Konrad started his presentation by describing the Workplace Challenge presently being organised by British Cycling. Details are available on a website called everydaycycling.co.uk. Essentially, the objective is to encourage cycling to work, by handing out free T-shirts to anyone wishing to participate, in exchange for which they will be expected to keep a log of all their cycling journeys during July.
He then put us in the picture regarding his own racing involvement (road and cyclocross) with the Finsbury Park CC. He described the difference between the bikes required for the two (which comes down to clearance under the brakes and tyre widths and treads. His own road bike (Giant ‘sloping’ frame, DS front wheel, someone else’ rear wheel) weighs about 18lbs. The rear wheel is deep-sectioned, and a bit heavy. He also uses 23mm tyres for road work, which give a much better ride and more adhesion than narrower ones. 30mm is preferred for off-road.
He has a nine close ratio rear block (minimum 12) and a double on the front ((larger 50). The smaller front seemed to be about 36, and looked very small. He explained that he’d transferred the equipment from a cyclocross bike.
He travels to all sorts of places to take part in races, with Mallorca a favourite for winter road events. Britain isn’t really much good for road events, as there’s such reluctance to divert traffic. (He described a typical bit of British organisation in the town of Glossop, on the Tour of Britain. Town centre trafic had been brought to a halt, with barely adequate manoeuvering space, but at least an attempt. The leading group went through OK, so the police released the traffic. By the time the main group arrived, the place was its usual snarled-up self, leaving world-class riders to battle it out with buses.) The best road events are on the continent, as always.
Konrad prefers this now.
It is used as a means of maintaining fitness during the winter, with usually 15 meets per winter season in the south east. Using 2 bikes for winter cyclocross is not only allowed, it gives a positive advantage as they clog up very quickly on many courses.
There are no longer any cyclocross courses in London parks; all routes are now outside London, with Kent being a favourite. Courses are usually on a few kilometres long, with cyclists expected to do many laps.
Eastway Cycle Circuit Saga
He then mentioned the disappointing tale of the Eastway Cycle Circuit, which had long been a favourite with many aspiring cyclists because of its easy accessibility. Despite the promises, it has not been replaced at all yet, and the offer received from the developers for the ‘legacy’ replacement was to have been a measly 7 hectares alongside the M25 hard shoulder. (The original circuit had covered 35 hectares.) This was agreed by the Cycling Governing Body, who took the line that as there would be a velodrome there was no real need for a road circuit.
However, the Eastway Users Group has managed to force a rethink, and there’s a better chance now of a more suitable substitute, though it’ll probably be sited much further out and therefore be far less popular.
There was also supposed to be a temprary arrangement in place by now; but this hasn’t happened, which is partly why one sees so many riders training in Regent’s Park now (again). He half expected the temporary circuit to be arranged by next season.
Not for the faint-hearted or inexperienced. There is some overlap between track and road riders, but not in his case. The equipment is very different.
Competitive cycling isn’t popular. The total membership of the UK clubs is only about 20000, with half these registered for racing with the Governing Authority. Konrad described how difficult it is to mount a proper team for an event like the Tour from such a small base of riders. Funding these days is very much orientated towards results, which means track events where a promising individual can be identified and encouraged. This is a far more reliable way of bringing home the gold than trying to get a complete Tour team together.
Konrad ended with an appeal. He wants to see more cooperation between the campaign groups and the clubs, because we really are all about the same thing.
Description James Brander, Photos Helen Vecht