, it’s and then for, for whatever reason, as we come into adulthood, we drop them. Or at least that used to be the model. And so for the age of 17, to my accidental encounter with the Tour de France, and first at the age of 32, however many years that is, I simply didn’t give it I didn’t think about bicycles at all, not once. And here I am. You know, and I know it’s anecdotal. And it’s, it’s just one example. But I genuinely think that’s how it can work.

Carlton Reid 22:37
And that’s a great analogy, a great example.

Carlton Reid 22:40
So let’s go, let’s, let’s finish this by just give the plug for the Road Book.

Carlton Reid 22:45
So how much is it? Where can people get it from all that kind of stuff, give us the biography of your book.

Ned Boulting 22:50
Okay, it’s, it’s available almost exclusively on on mail order, we ship across the world, it’s £50, and we’re holding our price down. And I know it sounds a lot of money, it’s the same price as Wisden, incidentally. But it’s been a real fight for us this year with increased everything costs, including printing to keep our price. There are also special split quite a lot of special offers in terms of building your collection and retrofitting it if you’re only coming to the Road Book this year, because you will want to have the whole lot, I promise you, because that’s the point. So you’re building a collection. And as I say, plans are afoot to expand the portfolio in the years to come. And we’re enormously proud of it. And what I feel more proud of than almost anything else is that, although it is built at built, although it is written and published very much with the road racing fan in mind, you know, what I find really beautiful about it is that when we send it to riders whose names are printed on the pages, who’ve actually done the things we’re talking about, the universal reaction is, oh my God, and they feel in a digital age where all their results are recorded online. They even they understand the sort of emotional purity of having it printed beautifully and presented in a book like the Road Book.

Carlton Reid 24:14
Yeah, the longevity of it, that the the kind of the mystique of it of being mean books on a bookshelf in 50 years time.

Ned Boulting 24:22
Books are still quite rightly held to a standard, Carlton. You’ve written books, I’ve written books, you know, for example, that if you write an article, which makes certain claims about a living human being, and the article is going to be printed in a newspaper or in a magazine, or online, the lawyers might have a look at that and go “well, you probably get away with that.” If you make the same point in a book, legally, that will by practice be held to a higher standard. It’s a fascinating, isn’t it? So the very act of putting things down in a book as opposed to any other form of medium, written medium is still valued above everything else. And for good reason it’s bookshelves exist that it’s there to stay.

Carlton Reid 25:13
Well, long may they grown with a heavy Road Book. How many? How many kilos? Did you say it was in total?

Ned Boulting 25:20
Two kilos. So there are now 10 kilogrammes of the roadbook in existence, and we’re halfway towards becoming a Ryanair baggage allowance.

David Bernstein 25:32
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Carlton Reid 30:07
Thanks, David. And we are back with show number 314 of the Spokesmeen podcast and before Davids’ ad break, there was a discussion that I had with Ned Boultin, and we were discussing that Road Book. And now owever, I’d like to go across to Hannah Reynolds. And Hannah will be talking about a book that is involving a very famous long distance ride from one part of the United Kingdom to the other part of the United Kingdom so Land’s End to John O’Groats, but in a slightly repackaged way. Where were you actually today, but physically, where are you?

Hannah Reynolds 30:52
I’m in Mal

Carlton Reid 30:55
I thought you said so that’s why why why are you in Mallorca?

Hannah Reynolds 30:59
The story is my partner’s a teacher at an international school here. So we’ve moved out here for the school year. So I’m living in the opposite corner to where most cyclists are so we’re we’re dying in the kind of like the south east corner. So opposite to sort of present here and Alcudia way you normally see cyclists so it’s been good it’s been exploring the island from from a different direction.

Carlton Reid 31:31
Because normally when you’re in the UK, you’d be in Sedbergh, is that right?

Hannah Reynolds 31:35
Yes, I’d be in Sedburgh which is in Cumbria, it’s Sedbergh is in the administrative county of Cumbria. It’s in the Yorkshire Dales National Park and we have a Lancaster Lancashire postcode so it’s it’s in the it’s in between the Lake District to one side and the Yorkshire Dales to the other all mixed up. Yeah, exactly.

Carlton Reid 31:59
And then I’d like to go through your CV, because I’ve noticed that there’s a there’s a Newcastle angle here for me in that you’ve worked as a guide for Skedaddle yeah?

Hannah Reynolds 32:12
That’s right. It’s been for 10 years now I think maybe even a touch more Hmm.

Carlton Reid 32:17
Now I’ve I’ve done some trips with with it wasn’t actually a Skedaaddle trip. It was a different it was Ciclismo Classico. But the guides there that they were from Sardinia, and they were saying they knew the Ouseburn river? I thought really well, because they get brought across by Skedaddle. So is that the same case for you? You’ve been to Newcastle plenty of times because of Skedaddle?

Unknown Speaker 32:47
Yeah, I’ve been to Newcastle a fair bit and the main office is there. So I pop in there quite frequently. And we have, as your Sardinian guides were telling you, we have a guides get together every year. So wherever, wherever you are in the globe, you know, whether you’re working in Italy, Spain, France, or even further, further afield, we’ve got Skedaddle holidays, really do run in every corner of the world. So we all get together and exchange some ideas and talk about guiding and make sure that we’re all you know, doing things to the same standard and in a similar way. So it’s a really nice multicultural company to work for. From that point of view. I was mainly France, hesitant as always to mention the B word. But the the double whammy of COVID and Brexit meant that we’re not we’re not looking after France anymore. Actually, your Sardinian guides Italy will be helping to run some of the French holidays. So I still hope to guide there. I love cycling in France. I you know, I genuinely think that France is one of the best countries in the world for cycling because it’s so it’s so culturally endemic that even if you’re not a cyclist, you understand cycling, whereas many other countries that I’ve cycled in and travelled to cyclists understand cycling, but the rest of the country doesn’t. Whereas you can turn up anywhere in France and someone will they’ll be able to at least name some of their country’s most famous races and understand the challenge of cycling you feel really, really welcome and respected in France. So yeah, I’d always choose to cycle in France and guide in France when the opportunities are there.

Carlton Reid 34:32
So given that B word, where are you guiding now then?

Hannah Reynolds 34:35
I’m not currently guiding. We’re in a in an offseason. I guided in the UK last year. We do Land’s End to John O’Groats, obviously some lovely cycling around the Dales and the Lake District. I did a Tour de Ecosse so little loop around Scotland. So yeah, I did a lot more than that. UK last year, which, I suppose has been interesting for me. I know I mean, you always feel like you know your own country quite well, but there’s so many places that I’m yet to really deeply explore even in my own backyard. So it is nice. Sometimes that whole staycation vibe, I think opened people’s eyes to what we’ve got on our own doorsteps.

Carlton Reid 35:23
And you mentioned Land’s End John O’Groats there. So let’s talk about your book, six years in the preparation, it says in the press release.

Hannah Reynolds 35:31
Yeah, it was a slow burn that one. Our first book, our first guidebook was France en Velo, which was from St Marlo down to Nice. So it was 1000 mile journey across France, from the channel to the med, with the objective of finding the best cycling and the best kind of segmented cross section of the country. And that was a fabulous book to research. It was a wonderful book to write. We had some lovely cycling experiences. And we did all kinds of things with that we we plan the route and cheese, we planned the route and why, you know, we really kind of got to know that, albeit very narrow, but very long stretch of France. But once we’d finished that, and that book had come out, and we started to think about the UK a bit more. And when we were doing public speaking and talks about France on furlough, we’d sometimes use the phrase, “it’s like LEJOG, but with better wine, better food and better weather.” But we thought, well actually, that’s really doing a disservice to to Land’s End John O’Groats, because that is a route that people so passionately want to do and have so much affinity for in the UK. And actually, we’ve probably should go back and really give that the France en Velo treatment, which to us means finding the best route, not the most direct or the most simple, but the one that actually gives you the taste of the places you’re cycling through so many long distance routes. The challenge, as I’m sure you understand where the long distance route is, you’ve got to you’ve got to balance up actually getting there with seeing all the nice spots along the way. And so many long distance routes and so many Land’s End to John O’Groats routes bypass some of what we consider to be the nicest cycling or the most interesting village or hills probably. Well, partly because of hills partly because of just wanting to make it a manageable distance for people, partly to simplify the navigation. The more towns and villages you go through quite often the more you’ve got to think about your routing. But also, Lands End to John O’Groats has been as there’s many ways you can do it. It’s two points on the map Lands End and John O’Groats. You can do it in the shortest distance, that many of the kind of the racers who are trying to get the fast times do you can do it. You can do it via your you know, grandpa’s house and Preston for free nights accommodation, you know, you can go you can whatever your your objective or your personal interest is or even where you live in the country, people create their own routes. But we wanted to kind of create a definitive route where if you say I’ve done LEJOG 1000. Everyone knows which we’ve done, everyone knows it’s 1000 miles, everyone knows you’re going to cycle through the Cairngorms, everyone knows you’ll have done the north coast of Cornwall, so we wanted to kind of, I guess tie it down a bit, but also still give people the flexibility of riding it their way. The model we created for our first book was to split the 1000 miles down into 30 individual stages or chunks, so that you could do the route in you could do it in 30 days, you know, one very short stage a day, or you could use them as building blocks to create your own tool. So we we suggest three itineraries. The Explorer, which is the longest one, which gives you plenty of time to really, you know, potter about see what takes your fancy, have a long lunch, not arrive too exhausted at your destination that you don’t want to walk around all evening exploring. So we’ve got that one, which is a three week itinerary. We then have the classic which is two weeks which is what most people do because that’s a manageable timeframe, in a work holiday and being away from home for two weeks, and then we’ve gone for a 10 day challenge route which puts most days just below or just above 100 miles. So that’s a really good you know if you’ve done 1000 Miles In 10 days, that’s a cycling challenge to kind of like really put in your palmares and remember, is being a significant physical challenge. So you can do it any way you want. You can you can take the slow, slow cycling route, or you can take the fast cycling route, but the actual physical route would remain the same.

Carlton Reid 40:24
And when you’re researching this, you didn’t do it in one go. You’ve obviously done it in chunks yourself.

Hannah Reynolds 40:28
Oh, yeah, absolutely.

Carlton Reid 40:30
Have you ever done it in one go?

Hannah Reynolds 40:32
I’ve never done it in one go. I’ve actually never done it in one go. Because I’ve either been guiding. So I’ve not ridden every day because there’s been reasons why I’ve needed to drive the van or miss a day because when you’re guiding you’re about the people, you’re guiding your clients, not your own riding. So I’ve never done it in one go with with a guided group. I’ve never done it one day when I’m researching because you tend to sort of like pick a section and go in deep but not do it all in one go. And then my very, very, very first experience of Land’s End to John O’Groats was more than 20 years ago. And I did it when I was at uni, with some friends who wanted to do it in I think they did something ridiculous, like four and a half days. And I spent most of my time trying to find bananas and supermarkets for them. And that was a completely different route because we did take advantage of you know, friends and families hospitality. So no, no, it’s it’s poor. I’m gonna have to do it. I’m gonna have to take my own book and ride it in one go.

Carlton Reid 41:40
Yes, yes. And then tell me about your other books. So you’ve mentioned the France one. But there’s other books out?

Hannah Reynolds 41:47
Yeah, that are 1001 cycling tips. There’s a bit of 1000 theme here. 1001 cycling tips came out last spring. That’s, it’s, it’s a it’s a fun, it’s a fun book. But also it has lots of different tips, which I hope will work for a really wide variety of cyclists. You know, someone like yourself, who’s been involved in the sport for for decades, will probably read some and think, yeah, I agree with that, or no, I wouldn’t do it that way. And you know, but then for some beginners, it will give them really simple accessible, easy tips to just get get started.

Carlton Reid 42:32
And then let’s go back to where we started, really. And that is Mallorca. Yeah. So I mean, you’ve got kids, haven’t you?

