The 2021 Tour de France will get underway later this month, having been rescheduled from its original start date of July 2nd. Not only that, but the Grand Departee was also moved from Copenhagen, Denmark, to Brest, France amid the Euro 2020 schedule – with a bumper sporting calendar this summer. The route has been confirmed, and the teams have revealed their squads. Cycling fans can find the leading favourites on any online betting platform, but let’s take a look at some of the front runners in more detail.
The young Slovenian is gearing up to defend his title, as last year’s yellow jersey winner. Pogačar who rides for UCI WorldTeam UAE Team Emirates, made history on last year’s race – not only securing the general classification, but also winning the young rider, and mountains classifications. In doing so, he became the only rider to win all three of those classifications in the same year.
So far this year, Pogačar has won the UAE Tour, also winning the young rider classification; the Tirreno–Adriatico, in which he also won the young rider and mountains classifications; and most recently, the Tour of Slovenia. On winning the Tour in his home country, Pogačar expressed his readiness for the Tour de France:
“My legs are getting better and better and I’m almost ready for the Tour de France. I still have two weeks to prepare myself for what will be my next big goal.”
Also hailing from Slovenia, Roglič has been riding for UCI WorldTeam Team Jumbo–Visma since 2016, and is looking to secure his first yellow jersey, having finished second on last year’s Tour. The 31-year-old had been leading in the general classification from stage nine, up until stage 19, and was just 59 seconds short of the pace in the final standings.
Pre-Tour, Roglič has chosen to train rather than race, and his team as a whole aren’t as dominant as they were last year in the lead up to the Tour. That said, the Slovenian has won two races this season – the Paris-Nice race on the UCI World Tour in March; and the Tour of the Basque Country the following month, in which he was also awarded the Points and Mountains Classifications.
The 2018 Tour de France winner, who made it a podium finish in 2019, after losing out to teammate Egan Bernal, Thomas didn’t feature in Ineos Grenadiers Tour squad last year – instead, focusing his efforts on the Giro d’Italia. That didn’t go to plan, with the Welshman crashing out in stage three, with a fractured hip curtailing the end of his season.
But Thomas is back, and last month, won the Tour de Romandie. Earlier this month, in the Tour’s most iconic warm-up race, the Critérium du Dauphiné, he finished in third place – with teammate Richie Porte securing the yellow jersey.
Ineos Grenadiers’ sporting director, Servais Knaven has full faith in his leader, and told the Dutch media:
“Thomas is super-motivated. You could see that in the Tour de Romandie which he won in an impressive way.
G realises very well that it could be one of his last chances to compete for the overall victory.”
I love to start my day with a coffee, before setting off on my bike, and am always keen to try new coffees. Cafedirect, a Fairtrade coffee brand based in London, kindly offered me the opportunity to try out their new range of limited edition specialty coffees. I sampled the Colombia Buesaco Cherry and the Colombia Los Naranjos.
First thing to say is that the packaging for the limited edition coffees is very smart. It looks premium because these coffees are among the best in the world. A specialty coffee is one that scores at least 79 out of 100 points on the grading system of the Specialty Coffee Association of America. However, Cafedirect go further and source coffee that is at least 84 points, so 5 points more than the minimum required to be classed as specialty.
Colombia Buesaco Cherry
The Buesaco Cherry tastes incredible. It is tangy and fruity. I found it refreshing and juicy. I thought it was ideal for a hot day when you are looking for both a caffeine hit and something to quench your thirst. I am really enjoying coffees that have a fruity taste as it adds a special element to the drink, making it something that you linger over rather than just getting a quick coffee fix to start the day.
Buesaco is a town in the Andes mountains and the smallholder coffee farms are on the slopes around the town. The altitudes and fertile soil make it an excellent location for coffee production.
Colombia Los Naranjos
Los Naranjos is a cooperative of small-hold farmers in the southwest of Columbia. This coffee also has a fruity flavour. Naranjo is Spanish for orange and I could detect a citrus quality, but there is also a chocolate and nutty taste. I thought it was similar to the experience of letting a piece of very dark chocolate melt in your mouth and you get that lovely combination of fruitiness and bitterness. This is a coffee to take your time over and appreciate the flavours. A cup of this is a great start to the day.
Cafediret's ethical credentials are impressive. They invest 50% of their profits in the farmer communities. At least a third of their sales are certified as Soil Association Organic.
I really enjoyed discovering these coffees and if you want to try something with a more interesting taste profile than a standard coffee then give these a try.
How to buy
Both these coffees can be bought from the Cafedirect online shop and they also have a subscription service where you get a new specialty coffee delivered to your door each month.
Mark Gallagher was a Glasgow bike messenger in the 1990s and he has put together his collection of anecdotes in this amusing and engaging book. It is much more than the story of a bike messenger, more of an autobiography. It begins with Mark's childhood and takes us through his adult life, beyond the bike messenger days. He has an impressive collection of varied and often remarkable experiences that fill the pages of this book.
The book opens with Mark on his bike being chased by mounted police through the streets of Glasgow. This exhilarating opener sets the scene for a book full of extraordinary situations that Mark has experienced in his life.
The first 60 or so pages are about the author's childhood. I really enjoyed reading his very personal insight into his upbringing, his parents and his school years. It is an interesting commentary on a Scottish childhood of the 70s and 80s, particularly the failings of the school system. Mark developed a talent for computer game programming, but the school failed to nurture this or help Mark to pursue a career. He had to find his own way and the turning point in his life, the boost to his confidence, was his job as a bike messenger.
