Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

A Bicycle shop owner’s view

January 17, 2007

Below is an interview with the own of Fairview’s Bicycle shop.


Cycling Gymnastics

January 17, 2007

Gymnastic cycling is an unusual pastime, as you will see from the video. In Europe it’s popular in Germany, where it’s known as Kunstrad. It’s believed the sport had its origins in Asia. A variant is cycling football. This is where participants play by only hitting the ball with the bike.

The Boss of Irish Cycling

January 17, 2007


The most powerful man in Irish cycling is optimistic about the future. Declan Byrne, who six weeks ago took over the top spot in Cycling Ireland, believes the sport’s regulating body has turned a corner.

After the glory days of the Roche and Kelly era Irish cycling went into something of a prolonged hangover. It’s governing body was bankrupt for long periods and many of the countries elite cyclists were forced to abandon their sport because it was bereft of prospects.

This year Cycling Ireland expects its membership to break the 4000 barrier for the first time. It has an ambitious infrastructural program planned and is confident that more Irish riders will make it to the professional level than ever before.

Byrnes, while acknowledging the problems of the past, prefers to focus on the positive. A phrase he uses throughout the interview is ‘things are healthy’. And so they certainly appear. The organization has a vigorous policy in place to attract new members. To introduce children to cycling it’s instituted a program of open days in its 130 affiliated clubs. In a pilot scheme in Ulster, which it hopes to roll out countrywide, two posts have been created, that of development officer and talent spotter.

Good working relations with sporting bodies is also something that’s keen he emphasized. Being a 32 county organization it receives funds from both the Irish sports Council and its Northern Ireland counterpart. Byrnes doesn’t hide the fact that members subscriptions merely cover the insurance premium for riders and without government assistance bankruptcy would be inevitable.

The organization has teamed up with Sean Kelly Academy and the Sean Kenny cycling team to offer younger cyclists what Byrnes terms ‘a route to market’ for the first time. Being a lesser cycling nation Irish riders, unless they were exceptional, found it difficult to break into the professional league. The new structure will see younger riders getting the opportunity to train on the Continent and the real possibility of cycling for a professional team.

Byrnes also wants his organization to be more than just a bureaucratic structure. ‘We have always been a competition-based organization, we were not facilities-based. While other organizations had football fields and swimming pools, all we needed was the open road. The Irish road in 2007 is now a perilous place. We need to start looking at getting more facilities.’

In the near future he expects to see a velodrome built in Belfast and funding has been secured for the redevelopment of the outdoor Dublin track. With these facilities in place he believes that Ireland has a realistic chance of winning an Olympic medal in London in 2012.

He also acknowledges that his organization has had nothing to offer leisure cyclists in the past. Plans are already afoot to build two off-road cycling tracks. These are intended for community use and competition. Based on their success Bynre’s hope that a network of such tracks can be established countrywide.

Any discussion about cycling wouldn’t be complete without mentioning drugs. In the Irish context Byrnes sees them as being something of a nonstory. He says that the Irish Sports Council has conducted 100 to 150 tests annually and in the last five years all have come back negative. Internationally he believes the sport will get its house in order. Cycling now has become big business and drugs are frightening off the sponsors. It’s the fear of financial loss, he says, rather than the physical harm that drugs can do that is concentrating the minds of the large professional teams.

The first lady of Irish Cycling

January 17, 2007


The first lady of Irish cycling is not how Dervla Murphy is usually introduced. It’s more common that the emphasis is placed on her literary output.

She, or more precisely her stories, have been responsible for turning a great many Irish people into long-distance cyclists. Many speak of having got the bug after having read her first book, Full Tilt.

That book chronicles her journey in 1963 from Dunkirk to India. The book’s prose is every bit as brisk as the author’s peddling; in 175 days she managed to notch up 4500 miles.

It’s difficult to summarize the attraction the book has had for so many cyclists. Some are captivated by the Murphy’s independent spirit of giving up everything and just taking off. Others are drawn to it by her descriptive ability, or that elusive notion of wanderlust, that’s the hallmark of any good travel book.

Full Tilt was the first of many books by this prolific County Waterford woman. Many of were written about exotic locations; she has travelled, often solo and unaided, in the Andes, Central and South Africa, Asian and Siberia.

It would be unfair to label Murphy as being just an escapist writer. In a Place Apart she writes of her impressions of sectarianism in Northern Ireland in the 1970s, while in The Ukimwi Road she tells how the AIDS epidemic has ravished the communities of Central Africa.