Hannah Reynolds 42:39
I do. I’ve got a three just about to turn four year old.

Carlton Reid 42:43
Yes. So you’ve presumably at the moment can’t just go out on a long day ride on a whim, if you’ve got a kid. So but they’re going to school soon, I suppose. I mean, how much exploring do you do on a on a daily basis,

Hannah Reynolds 42:57
We’ve got quite a flexible approach in our house because everyone my partner cycles as well. So I tell you, I my son goes to like a preschool. So I told him in a trailer, eight miles to preschool and eight miles back twice a day. So I’m doing 34 miles with a bike trailer, which is feels like that feels tough, that’s tough. And then the weekends, what we tend to do is one of us, so pick a spot and cycle there. And the other one will drive with my son in the car. And then we’ll have lunch together as a family and then swap and the other person rides back. And another option is my partner is into enduro downhill. So we do a kind of strange uplift service where he’ll drive the vehicle to the top of the hill, and I’ll cycle up it and then we’ll exchange car and child and he’ll ride down. So if you look at my Strava and his Strava in the like 60 mile route, I’ve only ridden uphill and he’s only ever written downhill.

Carlton Reid 44:02
That’s that’s, that’s dialled in. That’s yeah,

Hannah Reynolds 44:04
It’s all grew. Yeah, it’s balance. Yeah.

Carlton Reid 44:10
Thanks to Hannah Reynolds there. And thanks also, to Ned Boulting earlier details of both books can be found on the show notes at And this has been episode 314 of the Spokesmen brought to you in association with Tern Bicycles. The next episode will be out next month. But meanwhile, get out there

Carlton Reid 44:36
and ride …

November 17, 2022 / / Blog

17th November 2022

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 313: Tour de Luxe — riding with legends on Ibiza with upscale Leblanq

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUESTS: Justin Clarke, Mark Cavendish, Monica Dew, Sophie Power, Jamie Criddle, Johan Museeuw, Rob Gitelis, Margaret and Joyce from Taiwan, Matias Bjork, Sean Yates.

TOPICS: Balcony views, posh food, drafting behind legends — listen up for what guests think of their luxury bike break with LeBlanq in Ibiza. Carlton Reid also interviews Mark Cavendish and Johan Museeuw while riding with them on the party island, and Leblanq cofounder Justin Clarke reveals why c-suite execs love rolling with world champions.


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 313 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. The show was engineered on Thursday 17th of November 2022.

David Bernstein 0:23
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Tern bicycles. The good people at Tern are committed to building bikes that are useful enough to ride every day, and dependable enough to carry the people you love. In other words, they make the kind of bikes that they want to ride. Tern has e bikes for every type of rider. Whether you’re commuting, taking your kids to school, or even caring another adult, visit www.tern That’s t e r n to learn more.

Justin Clarke 1:02
LeBlanq isn’t about hero worshipping. It’s about really good people just getting to know other really good people and having a really good time. That’s it. It’s that simple.

Carlton Reid 1:11
That’s LeBlanq co founder Justin Clarke, introducing himself to guests at the company’s upscale bike break on the party island of Ibiza. LeBlanq marketing materials described the experience as joy riding and, dear listener, I bravely volunteered to discover the accuracy of that pitch. I’m Carlton Reid and I could have kicked back and relaxed on this warm weather winter cycling trip. But, no, I packed my recording equipment so you could hear what it’s like to ride with legends, legends, like Lion of Flanders with Johan Museeuw, and world champions Mark Cavendish and Óscar Freire. I interviewed Johan and Cav while we were riding along.

Mark Cavendish 2:05
Let’s go left. Yeah.

Carlton Reid 2:06
Okay. So, er, you’ve enjoyed it here?

Mark Cavendish 2:11
Yeah. Been nice. ,

Pete Tong

Carlton Reid 2:13
Also riding with us on this short break was Ibiza legend Pete Tong whose nightclub session on the final night was the highlight of the weekend for Sigma Sports coowner Ian Whittingham. I recorded the audio with Ian and other company principles, including Rob Gitelis of [Factor] bicycles, who flew from Taiwan to be on the trip. Swedish concrete magnate Matias Bjork told me what it is about LeBlanq that hooked him and you’ll also hear why former pro Monica Dew is so stoked to be a LeBlanc guide.

Monica Dew 2:51
Yeah. Loving it.

Carlton Reid 2:53
You’ll also hear more from Justin Clarke and I also talked with Jamie Criddle, manager of Chevin Cycles branch in Harrogate, who explained why he helps out on these joy rides. And as we were riding along behind Adam Blythe, ultra runner Sophie Power explained it was the inclusivity and no-drop protocols of LeBlanq that saw her back on another trip. And this was a recurring theme. Many of the riders I spoke to were on their second, third and fourth LeBlanq trips. Yes, they’re expensive. But considering you’re riding — and eating — with genuine legends of the sport, LeBlanq could easily charge three times as much for their joyrides and see no drop off in custom. Before we set off in our curated-for-speed groups, I hooked up a mic on event director sportif Sean Yates, who can be heard here discussing logistics with Justin and one of the guides.

Justin Clarke 4:00
Ranges and ratios. Everything else. So

Sean Yates 4:04
Cav’s going in the last last group.

Justin Clarke 4:06

Sean Yates 4:06
Johan’s going in the green groups. Where’s David Hesketh?

Justin Clarke 4:11
Just there.

Sean Yates 4:14
Yeah. David. So you’re you’re following the green group, following Johan?

David Hesketh 4:21
Yep, that’s right. Yep.

Sean Yates 4:23
You can get a radio which means you will be in contact with the green group.

David Hesketh 4:27

Sean Yates 4:28
So you want the 9am green, which is channel five, and it’s all lined up without without headphones.

Carlton Reid 4:38
Before we set off for the first ride from Hotel Riomar we had to pick up our bikes from the empty hotel opposite where there were mechanics on hand, including Jamie Criddle. So the bikes that we’ve got here. There’s a whole bunch of bikes different bikes here. So what we got we got like customer bikes. We’ve got people who shipped them out?

Jamie Criddle 5:02
Exactly that. We’ve got a real a real mix. We’ve got some hire bikes that have come from Mallorca and hire bikes that have come from just down down the road, a shop five minutes where we’ve got some bikes that we brought out in our vans that belong to customers. And then the rest are bikes that people have brought with themselves, however they’ve arrived.

Carlton Reid 5:22
Are there any electric road bikes here?

Jamie Criddle 5:25
So we’ve got some electric e-bikes, and we’ve got some electric mountain bikes even they’re going to be coming out on the on the ride routes, but not road bikes, not road bikes at the moment.

Carlton Reid 5:38
And where are you from?

Jamie Criddle 5:40
I’m from Harrogate.

Carlton Reid 5:43
In Yorkshire, God’s own country.

Jamie Criddle 5:46
God’s own country. Yes. Yeah, so we we helped the Grantley Hall event just outside Harrogate. And now we’re here in Ibiza enjoying the

Carlton Reid 5:59
You’re saying “we” there so what do you do in Harrogate?

Jamie Criddle 6:04
I work in in bike store Chevin Cycles. Run the store look after some bike fitting.

Carlton Reid 6:11
And are you seeing more electric bikes being sold?

Jamie Criddle 6:13
Absolutely. We have kind of very much a — we’re probably not a million miles off of a 50/50 split now. But that split is interesting that mostly mountain bike, mostly hybrid and cargo bikes.

Carlton Reid 6:28
And cargo bikes what you got?

Jamie Criddle 6:31
Well, Tern is is key brand for for us they

Carlton Reid 6:37

Jamie Criddle 6:38
Yeah, the one that I personally own.

Carlton Reid 6:41
Car killer?

Jamie Criddle 6:42
Yeah, the family love it. The kids love it. The kids refuse to go in the car now.

Carlton Reid 6:49
But not in the rain?

Jamie Criddle 6:51
In the rain.

Carlton Reid 6:52
In the rainy weather and family as in this little kids?

Jamie Criddle 6:55
Yeah. Martha is 9; Ned’s 7. They want to be on the bike all the time. Literally tell us that they feel sick whenever they get in our car. They’re all right in other people’s cars, but they feel sick in our car. So want to go on the e-bike everywhere.

Carlton Reid 7:11
So this is genuinely has been a car killer then for you?

Jamie Criddle 7:15
Yeah, we got our our bike in 2019 in the in the September. And when Mel is going to get in our car in February the battery was dead. And she genuinely didn’t feel she would use the bike that much. And was totally taken with it. It’s a big bike is a big

Tern GSD. So both kids on the back, heavy bike as all the bikes are, but it doesn’t matter because it’s got the got the motor to overcome that. And she felt she wouldn’t be able to manoeuvre and be comfortable with it. But she literally uses it every day, takes the kids to school, goes to work, does the shopping,

Carlton Reid 7:54
Right. That’s a heavy bike. That’s an electric bike, even though you’ve got the power but these bikes here and I can actually see my name on the back there. So Carlton is on the plaque on the back there. So what we’ve got here what what kind of bike is this? I’m gonna put my water bottle into this Specialized.

Jamie Criddle 8:09
And probably double the weight, specialized

Carlton Reid 8:12
water, okay.

Jamie Criddle 8:14
Seven kilo bike, built to be as light as possible, should feel like you’re gliding up the hills, even when the legs don’t want to try SRAM Force E-tap groupset. So nice, simple, straightforward shifting. Yeah, should help you enjoy

Carlton Reid 8:32
but you’re coming out as well. Jamie?

Jamie Criddle 8:33
I’m coming out as well. Leading one of the one of the groups.

Carlton Reid 8:37
But you’re not in your Lycra do I’m presuming you’ve got to rush away?

Jamie Criddle 8:41
Get my shorts and shirts off and put my jersey on and we’ll see you on the road.

Justin Clarke 8:45
We’re in the white and the turquoise. Their right leaders. There are LeBlanq ride leaders that ride with us all over the world. They’ve done multiple events, they know the drill. They are part of our core team. They have radios, they know how to connect with the rest of the riders in the group etcetera very experienced. So just keep it nice and steady. Just ride together, find that tempo and keep you sane. I just want to say welcome Sean Yates.

Sean Yates 9:12
Thank you. Thank you, Justin. So as Justin said, we’re here to obviously enjoy ourselves and stay safe on the flat sections. Try keep it real tight. Roll along tight, so you’re quite compact. There will be a following car behind on the climbs. If you feel a bit frisky then obviously you can push it a little bit you know, but don’t exaggerate. Today it’s fairly simple and straightforward. And the idea is to just roll along. Okay, tomorrow is another kettle of fish. We’ve got 2000 metres climbing on the downhills – do not at any point overtake the lead rider is for the safety Give everyone so that’s that’s about it really just go out there be sensible have fun and look after each other.

Carlton Reid 10:06
Before group went off for that first ride. I chatted to Rob Gitelis of Factor Bikes. So, Rob, we’re outside the W Hotel. Where we’re all picking up the bikes. A lot of people are getting Specialized bikes from from the organisation but you haven’t got a Specialized bike? No, why wouldn’t you ride a Specialized Rob?

Rob Gitelis 10:29
I have good taste. And I’m the owner of Factor.

Carlton Reid 10:34
Exactly. So it’s cool that you’re coming out here on a on a on a trip, you’ve come out here especially for this thing of like a round Europe trip.

Rob Gitelis 10:44
I’ve kind of connected some things together so that I could you know, charge this to the company. But this is really more about pleasure to come in here for this event.

Carlton Reid 10:53
So Factor is doing okay at the moment with some pro teams and

Rob Gitelis 10:57
Yeah, it’s um you know, we grow quite a bit every year we have a number of ladies professional teams, men’s professional teams, but coming out here I really get to meet who was our customer is, you know, I can speak to Chris Froome all day, but he’s not our customer.

Carlton Reid 11:13
Because the last time — talking about Chris Froome and his Israeli team — the last time I talked to you in the flesh was was actually at the Giro d’Italia in Jerusalem. Yes, you’ve come on for a fair bit since then.

