Gah…another fiver down the swanny

The latest issue of BlokesEtc is out, and it’s pretty much as you’d expect (but with more machismo, more listicles and fewer exclamation marks). Intelligent, informed, incisive, amusing…it is none of these things. And I’m afraid my overwhelming sense of ennui prevents me from saying any more about it.

I’ll be back on Monday with some thoughts about Cycling Active, or Pro Cycling. Or something.


Gizza job. I could do that!

Well, it looks like my handy guide to getting a job as a cycling journalist is going to be more handy than you thought. Yes, there are jobs up for grabs at Time Inc, publishers of Cycling Weekly and Cycling Active. They want a Fitness Editor and a Fitness Writer, a News Editor, and a Tech Writer.

In case you missed the announcement, this is what they’re after:

Fitness Editor, Cycling Weekly/Cycling Active

This key role involves leading a team of writers to produce brand-centric, media-neutral  fitness content tailored to each of our channels. The ideal candidate will have a strong knowledge of heinous recipes involving beetroot, brown rice and lingenberries.

Key requirements:

  • Proven back-stabbing and arse-covering experience
  • Strong knowledge and understanding of all aspects of office politics
  • Ability to sub your own copy because we got rid of all the production staff
  • Understanding of middle-management report-creation protocols
  • Idea generation to initiate, create and develop industry-leading click-bait
  • Good planning and organisational skills (you’ll need them to get to Farnborough)


Fitness Writer, Cycling Weekly/Cycling Active

Our fitness writers produce massively complex fitness and training plans that no one will read or follow, across print, online and video. The ideal candidate will need to be able to fill in for the Fitness Editor while he/she develops their TV presenting career prior to moving somewhere less awful than Farnborough.

Key requirements:

As above

News Editor, Cycling Weekly

The successful candidate will lead a team of writers to produce breaking, informative, up-to-date news content from around the world (stop sniggering at the back!)

The ideal candidate will be experienced in cutting and pasting from and, curating the latest press releases from the advertisers, and producing videos that aren’t quite as good as GCN’s.

Key requirements

  • Vague understanding of domestic and international cycle sport
  • Unwillingness to ask the tough questions
  • Understanding of content needs of different advertisers
  • Good planning, organisational and butt-kissing skills
  • Clean driving licence (Really? What the hell is one of those?)

Tech Writer, Cycling Weekly/Cycling Active

Working as part of our road tech team, our tech writers test bikes and products, report on new launches and provide authoritative buying advice to our readers, visitors and viewers (coz we is brand-centric n media-neutral, innit).

The successful candidate will be passionate and hugely knowledgeable about cycling technology. Strong seplling and grammer is essential, while previous writing experience would be frowned upon.

Our tech writers move effortlessly between our canteen, the gents and the pub print brands, website and video, developing a strong understanding of how different content types and approaches work across different channels.

Key requirements

  • Some knowledge and partial understanding of cycling technology
  • Strong spleling and grammer
  • Ability to turn stuff in two days after deadline
  • Understanding of content needs for different platforms: print, video, mime, interpretive dance
  • Idea generation to initiate, create and develop industry-leading vacuous drivel

So there you have it. Jobs for everyone, triples all round! Except, of course, that the jobs are in Farnborough (apparently that’s somewhere near Southampton). I can just picture their sad little faces at the meeting in Leon House:

Gary Coward-Williams: “Listen up, everyone. You’re moving out of Croydon!”
CW/CA Staff: “Yaaaay! After years stuck in this shit-hole we’re finally allowed into the Blue Fin building!”
Gary Coward-Williams: “Well, not exactly. We’ve flogged it. The bosses and fashionistas are staying put, but you lot are relocating to….Farnborough!”
CW/CA Staff: “Er…where?”
Gary Coward-Williams: “Farnborough. It’s in…um..Berkshire? Surrey? I dunno…somewhere like that. And the good news is that an annual season ticket from London to Farnborough is only 60% of your salary. Woo-hoo!”
CW/CA Staff: “Fuck it…I’m leaving.”


Pick Two

“Ex-riders live their lives in slow-motion. Eddy Merckx. This man has been signing autographs for 200 years. He has a certain look. He looks straight at you but his eyes somehow stop looking two metres before they reach yours. You both glare at the void between you and him.”

