Today we feature a guest post from Barbara Miller reprising her excellent collection of cycling resources originally published in the Evanston Bicycle Club newsletter of Feb. 2020.
The sun is shining. Grass is greening up. Buds on shrubs and trees are swelling. Spring bulbs are blooming. And we’re being asked to behave like we’re in the middle of the polar vortex and hunker down indoors. Bummer.
Rather than choosing to ride this we may have to "ride" this
Those of us lucky enough to have a trainer can pedal a bit indoors, which provides exercise but not much inspiration; it may only serve to remind us that we’re “in here” alone rather than “out there” with friends where we’d rather be.
But cycling inspiration IS available! Most options are free (with WiFi and/or a library card) or cheap or part of a streaming subscription. And they come in a variety of media so you can match your preferred diversion style with the time you have available. Bonus -- Videos and movies can be shared with those who co-habit your bunker or with “distanced” friends via a Zoom party.
Note: Click the "+" sign on the right to expand each category
What did we do before GCN (Global Cycling Network)?! It is a cycling related website, YouTube channel and mobile app that launched in 2013 and now has nearly two million subscribers. They created a virtual biking community before it was our only option. What foresight!
Based in the UK, the presenters are mostly Brits who have had some pro cycling experience. They know their stuff but are not the least bit snobby about it. Au contraire. Their humor and sheer joy in all forms of biking always shine through and induce smiles and laughs. (And they have those cool British accents and lots of personable charm.)
The range of content offered is stunning. In addition to the weekly GCN Show (Tuesdays – about 30 minutes/378 videos), there are two sub-channels -- GCN Tech (659 videos) and GCN Racing. The tech channel covers new products, upgrades, geometry, bike maintenance and more. Maintenance Monday (219 videos) focuses solely on how to be your own wrench.
GCN also offers a potpourri of short videos on cycling destinations, how to’s (589 videos), training tips (77 videos), and features (1453 videos) that may include behind-the-scenes visits, bike comparisons, product testing – you name it.
Indeed, you can name it. The short segments in Ask GCN (159 videos) are responses to viewers’ questions. I suspect that a large part of their success is their sustained effort to be interactive with their audience. Not only does some of the content come from viewer suggestions, the weekly show also provides an opportunity to share fun stuff -- captioning a photo, choosing an inspirational photo from viewer submissions and judging viewer bike “upgrades” as hacks or bodges.
For bike racing fans suffering from withdrawal, comic relief can be had at the Tour de Quarantine on YouTube. It’s a 14 day stage “race” along a bike path in Pittsburgh. The announcer may not be Phil Liggett or Bob Roll, but he nails the lingo and drama of race calling. Don’t miss the stage profiles, GC standings or post-race interviews. Hilarious! (And only 2+ minutes per stage.)
Adventure, history, biography, advocacy, racing, training, nutrition. There is a book for every cyclist. A sampling may include Blazing Bicycle Saddles (adventure), It’s All About the Bike (history), Bicycle/Race (advocacy), The Story of the Tour de France (racing), and The Feed Zone Cookbook (nutrition).
Blazing Bicycle Saddles by James Clarke is the story of six gents of a certain age (boomer-ish) who decide to bike along the Danube River. Alas, not a one of them has the skills in research, planning and route making needed for destination rides. It’s a hoot.
It’s All About the Bike by Robert Penn combines a history of the components of a bike (chapter-by-chapter) with the author’s quest for his dream bike through visits to the makers of each of the parts – frame, steering system, drivetrain, wheels/tires, saddle. It’s an engaging combo of past and present.
Bicycle/Race: Transportation, Culture & Resistance by Adonia E. Lugo is both a memoir and a reflection on biking advocacy efforts through a multi-cultural lens. The author is a cultural anthropologist by training as well as a sustainability activist. Be prepared to have some of your assumptions challenged.
The Story of the Tour de France by Bill and Carol McGann is a two-volume history of the most famous bike race in the world and its decades of changes, achievements, shenanigans and controversial personalities. Volume I covers 1903-1964; Volume II 1965-2007 (1st edition) or 1965-2018 (2nd edition). The obvious difference between the first and second editions of Volume II is the fall of Lance Armstrong and the rise of the Brits. It’s a must read for those of us who (normally) organize our July days around the Tour broadcast schedule, which may not happen this year.
The Feed Zone Cookbook by Thomas Biju and Allen Lim was compiled from recipes used to support pro cyclists on and off the bike during multi-stage events. A subsequent book, Feed Zone Portables, focuses exclusively on easy-to-make healthy food that can be tucked in a bike jersey pocket – handy to have when most restaurants are closed.
Documentary, drama (fictional or “based on”), comedy. Cycling movies tend to fall in fewer categories than books. A majority of films on the various “best” lists are about racing or feats of derring-do. The more inspirational ones may have a bit of racing in them, but are more about the human spirit than “winning.”
Let’s assume we’ve all seen Breaking Away (1979). More than once. It’s always worth another look. Who doesn’t love the locals giving the frat bros their comeuppance?
The Flying Scotsman (2006) is a bio-pic starring Jonny Lee Miller about Graeme Obree, a Scot who twice broke the world hour record (1993 and 1994). Known for his unusual riding position (really strange) and his radical bike design, his story is one of ingenuity, determination, obstinacy and struggles with depression and bipolar disorder.
Wadjda (2012) is about a 10 year old Saudi girl’s determination to buy her own bike despite the cultural obstacles and to race a (male) playmate. This kid is a force to be reckoned with.
Bicycle (2014) is a British documentary that touches on the early history of the bicycle but focuses more on how biking is challenging more recent car-centric culture. While the short interviews include some racers, there’s a nice mix of age, gender, sport and transport. It’s a celebration of a simple vehicle and what can be accomplished by enthused advocates.
Inspiration can be found in lots of places. We may have to find it on a screen for the time being, but we can look forward (eventually) to finding it in our personal moment of zen.
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