Rob Gitelis 11:26
Yeah, you know, back when we met in Jerusalem, we were sponsoring the AG2R French team. And you know, that was very, very good start for Factor but we needed a more international team. So after taking one year out of the world tour, we came back in with Israel Premier Tech, which features Chris Froome and you know, Giacome Nizzolo and some other very fine bike racers

Carlton Reid 11:48
On the bike that you’re riding there. Now what what exactly is that?

Rob Gitelis 11:53
This is a Factor Ostro it’s pretty much the flagship bike of Factor at the moment. And it’s the one used by most of our professional teams.

Carlton Reid 12:03
So just describe what you got here because it looks pretty trick.

Rob Gitelis 12:06
Ah, yeah, it’s pretty much like the ultimate poser bike. It has a Black Inc, five spoke wheels, a new Shimano Dura Ace 12, speed group set, Black Inc handlebars, and then a few kind of like special details on it. That based on my own personality and ability to do something,

Carlton Reid 12:28
because it looks it fit me there, Rob, so if you don’t want to take it back, you know, I could just I could I could help you out there. Yeah, sure. So how much is that? How much is that?

Rob Gitelis 12:37
This bike would be about 15,000.

Carlton Reid 12:39
US dollars.

Rob Gitelis 12:41
Yeah, Euro/US.

Carlton Reid 12:43
That’s kind of okay. It’s not ridiculous.

Rob Gitelis 12:46
Yeah. I mean, some of these Specialized yes, definitely more

Carlton Reid 12:54
And then you’re not the only person from Taiwan here.

Rob Gitelis 12:56
No, these two lovely ladies are

Carlton Reid 12:58
So you come all the way from Taiwan as well, you it was the same flight from where we there’s

Rob Gitelis 13:02
Same flight but we didn’t actually know each other.

Carlton Reid 13:06
No, now, but where was the flight from? From Taipei. So let’s get your names?

Margaret 13:13
I’m Margaret.

And I’m Joyce.

Carlton Reid 13:15
Hi Joyce and Margaret. So how did you find out about this trip?

Margaret 13:27
Oh, we got through Rapha cycling club, there was a introduction there. So we thought it’d be fun.

Joyce 13:35
And yeah, we saw the picture of Ibiza. And then there’s Mark

Carlton Reid 13:40
So Mark Cavendish is a draw. It’s the rider so that is the food, it’s the place or the rider? Sounds as though it’s the rider

Margaret 13:53
It’s a combination, right.

I will say Mark was a big draw.

Joyce 13:58
And Ibiza very exotic.

Carlton Reid 14:06
So how much riding do you do in Taiwan? Because it’s a beautiful island – Formosa, the old name, means beautiful – It’s a wonderful place to ride a bike.

Margaret 14:13
Yes. So

Joyce 14:15
150 to 200.

Margaret 14:17
I do 250 a week.

Carlton Reid 14:19
Okay. Whereabouts?

Margaret 14:21
Mountains. Yeah. Because it’s a mountainous Island. Yeah. Yeah.

Joyce 14:28
Very steep mountain. So we are generally better climbers.

Margaret 14:33
Not really.

Carlton Reid 14:37
You didn’t bring your own bikes?

Margaret 14:40
We don’t all own bike companies.

Carlton Reid 14:44
So what do you ride when you’re at home?

Margaret 14:46
I have a Pinarello

Joyce 14:50
Yeah, yeah. And I ride Canyon.

Carlton Reid 14:56
So coming on to these bikes as you know, cuz you went out for the ride yesterday. Okay. Yeah,

Margaret 15:04
Yeah. My first bike was Giant. So

Carlton Reid 15:08
That’s kind of the ubiqitious bike on the island. Really, we’ve got King Liu who rides everywhere when he did. Well enjoy your ride today.

Matias Bjork 15:23
I am Matias Bjork, from Sweden. And it’s been a beautiful couple of days cycling here in Ibiza.

Carlton Reid 15:29
And because this is not your first trip, you were in Champagne as well weren’t you?

Matias Bjork 15:33
Yes, we were in Champagne last year, it was supposed to be early, it was postponed due to Covid..

Carlton Reid 15:39
Now, this is a bigger trip than that. So it’s more intimate the last one. But this kind of suggests it’s a good one for having a bigger trip, because you had the Pete Tong last night you had all these things with a small group, it would look a bit weird.

Matias Bjork 15:53
I don’t know might be fun as well. But I think if you want to have the likes of Cavendish, you need to have multiple, it’s very 120 guests. And he’s been cycling in six different groups during the weekend. So we all get to meet him. That’s amazing. And Johan and Oscar and everybody else.

Carlton Reid 16:14
So what’s the draw? Is it everything? Is that a daft question? Or is it no the riders that that that’s what sets this apart, the fact that you can ride with real genuine stars?

Matias Bjork 16:24
The biggest joy is, of course, the rider. Knowing that the hotel is good, the food is good, wine is good, and champagne is good. I think that the combination is quite unique. I don’t know if any other type of events that similar. And I’m mostly a runner, but can see doing an event like this from runners. It doesn’t really work out. For cyclists you can split up in different groups. You can have nice dinners. And it works out. You can even be hungover and go cycling. I wouldn’t do that running maybe.

Carlton Reid 16:56
Okay. And you were telling me before that you have, you sit on the board of two businesses and you have you have a concrete business in in Stockholm.

Matias Bjork 17:08
Yeah, around Sweden many different places.

Carlton Reid 17:12
And you travel a lot with that job?

Matias Bjork 17:15
No, honestly, I don’t actually. I travel maybe to the board meetings, but otherwise I don’t. Business managers do. Which is nice.

Carlton Reid 17:24
Okay. But this is a this is a typical holiday for you? Or is this usual?

Matias Bjork 17:30
No, no, I’d say it’s typical. Every time we go travelling, it’s always a question about finding good training. You go on swim camps, you go on cycling camps, you go running camps. We did one in Mallorca trail running camp only this year, which was great, but not on a level like this. This is so much higher quality, also the camaraderie of having 120 people.

Carlton Reid 17:57
And you looking it’s this kind of thing you’re gonna think right? I’m gonna be doing this twice a year, every single year. Is it sounds like right when so Justin’s just standing over there. It’s gonna be like, Justin, where are you going next? Because ‘sign me up!’

Matias Bjork 18:08
That’s the been the biggest discussion so far. It’s been okay, what’s gonna be the next year’s trip? When are you gonna go to South Africa? Are you gonna go to Italy? You’re gonna go to the US? Yeah, I think so. Looking at sort of what people doing that, and you want to do adventures, you want to experience things, but at the same time, want to stay in a nice hotel, and have good food. So the combination is perfect.

Carlton Reid 18:30
Johan, we’re here on Ibiza, riding along. This is your second LeBlanq trip because you went to Champagne. So tell me what do you think about these LeBlanq trips?

Johan Museeuw 18:44
Now my third, fourth event with the LeBlanq. Last year in the Champagne area, it was together with Eddie Merckx, legend. So this is really a luxury holiday on the bike. So it’s different than other companies. So I go a lot because this is my job what I’m doing around the world. So I’m freelance. I’ve also my own company, Museeuw Cycling Experience. But LeBlanq is different than everyone.

Carlton Reid 19:19
This is potentially are you going to be potentially having one in Flanders as well?

Johan Museeuw 19:25
Yes, last week, we are have done a reconnaissance of something to do in Flanders next year.

Carlton Reid 19:32
Very cobbly, cobbles, lots of pavé?

Johan Museeuw 19:36
Not always but if you go to Flanders, you have to do the famous hill Paterberg, Koppenberg and also some section and cobblestones. So, yeah, it will be fun next year. We start in the. No, I can’t say where we started because still a secret.

Sophie Power 19:54
I’m Sophie power.

Carlton Reid 19:56
Well, you’ve been running here because you’re normally a runner. But you’re doing incredibly well at cycling.

Sophie Power 20:02
I’m a runner enough to try and excuse my descending skills but I kept up. I kept up. I was watching Adam and his lines. Yeah, I was like right I’m gonna follow him and then kept up.

Carlton Reid 20:14
Yeah, follow somebody who knows what they’re doing

Sophie Power 20:17
in terms of like life achievement I got down hill without getting dropped.

Carlton Reid 20:24
Is that the draw for you the rider star riders is the draw for you. What’s the draw?

Sophie Power 20:31
Time away from my kids. No. That’s so this is my 40th birthday present, hubby’s a cyclist. We love Justin. We love what they do. We love food. We love enjoying cycling, like it’s great cross training for me. But I think the events are, as a cyclist I’m nervous. I’m nervous. Like, I don’t know everything. And these are the most inclusive events because no-one gets dropped. They look after your bike. They take, I think for women they take out a lot the uncertainties you have about cycling and is that you can ride your bike and met some amazing people and not so riders. Everyone else.

Ian Whittingham 21:14

Carlton Reid 21:15
Ian, that sounds like a groan of happiness, that you were finishied, a groan of happiness is age related?

Ian Whittingham 21:23
Yeah, I think I think it’s age related. And yeah. Sitting down after a very lovely, what, 50 odd miles of Ibiza lanes.

Carlton Reid 21:33
That’s Ian Whittingham the co owner, co founder of Sigma Sports, the amazing kinda London bike shop. And you’ve just shown us your Strava there. We’ve basically done half of the island. That’s a small place, but quite varied, and quite green, isn’t it?

Ian Whittingham 21:53
Very green, roads are lovely and quiet. Yeah, it’s like everyone in the group is asking ourselves, why have we not come here before cycling? It’s amazing.

Carlton Reid 22:02
Because it’s Mallorca isn’t it is where you know, people go. Yeah. And they deliberately avoiding going to Mallorca for that reason.

Ian Whittingham 22:09
Yeah. coming somewhere like that. Yeah. I came here before many years ago for a stag weekend. So my memories of Ibiza are quite different to what I’ll leave with this time round,

Carlton Reid 22:20
but the fact there was somebody there when you were 20. When you were 25. Yeah. How long ago was that was

Ian Whittingham 22:27
26 years ago.

Carlton Reid 22:28
But there was somebody there at the same time. Who’s here today as well?

Ian Whittingham 22:31
Oh, yeah. Right. So yeah, so when we were here we were treated to Pete Tong, doing doing a set at next door to Cafe Del Mar. And while we were drinking mojitos, and yeah, as you say, he’s here on this trip. Not seen him yet. Now, he has a cyclist as well as obviously a famous DJ.

Carlton Reid 22:47
You were saying he’s one of your customers.

Ian Whittingham 22:48
He is a customer of ours as well, when he’s in the UK,

Carlton Reid 22:52
will actually say you’re you are a founder of a pretty well known bike shop in the UK. Certainly if you’re in the South East of England. So

Ian Whittingham 23:02
Yeah, so so that I’m founder of Sigma Sports. So we’ve been we’ve been going now for 30 years. And I’ve been involved with with LeBlanq since its inception, actually. So it had a bit of a bit of a stalled start because of the pandemic. But yeah, I’ve been involved with Justin since the beginning. I did I went and did the Isle of Wight event last year and was just really blown away by the quality of the event. I mean, truly, these are, I think the best cycling trips I’ve I’ve been on. I’ve been doing trips

Carlton Reid 23:38
And you go on lots of industry trips.a

Ian Whittingham 23:39
Yeah, indeed. Yeah. But in terms of like, yeah, cycling events. It’s just every every detail is thought of staff are amazing. It’s yeah, it’s really fantastic.

Carlton Reid 23:49
And you told me before that you used to race with Justin.

Ian Whittingham 23:51
I did yeah. And his brother back in the day his brother, Russell. Yes. So yeah, I’ve known, Justin for well, yeah. 40 years. Sorry, 30 years.

Carlton Reid 23:59
So this is before you created the bike shop?