"I certainly wouldn't be the person I am now without having been a bike messenger and I wouldn't have it any other way, it gave me some of the happiest, most carefree times of my adult life." Mark Gallagher
The book provides a great insight into the job of a bike messenger. Mark's love of the job shines through and it made me somewhat envious. One of the ways that bike messengers try to get up more speed is 'skitching', the art of holding on to the back of a moving vehicle to get pulled along. Glasgow buses were a particular favourite of Mark's, but it was not this that resulted in his most serious accident. Mucking about and crashing into another courier caused a serious head injury that ended his bike courier days.
It is clear that the turning point of the bike messenger job gave Mark the confidence to pursue his many other interests in life. This included drama, karaoke, IT contracting in Bermuda, and appearing on a TV game show. There is even a chapter about Mark dressing up as a Star Wars Stormtropper and wandering the streets of Glasgow! For me the most fascinating aspect of the author's eventful life was the legal battle he went through with a computer game giant. He had co-created a game that was ripped off by them and became one of the biggest selling games in the world. Mark could not use the real name of the game in the book and calls it 'Armed Deft Mano'.
Although this book is not purely about a bike messenger the other aspects of Mark's life are certainly interesting, often funny and sometimes fascinating. This made it a joy to read and getting to know Mark through his words was a pleasure.
This book can be purchased on Amazon:
I had the opportunity to try out a coffee that is recommended for drinking before a workout. GymBrew is from The Runner Bean Coffee Co. They have a roastery in Thatcham, 3 miles from Newbury in West Berkshire. This coffee is promoted as one of the strongest you can find in the UK, so let's find out what it is like.
The branding on the bag gives you a good idea of what this coffee is all about with phrases like 'powerful kick' and 'volcano erupting'. This is clearly for people who like their coffee as strong as can be. Although I love my coffee, I was somewhat nervous that this was going to be too much for me to handle when I went to make my first brew.
First the sniff test. When I opened up the bag for the first time the coffee smell was indeed bold and strong. Right away I knew that this was the most powerful coffee smell I had ever experienced, but in a good way. A very good way, if, like me, you love the smell of bags of coffee.
The rear of the bag tells the story of this coffee, from Brazil, and the efforts that have gone into creating it.
Okay, so here we go with the taste taste. Does it live up to the claim to be one of the strongest coffees? Yes, yes and yes! It is wonderfully strong, with a kick, but not overwhelming. It is full of flavour- chocolate, caramel and nuts. It is smooth and easy to drink. I was concerned that a coffee this strong might be too bitter, too powerful, but not Gymbrew. It manages to combine a significant caffeine hit with a great flavour profile. This coffee is not just about waking you up in a functional way, but delivering a delicious taste that I was happy to go back to morning after morning.
I also tested out what the coffee does for a workout. In my case it was a cycle ride. It is a normal part of my morning routine to have coffee before riding my bike. Gymbrew felt like it was in my system for longer than my usual cuppa and giving me a boost for longer. I did not have that sluggish feeling when I first started out on my bike- this can sometimes happen with other coffees and it means I take a bit longer to get going. I wondered if a stronger coffee might result in a bigger crash from coffee withdrawal later on, but this didn't happen with Gymbrew. I could only report a positive impact on my 5 mile ride and for the remainder of the day.
I really enjoyed this coffee. I think it is a brilliant idea to develop a coffee for workouts. Not only that, it tastes great and even if you don't use it for workouts it makes a great morning brew to get your day off to the best start.
Runner Bean Coffee Co. are strong on sustainability. They plant a tree for every order and their 250g bags are fully compostable. They have several other coffees available so have a look at their website to see what takes your fancy.
A good rain jacket is a cycling essential. Even if you only cycle in the summer months there is always the chance of getting caught in a rain shower. Vulpine's rain jacket is both practical and stylish- the kind of garment that you would feel comfortable wearing both on and off the bike.
Vulpine's clothing is the best of both worlds- stylish (i.e. looks like normal clothes) and also performs the technical function of cycling clothing. Think, being able to go from bike to work or bike to meeting friends for drinks and not having to change clothes or worry that your clothes shout 'cycling geek.' This design brief can also be seen in the other products I have reviewed - the socks, rain trousers and polo tops.
I tested this jacket in some horrendous conditions. On one of the days the rain was relentless and being blown horizontally into my face, but this jacket kept me dry. The waterproof and windproof qualities performed brilliantly. I did not get wet and I did not feel cold. The jacket is also breathable, so I did not feel uncomfortable when working up a sweat on uphill climbs.
For many road cyclists a rain jacket that is as light as possible and can be folded into a tiny bundle when it isn't raining will be a priority. Although this jacket is not the lightest that you can get, I thought it could be folded up to a small enough size to easily shove in a backpack without it taking up too much room. If you need a jacket that can be folded up even smaller than that then this may not be your first choice.
Quality and style
This jacket feels like a quality product. It feels like something built to last. It feels up to the job of protecting you from rain and wind. There is a lot more weight in it than the lightweight jackets that road cyclists may prefer, but that's what makes it feel like a jacket that you can wear both on and off the bike. I felt comfortable wearing this out and about, whereas I feel a bit more self-conscious when wearing one of those jackets that are specifically for cycling, particularly the ones with high visibility colours.
Is charcoal too dark?
I reviewed the charcoal version of the jacket, but it also comes in an orange colour if you prefer something that stands out more. All cyclists have their views about the effectiveness of high visibility colours. Personally, I was happy with the charcoal colour as I am not the biggest fan of high viz. The jacket does have some reflective elements for being seen by traffic.
One of my favourite things about this jacket is that it has two pockets. I cannot tell you enough how brilliant it is to have somewhere to put all those commuting essentials like keys, wallet, phone etc. The cycling jackets that I have owned in the past don't have much in the way of pockets as they are designed more for their function than practical features. Plus, the pockets of this jacket have a fleece lining on one side, which is a wonderful feeling if you are using them to keep your hands warm. The inclusion of the pockets is another feature that makes this jacket fit that design brief of working well on and off the bike.
