What Jeremy Vine gets wrong about cyclists

I can’t believe we need to say this, but here goes: Motorists should not pull over to allow cyclists to overtake. I know it’s obvious, but the cycling elites have been agitating for this ridiculous rule-change, led by Jeremy Vine. In an interview yesterday, he upped the ante in his general campaign to turn the country’s drivers into a second-class citizens. ‘I’m starting to think I want cars to pull over if they see me behind them because they know I’m faster,’ he told the Sunday Times. Thus the shark was jumped. I’m a cyclist myself and I’d wager I’m quite a lot faster than Vine. I’m younger, for a

Real cyclists don’t use e-bikes

An impossible 45 years ago, I decided the moment had come to get back on my pushbike. I had long hated the way the motor car was taking over the world and wanted to play my part in changing this. I also had a more selfish reason. After two years on the Fleet Street diet of lunchtime excess, I could already see my first heart attack was not far off. I was in my late twenties and getting almost no exercise. I knew of people in the newspaper business who did so little walking that the uppers of their shoes wore out before the soles did. Something had to be

The case against Ulez – by a cyclist

Whether you’re more afraid of the forces of order or the forces of chaos is generally a matter of disposition. A natural anti-authoritarian who despises being told what to do – especially when told to do something stupid – I’m more horrified by excesses of order. Granted, my greater fear of the state may simply betray that I’ve largely lived in an orderly western world, and after a few dog-eat-dog nights of mayhem and carnage I might change my tune. Nevertheless, during the Covid lockdowns, for example, I was less distressed by the odd neighbour who dared to invite a friend to tea than by most Britons’ blind, bovine compliance

How to travel the world on a Brompton

The first time I set eyes on a Brompton, well over a quarter of a century ago on the Lincolnshire coast, I thought it was a child’s bike. When the owner returned, he took great delight in demonstrating its folding mechanism, untangling the metal tubes and cables. I decided I wanted one but delayed making the purchase until I reached retirement.  Much of the decade since then has been spent travelling solo to well over 100 countries across six continents – with my Brompton in tow. It has accompanied me to 42 European capital cities and several African countries. Unlike conventional road bikes, the great advantage of the Brompton is its portability. When folded,

Stop demonising cyclists

If you were to ask me how many bicycles I’ve had in my life, my response would be about as precise as Boris Johnson’s to the question of how many children he’s fathered. In my case, so many bikes have been stolen over the years – including one attached to a signpost (which vanished along with the bike) and another that I left unlocked for 45 seconds outside Nicolas on Holland Park Avenue. That turned out to be the most expensive bottle of wine I’ve ever taken to a dinner party. (In fact, that was the same bike that had previously been harvested of 90 per cent of its components after

The embarrassing truth about how I got injured

I had a bicycle accident last week. Not terrible, but not great either. Of the five I’ve had since I took up cycling more than 20 years ago, it ranked third. No stitches needed,unlike the worst, which required more than 50 and a night in hospital. I didn’t bother with A&E this time, in spite of concerned onlookers advising me to. I think it looked worse than it was. Head injuries generally do because there’s so much blood. I’m slightly wary writing about this because I don’t want to give the anti-motorist lobby any more ammo. In fact, there were no other vehicles involved. The accident was actually caused by

I just can’t face one more argument with anyone, ever again

The cyclist was on the wrong side of the road coming towards me head-on. It was a winding country lane with blind bends and as I came round one, there was the cyclist, pedalling furiously along the lane on his hard right hand side. I slammed on my brakes, but instead of beeping my horn, I thought: ‘Let it go, I can’t be bothered. I just can’t face one more argument, ever again, with anyone.’ I never seem to get disputes one at a time. Troubles always come to me in multitudes. I fight at least two major battles on behalf of someone else or myself at any given time.

The Brompton bike has overcome its biggest drawback

Brompton is one of those brands that has Britishness baked into it; it’s the reason why the bike has become a status symbol amongst China’s metropolitan elites and why 75 per cent of Bromptons are exported. But it was always hard to tell whether riders loved the idea of the bike more than its reality. On paper, a folding bike is a no-brainer for city commuters short on space, but packing in so many mechanisms while keeping the bike light has proved more than a little challenging. If you’ve ridden a standard Brompton then – say it quietly – you’ll know that despite their massive success they do have a tiny bit of

Is any sporting event more brutal than the Tour de France?

That great Frenchman the Marquis de Sade would have been justly proud of the Tour de France had he lived to see the day. Should we deduce that sado-masochism is a French trait? No question. Has there ever been a more brutal event in world sport? This year’s race kicks off in Denmark (yes, really) at the weekend on its way to more than 3,500km of lung-busting effort. The question is: can anyone stop Tadej Pogacar, the 23-year-old Slovenian prodigy and winner of the last two Tours? He is in staggering form this year, having minced his home Tour and a series of other races. A brilliant climber and time

The cycling habit most hated by drivers

Sunday mornings in the Hampshire countryside remind me of a medieval pageant. While marketeers open their stalls and labradors bark, you see hundreds of jousters in gaudy livery steering their two-wheeled chargers along the lanes, trying not to get knocked off. But while everyone loves a knight, everyone hates a cyclist. Reader, I must confess: I myself am a member of the brotherhood of Lycra. I don’t shave my legs, I hasten to add. Though the fact that I’ve just written that shows how seriously my tribe takes their pursuit. Since taking up cycling in 2019, I have ridden thousands of miles and competed in several amateur races. The sense of