Ian Whittingham 24:02
Yes, just before, when I was when I was a teenager, and race racing back in the day and then I hadn’t seen Russell for years actually. And then he popped up say three years three or four years ago with this with this idea and mixing his passion for food and cycling and I think you’d really hit a sweet spot

Carlton Reid 24:19
Is it fair to say that the average or certainly some of the customers that you’re attracting in your shop are just ideal. But here because you sit let’s face it, you’re a high end shop. And these these people here are high-end consumers.

Ian Whittingham 24:37
They are it’s obviously you know, it’s not it’s not a it’s not a cheap trip to come on. But you know, it’s you can when you’re here you can see why the the hotels are great. The catering is great. But yeah, I mean, this is this is an absolute sweet spot for us in terms of the the kind of customer demographic

Carlton Reid 24:55
It’s a cross fertilisation and so you’re selling you know the trip to them. They’re selling the bike shop to them.

Ian Whittingham 25:01
Very much so. Yeah, so that’s something is one of the reasons we got involved just in the beginning was to, to, to be able to access our customers and tell them all about LeBlanq and sell a few trips for him in return for some support for their riding needs in return. So yes, it’s a great

Carlton Reid 25:18
ecosystem. Because there’s, I mean, there’s there’s an international audience I mean, there’s there’s the founder of Factor is here. Yeah, it’s kind of strange. I was talking to Rob before and then you got two Taiwanese ladies who come all the way from Taiwan.

Ian Whittingham 25:36
A ouple from Austin, Texas. Yeah, it’s a it’s a quite a diverse range of people, which is which is fantastic. And also, you know, it’s also great to see so many women cycling here as well. It’s definitely a really fast growing part of part of the sport.

Carlton Reid 25:55
I thought we’d see more electric road bikes now. How big is electric bikes in your shop?

Ian Whittingham 26:02
Yeah, the terrain here is just is made for an electric road bike. It really is, you know, up up and down all day. But yeah, I don’t think I’ve seen one yet actually. But for us as a business I let them electric bikes now make up about 30% of our bike sales. And actually, you know, we’re now appealing to different audiences we have our work we have our our heritage and history and road biking but we’ve also embraced the electric bike revolution and we’ve opened dedicated store for that in Kingston. So yeah, no doubt about it. You know, electric bikes are the kind of future of the cycling industry

Carlton Reid 26:34
Pretty much within about 10, 20 years hold of the industry and then we’ve got like legacy bikes. Yeah, he’s a legacy bikes. Riding on me every bike is going to have not not just one of the the Shimano gears and stuff that are gonna have electronics. It’s just gonna be there’s gonna be some form of propulsion on everybody.

Ian Whittingham 26:59
Yeah. Yeah. I think you’re exactly what they’ll come a day when you start talking about electric bikes are not just be bikes that happen to have some kind of a propulsion, as you say,

Carlton Reid 27:08
I mean that’s been good for the industry?

Ian Whittingham 27:11

Carlton Reid 27:12
Perception price point, you know, now apart year, of course bikes got £2500 because an electric bike costs £2500. So that brings, like, raises the whole ships and like every ship has risen with

Ian Whittingham 27:23
absolutely, it’s gonna. Yeah, it’s huge for the industry. Absolutely huge for the industry. And yeah, hence why we couldn’t, we couldn’t, you know, despite our roots, being in road biking, we couldn’t I couldn’t stand by and just watch that train leave the station, if you like, we have to, you know, want to get involved. I ride an e-bike to work myself every day.

Carlton Reid 27:44
British bicycle industry did miss it. But they certainly weren’t in that day early. There was a whole there was a whole period of time when bike shops famously didn’t have electric bikes. Really didn’t want to get in touch with them. And then you found a whole bunch of electric bike shops came out. And there was that kind of ecosystem. Has that changed? There? Was it my job said no, no, we weren’t.

Ian Whittingham 28:07
Yeah, it’s definitely changing. You are right. It was it. There was like really a handful of ebike specialists to begin with. And then a bit of hesitation about you know, is this gonna, is this going to take off? But right now? Yeah, I think most most bike shops are going to probably have at least half of their half of their bikes on the on the shop floor are going to be electric. And imagine.

Carlton Reid 28:28
Specialized famously did take a while. I mean, they’re fabulous bikes, you know, designed in Switzerland, you know, the whole whole unit. That’s Specialized got that, but it took a while to actually get into it. So was that something that bike shops waiting for? Or waiting for the big brands come in with some sweet bikes? Cos they weren’t fantastic looking bikes before.

Ian Whittingham 28:48
They weren’t. I mean, the very first e-bikes, in fact, you know, anecdotally on the street, where are our store is in Hampton Wick? We had two e-bike stores on that street 10 years ago, but both were just ahead of … They were before their time and the bikes were very, very much like a regular bike with a battery strapped on it and a clunky motor. So yeah, absolutely. It’s only really in the last I’d say kind of five years and that’s that they’ve really started to to look start to look better, perform better have much better ranges and charging times. And yes, the big manufacturers now are all embracing it. And, you know, Specialized are definitely one of the leading, leading manufacturers of e. Is certainly certainly our biggest brand. Ebike in the business is Specialized I think every every brand you speak to, if you talk about 2024, 2025 and they expect the vast majority their business to be electric. And regular acoustic bikes, as we call them, I think will definitely become a diminishing part of part of the range.

Carlton Reid 29:51
Is that a bad thing?

Ian Whittingham 29:54
It’s it’s it’s evolution, isn’t it? It’s I think as long as you know what, as long as people out on two wheels, then I don’t mind what they’re riding. You know, just discovering the joys of cycling.

Carlton Reid 30:05
I captured that interview with Ian after a day in the saddle, but grabbed this one with former elite cyclist Monica Dew as we were riding along. Monica, who rode for Storey Racing until 2020 is now a cycling coach, and one of the expert guides on these LeBlanq joy rides. So, Monica, we’re here on the climb back to the hotel on the second day. And you’ve been leading what group are you your blue? Yeah. Okay.

Monica Dew

Monica Dew 30:37
So 100k each day. So we got here on Wednesday, did a prologue on Thursday. Yesterday’s ride. Really lovely, very short, sharp climbs. Today’s ride. A lot more rolling. Loved it. Having a laugh, having a bit of fun.

Carlton Reid 31:01
So, Monica, how did you get this gig? Because it is a sweet gig.

Monica Dew 31:04
It is a pretty good deal to be honest. Yeah, so I used to race. I’m really good friends with Adam Blythe.

Carlton Reid 31:11
Everybody’s good friends with Adam Blythe.

Carlton interviewing Monica Dew.

Monica Dew 31:13
Everybody’s friends with Adam Blythe.

You can’t not be. Yeah, and he just said just in this set up. So I joined. Yeah, the rest is history really like second year in and it’s pretty special. Very fortunate to call it my job

Carlton Reid 31:34
Riding a bike is also Mark Cavendish’s job. But when that involves nosy journalists asking him questions, he’s famously less keen. So when we went for a quick resort ride together, I didn’t pump him for any exclusives. I just wanted to know what he thought about LeBlanq’s formula. Okay. So you’ve enjoyed it here?

Mark Cavendish 32:03
Yeah. It’s been nice. It’s good, innit. Just riding with other people that like cycling. Bit of music from Pete Tong yesterday.

Carlton Reid 32:13
Yeah, that was pretty cool.

Mark Cavendish 32:14
Good, like. So you’ve enjoyed it?

Carlton Reid 32:18
Yeah, it’s been fantastic. Now we nearly knocked into each other there. So that’s a good point. How are you like riding with with, with us because we’re amateurs, we don’t know where to go. And we’re not very fast. So how, how do you find that?

Mark Cavendish 32:32
It’s riding, it doesn’t matter. That’s the thing about cycling you’re free to go where you want, with who you want, when you want.

Carlton Reid 32:37
Getting the chance to ride with Cav and the other cycling legends was clearly the major draw for most people on this not-cheap LeBlanq trip. And after ended, I sat down on a beach sofa with company cofounder, Justin Clarke. This is bigger than all of your previous trips. The vibe is gonna be different anyway, because it’s Ibiza and it’s not Champagne. So it’s not that kind of vibe.

Justin Clarke 33:07

Carlton Reid 33:10
It’s a more laid back vibe. So that suits this trip anyway, because just five in with Pete Tong wouldn’t be good.

Justin Clarke 33:26
Yeah, so great question. The, you just described two factors that the first factor that dictates the size of a LeBlanq event is venue. So we wanted to come somewhere that felt really special, and also have all of the operational elements that we needed, space for the bikes, space for the care, space for the people; there are many things that we need. So the Riomar hotel, absolutely ticks all the boxes, and it has 114 rooms. So 114 rooms, and so OK, so this could be a much bigger event than we’ve done before. And then because we’re in Ibiza it’s yeah, obviously we’re about food, we’re about cycling, we’re about camaraderie, relaxation, having a good time but in Ibiza you have to do music as well, because it is in is in the blood of the

Carlton Reid 34:20
Pretty fluky that the man who was most, you know, note noted for being a bit of creating the scene really almost on Ibiza is a cyclist.

So that’s magic. That’s perfect.

Justin Clarke 34:34
Yeah, so a colleague of mine when I was at Endeavour, a guy called David Levy, head of electronic dance music for William Morris, he was the one who told me a few years ago, that if ever you do an event in Ibiza, and it’s cycling, you’ve got to get Pete Tong involved because he loves cycling. So as soon as we decided we’re definitely going to come here. David got a phone call from me and said, we’re going to do it and he asked Pete. Obviously, bringing all this together is very complicated business: dates, availablity.

Carlton Reid 35:09
Cos you couldn’t do this event in July.

Justin Clarke 35:11

Carlton Reid 35:21
I guess I’m where I was going for with that question is because you got pros here, you got you got okay got ex-pros who are coming too, but they’re probably going to be commentating anyway. Absolutely. So your your window of when you can do these trips are actually narrower than if you are just to say a holiday company.

Justin Clarke 35:36

Carlton Reid 35:37
You can’t do the pro season.

Justin Clarke 35:39
So we, well, actually, you can, it’s every event that we create, it starts with the place. And then we build out the narrative of the event based around the place. The professionals who are current, and the broadcasters who are working on the Grand Tours are focused on the Grand Tours when the Grand Tours are on. There’s a whole bunch of people who love cycling and food, who are massive names. Chris Hoy, for example, who July is actually quite quiet, because there’s no track season going on in July. So Chris Hoy, you’ll notice, every July event we have is our main man. And we have something very special planned for Chris for next year. And this one actually, I have a message message by by Chris couple of times was was Ibiza looks amazing. Looks amazing. It’s like yes, he says, Please really come next here. And the answer is yes. Alright.

Carlton Reid 36:37
So your name dropping there, but that’s fine. Because you know, everybody, yes, you’re allowed to to name drop. Because you aren’t like an agent for some, right? So give it give us just a very brief cuz we have had you on the show before. So let’s just get a brief overview of where Justin comes from.

Justin Clarke 36:54
Yeah. So my background, I was a very average domestic professional in 97, 98, 99. And I, I did the riding that I wanted to do. And to be honest, I didn’t want to be on a doping programme and every other pro that was in a team where it was on a doping programme, so I had no interest in that. So I just wanted to see how good I could be. And the answer was averagely good. And then I got into live events and live events has been my last 20 odd years. And for about 10 years, I was the Global Head of Culinary for IMGg which is a sports marketing agency. But culinary is like a, you know, chefs were becoming superstars. They’re rock stars, and I was working with many of the best chefs in the world. René Redzepi, Gordon Ramsay Heston Blumenthal, etc, etc. So, I know that that world, I built a brand, from scratch with Taste, started with Taste of London and began Taste in 20 cities around the world. And I’ve always loved the interaction with consumers. And talent. I much prefer the word talent over celebrity. I don’t like celebrity, because often you can have a vacuous celebrity, you can have someone that’s famous just for being famous, whereas I like working with people who are the best at what they do. So champion cyclists, amazing chefs, or those kind of people. I love working with them because they’re inspirational. And they’re inspirational to me, but they’re also inspirational to the visitors and the guests that come on these these trips. And you can feel it. When you’re there. It’s like, Wow, I can’t believe I am in the presence of greatness. So, so yeah. So in the representation space, there was only one person that I’ve managed, I say manage rather than representative. And it’s Bradley Wiggins.