This is classic Rouleur material. As Keith Bontrager never said: “Poetic. Pretentious. Insightful. Pick two.” But this is what you get with Rouleur. It’s not easy, and it’s not comfortable, but it is thought-provoking and rarely boring.

The opening quote was from part 2 of their big interview with Jan Ullrich, conducted and photographed by The Danes. The first part left me scratching my head and wondering where they were going with this interview, and by the end of part 2 I’m none the wiser. It is both hugely disappointing and at the same time hugely engaging. If you wanted to know anything about Ullrich the racer, you’re better off waiting for Dan Friebe’s book (The Greatest That Never Was) to come out. But if you want a glimpse beneath the skin of one of cycling’s great enigmas, this is a good place to start. This isn’t so much an interview as the story of a journalist failing to get the interview, but not minding too much and at the same time showing us the ordinary man behind the earring.

Even before you get to the Ullrich “interview” there are two things to mention — Martin Proctor’s excellent cartoon look into the future of pro cycling, and a gorgeous photo of Mount Tiede under the stars, taken by Michael Blann. Both marvelous in their own ways.

The piece on the Mur de Huy is really more about the nature of pain and suffering on a bike than about a steep hill in the Ardennes, but is not bad. The cod psychology at the end is a bit too cod for my liking, but it’s not terrible. However the article about the demise of the Colombia Coldeportes team, and the struggles faced by all lower-level teams, is really good. The gulf between the haves and the have-nots seems to be getting ever wider, and this article shines a bright light on just how hard it is to keep a Continental-level team going. Fascinating, if slightly depressing, stuff.

Next is an article about Fabian Cancellara. He was in London at the end of last year, and every man and his dog conducted an interview with him. To be honest, I didn’t really want to read this, but I’m glad I did because it’s the bits between the quotes, the bits by Andy McGrath, that really allow this piece to shine. And I assumed the following piece about Endura and Moviestar would be a piece of PR puff, but it was more interesting than I expected.

Following on from this is an interview with Ryder Hesjedal. I didn’t bother, I’m afraid. It’s a Q&A, which always feels a bit lazy and doesn’t allow for the insightful gap-filling we got in the Cancellara interview. And it’s Ryder Hesjedal. I don’t care. But the Tour de San Luis article was great, mostly because I know very little about this race, the pictures are lovely, and it contains the least subtle accusations of doping that I’ve ever read. Normally I hate covering races, but the Tour de San Luis sounds brilliant.

And that’s it. Generally a good read, containing some beautiful words and photos, and a tenner well spent in my book. As usual there’s some stuff in there I don’t really “get”, but overall I enjoyed it. And nary a listicle in sight.


I probably won’t be blogging tomorrow on account of a pair of these having turned up, and I’ll probably be far too toroidal to concentrate on blogging.



Just a quickie

Sorry people…work is getting in the way of bloggery, so I’ll just leave you with some stills from GCN’s latest plug for their sponsors. I have to say that from a GCN point of view, the timing of this is not great. Even the bike press has finally woken up to the fact that Canyon can’t deliver anything when they say they will, or else they just randomly cancel your order.

Canyon are blaming a change to a new factory, or new IT system, or their hamster ate their homework, or some such cobblers. The fact is that Canyon have had problems for years; it just seems to be even worse at the moment. So GCN putting out PR puff piece on Canyon is not going to endear them to a lot of people.

canyon 2.jpg

However, one of my spies has scooped up some footage from the cutting-room floor and I am delighted to be able to tell you that I’ve tracked down your bike.

canyon 3.jpg

Oh wait. No, that’s not it.

canyon 5.jpg

No, that’s not it, either. Hold on…

canyon 4.jpg

Nope, not there either.

canyon 6.jpg

Back tomorrow with thoughts on Issue 60 of Rouleur.



Back on track?

A quickie today, as I have bicycles to ride, places to go, coffee to drink.

The March issue of Cyclist is out, and it has a nice sunny cover. So that’s good. And they have girls on the cover, in a good way, which is a refreshing change, even though we’re already well into the 21st Century.