The neatest feature on this jacket is the splash guard. It is tucked out of sight by means of magnets and you can easily pull it out to give your backside extra protection from spray and mud. The splash guard also has reflective details on it, so that it can be deployed to increase your visibility.
This jacket currently retails for £100. This is good value when you consider that the jacket has a dual function of providing practical cycling clothing and a stylish garment that can be worn after you park up your bike. The waterproof qualities are excellent and the build quality means that this will last for years.
Read my reviews of other Vulpine products
Merion wool socks
Henley and polo tops
Dunning is a Perthshire village famous for the Dupplin Cross, a carved Pictish Stone. One way to get there is this 10 mile route from Perth. It's mainly on the quiet B9112. This is largely a functional route, a road to get you somewhere, but there are some delightful moments.
It begins in Perth's South Inch Park which is one minute from the train station. This is a lovely green space and its worth setting aside some to time to enjoy it. There is a large pond with a boardwalk and plenty of benches to have a quiet moment.
Look for the cycle signage, in the park, marked for Bridge of Earn and follow it.
It will direct you under this low tunnel, to exit the park:
The path follows Craigie Burn for a short distance and then takes you through residential streets. It's all pretty ordinary until you pass a waterfall adjacent to one of the housing developments. It must be special to see this each time you leave your home!
Once you reach the end of Windsor Terrace turn left at the roundabout to go up Queen Street, then straight ahead at the next roundabout onto Queens Avenue. Head straight along here and the road turns into Woodside Crescent. Look out for a path on the left heading uphill. Take this and you are on a cycling/walking path behind the housing. I was here in spring when this path is decorated with snowdrops.
The path takes you to the Low Road, which joins the B9112.
This is the dull part of the route where the road climbs and climbs. It is a bit of a slog, there is nothing to look at and it passes beneath the M90 motorway. The good thing is that the road doesn't get much traffic and it is wide and smooth.
Once the climb is over the vista suddenly becomes wonderful. There is a horizon of those rolling hills and farmland that Perthshire does so well. For a couple of miles the road looks down on the River Earn valley. It is spectacular and somewhat of a revelation after the previous couple of unpromising miles.
Alongside the road at Aberdalgie there is one of those rural red telephone boxes that I love so much. It sits on a grassy patch with trees and an adjacent house with interesting church-style windows. Inside the box it was thick with spider webs, showing how little it is being used.
Make the short diversion to Aberdalgie Parish Church. It's worth it. The location is tranquil with birdsong and the gently flowing Milltown Burn the only sounds. The building dates from 1773 and features Georgian arched windows. The bell is housed in an elegant canopy, rung by an external rope that is secured with very neat knots to the wall.
I loved the welcome sign at the entrance. Here's an extract from it:
"We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, widowed, gay, confused, filthy rich or dirt poor. We even extend a special welcome to wailing babies and excited toddlers. We don't care if you're more Christian than the Archbishop of Canterbury, or haven't been to church since Christmas ten years ago. "
A walk in the graveyard reveals plenty of moss covered stones and there is a very significant tomb overlooking the burn. This is the final resting place of Stirling Castle's Governor, Sir William Oliphant, who defended it against English forces in 1304.
Back on the B9112 you soon come to an 11% downhill that's fun to ride.
2.5 miles from here takes you to a wonderful stone arched bridge, dating from the 1760s. It suddenly appears among the trees and took me by surprise that something this old and beautiful is still part of the modern road network. Once you ride onto it you will notice the triangular shaped refuges that jut out for pedestrians to stand in when vehicles pass. I stopped to try one of them and enjoyed looking out at the river for a few minutes.
The bridge crosses the River Earn onto the B934 road. A short distance after the bridge the road travels over the railway line at a level crossing, Three more miles, through flat farming country, and the road arrives into Dunning.
If this ride has inspired you to find out more about the world of bicycle racing then the best betting sites for cycling is a great place to start.
Looking for something to eat and a place to stay in Dunning? Read my review of the Kirkstyle Inn.
Worried About Losing Your Gains During Lockdown? Here’s How You Can Limit Muscle Mass Loss While Gyms Are Shut
One of the most challenging aspects of the COVID-19 lockdown for lovers of exercise has to be the closure of gyms. Those who enjoy working out see the gym as their happy place, the place they can go to switch off from all external stressors in life and just focus on themselves.
Now that gyms are shut, it’s like a real kick in the teeth, as during these uncertain times of the pandemic, many people’s mental health would improve significantly if they were still allowed to workout at the gym.
One understandable worry that avid gym-goers may be experiencing at the minute is the fear that they’re losing muscle. Realistically, if you’re no longer lifting heavy weights on a daily basis, then you should expect to see some muscle loss.
However, that doesn’t mean that you have to completely give up on your fitness plans, and resort to spending your days watching Netflix and eating ice cream. Here are some tips for limiting muscle mass loss during lockdown:
A basic workout is better than no workout at all, so even if you don’t have any equipment at home, try not to be discouraged. There are still some exercises you can to from home that will keep your muscles toned and pumped.
While you’re probably used to lifting weights, don’t underestimate the benefits that bodyweight exercises such as lunges, squats and push ups can have on your body. Be prepared to do a lot more reps than you would be doing with weights, since the first ten or twenty are likely to feel ridiculously easy.
During this time, it’s also worth shifting your mindset and letting go of any need to progress. We’re in the middle of a global pandemic, and you’re doing all you can given the current circumstances.