Murphy’s last book, Though Siberia by Accident, was written at the age of 71. When not travelling, she lives a somewhat eccentric existence her modest bungalow in Lismore County Waterford. In her autobiography Wheels within Wheels she says of Lismore that it is one of the world’s most beautiful places and if it wasn’t for the joy of cycling she may never have let it.

Mick Murphy cycling hero

January 17, 2007

Mike Murphy’s victory in the 1958 Ras Tailtean has the whiff of a movie script about it. He was a poor labourer who dreamt of winning Ireland’s toughest cycling race . In keeping with the best traditions of Hollywood the 26-year-old underdog, after completing an epic journey, crossed the finish line in Dublin as champion.

The myth that has grown up around Murphy and his exploits is captured in the following quote from documentary maker Liam O’Brien.

In the case of the Kerry cyclist Mike Murphy, ‘The Iron Man’, the truth exceeds the legend and the legend… Well the legend goes a bit like this: he trained with weights made from stones, he made a living as a circus performer, on one stage in the 1958 Ras, after his bike had broken down, he stole an ordinary bicycle from a farmer and chase down the leading pack. It’s said that he rode for three days with a broken collarbone, that he would cycle for forty miles having completed a gruelling stage just to cool down, that he drank cow’s blood and ate raw meat .it said he was indestructible.

O’Brien’s documentary, convict on the road, is the story of Mike Murphy as told in his own words. It can be listened to by clicking on the following link to the RTE website.

Irish cycling trails strategy

January 17, 2007

The development of a national cycling network moved one step nearer on Friday with the launch of the Irish trail is strategy.

The strategy, which was unveiled by John Tracy, the chief executive of the Irish sports Council, laid considerable emphasis on the need to improve cycling and walking facilities.

The document highlighted the importance of cycling tourism to the economy. In quoting Bord Failte figures it said that cycling attracts 100,000 visitors and is worth €90 million annually.

However poor infrastructure is placing this lucrative niche market in danger. The strategy said that Ireland is out of step with its European partners in not having a national cycling network. A consequence of this has been the rise of complaints from tourists about road safety and poor signage.

Working with a budget of €650,000 the national trails office will focus its attention on co-ordinating groups involved in constructing trails for walkers and cyclists. Later it plans to include within the scope waterways and horse riding tracks .

The type of trails that falls within its remit are varied. They include city routes, trails linking urban areas to the countryside, links between towns, mountain bike routes and a possible long-distance national network.

Currently Ireland has no official mountain bike trails and only a scattering of unconnected on road cycling routes. According to the strategy this deficiency in infrastructure has been one of the factors behind the decline in activity holidays here. It contrasted the Irish experience with that of Britain, where adventure holidays have been a growth area and where there has been a national cycling network for over 10 years.

The strategy also mentions a few other reasons why it would be good to develop a model similar to that of the UK. It said that a third of all trips on the British national cycling network were now replacing car journeys. It listed the health benefits and the need to cater for a public who have ever-increasing leisure time.

What the strategy did not do was to state when we can expect to have a dedicated cycling network that traverses the country. Northern Ireland possesses two such routes.

The lone trick cyclist

January 17, 2007


Paddy Waters cuts a solitary figure on his bicycle. In fact he is the only cyclist of his kind in Britain and Ireland. He is what’s known as a trick cyclist.

On what looks like an ordinary bike Paddy manages to do some extra ordinary things. His two wheeled routine is strikingly similar to that of a Cossack on a horse. He goes from being on the saddle, to under it, at the side of it, to standing on it and not just by himself. In one act he manages to ride with four other people planted around the bike.Click on the link, Paddy Waters, to see his performance.


Paddy, who is from Dublin, is doing a degree in circus entertainment in London. As his specialty he has chosen trick cycling. This was once a popular act in most circuses, but is now almost extinct in these islands.

The advantage of using a bicycle to entertain, according to Paddy, is its power to surprise. ‘The bicycle is a vehicle I use for performance. It’s a machine that people are familiar with, or at least that’s what they think at the beginning. It allows me to take them to unusual places where they don’t expect.’

Waters doesn’t feel lonely about being the only practitioner of this old art, rather he sees his solo status as being something of a selling point. However Paddy, who doesn’t come from a circus family, has no illusions about the difficulty of making a living in the industry he’ll be entering after completed his degree next April.

