- Bike Maintenance
- Tour de France
I’ve been watching the Tour de France and don’t get it. Why are there so many of them and why do they all just follow each other round all day?
The Tour de France is one of the most beautiful sporting events on the planet. Taking place every July for over 100 editions, with an ever-changing array of beautiful and awe inspiring landscapes as the race winds it’s way around France and often the neighbouring countries too. However, it can be a bit complicated if you’re new to cycling. Don’t try and take it all in at once, for now just watch the race unfold, enjoy seeing the scenery and watching glimpses of French culture as they swing through picture postcard villages and through valleys, farmyards and of course up mountains, all finishing on the Champs Elysees in Paris.
There are 8 riders per team and typically each team will have one (sometimes two) leader who’s job it is to try and win one of the coloured jerseys on offer. The most famous jersey of course is the yellow jersey that Bradley Wiggins won so famously in 2012 and Brits Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas have also won since. Prior to 2012 a Brit had never won the yellow jersey which makes the recent spate of victories all the more incredible. The yellow jersey is awarded to the cyclist who takes the least amount of time to get to Paris (the final stage) and this means they need to be strong every single day for the best part of 3 weeks. You will very rarely see these guys at the front of the race, infact it is possible to win the Tour de France without winning any of the stages on the way round, but they will make sure they don’t lose by very much if they can’t win, and rarely to the same rider. They will need to be expert climbers, amazing time trial riders and also have lots of luck to not be brought down by other riders in that massive group that slinks it’s way around France (they call that the Peloton)
To answer the question, the riders will follow each other to get an aerodynamic advantage. On a typical day that huge pack of riders will be travelling at 25-27mph and the rider at the front will have lots of wind blowing in his face. The rider behind will have around 20% less wind as the guy in front is breaking a hole through for the rider behind. The one behind him has less wind again and so on and so on, hence why the leaders of each team will typically sit around 6th or 7th in their team so that their buddies in front can make their life easier. Sitting behind a rider is typically referred to as slipstreaming and is completely allowed, but once riders start to get out of their team formations it is often the subject of heated negotiations and even fist fights as riders argue over who should sit at the front and who should get to sit behind (normally the answer is to share time at the front, but this doesn’t always happen for a variety of reasons!)
There are other coloured jerseys, Peter Sagan has won the green jersey for the last 7 years and he is an explosive and strong sprinter who can sprint past most of the rest of the field at the end of each day. However, he is too big and heavy to be able to ride up mountains with the yellow jersey winners, hence why he doesn’t win the whole race. So while he might win the sprint each day, he may only win by 5 seconds over the Yellow Jersey riders, however he might come in an hour behind on a mountain stage, so overall he is way behind on time…get it now?
There is also a polka dot jersey (red and white) which is for the person who is the best climber (often the winner of the Yellow Jersey will also win this one by default, or at least come in 2nd).
A white jersey symbolises the best rider under 23 years old (deemed to be a young rider) although 2019s Yellow Jersey winner was also under 23 so he won both jerseys…what a legend.
Finally, you will see red numbers on certain riders, and those are worn by the team who are winning overall, using a combined total of the times of their riders.
The rest of the super bright jerseys are worn entirely by choice of the teams as you would in any other team sport and are normally worn by the whole team all year round, with the exception of national champions of their respective countries who wear a hybrid of their country flag and their team colours, and the World Champion who gets to wear the coveted Rainbow Stripes, a white jersey with a Rainbow band around the middle.
It’s complicated isn’t it?!
Don’t worry, when you first watched football you had no idea what offside was, and when you watched rugby, you had no clue what happens in the scrum…infact, most people still don’t know what happens in the scrum! But you will pick it up and once you do you will be privy to one of the most exciting and hard-fought battles in all of sport. On any given day there will be races within races, within races, with riders going for the win, others fighting between themselves for the jerseys and others just trying to hang on at the back and not get eliminated for being too slow. It really is an amazing spectacle!
We run trips to go and watch Tour de France stages and to ride some of the Iconic climbs. Our 5 day adventure ‘Trois Montees’ takes in climbs in the Alps and Provence and gives a leg aching insight into what it is like to ride some of the iconic mountains that these guys have to race up each year. Unlike the pros however we can stop for tea and cake, and we have our own amazing house to stay in each night with some filling food and maybe a few beers, strictly for recovery purposes. For more details click on the events calendar and get in touch to book.
I haven’t been on a bike since I was 12, is there anything you can do to help me?
Absolutely! Cycling is one of those skills that you can lose pretty quickly, but the good news is that your body remembers how to do it and you should be back on 2 wheels in no time. We can help by running some off-road sessions for you in the local park or similar, get you working on some of the core skills you need such as braking, changing direction and then moving on to taking a hand off the handlebars and looking over your shoulder. Then we can take you out on the road and get you used to riding in traffic, look at how you should approach junctions, teach you how to react to traffic and more. Or if you’d rather avoid the road then we can take you on one of our myriad fo awesome cycle lanes that we have nearby and get you feeling confident on them. We could then progress on to Mountain Biking in the woods, BMXing on the track, flying round the Velodrome on a fixed gear bike…ok, let’s just stick to the park for now, but the opportunities are limitless after that! Sessions are available as one to ones or you could bring a group of people together and we can start your journey to cycling greatness with friends to support you. We have designated Women’s only rides and we have sessions in all the holidays for those who struggle to get here in term time. Get in touch to discuss your needs and to book a session.
I’m a Scout/Brownie/Cub/Beaver/Rainbow leader, anything you guys can do for me?