How to try Cornwall’s new 150-mile cycle route

With many people having taken up cycling during lockdown, the West Kernow Way is bound to prove popular this summer. A new initiative from Cycling UK, it’s one that I’m surprised hasn’t come sooner. This part of the world is awash with bridleways, cycle-able terrain and quiet backcountry roads suited to bikes. It’s also part of the world best explored slowly – drive past this landscape without stopping at the ruins, the pubs and the hamlets and you’re missing a fundamental part of what makes this area of Cornwall special. It’s set to be a popular route, intended to be covered over four days. So what are the highlights and where should you

Graham Robb deserves to be a French national treasure

This is a ceaselessly interesting, knowledgeable and evocative book about France over thousands of years. Is it at all likely to have been produced by a French writer? Though it’s about some deeply serious subjects, it’s very amusing; it makes no attempt to constrain itself within an overarching theoretical framework; it would be impossible to extract from it a grand statement beginning ‘The French are all…’; it is pragmatic, full of enterprising scholarly initiative and a gift for observation without intruding. Most strikingly, it’s a book about France in which the author has profitably spent a good deal of time outside Paris. Perhaps my experience of French students of their

Letters: What happened to bells on bikes?

Jesus wept Sir: Sam Dunning’s brilliant exposure of the corrupting links between Jesus College, Cambridge and the Chinese Communist party (‘Centre of attention’, 5 February) raises the question of how the college can be rescued from its current leaders. Their virtue-signalling gestures (the Benin bronze, the Rustat memorial etc) have already prompted many of us alumni to delete Jesus from our wills. But this association with vile tyranny is altogether more serious. Perhaps an academic boycott might bring the Master and Fellowship to their senses. Certainly something must be done to save this ancient Christian foundation from its present role as an agent and support of manifest evil. Francis Bown

The ceaseless self-pity of cyclists

I know that all must have prizes in the Victimisation Olympics these days, but when I heard a bicycle-rider on Radio 5 Live this week complaining about being ‘dehumanised’ and ‘othered’, I really knew we’d reached peak woo-woo with the ceaseless self-pity of cyclists. ‘What’s the magic word?’ our mums used to ask us. Today it’s not ‘Please’ but ‘Mine!’ as various groups jostle for attention and funding. If you’re in a wheelchair I get your point — ramps all round! But it is ludicrous for those voluntarily on two wheels rather than forced to be on four to act all aggrieved. It’s pedestrians and drivers who need protection from

Fact check: are cycle lanes really making traffic worse?

London is the most congested city in the world and it’s the cycle lanes wot done it. That is the impression you will pick up from the headlines this morning.  ‘Cycle Lanes Blamed as City Named Most Congested,’ reads a BBC headline, to take but one example. The story emerges, it turns out, from a global index published by transport consultancy Inrix, which claims that motorists in London spent an average of 148 hours in traffic jams this year, more than in any other country in the world. In the past year, the city climbed from being the 16th most-congested of those studied to the most congested of that lot.

The real sporting star of this summer

Think of a punishing distance for a bike race. Double it, multiply by ten, throw in two of the world’s great mountain ranges — and now you have the course for that epic examination of man’s very being known as the Tour de France, a ruthless appraisal of his heart, mind and soul. Not to mention body. Trying to dominate such a mighty beast is extraordinarily difficult. There are men who have subdued it multiple times to finish in the yellow jersey. But dominate it? That’s another story. On Saturday, while England’s footballers were limbering up for a mere 90 minutes of kickabout against a modest Ukraine side, Tadej Pogacar,

The Richard Freeman affair casts a cloud over British cycling

For those with neither the time nor inclination to plough through a PhD in the intricacies of the scandals surrounding British cycling, here’s a quick suggestion for Sir Dave ‘Marginal Gains’ Brailsford, head of Team Sky, now Ineos Grenadiers. His former team doctor, Richard Freeman, has been found guilty of ordering packages of banned testosterone for an unnamed rider a decade ago in 2011 but — in a neat piece of Harry and Meghan-style ‘We’re not saying who said what’ — has refused to reveal which athlete. Armstrong said it wasn’t certain that he gained any unfair advantage from doping So since it seems that marginal gains might involve considerably

The war on cars is backfiring

For most London-based politicians, there’s a threat that’s worse than Covid. You’ll begin to notice it as we ease out of lockdown. It’s not the Brazilian variant that keeps them awake at night, or collapsing hospitals. Nope. What really worries them is the thought of cars. Watch them pale as they mutter the words ‘car-led recovery’ and marvel at the variety of tortuous schemes cooked up to thwart motorists. You’d have thought, given the teetering economy, that any recovery, car-led or otherwise, would be welcome — especially as pollution plummeted between 2017 and early 2020, and diesel’s the problem, not your average commuter ride. Volvo said on Tuesday that all

The AMX Stealth: will this indie e-bike take off?

Analog motion, the brand behind the incredibly popular AM1+, are back with their latest model, the AMX Stealth. The company — so I’m told enthusiastically by their CEO — claims to have had a rethink, and wants to now ‘focus on making products that people love’. This surprised me, since their AM1+, reviewed last year, was exactly that: a lightweight, fun, cool and incredible loveable bike (with a loveable price tag). Even more surprising, then, was the news that it wants to depart from this model and focus on higher-value, higher spec — and of course higher cost — models, the first of which is the AMX Stealth. Everything about

Letters: Is cycling really conservative?

Veritas vincit Sir: Professor Dawkins eloquently and engagingly defines true truth for us (‘Matters of fact’, 19 December). It seems to me that ‘true’ is a poor little four-letter word with a heavier workload than is reasonable. Historic truth may include ascertainable facts, which I suppose he would pass, but combined with conclusions based on available evidence or ‘true-to-life’ conjecture. Theological truth combines historic fact with unassailable moral principle and a journey of imagination beyond the reach of experience. It cannot be called untrue — only unproven. Perhaps we need to find a word with more gravitas than ‘truth’ for the scientists. I suggest ‘veritas’ — as found in vino.Charles