Carlton Reid 38:57
Do you want to go there? On why he’s not here?

Justin Clarke 39:03
Yeah. Brad is this amazing guy. And he’s very complicated. And a can of worms, a bit of a can of worms got opened up In an interview that I’d arranged with Mens’ Health magazine, and yeah, a whole programme of activity that have been built around him unravelled with a no-show, but no-show was because of fragility. And I love him. I’ve known Brad since I was 12. And I do love him. He’s, he’s complicated. But I don’t I don’t have any intention of representing anyone else whether share for talent. This is this is about building the LeBlanq business and created experiences like these that people fall in love with.

Carlton Reid 40:03
So you are quite rightly able to name drop because you do know people, you’ve known Brad’s since he was 12 so that’s a good name drop. But then you’ve got somebody else who could do that maybe with other with different people, maybe even that you wouldn’t perhaps not as know as well. And that’s Sean Yates. So is he a lynchpin in that he opens lots of doors that I’m not saying you wouldn’t be able to open those doors. But he really opens certain doors on the professional side, if Sean says, this is the event, people go, ‘Oh, it must be right.’

Justin Clarke 40:38
Yes. Sean is probably one of the most respected people, human beings in cycling. He’s adored for good reason, because he’s just an amazing man.

Carlton Reid 40:50
He’s famous for being a tough guy. Well, when you when you meet him, he’s a he’s a softy.

Justin Clarke 40:55
He’s, he’s actually famous as a writer famous for helping other riders, his whole thing he was the original, super domestic. He was the rider that was normally strong, and would destroy himself at the services of other people. And although he won things, he won the obviously the 1988 trial in the Tour de France. And he won. The reason, obviously, the reason why he won time trials was because he’s so good. And in the territory, you can’t ride for someone else unless it’s a time trial, team time trial. So he won time trials. But you know, he’d probably maybe he lacked a bit of self belief or he lacked a bit of self confidence or something. It could be argued that he could have won more races had he been more selfish, but the reason why everyone loves him is because he isn’t selfish. He is a straight down the line, brilliant, decent human being.

Carlton Reid 41:50
So what’s he doing for you apart from opening his wonderful contacts book he’s coming out of here he’s recceing things for you. He’s like looking at that’s got a pothole, we can’t go on that route. Yeah. That kind of is it? Is it that kind of granular?

Justin Clarke 42:02
So Sean is a stakeholder in LeBlanq, so there are two people that I wanted to be integral to the growth of LeBlanq one is Sean Yates on the cycling side and the other is Ashley Palmer Watts on the chef side. Both have stakes in the business. And it’s very deliberate. Because where Sean is highly respected by virtually every rider of the last 40 years, Ashley Palmer Watts is respected by almost every chef in the world. And I’ve worked with virtually every top chef in the world actually is a top chef in the world, and therefore there’s a different relationship. And then it’s one of when we work with the talent and you’ve seen this. We’re not booking the talent to come and just do a job and go again. The talent are integral to the narrative and the story and the experience. Nieves was on the right. Michelin star chef from several was at Barrafina Barra fina was obviously sensational restaurant that became a restaurant chain. She’s beautiful human being a member of the RCC, she rides a bike, she cooks the food. Pete Tong is the ultimate DJ, he’s out on the ride on Sunday. It’s these people are integral to the experience. They’re not just a booking. If they were just a booking, they just kind of do what they normally do. They fly in, they fly out. That’s it. But that’s not what.

Carlton Reid 43:29
So this is not a bike holiday. So there are lots of companies that do bike holidays where you could come riding. So you’re you’re offering something extra to that. I mean, look, there’s the other companies that do food as well, and bikes, but you’re offering the riders, and very, very, very close access to the riders. So close, you are following them, you know, an inch away from their their back wheel down Scary, scary. The sense as I found out that that’s where you’re coming from that is that is that that element is the riders is what people? What do you think people are coming for?

Justin Clarke 44:09
Tthey’re coming for escapism, we do luxury escapism on bikes, that’s what we do. The riding is joy riding. we’ve coined this expression of joy riding and it could be, you know, technically joy riding is stealing cars, but joy riding for us is riding your bike for pleasure, whatever your version of pleasure is. And you know, because you’ve been on the rides, we have the black group, but the black group was smashing themselves to bits to ride as fast as hard as they can, because that is their pleasure. And then we have our green group, which half of them were riding the bikes, and they are just take you there drinking in the scenery, because that is their pleasure.

Carlton Reid 44:52
And how do you do that? This is what I’ve found very, very, there’s many things about this. I’ve found impressive, obviously all the things you’ve already mentioned. But what I found really impressive compared to .. because I’ve done many, many bike tour trips with a variety of companies — is the way that you’ve somehow got people in the right group, I would say 95% of the time. And yes, you’ve got a questionnaire. But people probably don’t actually fill questionnaires in properly anyway, sp how are you, how are you physically matching people to those groups and getting it so spot on, you know, from the get go not having to ditch people or people up?

Justin Clarke 45:32
Yeah, so LeBlanq has its own concierge. And Lisa, who, sadly she was, she was ill on a pretty critical day. And there’s like, it’s tragic for her. And it was kind of difficult for us. But Lisa builds relationships with every guest. And the relationship is not just a fill in the form. It’s have a conversation with a person. And we’re interested in the guests that are coming, we do our research,

Carlton Reid 45:59
Are you looking at their Strava profiles? Like I’m in black? Yeah, no, you know,

Justin Clarke 46:05
Wo what we know to be true. And here’s the thing. One of the reasons why we’re pretty good at getting right, is that we take in multiple pieces of information, and we make our own judgement. Because if we just asked the person,

they’d get it wrong. because I’m not being

sexist, but many men over exaggerate. Women under estimate.

Carlton Reid 46:29
Yeah, that’s why I was definitely coming at it. From that point of view, I slightly different from me, in that I was in many groups, and that was fine. And I’m I’m doing it for different reasons. I’m doing it for work, I’m trying to photograph at the same time. And so I couldn’t go out in the black group, because within three seconds I’d be left behind. If I wasn’t doing those things, I would like to think I could keep up with them. But I probably couldn’t. So I have been in, you know, it was just perfect. That group is just because it wasn’t stressed out. It was just it was it was mellow. So it was a joy ride. For me. And I haven’t heard of anybody here saying they, you know, they’ve gone above and beyond what they ever thought they could ever do. It’s just been rightful. So that’s, that’s a part of this, which you’re getting absolutely spot on.

Justin Clarke 47:14
Thank you. It’s so our final piece of the test to work out which group people should be in is the prologue. Yes, the prologue is a short ride, and it deliberately has a hill in it. And as you can see on the hill, that are any question, who should be in which group?

Carlton Reid 47:30
Why was that? Black? They must have seen me storming.

Justin Clarke 47:34
Because you were clearly yes, that’s, that’s the final piece of the jigsaw, we, we work very hard to make sure that the experience is as close to faultless as it can be. Yeah, you know, it’s there are so many data points now, that, that people want to share about what they’re doing that, you know, if you’re bothered, and we are we use those all those different fantasies, but it’s not just how good someone is. It’s what kind of what is a joy ride for them? You know, because some people, what not some, many people are here as couples. And the couples either want to ride together, and therefore one or rather, the non rider is on any bike to be able to keep up at the same pace, or are very happy to just go in different groups or owners, you know, they know that they can’t ride the same point. But they both want to ride for themselves. Yes. So they’re like multiple factors of what makes up a hazard. Right? And therefore, that’s why we have concierge, because when you really understand the people you can then deliver to what they’re looking for. And LeBlanq is not a race, it’s not a fixed ride. It’s a ride for pleasure for the people who are coming. And that’s that’s kind of it, you know, if we, if we had riders who are all semi professional, we probably put in 160 kilometre route, probably. But we had we had Brian Briggs, who is still what is it? He’s the Masters cyclocross champion, so he’s like an amazing rider. But we still thought now 130 kilometres, that’s enough hours in the saddle. You don’t you don’t want people to come back broken because you still got all the other bits. The meal and the recharge and everything else.

Carlton Reid 49:23
So you’re not carbo loading. You are gourmet loading. Do cyclists end up hungry on your trips?

Justin Clarke 49:34
No, no, the key meal, which is carbohydrates is the meal we give them as soon as they get back from the ride. That is pasta salad, potato salad that is carbohydrates, but it’s consumed almost without thinking. It’s a callback for the ride hungry and you walk in, you get back to the hotel, you walk in you sit down still in your sweaty cycling kit and you you have a really delicious immediate buffet meal. And that is what takes the edge away. And that’s what actually puts the calories back in from the calories who really burn, meaning that the meal they have in the evening you’re not starving, hungry. So you’re not just in your heart just need to eat this, you’re appreciating the meal. And the meal is about culture, is about location. It’s about the seasonality. And we don’t want people to be eating because they’re ravernous, we want them to be eating, again, for pleasure.

Carlton Reid 50:27
So how much are people paying? I know, I could go on the website and I could find that out. But you tell me on the tape. How much are people paying for this, including say, in addition and give us the fee that would pay to hire the beautiful Specialized Athos that I had? And and maybe if I was coming out here, it was just me the single room supplement so how much that’s a package that’s an average package how much would that cost me?

Justin Clarke 50:50
So the the average spend across the board is around about £3000. The price the price for two sharing is £2750. The single room supplement is £750. And the bike you can use for the whole weekend, a Specialized Athos is £250. Or we also did the service for exactly the same £250 where we bring your bike from the UK and you can ride your bike without the hassle of using the bike bag and everything else.

Carlton Reid 51:21
I’ve seen the photographs the bikes were brought in in the same van as the beer that’s it yeah so you see the picture by osmosis sucked up the beer. Now, I don’t want you to take this the wrong way and I can well appreciate if you go ‘I don’t want to answer that Carlton’ bu, and I asked ask you the price for this for a reason, because some people will go ‘how much?’ and I don’t go like that I go well for what you get. That is phenomenal value for money — for FFS — considering you know the people who just behind me still in a lounge you can see Adam Blyhe. I can see Matt Stephens, I can see your Andrew your photographer and Cav was there but he’s no longer there. So we’re still surrounded by a whole bunch of incredible people that cyclists such as me and you get very excited about. So it’s not expensive, really, at the end of the day. Beautiful hotel, beautiful route, 45 staff you’ve got the guides, everything is on the bring the chef’s out from lunch all this is just that is phenomenal value for money. Even if people think it’s a lot of money, it’s still phenomenal value for money. My question is, using the arithmetic of how many people you’ve had here, how much you must be paying people to be here because the riders aren’t doing this for you know for a stick of toffee, how are you making money?

Justin Clarke 52:47
It’s um, I’ll tell you how we are. We’re very good at being extremely efficient with how we work with our staff and our talent and our brand partners. One of the things that is integral to LeBlanq is the association with our brand partners. Almost everybody here will have a really close affinity now to Laurent-Perrier champage. Everybody here will understand that Cold Bath beer is a beautiful beer. They our brand partners and they are very intelligently integrated into the overall experience

Carlton Reid 53:25
Are they are different brand partners for different trips?

Justin Clarke 53:28
So we have global brand partners. Okay, so our brand partners are there this year, they’ve been talking about contracts and we’re going to go into multiple year contracts. So it’s an overall strategic programme but also we’re very good, I don’t want to give the two weeks secrets away but we are booking a hotel at low season

Carlton Reid 53:53
This is this is totally end ofseason if not there might not even be open everyone here kind of date we are

Justin Clarke 54:00
That there are many things that we do to be extremely efficient. But yeah, it’s

Carlton Reid 54:07
Even so yes and I appreciate that and I can imagine yes you’re getting sponsorship from so it’s it’s it should be £4000 or £5000 per trip for you to make money

Justin Clarke 54:21
You sound like myus board.