Purchase Some Home Workout Equipment
If you’re serious about keeping your gains, then some home workout equipment is seriously worth investing in. With your new equipment, you might find yourself craving those trips to the gym less and less, since working out from home comes with its own benefits.
DN Fit offer a variety of home workout gear from adjustable dumbbells, squat racks and kettlebells in a range of different sizes, so you no longer have to worry about losing any of your gym gains. To check out the full range that DN Fit have on offer, click here www.dnfit.co.uk.
Keep An Eye On Your Protein Intake
Protein is essential for muscle growth and repair, so even if your workout isn’t as intense as usual, then you should still keep up your protein consumption. You can easily get protein from protein shakes or high-protein foods like chicken or eggs. Aim to hit between 1.6-2.0g of protein per kg of bodyweight.
Maintain Your Previous Calorie Consumption
Just because you’re no longer able to work out at the gym, doesn’t mean that you should lower your calorie intake. Our muscles need calories in order to function properly, so reducing your calorie consumption could result in the dreaded muscle-loss that no one wants to see!
It’s no secret that cycling often is great for you physically and mentally. One study, particularly of commuters on bicycles, found that cycling to work can reduce the chance of developing heart disease and cancer by 45%. Researchers studied 260,000 people over a five-year period, looking at their health and outcomes. It found that people who cycle to work tend to live longer and have a lower risk of heart disease and cancer.
Although physical activity is not as intense as cycling and commuting on foot, it does not usually cover as much distance as cycling, but the benefits are as great for people walking to or from work as for those cycling, the researchers say.
Are there any financial benefits?
Aside from the initial cost of the bike, cycling to work is extremely cost efficient! You would have no car repairs, petrol or bus fares to pay. As well as this, if you live in the UK, cycling can also help you save through the government's Cycle to Work scheme.
This is a scheme that encourages people to ride more bikes by allowing employers to pay tax - free benefits for their bike safety equipment. Despite all the benefits of cycling to work, many employers do not offer incentives for biking to work, for example by not offering the commuter allowance.
Socio-economic benefits of cycling.
Riding a bike to work instead of driving helps to improve economic well-being - including that of those around you. Cycling also benefits mothers - with experts saying it helps women give birth more easily, recovers faster and lifts overall mood during pregnancy, with limitations of course. If you are pregnant you should seek advice from a medical professional first.
Cycling to school or work can also help improve your environmental health. Studies have also shown that cycling to work increases your cardiovascular fitness by 3-7%. As an added bonus, cycling can also boost metabolism, build muscle and get you off your bike.
Cycling literally boosts your life expectancy!
Given the above-mentioned health benefits, it should come as no surprise that cycling also increases life expectancy. Cycling just 20 miles a week can cut the risk of heart disease by 50%, according to the British Medical Association. It is said to lower the risk of heart disease by less than exercise.
However, the years of life gained annually due to the health benefits of cycling are weighed against the losses from injury and pollution caused by cycling. But on a more positive note, according to a study by the British Medical Association, the years gained per year outweigh the years lost through cycling, injury, pollution, etc.
Does cycling provide significant health benefits?
The health benefits of cycling are considerable and have been linked to lower blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. However, cardiovascular benefits for cyclists have been shown to be equally strong, as they are less likely to suffer heart attacks, strokes and heart failure than non-cyclists.
After all, cycling is a great source of exercise for the NHS in the UK, which reports that cyclists have the highest levels of physical activity among all groups of people in terms of fitness and fitness.
Among the health benefits of regular cycling is the fact that it can improve physical and mental health and reduce the likelihood of many health problems. This is important because it means that even if you don't live close enough to ride the whole route, your health will still benefit because you can cycle part of the day.
Mental wellbeing benefits of cycling.
Since people generally enjoy cycling more than other forms of exercise, cycling can make it easier to increase the distance over time. Cycling can take you from point A to point B by moving moderately and creating a mental balance.
On average, an hour of cycling is about half of the health benefits that most people gain from exercise. If you can't ride for an hour, a 15-minute bike ride a day is a good way to stay healthy. If you cycle to work once a week and then add extra days as your stamina increases, you don't have to worry about the long-term health effects of cycling on your commute.
About the Author
Prior to becoming an online article writer for Technical Writers, Cooper took the opportunity to explore the digital world with a range of academic and health and safety training courses. His first hand experience within the tech industry, in addition to his degree in English Literature, cemented his career in creating content regarding all things marketing and technology.
England’s demise in the Six Nations this year has arguably been just as surprising as Wales’ shock climb to the top of the table. Eddie Jones’ side were the favourites in the 2021 Six Nations Championship odds prior to the start of the tournament, whilst Wales were well and truly written off by almost everybody.
However, it has been quite the opposite. England have lost two of their opening three games, suffering defeat to Scotland at Twickenham for the first time in almost 40 years, before losing 40-24 to Wales at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff. That victory for Wayne Pivac’s men secured them the Triple Crown, after they stunned both Ireland and Scotland in the first two gameweeks, and Wales are now well on course for a potential Grand Slam title.
In hindsight, England’s poor start to the Six Nations shouldn’t have been that much of a shock. Jones’ squad was restricted to just 28 players after the Rugby Football Union (RFU) and Premiership clubs agreed to limit his selection in order to reduce the risk of Covid-19 cases, whilst the Australian coach’s rigorous training plan to get his players in tip-top shape was thrown up in the air, as he had to isolate due to one of his staff testing positive for the virus.
That aside, the squad’s wealth of Saracens players, which includes the likes of England captain Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje, Elliot Daly and several others, hadn’t played a minute of rugby since they beat France to win the inaugural Autumn Nations Cup back in early December.