Absolutely, we have developed a range of courses based around the requirements of all the scouting badges and have run many successful and fun sessions for groups all over the South West. Time depends on the ages of the children as your badge requirements differ at each stage, but a typical Beaver or Rainbow badge will last around 90 minutes and will involve basic bike maintenance (we get them to blow up their own tyres and give their bike a safety check with our help), riding through a basic obstacle course that we set up, and understanding basic highway code, learning about the importance of wearing helmets, understanding what they need to carry in a puncture repair kit and understanding when they need to light up and where they can get this information. Once we have done the session they can be awarded their badge.
More details are on the Join in section of the website, so click your way over there and get in touch to book.
I’m from a school and I have a group of pupils who like riding bikes and being outdoors but I can’t get them to focus in class, is there anything that you can do to help? We need to keep these guys engaged!
We work with lots of schools who have children who struggle to learn in a traditional classroom environment and we have got lots of feedback from schools and community leaders who have asked us to engage with a particular group of children and have seen fantastic results. Our ‘Hands On’ course would be the ideal thing for you. Essentially it’s a 6-12 week course designed to engage learners by using cycling and bike maintenance skills, and builds a range of key learning around that base. We refer to the learning objectives as ‘TLC’ or ‘Teamwork, Leadership and Communication’ and the key outcome is that pupils will come away with practical skills such as fixing punctures and adjusting brakes and gears that might spark their interest in a vocational career, but allied to a range of soft skills like working together, understanding how groups operate and learning why they behave the way they do when things aren’t going as well as they would like and how to effectively change that behaviour to allow them to listen and give their opinion in a more positive way. These courses are for up to 10 young people and can be on site, off-site or a combination of both. We are happy to discuss with you which set up best suits you, get in touch and we’ll give you a call to discuss.
My workplace is looking to do some healthy lifestyles activities, what can you guys offer?
We offer plenty of activities for workplaces of all sizes and we have worked with some of the biggest companies in Bristol, offering consultancy and practical sessions for a range of sessions…in no particular order we can arrange:
- Inspirational and motivational talks from speakers of all backgrounds.
- Healthy Lifestyles workshops.
- Smoothie Bike fun sessions.
- Commute to work practical workshops.
- Bike Maintenance days.
- Lead rides.
- Charity rides and activities.
- Family cycling activities for your annual ‘Families Day’
- Any other aspect of your corporate, social responsibilities.
All of our activities can be tailored to the demands of your workforce, so whether you are a small firm of 4 people looking for a charity cycle ride you can join, or you are a workplace the size of a small village looking to get practical advice on how to get your staff riding to work safely and free up some valuable car parking space. If you would like to help make your workplace more healthy and therefore more productive then we can bring in a range of activities, from smoothie bikes and world-class speakers to workshops and guided rides. We can do it all, so get in touch to discuss your needs.
More details are on the Join In section of the website so click on over to there for more information and to make a booking.
How do I adjust my gears?
We recommend that every cyclist knows the basic of bike maintenance such as fixing punctures, adjusting brakes, fixing a snapped chain and adjusting gears. This will help you out if and when (more like when) you get a mechanical failure when you’re out riding.
One of the trickiest things to adjust on your bike are your gears, but with the right technical knowledge and a bit of practice it is actually pretty simple. It’s all to do with the tension in your cables, and these naturally stretch, so after riding your new bike for a couple of months you will find your brakes aren’t as sharp as they once were and your gears might start to slip, or not change at all. The good news is, once you have tightened the cables, you should be good to go again. This happens to all bikes, not just cheap ones and it is not a reflection of how good or reliable your bike is…infact I would argue that a bike that needs to be adjusted more regularly is one that is being ridden enough, so this is indeed a good sign.
We have made a range of videos to help you with all aspects of your simple bike maintenance routine, from a simple safety check through to some of the issues raised here. So click on over to the videos section and get yourself a cup of tea and have a watch through a few. If you still aren’t feeling confident then we are happy to come and take a look for you, we have a mobile bike maintenance clinic which is available to come to you or for you to visit at one of our many festivals or roadshows that we get invited to each year. Or you could book onto one of our school or community bike maintenance courses and we can work on your bike together for a few sessions until you feel confident to go it alone.
Won’t everyone on your trips be like Bradley Wiggins and smash it up every climb?
No, we have people from all walks of life join us on our trips and they are as much about having an amazing life experience as they are about training. Tell you what, some of our trips do get booked up by people who want to come and put in serious miles and go mega fast, and others get booked up by folks who want to come and ride, stop at a café, ride a bit more and then enjoy an amazing dinner together in one of our awesome houses or chalets, so why don’t you drop us a line and we’ll tell you which trip is for you. We get to know everyone who is coming along and we know if they’re pro or newbie and we wouldn’t want to put you guys together without a plan in place, so let us worry about getting you in the right group and getting your daily mileage right, and you just focus on getting ready for your trip and having the best time while you’re there…deal? If that sounds good then drop us a line and we’ll get you ready for your next awesome adventure.
It’s my child’s birthday coming up, anything you can do to make their party awesome?
Definitely! We have hosted many birthday parties and we love to get groups of friends flying around having fun. Typically our parties last 2 hours including a break for food and a drink (mainly for us!) and include a wide variety of games, activities and races that riders of all abilities can take part in (they can use scooters, trikes, balance bikes etc if they need to). We stick to a park or open area, or we can arrange to take groups to outdoor venues such as Ashton Court or Cwmcarn bike trails, or the BMX track, the Velodrome or one of the local bike tracks. We supply a big gazebo so you can do food underneath and can also supply a smoothie bike at additional cost if you really want to make a super healthy party go with a bang.
More details are on the Join In section of the website so click on over to there for more details and to book.