Carlton Reid 54:26
You know, I am not in the hospitality business. So I don’t know exactly what discount to get with what is and then how much your staff getting paid. But just as a former entrepreneur, who who tried to make money in publishing, and using all my arithmetic skills, which isn’t many is still like that’s that’s still a tight margin. You’re on even with those those things. So you’re amortising this across all of the trips across the whole time and you’re hoping people will come back. And then they’re your your valuable customers. So is that the way you looking at it as a as a this is this is a brand building? Yes, across the year?

Justin Clarke 55:12
So our first experience, so this event here average about £3000, the first event that we had, which was in Perthshire with Ashley cooking was £1800. The price. That is there’s two things, there’s price and value. The value is extremely good. The price as who you are, you see that extraordinarily high or is really cheap. That depends on how much money you have. So we are in the building process of proving concepts. We had 140 people here. And if I told the guests in advance all of the detail of exactly where it is they go, there’s no way you can possibly give me an extraordinary experience for 140 people. It’s just not possible. But we have. So we are very happy to prove ourselves and to build and to grow with a long term, medium long term strategy. The number of people who have been blown away by the fact that Leblanq has its own Master of Wine. And we are very good at choosing.

Carlton Reid 56:26

Justin Clarke 56:27
Yes. David Hesketh. He is one of 320 Master of Wine in the UK. And every trip, he always selects the wines. We have a three Michelin star chef who is overseeing every single dish that goes out, no matter who’s cooks it, we have standards, you can charge four or five or six or 7000 pounds when people believe you to be true. And you’d have to prove it first

Carlton Reid 56:55
Is that you saying you’re gonna put your prices up? I’m gonna put it the other way ‘Get on the trip quick because the prices are gonna go up you know in three trips time, do it now.’

Justin Clarke 57:07
Thank you. I like I like good value, you can still have a very high price with very good value. So we will always be good value but the price will be reflected with experience.

Carlton Reid 57:20
Thanks Justin Clark of LeBlanq there and thanks to all of those who talked to me in Ibiza. This has been episode 313 of the Spokesmen podcast. Show notes and more can be found at The next show will be an interview with author Hannah Reynolds and will be out within the next 10 days or so. Meanwhile, get out there and ride!

November 4, 2022 / / Blog

4th November 2022

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 312: Good Move: How Bicycles Could End the Occupation of Cars in the EU capital of Brussels

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUESTS: Elke Van den Brandt, mobility minister for Brussels; Luxembourg councillor and EU Committee of the Regions rapporteur for mobility Linda Gaasch; Alison Abrahams from the Casual Cycling Club; Philip Amaral, policy directer of the European Cyclists’ Federation; Kim Smouter of the European Network Against Racism; and Philipp Cerny, author of the European Mobility Atlas.

TOPICS: The burgeoning of bicycling in Brussels


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 312 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered on 4th November 2022.

David Bernstein 0:27
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Tern bicycles. The good people at Tern are committed to building bikes that are useful enough to ride every day, and dependable enough to carry the people you love. In other words, they make the kind of bikes that they want to ride. Tern has e bikes for every type of rider. Whether you’re commuting, taking your kids to school, or even caring another adult, visit www.tern That’s t e r n to learn more.vav

Carlton Reid 1:02
The UK might no longer be in the EU but this Brit recently went to Brussels to talk bikes. I’m Carlton Reid and for today’s episode I’m bringing you a bunch of interwoven interviews with Brussels-based bike advocates and Green politicians. You’ll be hearing from Elke Van den Brandt, the region-city’s mobility minister for Brussels, and I have an interview with Luxembourg councillor Linda Gaasch who successfully pitched an active mobility position paper to the EU’s Committee of the Regions. Alison Abrahams from the Casual Cycling Club explains how she’s getting more women on bikes in Brussels and Philip Amaral of the European Cyclists’ Federation puts the city’s Good Move circulation plan into a wider political persepective. Philip talks about some of the violence that greeted the introduction of this circulation plan, and I meet Kim Smouter who was up close and personal with some of that violence. But first I chat with Philip Cerny, author of the European Mobility Atlas, on the rather busy Rue de la Loi. This is a multi-lane highway from the outskirts into the centre and it has recently been reconfigured a little, with a lane each side taken away from motorists and given to cyclists and e-scooter riders. Naturally, motorists have claimed this reallocation of road space is the reason for the road’s current traffic jams.

If you can hear us above the bothersome road noise here I am with Philip Cerny.

So for what outside all the different EU EU buildings here, and we have

what what is this road? First of all, do you know what the road is?

Philipp Cerny 3:15
It’s Rue de la Loi the main road through the heading through the European headquarters.

Carlton Reid 3:24
And they basically taken where we’re standing amongst all this motor traffic and they have taken lanes away on each each side of the road.

They’ve taken away some space from from motorists and giving it a bit more to pedestrians and to scooter users and to cyclists.

Philipp Cerny 3:40
Exactly. And that’s that’s really helpful because the commission is also

a commission the other institutions are really promoting to, to use the bicycle. They’ve been some

challenges that

in between the commission and department had built too many parking spaces, they weren’t allowed to have so many parking spaces because they expected everybody to take their car to work. But people were actually voting with their feet or with their bicycles to say so because more and more people just notice them. It’s simply possible to get to work by bike.

Carlton Reid 4:21
Now you’ve been working in this this city for a number of years. So this traffic congestion here now isn’t caused by the bike lanes. That’s always been this has always been in a congested Street. Yes?

Philipp Cerny 4:36
It hasn’t changed a bit. It doesn’t.


better infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians now. But the car traffic essentially is still the same.

Carlton Reid 4:48
So the the basic accusation from from many people in many cities is when you put the bike infrastructure in, all of a sudden that’s what’s causing the congestion and all you got to do is

Basically just on Google Maps, probably and Google Streetview, where you can actually know that congestion was there there before. So this street was congested before they’ve taken away

car lanes, but it’s still congested.

Philipp Cerny 5:14
And in my opinion, I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon. It’s

unless the city of Brussels is really going to enforce some stricter access regulations. People will, on one level or another continue to drive into the city.

Carlton Reid 5:37
The mobility Minister Brussels says cars will always have a place in the city and region, but they should no longer rule. Green politician Elke Van den Brandt spearheads the city’s Good Move circulation plan. Here’s the European cyclists Federation’s policy officer, Philip Amaral, to explain more.

Philip Amaral 5:58
Good Move is is a is a mobility plan, like we’ve seen in many other cities. And its main objectives are to

adjust traffic circulation with the aims of reducing the volumes of cars.

Sort of ensuring that some neighbourhoods within the city have lower car speeds lower volumes are more protective of people walking and cycling,

decrease pollution

Elke Van den Brandt 6:35
The goal of this mobility plan. It’s not about transport. It’s not about transporting people from place A to B or transporting goods. It is actually about quality of life and the quality of public space in Brussels.

Carlton Reid 6:52
That’s mobility minister Elke Van der Brandt speaking, we talked in her office on the 13th floor of the Botanic Tower, an office block overlooking not just the city’s Botanical Gardens, but most of the rest of Brussels.

Elke Van den Brandt 7:08
And if you want to do something about quality of life in Brussels, and making the city more attractive for visitors and people living here and people working here, that we need to change our mobility habits, because we have about 70% of public space that’s taken up by cars in a parking space or car lanes, if you want to have more place for children to play, for elderly people to just sit on a bench, for maybe putting some trees because climate change is real is here. If we want our cafes to have better terraces, if we just want to have quality of life, in a public space, we need to talk about the occupation about cars. And we need to change that. And so we need to change the habits of mobility of mobility. So if people start moving around differently, we can gain a lot of space. And that’s the main idea of this mobility plan is one How can we make sure that we get people out of the car into onto a bike on their foots, on public transport, in shared mobility, all the other alternatives exist. How can we make this model shift to gain space and to make Brussels more attractive.

Carlton Reid 8:13
Good move was started by Elke’s predecessor. And of course, it went out to public consultation.

Boulevard Anspach, before …

Elke Van den Brandt 8:21
A public inquiry and about 80% of the people participated agreed on the goals and also the because all the communes in Brussels is very complicated. We have a region and commune. So we have a lot of political levels who need to agree on something before you can put steps. And so we have 19 communes and they all agreed on this plan. So the plan is approved every political party or has on some political level agreed on the plan. And that’s an important element. Good Move is the big mobility plans, you have 50 measurements is about

Boulevard Anspach, after …

Philip Amaral 6:27
and encourage more people to take public transport to bike, you know, to replace their car journeys. And you know, cycling is part of the mix of that. And walking is part of the mix of that.

Elke Van den Brandt 8:55
transport of goods, it’s about bicycle lanes, it’s about low traffic neighbourhoods, it’s about a lot of things. But then you have also the low traffic neighbourhoods, which are also called Good Move. And there’s, we should think about it, this confusion about it. And so these are for large

it forces you to to negotiate and to find solutions. So it is really sometimes difficult, but it is the way Brussels works. We should change that. But as long as we haven’t changed our institutional organisation, it’s where you need to work. So the note low neighbourhoods, low traffic neighbourhoods are also called Good Moves. So we divided Brussels in 30

areas and in each area we want to have a circulation plan without goal. That’s the loop

All traffic can still go in and out. But the transit is put on the structure, the main axis. So that’s the basic idea so that everybody can still get home or go out. Sometimes you will need to do a little detour. But to do encourage all the people just passing through because they want to gain one or two minutes, they want to avoid traffic lights, now we really wants to make sure that the traffic, the main traffic is put on the main roads who are conceived for it, who can support it. And so in the neighbourhoods, we want low traffic, slow traffic, and a lot of place for other things in cars.

Carlton Reid 10:35
And what about that common accusation that bike lanes and other parts of a circulation plan, increase, perhaps even create, congestion? Well, Elke gives that very short shrift.

Elke Van den Brandt 10:47
Brussel’s has been the most congested city for decades. And it’s true that people tend to forget that even before we start taking measurements, you had traffic jams, they’re not new. And we do calculate them, they have been quite stable for over the years. So if you do nothing, they will stay there. So it is it is changing habits. And there’s a lot of people

who took that somehow for granted, even people who don’t drive their cars. And that’s a mentality shift that changed about 10 years ago or 15 years ago with the historical centre of Brussels, there was this reclaim the street action [in 2012] where people were picnicking on the streets, and the idea of picnicking on the street was so gentle action. It’s nice and a Sunday between the middle of a road in the middle of the roads. But it was in the middle of the historical heart of Brussels. So who is wondering who you could pose the question. It’s really strong action, lots of people came families, children, and it became such an important signal that politics had to follow. It was a non political action in politics had to follow. So they made those roads were at the heart of the centre, they said, We’re going to make them car free. And then it became for now it’s the biggest pedestrian area, I think of Europe even so it’s a huge pedestrian area. And nobody wants to go back. And that’s that’s the first time that people didn’t take for granted the fact that our city seems to be organised to host cars to come here to work and to get out in the evening. So they realise that we can make the city for people who live here who work in want to stay off to work who want to come and visit us. So that’s an important mind shift.