Yet, the Six Nations Betting Tips were still firmly in their favour and few would have predicted such a slump prior to the tournament. However, the defeat to Wales has left England’s defence of their title in tatters and people are starting to question if Jones’ days in charge of the side are numbered.
"This team is finished now. There will be a new team made," Jones said when England suffered that 32-12 defeat to South Africa in the 2019 Rugby World Cup final. But that hasn’t always been the case for England in the games that have followed.
Yes, Jones has capped 11 new players since that excruciating defeat in Japan. However, 12 of the 15 World Cup final starters lined up against Wales in Cardiff and had the likes of Courtney Lawes and Manu Tuilagi not been carrying knocks, then the Australian could have named his exact World Cup starting XI.
In April 2020, Jones claimed that he didn’t think his group of players had ‘another World Cup in them.’ But in the build-up to his team’s next game against France this weekend, he said: “I would say anywhere up to 70 per cent of this squad will go through to the World Cup.”
It’s hard to fathom what has changed Jones’ view on his squad. He has gone from writing off the old guard to sticking by them. Maybe it was when they bounced back from the South Africa defeat to win the Six Nations. But there is still no room for newbies a year on, and that was made more than clear in the defeat to Wales.
With the World Cup still over two years away, surely now is the time for Jones to start truly integrating those 11 players he capped for the first time after the 2019 World Cup, along with others, rather than bringing 70 percent of the current crop to France, so that England are in the best possible shape heading to the tournament.
Just look at Wales, they are coming out of their tough transitional period and thriving, perhaps it’s time England did the same.
In December 2020 a new cafe opened up in Bruntsfield, Edinburgh. There are a lot of coffee shops in this part of town, so I was curious to find out if Modern Standard offered something different. It turns out that the coffee is roasted in Fife, Glenrothes to be precise. The Bruntsfield shop is their first cafe- the coffee tastes great and it is very competitively priced compared to the local competitors.
When I first visited Modern Standard in Bruntsfield for some takeaway cappuccinos and the barista told me that the coffee was roasted in Fife I was excited to try out a Scottish product that I had not yet heard about. I bought some of their ground coffee to try at home. The Momentum Espresso is the one they use to make the coffee in the cafe. It is a blended coffee with beans from Brazil and Columbia. I thought it was superb and full of flavour, chocolaty and nutty. Perfect for the morning brew as it was smooth and had the required caffeine hit to get you moving. I adored the smell and liked to leave the used grinds in the cafetiere for most of the day as it made my kitchen smell just like one of Bruntsfield's artisan coffee shops.
I also tried two of the single origin coffees, both from Guatemala. The Finca San Antonio was great tasting, with more citrus acidity than the Momemtum Espresso. I was happy to have this for my morning coffee and the occasional afternoon treat. The La Bolsa was incredible in every way. It had a distinct fruity taste- the tasting notes described it as 'hibiscus, red fruits, marmalade. Full body and a nuts mix finish'. The fruit also came out in the aroma and it brought a whole new pleasure to drinking coffee.
I will certainly look forward to trying more of their coffees. The website has coffees from Brazil, Bolivia, Ethiopia, Kenya and Nicaragua. You can buy single bags or take out a subscription for regular supplies. The website is packed with useful information about the coffees, so you can learn more about where your drink comes from. There is a QR code on the back of the bags that links to brewing guides on the website.
The founder of Modern Standard is Glenrothes-born Lynsey Harley. She has an extensive background in the coffee business and decided to locate the roasting operation in her hometown. She regularly travels out to the coffee farms to visit the suppliers and source new coffees. You will notice that the front of the bag features the 1% for the planet logo- this means that 1% of profits go to environmental and social projects.
It's another great Scottish food and drink product. The next time you are in Fife or Edinburgh, or online, give this coffee a try.
When using my bike to get around Edinburgh it is sometimes necessary to pass parked vehicles. You might be thinking 'so what?', well, a parked vehicle can make cycling feel a bit more dangerous because you have to pull out to pass that vehicle and that means going further out into the road where the moving vehicles are. This can be a frightening prospect and can be another potential barrier to people taking up cycling for everyday journeys.
And why is this important? The Scottish Government had a target of 10% of everyday journeys being made by bike by 2020. This target was not met. Parked vehicles, of course, is not the only reason that the target was not met, but it is one of several barriers to people using bicycles for everyday journeys. And whilst there continues to be low levels of investment in segregated cycle routes it means that you have to be confident to cycle on roads, where parked vehicles are a hazard.
This is my story of why parked vehicles can be a challenge to people cycling and why they are a contributing factor to the 10% target not being met.
My main cycling route for everyday journeys is along Colinton Road in Edinburgh. In a previous blog I wrote about my use of Colinton Road to take my son to nursery. Most of this road is nice and wide and allows for vehicles to safely pass bicycles. The only occasions where a person in a vehicle has passed me unsafely, a close pass, is when I have to pull out to negotiate a parked vehicle.
A person driving behind me when I pull out to overtake a parked vehicle is faced with two choices:
1. Slow down until the person cycling has cleared the parked vehicle and moved back towards the side of the road; then overtake the person cycling.
2. Overtake the person cycling at the point the person cycling has pulled out to avoid the parked vehicle.
The hope is that the driver will choose option 1 as this is safest for everyone, but sometimes people are in a rush or maybe it is not safe for them to slow down because of vehicles behind them, so they will choose option 2.