After the usual news and new product stuff (puffa jackets? Really? On a bike?) we have an interesting little interview with Vin Denson about his part in Fast & Furious 6 being Tommy Simpson’s super-domestique. It’s a nice little piece, as is the following article about fast fueling during a ride. The piece about the Etixx training camp was a bit of PR puff for the team and failed to address the really important questions, such as why can’t the riders tie their shoelaces quicker. They spend all this time practicing lead-outs, sprinting, weight-training, and so on, yet they haven’t mastered the one thing that will get you an invite to a hellish sandpit in the middle-east — brisk shoelace tying. For the Qataris to complain about lack of respect while simultaneously working hundreds of migrant workers to death building football stadiums seems a bit rich, but it’s their money and they can put it in whichever brown envelope they like.

This month the High Grand Wizard of the Velominati is talking about riding in bad weather, but it’s just regurgitating oft-told stories of Bernard Hinault and Andy Hampsten and saying it’s OK not to ride if it’s icy. Meh.

The Big Ride this month is on the Croatian island of Hvar. And it’s fine. Susannah Osborne is a travel writer and does these things well, but it’s 15 pages long and the photos aren’t all that (why the occasional black and white? And too much contra-jour and lens-flare). The other issue I have is why Hvar? Yes it’s pretty. And yes it has some nice enough roads. But so do so many Mediterranean islands. And Hvar isn’t a big island, so is anyone really going to ship their bike over there to spend two days riding? I don’t know. I wouldn’t, but that’s because I’ve already been there by boat and know that there are only really two roads on the island.

So last month Cyclist did a ride outside San Francisco and this month it’s in Croatia. For me, this is not the way forward. I really only want three types of riding articles:

  • Stupidly hard Gran Fondos that I will never ride but which puts the journalist in a world of pain (Etape, Marmotte, etc).
  • Beautiful iconic rides which are achievable for most of the readers (Alps, cobbles, Pyrenees, Dolomites, etc).
  • Ridiculous tales of derring-do in weird places (cycling up K2 on a unicycle).

And while it’s nice for journalists to get a free holiday somewhere sunny, it doesn’t necessarily give the readers what they want (or maybe it’s just me).

Moving on, next is a good piece about dealing with extremes of temperature while riding. It’s an interesting sciencey article that neatly finds the middle ground between advice for newbies and degree-level biochemistry. This is about imparting useful, thoughtful advice rather than treating us all like idiots or showing off how much the author knows. Good stuff.

I generally don’t like racer interviews much, but the profile on Lizzie Armitstead was more interesting than most. I generally find that women racers tend to be more interesting and forthcoming than their male counterparts, and this seems to be the case with Armitstead. It would have been interesting if she had been asked about the dichotomy posed by being excited about her Team GB kit while at the same time living as a tax-exile. Monaco is full of British sports stars who are proud to be British but are unwilling to pay tax in Britain. But then I don’t know much about non-dom tax affairs, so let’s move on to the UK Ride…Trevor Ward’s Scottish road trip. He flogged a piece to CA about cycling the islands and now he’s punted a piece to Cyclist on the joys of cycling in the Highlands. It’s a nice story, with nice photos, and it’s a lovely part of the world. What’s not to like?

The story about Demon Frameworks is also pretty good, and reminds me why I ride the Pig-Iron Pista rather than something made from plastic. Demon is a proper one-man-band fabricator and makes some lovely frames. I like stories like this, and this one is well executed. Almost Rouleur-esque in some respects.

Next is a story about the Trek team press officer, which is an engaging look behind the scenes at a part of a team that rarely gets any recognition. Being a press officer must be a total nightmare most of the time, and this piece gives us a glimpse of what it’s like. Poor buggers. I enjoyed the Bianchi Gran Fondo piece too, mostly because it reminded me why Italy is still my favourite cycling country. Roll on summer and my annual pilgrimage to the Appenines.

Bikes tested this month are a Hersh Disc (which is really a Sarto Ernergia), a Cervelo S5 and a Chesini GP. All quite interesting in their own right. The Equinox carbon wheels are also interesting, albeit pricier and heavier than many at this level. And finally, Felix is telling us all about who has moved to which team and what sponsors they have. This is clearly written for people who have used up their data allowance and haven’t had internet access for the last month.

And that’s your lot. It’s a considerable improvement on the last couple of issues and even though it now costs £5.50 it’s still pretty good value. I would like to see a move back to more achievable Big Ride stories, but other than that it’s good enough to outlast the average lunch-hour.


Tomorrow, it’s issue 60 of Rouleur under the microscope. Until then, you can follow me here @TranquilloTommy