But still, the congestion if now that’s the heart of it was the same debate was 10 years ago, same debate. And now we have the same debates like yes, but you’re increasing traffic, we have the data, it’s not true. The traffic is caused by cars, not by bicycles. I often say that if, for example, on the Rue de la Loi, which is very emblematic roads before the European institutions, you had four car lanes, we just took one which is not so radical, and gave it to the cyclists because they had to share the space with pedestrian before and there’s a lot of conflict between pedestrians and bicycles. So we took one we gave it to be cyclist. And the main communication was, these are your allies, because everybody who is on that cycling is not in with you in the traffic jam, they’re not picking your parking spot, when you arrive there, they’re your best ally. So give them some space, and it will help you also you will have more fluid traffic. And we took the we were following the measurements. And yes, there’s still congestion will Allah and it will be still there after everything’s gone. But the time loss is not significant. Although there’s a lot of bicycle increase on the bicycle lane. It’s even too small for the moment. So data shows that whenever he puts infrastructure in place, alternatives in place, they’re being used. But it’s the perception, of course, it’s you’re talking about mobility, and then they notice these incredible traffic jam that used to be there, but then they make one on one. And that’s

And it was the same as the pedestrian area and beginning is difficult. But now nobody wants to go back. And I’m sure that once the circulation plan is well installed, once we’ve been able to do the infrastructure works to make it permanent and people will really feel the benefit and there won’t be a call to go back but so you need to go to this phase where you rip people adapt it you need to be I think patient and grateful to people to do this efforts, but then afterwards, you can show the results.

Carlton Reid 14:58
But not everybody cares to be patient.

And there have been protests against Good Move. Here’s Philip Amaral again.

Philip Amaral 15:05
In some parts of Brussels I think notably, in the commune of Anderlecht, there has been really violent opposition at some local council meetings lately. And where people have used violent language, physical abuse, from a minority of people have to say I mean, it doesn’t look like to be a popular uprising and under like, but it’s a very vocal minority.

Kim Smouter 15:27
So I’m Kim Smouter I live in Cureghem. And I also on a day to day job, so if I get my rent, I pay I work for the European Network Against Racism.

Carlton Reid 15:36
Kim is also a bicycle advocate. And he witnessed Anderlecht’s bikelash up close.

Kim Smouter 15:44
I think there were fists

they were fists exchanged at the last town council. Yeah,

I guess we’re having in Anderlecht, I guess, the very, very symbolic fight. In the symbolic flight between kind of cars versus other forms of transportation. There was a circulation plan, which was implemented, which is a regional plan, actually. So the whole of Brussels, the whole of Good move. And essentially Cureghem, which is a neighbourhood which is known for being quite a poor neighbourhood, with a very difficult history, with local authority in particular,

And this summer is gone, this is gone. And essentially, it involves the implementation of the plan involves changing a lot of streets as direction. So some directions, some streets, which have always been one direction went the other direction. Some streets, which were very common through fairs or bypass fairs, were suddenly blocked with cement blocks and those types of things. In Cureghem, they’ve actually dropped the plans. So basically, the entire circulation plan was removed with, with essentially the commitment from the green socialist majority that they’re going to re, they’re going to go back to zero, they’re going to reconcile the entire neighbourhood, and they’re going to put a new circulation plan in place instead, whatever that looks like. That’s a big question mark.

Carlton Reid 17:19
So that was successful. And so so people shouting and maybe throwing fists. Yeah. Was that worked?

Kim Smouter 17:25
That worked, yeah. And bullying inside the town council. So like, even even I, I had an interpretation, which is kind of a concept within the local authority, where you can go to the council and say, your piece, in essence, I didn’t have a formal response from either the majority or the opposition. And even during my statement, I had people who were against kind of literally coming up to me, and interrupting my speech and asking me how long I’m going to take and those types of things. And the council members were just happy to say well, please don’t do that, it’s not very respectful. That was it. So, so yeah, so you’re really in a situation where actually yeah, bullying works, the more you shout works, and that enables you to remove an entire plan and now we have no idea where we’re going. So, yeah.

Carlton Reid 18:08
That bullying appears to work worries the mobility minister.

Elke Van den Brandt 18:12
it was it was not a happy moment this so it did it does feel doesn’t feel good. It’s in so we had a lot of discussions to learn about this episode. And it’s true that it never got the chance to be really tested. It’s from day one. There was people demolishing the the road signs. There were some furniture made some nice banks to close on the routes they will demolish so we had to put in place concrete blocks which are not so sexy, but because everything else was demolished. So from day one, it was sabotaged, and I think it was it is a problem that police didn’t defence, the measurements so it is

of control. If you put something in place you need to control the town’s housing, so it was not enforced. That’s the first step so the plan itself never really got tested. We had a difficult time the moment was implemented the first week a lot of protests but in the end people do see the advantages and do realise that we have done data so we we tackle everything with data so we can show that travel time has not augmented so the time you get from one place to another mountain because instead of going up to 50 and then going back to zero to get at a red light you know go to 30 says the curves a little bit slower but your travel time does not increase which is an important element because the biggest critic like taxi men and taxi women say we will have lose half of our clients because we can’t travel and the the fire people will get too late all those things. So we monitor, takes, there’s no loss in time.

Carlton Reid 19:53
In the nearby city of Ghent, the deputy mayor, another green, got death threats when

he introduced the city circulation plan. So does Elke Van den Brandt inspire the same sort of ill will?

Elke Van den Brandt 20:10
We do have the same thing as death threats and the aggressive Facebook groups and we can play the bingo we we’ve been in Paris ever the same it’s it is

But these are also neighbourhoods where people have questions about security, there’s direct traffic in front of see they’re afraid that their children will get in contact with the drug dealer. There’s housing problems, there’s work issues, there’s employment issues. So if you talk to those people are saying, yes, okay, we can we can perhaps hear what you want to do with mobility. But we have all these other issues. And whereas the government’s on that. And so the fact that the last decades, there’s been an underinvestment, and there has not been adequate answers also made it really difficult to go and talk about mobility because it was only about mobility. And that’s also been a frustrating I seem to my colleagues, you all need to step up now. Because I cannot work in a context where, where it’s only about mobility, we need to make sure that we have better housing programmes that we have better employment programmes that police doing the job that we tackle direct, direct traffic. So all these things need to be tackled, because otherwise people do feel abandoned.

Carlton Reid 23:47
And I don’t want you to feel I’m abandoning you but we’ll be right back after this message from my colleague, David, about our sponsor.

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Carlton Reid 28:29
Thanks, David. And now it’s back to Brussels. The City and the region’s mobility Minister Elke Van den Brandt is at the sharp end of reshaping urban mobility. But decisions made in a different part of Brussels can have huge implications across the EU. Brussels is the capital of the European Union home to the European Commission and the most important part of the European Parliament. In a moment, I’ll introduce the Committee of the Regions, which is the EU’s assembly of regional and local representatives also based in Brussels, but first, here’s Philip Ameral again, explaining a potentially big move on cycling earlier this year by the European Commission.

Philip Amaral 29:21
What happened at the end of June in Copenhagen just at the start of the Tour de France was a few things one is the Executive Vice President of the Commission Frans Timmermans gave a speech where he endorsed an initiative by French MEP Karima Delli to have a European cycling declaration, inter institutional declaration of some sort of like that something to show how important cycling is for Europe. Something to help it grow from a policy perspective and provide support from an industry perspective. as well, just before that speech think the day before Karima Delli was at an event in Lyon, France, called Connecting Europe days, which was about the trans Europe transport network TEN-T. And she sort of teased this announcement already. And then I think at that event in Copenhagen, she also joined via video link to endorse this as well. So that caused the big to do in the cycling advocacy mobility community.

Carlton Reid 30:32
Because it was a surprise or when it was a surprise?

Philip Amaral 30:36
Yeah, it’s well, a bit of a surprise and a bit of not, and I say a bit not, because I mean, we’ve seen good progress from the side of the commission towards cycling over the years. I mean, the way we look at it is that in the EU’s, smart and sustainable mobility strategy from 2021, they included cycling in there as part of that mix. rather low part compared with other modes of transport, it’s there. And then we see the urban mobility frameworks use Urban Policy come out in December last year, and much stronger knots, walking and cycling and train trips. And the idea is to, you know, require cities in Europe to create mobility plans where they feature cycling, so all of that was quite good. And even some of the legislative proposals for the tendency regulation or for bicycle parking, and other policies seemed good. So we started to notice this positive trend, and which was different from 2016, or 2017, when ECF, before I joined, was lobbying hard with many others for a new cycling strategy, where ECF had produced, you know, really thick one. And that didn’t go nowhere. And I think times are really quite different. And the reality has changed on the ground. Now, people are buying bikes, they’re riding them all around Europe, cities are just building infrastructure, not waiting for the EU. Paris is the obvious example. But I mean, in Brussels as well and elsewhere. So in that sense, it’s not a surprise, the commission is moving in that direction. But I think what continues to surprise us as the sort of the strategic ambition, at least the what’s being voiced and in speeches at events. Now, what’s important is that the speeches are backed by hard policy moves stuff we see on paper. So since then, we’ve been in touch with Delli’s office too, discuss a potential cycling resolution that might come out in the parliament later this year. And we’re in talks with the Commission to see well, what can we make of this good announcement. And Frans Timmermans. You know, his his rhetoric has been on cycling has been quite good at the Velo-city conference in Lisbon, for example, he gave a really good video talk, where he said a lot of the same things. I mean, he’s a supporter of cycling. So I think from his position, he’s trying to see how we can grow cycling Europe from a policy perspective. Of course, you know, the Commission is an uneasy institution to move in any one direction. So I would, I would say, we’re all quite optimistic about what could happen. But, you know, like, anything you level requires quite a grind.

Carlton Reid 33:35
Quite a grind, and not always joined up, partly because cycling infrastructure isn’t considered to be internationally significant. It’s devolved down to regions and cities, rather than always being considered of strategic importance. Phillip Ameral, again.

Philip Amaral 33:55
It goes both ways. At the same point, the EU would say, Well, you know, one of the main principles that we operate on is the principle of subsidiarity. So you know, what doesn’t fall within our competence, you know, falls, and then competence of national governments and municipalities and the rest of it. And, and I think up until recently, that’s been the overriding argument, when it’s come to cycling at that level, it’s like, well, you know, we have our EU funds, which goes to national governments then which they disperse and, you know, benefit cities in a way and if cities are wanting to build infrastructure for cycling, that’s great. Do it. And, and, you know, we’ll clap our hands. I think that’s changing a little bit. I think the Commission’s urban mobility framework, were their original framework from 2013 just didn’t get anywhere, didn’t really achieve any of the objectives in lower pollution and improve safety and prove congestion levels and cities didn’t really improve mobility at all, because it’s just a voluntary thing and Now, for at least the 400 Plus cities that they designate as urban nodes, so cities that have more than 100,000 people. And they will have to develop these sustainable urban mobility plans. And these plans need to have a number of things. One of them is to improve active travel, cycling, walking, and they need to be able to benchmark that, and that’s going to be linked to EU funding. So there’s some partial conditionality there. So this is for us a signal, you know that the EU is seeing this more from its continental EU perspective. But I think you’re right, the more cities show up and just start acting, that’s an indication to the EU that it needs to get aboard that, that train that bicycle bus. At the same time, though, we wouldn’t want the EU to say as well, this is great that’s happening in cities. And we’ll just continue like we’re doing and more power to you. The problem that we see throughout Europe is there are lots of great things. But then there are just lots of things that aren’t so great. There’s infrastructure that’s being built, that’s not great, you know, not an efficient way to use public money. There are cities that are going the other way, and not focusing on active travellers that on car travel, there are cycling strategies and mobility strategies that are written differently different benchmarks. So it’s really hard to compare what’s happening and to have a common benchmark set of benchmarks, because in the end, the EU will need to cut road transport emissions by 90%. If it’s going to meet European Green new goals. And obviously, more cycling in cities is one good way to do that. But in order to really use that potential, the EU is going to need a way of saying great, you know, we’re going to need X amount of infrastructure built all across Europe, it’s going to need to be you know, two 300 400 or more kilometres of infrastructure, we’re going to make 3 billion available for that and the special fund are these what existing funds for that. And here’s how you should be building that cycling infrastructure we’ve created some guidance with the Commission is actually supposed to do and and here’s how you evaluate how good that is, you know how your local mobility plan should evaluate how it’s reducing emissions, improving road safety. So then you have this comparable data and that the Commission can use then decide how much more policy support do we give? How is it achieving our Green Deal goals, etc. So this is why we Europe on a European scale, we need a common strategy, we need that policy drive and not just leave it to subsidiarity and that the cities do it because then it will just be you know, a handful or more of good initiatives, but sporadic and aren’t really achieving, collectively what’s needed. Now, it’d be a shame for the EU to miss that one.