Option 2 requires the driver to give both enough space to clear the person cycling and not to stray too far onto the opposite side of the road that it puts their vehicle into the path of any potential vehicles coming in the opposite direction. The person driving is having to balance up these two factors. The driver may judge that it is more likely for a collision to occur with a vehicle travelling in the opposite direction and will wish to avoid this happening at all costs, so this may cause them to pass closer to the person cycling. Anything less than 1.5m is a close pass, as highlighted in this Police Scotland campaign video:
A close pass is a terrifying experience for a person cycling and can be enough to put them off using a bicycle ever again. There is a very real fear of being hit by the vehicle.
On the otherhand if the driver choses option 1, to slow down and wait for the person cycling to clear the parked vehicles there is the potential to cause a temporary queue of vehicles behind them. This should not be considered an issue when the goal is safety, but some people, whether driving or cycling will feel self-conscious about holding up vehicles behind them. And some road users can become impatient and aggressive in these circumstances.
What is the answer?
Looking at Colinton Road there are large parts of the road that are wide enough to have parked vehicles and I feel safe passing them and know that I will not experience a close pass. However, there are some parts of the road that are much narrower or have a blind spot where the parked vehicles make it a hazard and increase the risk of a close pass. If parking could be restricted on these sections it would improve safety for those using a bicycle and make this road more appealing for new cyclists.
These are the parts of Colinton Road that are the most challenging when there are parked vehicles:
1. The section near the Tesco and the Kilted Pig pub
This is probably the narrowest part of Colinton Road and there is always a line of parked vehicles here, no matter the time of day. When you cycle past these vehicles it is almost impossible for any drivers behind you to overtake you because the opposite side of the road is also narrow. It feels like you are holding up traffic and I cannot help but fear that one of the drivers behind me is going to try a dangerous overtake. I don't know why there are always parked vehicles here. I assume that there is no space for them to be parked in driveways, perhaps the older properties do not have driveways.
2. Opposite Tesco, parked on the double yellow, hazards on.
The Tesco has very few parking spaces, so it is inevitable that some drivers stopping for shopping will put their hazard lights on and park half-on the pavement, despite the double yellow line. I think you are allowed to park on a double yellow to load and unload, so perhaps shopping is within the law. However, it is another narrow part of the road, so it is a challenge for anyone using a bike to have to pull out to clear any vehicles parked here. It is also inconsiderate for pedestrians using the pavement as the parked vehicle can make it impossible for someone using a wheelchair, for example, to get by.
3. Outside Edinburgh Napier University.
These vehicles are only parked here on weekdays, so assume they belong to people working or studying at Napier. The issue is that there is a blind corner, meaning that if a person cycling pulls out to clear these parked cars it will be challenging for people following in vehicles to see if there are approaching vehicles on the opposite side of the carriageway. This is where a driver may decide to pass too closely to the person cycling in order to minimise risk from collision of any vehicles coming in the opposite direction.
The ideal solution is to have both segregated cycling infrastructure and places for vehicles to park. In an already congested city with tight budgets this may not be possible, so what other options are there?
Parking restrictions could be put in place, but if that means there is nowhere for people to park their vehicles it would be incredibly unpopular. Lets not blame people who own cars because our city has been designed in a way that makes car ownership the most convenient mode of transport. I wrote a previous blog post about how urban planning and supermarket locations make it unlikely for the majority of people to do their supermarket shopping by bike. Parking restrictions could be one measure to use, but it would need to be as part of a combination of measures that require a total rethink of urban planning so that car ownership becomes less of a necessity.
Another option could be to stop people using bicycles on roads that have parked vehicles and direct people to use traffic-free options. The Union Canal path is a traffic-free option that avoids Colinton Road, but it is not the quickest and most direct route and there are other issues with the canal path that I will explore in a future blog post. Using bicycles on convoluted and slower traffic-free routes is fine for leisure cycling trips where time is not important, but for the purpose of everyday journeys where you want to get there in the quickest and most efficient way (the same as people using other modes of transport) it is not as practical. For people to consider the bicycle as a viable option for everyday journeys the speed and efficiency of the route is going to be a major consideration.
I will continue to use Colinton Road as it is the most direct and quickest route for me. I don't like having to pass the parked vehicles on this road, but accept it as a risk of choosing to travel this way. However, for anybody new to cycling who is trying to change how they get about and do more of their everyday journeys on a bike I can appreciate that they may not be happy to accept that risk. In conclusion if we want to get more people using bicycles instead of motor vehicles for everyday journeys then the risk from passing parked vehicles is something that needs to be considered when planning the urban environment.
A guest blog from Mike Murray at Road and Mountain Bike Reviews
Nowadays, most people from all over the world have grown tired of the long hours of waiting brought by traffic while on their way to work or other destinations in mind. If you are among these people, there is a better option available for you to ensure an easy and hassle-free commute to your desired destination. Road And Mountain Bike Reviews will look at the pros and cons of mountain biking.
There are various ride options for you to consider and the use of a bike is considered as an option. There are many types of bicycles on the market and one of these is the most coveted type-the mountain bike.
Mountain bikes are considered the most versatile bicycle ever created. They are designed not just for commuting but are best used for off-road riding. This type of bike is very distinct because of its rugged machine with flat handlebars as well as wide and crooked tires for riding even the narrow road or dirt trails. Mountain bikes have low gears and an upright riding position which make them suitable for long and rough rides.
Types of Mountain Bikes
Now the real challenge is choosing the right mountain bike that fits with your ability and riding style as well as the kind of trails you'll be most likely to traverse most of the time. It is important to understand the basics of the different designs of mountain bikes. To help you choose the best mountain bike here are the five basic types of mountain bikes which the manufacturers use in describing their bikes.
Cross Country (XC) Mountain Bike: Built for riders with pedaling performance as their priority. This type of mountain bike is created for strength and efficacy. It closely resembles the road bikes in terms of geometry. This is super light-weight however, XC bikes trade out downhill performance for efficiency and weight.