‘Circuses in the UK are far behind those on the Continent and Ireland is quite a few years behind that of the UK ,’ he says.

On a more optimistic note he believes that the inclusions of circus acts into the bill at summer festivals such as Oxygen and Electric Picnic are encouraging signs of diversification for the future.

At this moment in time he isn’t particularly concerned about the fortunes of the circus industry. He has far more pressing thoughts on his mind, like trying to break the world record for cycling backwards. The current record for100 km stands at just over four hours. He is planning to make his bid for the record before the year is out, but first he needs a route and a sponsor.

Dublin’s Bicycle Courtiers

January 17, 2007

Below is an interview I record with Neil Keogh spokesman for Dublin’s bicycle couriers. The interview touch on topics to do with road safety, pay and conditions of couriers and the underground world of the courier.


The Musical Bicycle

January 15, 2007


Composer Sean Og is not your usual cyclist. His 17-year-old bicycle not only helps get him around Dublin but also assists in pushing out the boundaries of musical exploration.

As an improvisationist Sean Og sees musical potential for what is for the rest of us every day functional bric-a-brac. His first partnership with the bicycle was with its wheel, which he played like a harp. He did this by interspersing piano strings with the spokes and tuned them to achieve different tones. Buoyed by that success he quickly moved on to the rest of the parts. Several different types of horns were attached to the frame. On the tubing he fixed a saxophone mouthpiece and to add some percussion he began beating the frame with a drumstick mallet.


This musical experimentation came to be called ]One-Man-Bike. This re-imagining of a bicycle as a musical toy had its first public airing at the Dublin cycle Festival last July. Sean has performed it twice since then. On each occasion the full-time musician has been somewhat taken aback by the reaction. ‘I have been playing unusual instruments for years, but the bicycle just seems to have some added attraction for people’ he says.

Asked why he makes music from a bicycle Sean replies simply ‘because I like the sound’. He says that from a bike frame it’s possible to achieve notes that are rich in texture and tone.

He amplifies the performance by feeding the sounds into a rack of electronics. He describes the effect as ‘an improvised circular groove’.

Sean Og has been playing the piano since 1987. He is a professional saxophonist, having studied at the London Guildhall School of music. He learnt composition under the Belfast composers Stephen Gardner and Rhona Guilfoyle.

When Sean is not performing solo, he plays with his own group Trihornophone. He’s also a founding member of the stomach box theatre company, for which he scored an operetta in 2005 calls a Season in Hell. Sean and his group, Trihornophone,can be heard at JJ Smith on Aungier Street on the 11th of February.

The Bicycle Photographer

January 15, 2007


Sean Hillen’s photograph’s are not the pictures that most people would think about taking. His subjects are half eaten sandwich lying in gutters, coins abandoned by a beggar in the doorway, broken umbrellas stuffed into litter bins and the carcasses of bicycles shackled to railings by their locks.

Sean, originally from Newry, has worked as a professional photographer for over 20 years. He sees himself as both an artist and a campaigner, who happens to be a compulsive photographer. These themes are to the fore in his bicycle project.

Sean started photographing bicycles when he had a studio in Buckingham Street in 1998. Walking back and forth through that deprived area of Dublin he was struck by the large number of vandalised bikes. He decided to start taking pictures of them because as he says himself, ‘nobody else was doing it and I believe they represented some kind of a message’.

Having spent nine years taking pictures of what has amounted to thousands of photographs of smashed Dublin bikes Sean is in no doubt about what these pictures mean. He says ‘it’s a fuck you back attitude by a disenfranchised underclass’.

He believes its no coincidence that bikes and not cars are the item of property most likely to be damaged on our streets. He puts this down to mass production and its fostering of a throwaway mentality. People are no longer interested in repairing bicycles because they’re seeing as disposable and as having no value, unlike cars.

Sean’s father was a bicycle mechanic and he spent his own youth fixing the machines. Occasionally he rescues a bike from the Liffey or from one of the two canals, but it’s through his photographs that he hopes to give some renewed life to what he calls these wonders of human ingenuity.

Sean’s bicycle project has been described by some as being some of the most depressing pictures they have ever seen. This has not prevented his work from being shown at major civic occasions such as the St. Patrick’s Day Festival and being incorporated into documentaries. Sean’s work is permanently on display at his website. His work has also help to spawn galleries of broke bikes in other places.