Carlton Reid 38:07
And here’s where the Committee of the Regions comes in.

Philip Amaral 38:11
The Committee of the Regions is important because it gives a voice to that group, which is quite politically influential. Although it’s, it’s in Brussels, it’s in the same neighbourhood as all the EU institutions, but it’s a bit apart. So you know, they’re not producing legislation that has a very direct impact on things that involve us. You know, for example, the TEN-T regulation, Energy Performance of Buildings Directive about bike parking, you know, and all that. And they’re not involved in the same way as the European Commission, funding streams and all of that. But if we want more cycling to happen at a city or regional level, I mean, they’re really important to have they’re the ones who decide to spend the EU funds or even they’re the ones who should know that such funds exist and that you can be taking advantage.

Carlton Reid 39:05
I was in Brussels talk to people like Philip, Elke and Kim to report on a mobility focussed position paper drafted by Linda Gaasch, a green politician from Luxembourg. This paper, it is known as an opinion, was formally adopted by the EU’s Committee of the Regions. Gaasch was chosen to be a Committee of the Region’s rapporteur for mobility at the beginning of the year. A rapporteur is an appointee tasked with reporting on a specialist subject. Her opinion called for improved cycling networks and for the EU to develop emission free and affordable urban transport systems. I met her in one of the EU buildings the day after the successful adoption of her opinion

Linda Gaasch 39:59
First so I’m really happy that it passed. And I’m really happy of the we got a lot of good language through because it really shows that cities and regions are ready for the mobility transition. The I would say 95% of it is exactly what I wanted, there are a few minor things where the wording that was adopted wouldn’t be exactly the one I would have preferred. But it’s also not damaging the report as a whole. And it’s not questioning the main message of the report, the report was adopted, and it sends a clear message. So this is a really good step. But it’s also just the beginning, because cities and regions, of course want to be instrumental in shaping the mobility of tomorrow, mobility is made in cities for citizens. So the report now will be sent back to the different institutions. And then my job is also to make them aware, what is written in the report. So I will make sure to meet different representatives of different institutions, and also really promote the message written in the report. Because in a way, with the adoption of the report, the members have also given me a clear mandate to promote this position of cities and regions. Transport is an area that that is super interesting for grants, as it has a lot of potential to decarbonize. And there is also if we talk about transport and cities, there is also really something that has to do with the vision of how the city of tomorrow should look like the that it should be a livable city, that it should be a city where you have space to work to, to I don’t know, let your kids play the so yeah, it’s it’s, of course, very much also, I would say in the green identity to to, to be wanting to do this shift in the transport sector. The politicians, not even only mayors and local elected, but generally green politicians that I follow who have worked a lot on transport. I think their key of success is mainly to really try to involve all the actors, because what you said about like, the green stereotype of transport, and then of course, they will do a lot of things for the bicycles. It’s very real, I say, but the same time greens generally are also really trying to get the consensus and have different actors involved. So the places where drastic changes in mobility patterns of cities have worked? Well, it’s usually because all the actors were consulted. Of course, not all of them were happy at first, humans are quite resistant to change. And if you think that somebody takes something away from you, it’s, it’s your first turn to oppose it. But mainly, it has worked. And if it works for people, if, for example, you take cars out of a city centre, and all the shops that are there, we’re telling you, we’re afraid that we won’t have clients anymore, we want to have customers anymore. And then you take the cars out of the city centre and the shop owner see that people who come to their shop, the number of people who come to their shop has actually increased because people who walk are slower, and they pass by the shop, and they look at the window and they get interested. So then they see the positive change that it makes. And then, of course, their opposition is is not existing anymore. So I think this is unit politicians that can do bold decisions, but at the same time tried to get everyone on board. And then if people see on the ground, what the positive effect is, I think they don’t want to go back.

Alison Abrahams 44:11
My name is Alison Abrahams, and I’m one of the cofounders of Casual Cycling Club, which is a women’s cycling club in Brussels, which encourages women and trans, non-binary people to cycle. So we started Casual Cycling Club to attract women who didn’t cycling. So we thought it would just be for people who really, maybe had a bike in their garage or in, you know, in their cellar, and they didn’t really use it. We wanted to introduce them to cycling. What we’ve since discovered is that actually, so many more women than that want to cycle in a club setting. And we get women who are very experienced we get women who have been cycling every day for years to get to and from work, but they don’t cycle for fun. And I’ve had that long had the impression cycling for fun seems to be a male preserve, you get you go out into the countryside on a weekend for rides, and you only really see men cycling in groups together. And that sort of thing is such a shame because I love cycling, for fun for health, in chatting to my friends. And so we wanted to encourage more women to do that. And so while we started out with this one small group of women who only had city bikes or big, you know, heavy bikes, now we have three different speeds of women who join our different groups on different days of the week. So yeah, it’s been it’s been a really big success. And I think we’re really proud of it. I mean, I came for work originally, and just loved it. I really, I really love living in this city. I think it’s great. And it’s a real, it’s a small enough city, that if I cannot get somewhere within half an hour by bike, I consider if it’s worth going on. Like, I look at my friends in London, and I think, No, I couldn’t do that. Brussels is just small and manageable. And there’s a great, like I said, it’s an incredibly international cities, lots of interesting things happening. We are in Parc Cinquantenaire, which is one of the many parks in Brussels. And we’re in the middle of the running track, actually with people when they got around us. And a man doing keepy-uppies

Carlton Reid 46:32
And also it seems to be surrounded by some pretty nice cycleways. So Avenue. Renaissance is just to our left here and that look like a nice cycleway. Does that continue? Where does that go to is that famous for being a nice and the rest isn’t nice.

Alison Abrahams 46:47
Like much of Brussels in the last few years, this has been quite transformed. So in the last few years, suddenly, bike parking spots popped up all over this park. And I remember coming in and saying to the park keepers, what are these doing here? I’ve wondered this for years, they said, Yeah, we’ve had a request in with the administration for years. And we finally just got them approved. And now you know, you can see they’re really well used. And the bike lanes all around here. So this we’re in the EU Quarter of Brussels. And this is quite a sort of it. You could almost say like sort of site. It’s not officially one, but it’s almost like a cycle superhighway like people go from here, out to the suburbs of Brussels. So towards Overijse, Hoeilaart, Leuven. And there’s a kind of direct line from here that goes all the way out of the city. There are a few, you might say loose links on the way. And just up here. There’s a crossing that’s not ideal, and there’s a part of pavement that’s shared us with pedestrians. But in general, this is it’s nothing like it used to be it’s way better.

Carlton Reid 48:01
So given the fact that you are trying to bring new people into cycling with with your Casual Cycling Club, do you recognise that absolutely puts people off if you get one little part of a chain isn’t linked up that will make the whole of the rest of network null and void for people who are maybe you’re trying to attract?

Alison Abrahams 48:21
Absolutely. You know, something that we do with Casual Cycling Club is that we say to women who have never joined us before, we can come and literally pick you up from your house and bring you to the start of the ride. Because for some people that is absolutely a barrier to them cycling in the city. And I think I heard alcova anabranch is the Minister for mobility in the region. said recently, you know, cycle infrastructure is only as strong as its weakest link. And I couldn’t agree more that for me, I have a lovely bike lane to get to work. But to get onto that bike lane, I have to use the kind of defensive cycling that you spoke about, I have to cycle in a street, which is one way for cars, but bi directional for bikes. And I’m coming up against these enormous vehicles who are, you know, driving well beyond the speed limit? And yeah, I feel fine. I feel completely safe. And I feel absolutely confident to do that. But I’ve been cycling here for over 10 years. And that’s not the case for everybody. Elke Van den Brandt has done really an excellent job. I have to give her full credit for that. She’s working in what is sometimes a very hostile environment to cycling in their political parties in Brussels, who bemused me in their

opposition to what should be very common.

Carlton Reid 49:45
Left and right?

Alison Abrahams 49:46
Like that, yes. What the Liberals really who kind of set up their stall on this sort of anti mobility agenda. But I think that one thing that everybody knows is is missing. is the kind of it’s the smallest streets so well, you know, the big axis, you go them the Grand Axis, you know, that cut through and across and around the city cycling infrastructure on those has vastly improved. But there are areas which often very residential, where the small streets, nothing has changed, really. And I think that’s kind of the next step in order to really get people onto their bikes.

Carlton Reid 50:26
Elke Van den Brandt wants Good Move to transform how people get around Brussels, but, I asked Philip Amaral, will be the city, the city home to the EU, ever become as bicycle friendly as Amsterdam?

Philip Amaral 50:45
I don’t know if it will be Amsterdam, but I do think it will be really close. I think the momentum is there. I think what we’re seeing now is, you know, the, the inevitable conflicts that arise when you know something new is coming on new plan. But as long as the political leaders here stick with the plan. And as long as they’re able to convince people from other political parties to support the plan, and then the things get built, because that’s really important is get the money build it. People adapt when they see things on the street. Nice infrastructure, nice cycling path, wide sidewalks, good public transport service. And then it will just be you know, the past will be something that you think about like …

Carlton Reid 51:46
Thanks to all of those who took the time to talk to me in Brussels and thanks to you for listening to episode 312 of the Spokesmen Cycling podcast. Show 313 is audio from LeBlanq Ibizaa and will be with you real soon but meanwhile, get out there and ride.

October 30, 2022 / / Blog

30th October 2022

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 311: You don’t have to be horrible to win

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUESTS: Donna Tocci, Jim Moss

TOPICS: Roundtable discussion on Cav’s chances of winning a stage of the 2023 Tour de France, Musk’s takeover of Twitter, Mario Cipollini’s three year prison sentence for domestic abuse, and will Denver’s super popular e-bike rebate program reduce car trips? See links, below.


Joe Lindsey article on Cav in Bicycling


Denver’s e-bike rebate program

Mario Cipollini sentenced to 3 years in jail

Jim’s article on Bicycle Retailer

October 27, 2022 / / Blog

27th October 2022

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 310: Cycling legends roundtable with Mark Cavendish, Oscar Freire, Adam Blythe, Johan Museeuw & Matt Stephens

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUESTS: Mark Cavendish, Oscar Freire, Adam Blythe, Johan Museeuw & Matt Stephens

TOPIC: This roundtable discussion was recorded at LeBlanq’s Joyride in Ibiza

LINKS: LeBlanq

October 10, 2022 / / Blog

10th October 2022

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 309: Old crew is back

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: David Bernstein

GUESTS: Tim Jackson, Donna Tocci, Jim Moss, Carlton Reid


  • What is everyone up to these days?
  • The Hour Record
  • UCI Gravel Worlds
  • Cycling Tips Reporter Disallowed From Worlds in Australia
  • UCI Changes Rule to Combat Aero Advantages in Time Trials
  • Official at Finishing Line Gets Handsy with Lorena Wiebes
  • National Cycling League
  • Electric Bikes

David says:

Tim says:

  • UCI Gravel Worlds
  • UCI is “sport washing” some bad actors, still/ again/ as always … (link?)Can’t I just rail, as always? (TIM- part of a Twitter dialog, with Joe Lindsey, I’ll try to find. Lapartient gave a tepid response to reporter’s question about risk of sportwashing- basically, “we need the money.”)
  • Bike market is auguring like a lawn dart. (???)
  • e-Bikes are here to stay, even as Rad Power Bikes is getting sued into extinction, battery fires are making the news, Florida hurricane Ian e-bikes represent a huge fire risk through the damage/ flood zones … (David loves his eMTB) ?

Jim Says:

My truck last night bringing 19 bikes back from the BSA Camporee.

Josh Reid