Trail Mountain Bike: Trail bikes are the most popular mountain bike and are considered the best climbers and expert descenders. Trail bikes have more suspension, more gravity-oriented components, and a more relaxed geometry than the XC type making them more capable to dwell on all kinds of terrain. If you are into biking uphill and downhill, as well as looking for an intermittent drop or jump, this type of bike is probably for you.
All-Mountain or Endure Mountain Bike: Inspired by the moto-racing world and are more efficient going uphill than downhill bikes but are less versatile than XC or Trail bikes. Generally speaking, this type of mountain bike is way bigger than XC or Trail bikes. An all-mountain or endure mountain bike is perfect for you if you're enthusiastic to pedal uphill, to achieve the free-pedal downhill ride.
Downhill or Park Mountain Bike: Downhill bikes are well-designed for steep, gnarled road, jumps, huge drops, and speed. They are the perfect definition of a motorless motocross bike. These bikes aren't created to go any direction but down. If you're not interested to pedal uphill, and you have the resourcefulness as well as the needed skill to handle yourself well a downhill bike is meant for you.
Pros and Cons
For rough off-road riding, mountain bikes are considered king. They are much slower on road because of their big knobby tires and suspension but will boost confidence on heavy difficult narrow roads. Use of a mountain bike is perfect if your commute is on rough roads with slippery cycle paths. Since mountain bikes are a little bit expensive, it is always wise to think first before buying. Choosing the most suitable type of bike is very challenging, yet fulfilling. Here are some of the pros and cons of using mountain bikes:
The Pros of Using Mountain Bikes:
Every year, bikes have gotten more advanced in terms of function, reliability and the experience it offers. As bikes diversify, their use also expanded from fun and leisure to main transportation for daily commutes.
There are various bikes perfect for commuting, and a mountain bike is one of these. However, given the general structure of mountain bikes, people often find it challenging to maneuver this type of bike on normal roads while much easier on difficult roads. But mountain bikes are still ideal for commuting and is still recommended by many experienced bikers. Despite the pros and cons of using mountain bikes as daily commutes, the decision is always up to you and the best bike for commuting is one that provides you the most comfort and practicality so that your daily ride can be more fun and worry.
Though Scottish trails tend to be more distant and rugged, showcasing Mother Nature more than its English counterparts, cycling in both regions has seen a major increase in popularity in the past two decades.
For some, cycling is a form of ‘green’ transportation. For others, it’s a way to stay healthy or even save on transportation costs. Around the UK, bike racks and bike lanes are being integrated as standard forms of infrastructure.
However, cyclists who are also fans of football may have noticed there’s one location where bike racks are outright impossible to encounter - football stadia. Locking up bikes can be difficult—not only in terms of finding a suitable location but also given the excitement and buzz that’s palpable before each game.
However, new initiatives by the EPL and its top clubs are looking to address the lack of options for clean transportation that could affect the fourteen million fans who attend Premier League matches each year.
For clubs with smaller fanbases, incorporating ‘green’ pushes like bike racks and even multi-use amenities is one way to grow their numbers. Successful green initiatives like sustainable transportation can be coupled with other efforts, like generating fan engagement through live streaming or even free bets from The Pools and other sportsbooks.
For teams that have faced relegation often, like Wolverhampton or Southampton, these initiatives serve to keep the public interested and further define their team identity—even if their game is lagging.
However, the majority of the EPL’s top pushes for environmental responsibility in terms of stadium infrastructure are being undertaken by well-established clubs. With more revenue to spare, top teams based in Manchester and London are leading the way to advocate for a more environmentally aware sports sector.
Sustainability in the EPL
Currently, Sport Positive offers the most comprehensive guide to assess the environmental footprint of Premier League clubs. The group evaluates clean energy, energy efficiency, sustainable transportation, single-use plastic usage, waste management, water efficiency, low-carbon food options, and the club’s sustainability engagement efforts.
Clubs with 8/8 reports include Arsenal, Manchester City, Manchester United, and Tottenham Hotspur. Still, not every club is able to address environmental concerns, with Crystal Palace and Southampton trailing in last place for their lack of clean energy, water efficiency, and reduction of single-use plastics.
Viewed in this light, the Premier League is making visible strides toward a greener infrastructure with efforts transcending bike racks. However, Sport Positive doesn’t explicitly define whether or not a club offers bike racks outside their stadiums.
Instead, it focuses on the availability of the metro, bus, and other public transportation—as well as how much a club ‘encourages’ fans to utilize these options. In terms of options for cyclists, the best stadiums aren’t Arsenal's or Man City's, but Brighton and Hove Albion's.
Efforts to encourage green transportation notwithstanding, what do cyclists need from major clubs to make football a cyclist-friendly sport? It turns out there’s a bit more involved than just setting up bike racks.
First, cyclists need a clear route to the stadium. While missing some of England’s most famous grounds would be difficult, a lack of signage that directs cyclists to safely enter a stadium can make the journey outright dangerous. In short, cycling needs to be figured into citywide infrastructure near stadiums in the same way roads are and clearly labelled.
Secondly, cyclists need a functional bike storage facility—not just a series of metal bars. Ideally, bike ports should be covered to protect from the elements, provide sufficient spacing, and a place for locks. CCTV also provides an added measure of security and shows a club’s dedication to prioritising their cycling fans.
Third, bike storage should be modern. In other words, clubs looking to appear green will need to invest some time and thought into their bike storage options. In addition to providing cover and security, storage should also be streamlined to avoid major traffic jams like those seen on the road post-match.
There was a cycling boom from the start of lockdown in March 2020. Vehicle traffic declined to almost nothing and many people enjoyed cycling on roads that they would never have previously dared to venture onto. Bicycle sales soared and many roads had more people cycling than driving. Now that traffic levels have returned to near normal what has been the impact on this cycling boom? My personal story is a positive one, so I thought I would share it with you.
I take my son to nursery on a child seat on the back of my bike most days, unless the weather is really awful. My daily commute from home to the nursery is around 3 miles if you take the quickest direct route. I live in Edinburgh and this direct route means using Colinton Road to reach Bruntsfield. Those familiar with this part of Edinburgh will know that Colinton Road can be busy and has no cycle lane on it. Before the pandemic I never felt confident to use this road with my son because it is pretty busy with traffic, but now I am using the road most days. What changed?
I'll start by explaining the route I used to take to get my son to nursery. It was somewhat convoluted , mainly traffic-free, using the Braid Burn path and the quieter backstreets of Morningside and Bruntsfield. It is not a direct route and the Braid Burn path can be slow going as it is narrow, shared with pedestrians and has some awkward gradients and barriers to negotiate. It probably added at least another mile, if not more, to the journey.
I happily cycled Colinton Road on my own. It's not the most dangerous road in Edinburgh, but it does have a high volume of traffic at peak times. I have not had any serious incidents and only a few close passes, because the road is mostly wide enough for vehicles to give bikes space without the vehicles having to cross over to the opposite carriageway. However, I was not happy to take my son on this road, particularly when there was a near enough traffic-free, albeit longer, alternative.
During lockdown Colinton Road changed completely. There was hardly any traffic on it at all. It was bliss for cyclists! I started to use it when taking my son on the bike.
When the nurseries opened again after lockdown I decided to keep using Colinton Road with my son and have been doing so ever since. The traffic volume has risen, but not to the same pre-Covid levels. There's not really a rush hour anymore because of homeworking. The only peak for traffic in the morning is for the school children getting dropped off at the various schools along the route, but I am able to avoid this time.
Being able to use Colinton Road has made my commute to the nursery much quicker than the Braid Burn route. I am glad to be able to use this road and hope that I will be able to into the future. I do fear that if there is a return to the way things were before with everyone trying to get to their office for the same time I will no longer be confident to take my son on this road. However, the signs are that companies will be offering more homeworking and flexibility so it should mean that not everyone is on the roads at the same time.
Three miles is a short commute and in a progressive society concerned with active travel and climate change it should and must be possible for me to make that journey by bicycle and not to be made to feel that I must own a car to cover such a short distance.
I do see other people cycling on Colinton Road during my morning commute, but I have yet to see another parent taking their child on the back of their bike. There are a lot less people cycling on this road compared to the days of lockdown. It makes it a bit lonely being the only one taking their kid on a bike on Colinton Road, so I would love to see more parents feeling confident enough to use this road with their kids. I know it doesn't have a painted cycle lane or the cycle wands that are getting installed on some roads, but it is a wide road and outside the start and end of the school day the traffic volume is not too bad.
I know it's not for everyone to cycle with their children on main roads, but I just wanted to share with you that the changes in the world have resulted in a positive cycling experience for me. In a difficult year I think it is important to share positive stories.
Stephen Fabes is a doctor and this brings a unique aspect to the adventure cycling genre because he visits health care settings as he travels. This is a much deeper journey than just a bike ride. This is a 6 year, 53,000 mile, cycle around the world full of thoughtful insights about people and places. It is a fascinating, moving and inspirational travel book.
This is one of the best travel books I have read. The author is incredibly observant and brings something new and fresh to travel writing. He has a great way with words and really brings a place to life. Here is one of my favourite examples of how wonderful the writing is, when he has to replace his pedals in India:
"they'd cost 15 rupees a pop (around 18 pence- rust already included) and each weighed more than a kilogram. It was like cycling with A Suitable Boy nailed to the soles of my shoes."
It feels like an incredible amount of work went into crafting each sentence in this book as it reads so beautifully. Unlike many other books of this type the focus is very much on a sense of place and not all about the author and what he is going through. For instance, when he cycles past huge palm plantations in Malaysia he shares his thoughts about the palm oil industry and its impact on the environment.
I particularly enjoyed reading about the adventures of cycle tourists from history. Stephen has uncovered some wonderful travellers tails and used these to add colour to his own journey. In 1923 a group of Indian weightlifters spent four years cycling around the world and had incredible adventures- they even managed to acquire an autograph from Mussolini to help ease passage when faced with corrupt officials!
Stephen even gets to meet the person who has spent the longest time cycling around the world. Heinz has been doing it for 51 years! Their meeting is fascinating with some interesting reflection on whether cycling the world really does make you more worldly.
This book is full of the excitement and adrenaline of adventure cycling. Meeting people, exhaustion, things going wrong with the bike and illness, not to mention incredible parts of the planet that you may never have heard of before. I was particularly fascinated by Chin State in Myanmar, an area of cloud forest, landslides and leeches falling from above.
Stephen's contacts within the medical profession allowed him to gain an insight into healthcare around the world. He visits several settings, including mental health in India and the migrant camp in Calais. These encounters provide a richer world view than you would expect from a cycling travel book and Stephen provides plenty of thoughts on what he experiences. The most moving account was his visit to a TB field hospital in Thailand and it had me in tears.
Interestingly, this book does not end with the finishing line, but with Stephen recalling the challenges he had in returning to his normal life in the UK. This is quite unusual in cycling books and it is refreshing to have an adventure cyclist reflect on this in such detail.
This book is not only one of the most enjoyable cycle travel books I have read, but one of the best travel books. It is written beautifully and by the end you really feel like you have learned something about the world.
My name is Colin Baird and I want to see all of Scotland by bicycle.