imperial cycles blog photo


We approached our first MTB race with some trepidation – yes, we knew Hog Hill well from London League CX - but a much longer, more technical course was causing additional nervousness. Our approach bikes for tackling the event was diverse – Jimmy had a new but modest Salsa, George literally pieced together a non-suspension bitsa built around an old frame of Jimmy’s complete with heat scorched paintwork resulting from removal of the previous seat pin! I presented my 15 year old classic, a Klein Mantra Pro, resplendent in glittery purple (original?) colour scheme. This received a lot of attention, certainly more than any road bike I’ve had, with was both nice and concerning in equal measure; I came to the quick conclusion it was pity alone. I’d understood that MTB racing was a summer sport so had banked on a period of dry weather in the week before, sadly heavy rain the day before quashed that!

We did a late sighting lap which seemed to take forever; yes it was slightly more technical but only because of the previous day’s rain – tight twisty rutted tracks but also loads of rideable ups and downs – definitely something for all.

During the race and particularly at the end, I become almost magnetically attracted to any bush, tree and stinging nettle on route and some off. I finished alone, the Klein remarkably still intact, with some of the barriers already taken down: but a sixth is a sixth regardless. I never saw Jimmy who also finished a fine 6th in the class of men over 25 but not elite or decrepit. George struggled with his rigid frame and fitness over the extended race distance of nearly 2 hours. It certainly hasn’t put me off so I’ll be back to try another course soon.
Richard Collins MTB - Imperial Cycles

Well done to everyone at Hackney GT and John Mullineaux and his team for a super event.

9th April 2016

Ghent Six Day 2015 Neil Weatherburn - Imperial Cycles

I’ve been back for a week now. The dust has settled along with my electrolyte levels. My mate and I worked out that this year was our 18th and we spent the final two days of the Six in track centre, the mosh pit of cycling. I managed to resist the local fayre in the form of a death burger, truly nose and tail eating, tho’ not the Primus, Belgian session beer at around 5%. This made for a truly exciting , beertastic event but it was rather difficult to keep a handle on proceedings. The excitement was tangible as we whirled dervishlike to watch the eight second flying laps not so much unfold as explode. It was neck and neck or rather stem to stem between three teams with the lead swapping regularly through the various disciplines of racing.

Needless to say the local hero, Etixx Quickstep’s Iljo Keisse triumphed on the last lap to a rapturous reception. By way of celebration, we repaired to his father’s bar, known to us as Iljo’s Dad’s Bar, or more formally Cafe de Karpe, not far from the stadium. The inadvertent moshing, dad dancing and shouty singing continued into the small hours until the Leffe took it’s toll and we made our excuses and left pausing briefly at the hotel bar and a nightcap of a Geneve or two.

Our weekend in Ghent was once again a roaring success despite nearby Brussels being in lockdown. The Belgians displayed their customary bonhomie and the additional security had a light touch. If Heineken sponsored 6 day racing.....the beer would still be Primus. Will we back next year? Ja!

30th November 2015

Lee Valley Track Taster Session Neil Weatherburn - Imperial Cycles

My first experience of track racing was in the 60s, the Skol 6 day at the Empire Pool Wembley. My memories are hazy but I recall Peter Post was the star rider whilst all around me drank beer, probably Skol. Skip 30 odd years to the Ghent 6 day where Etienne de Wilde was the local hero. I was now drinking the beer, Jupiler, trackside and more exotic brews beyond. Whilst still hazy, it’s been a fixture in my diary ever since.

This year a mate gifted me a track taster session for my birthday. On 15th June I made my way to the Olympic Track at the Lee Valley Velodrome. I’ve watched many races but never ridden the track. I arrived in good time at the near deserted stadium and watched an earlier group of newbies being put through their paces. My mate Mike arrived and in the changing rooms we discovered neither of us had remembered a towel or associated shower kit. Perhaps we wouldn’t sweat up.

We went to track centre where Wiggo had emerged to huge acclaim the previous week. It was strangely quiet! I picked up the hire shoes (Look Keo cleats) a fixed wheel bike and mingled with around a dozen others. Our BC coach appeared and I was pleased and surprised to find it was Chris Sellings, a good friend of Imperial, not long back from his global cycling trip. The briefing was naturally safety orientated for a group of real mixed ability newbies but we soon circulated slowly around the safety zone. No overtaking was allowed as we progressed onto circuits involving the Cote d’Azur, black, red and blue lines and beyond, then a final briefing before being launched onto the track for 20 minutes of total exhilaration. Overtaking on the right, checking behind before changing course, shouting ‘stay’ at those being overtaken and no freewheeling!

After a warm down, and in the absence of towels, we sat around waiting for the sweat to dry and watched more advanced training taking place and vowed to return to complete our track accreditation. We retired to a local pub for burger and beer, vaguely sweaty but extremely happy. Overall it was a fantastic experience which I will pursue further. My thanks go to my friend Mike Harrowes for the ticket and Chris Sellings, British Cycling coach and owner of, the local Company for cycling in the French Alps.

15th June 2015

Bradley Wiggins Hour Record Miguel Indurain & Richard Collins - Imperial Cycles

It was a privilege to be on the inside of the track for Bradley’s Hour attempt: but not really an attempt according to the Sky trackside commentator who made it clear it was a foregone conclusion. The only question was the distance and the number of spectators who passed out in the necessary heat.

The cycling cognoscenti were duly gathered, notably the extended Pinarello family – Fausto Pinarello, Tolos from Mallorca, Phil Griffiths the UK importer and perhaps more importantly Big Mig himself.

Bradley set off quickly, after arriving to massive applause earlier than planned but obviously completely focussed, and maintained a metronomic pace, absolutely dead still on the bike. The atmosphere built towards the finale drummed up by Bradley’s wife Cathy and Tolos and his only sign of effort was his mouth held wide drawing in the pre-heated air. This all appeared to be exercise of total control in a familiar environment; he didn’t really even looked stressed as he climbed off the bike.

The real question now is it out of reach? For the time being it certainly looks so.

Rich, George & Neil
7th June 2015

Scott launches at Imperial Cycles
Saturday 9 May, from 10am to 2pm

We are running a launch day at Imperial Cycles to showcase the 2015 Scott Bikes on Saturday 9 May, from 10am to 2pm. We'll have bikes from the Addict, Solace and Foil range to ride, and our friendly Scott rep Caroline will also be around to chat to anyone interested in finding out more.

We'll have some refreshments on hand and are generally hoping to make a fun morning of it, so it would be great to see as many of you as can make it. If you're interested in test riding a bike, please drop me a line beforehand so I can book you a slot.

tel: 0208 560 4554

5th May 2015

National Cyclocross Championships British National Cyclocross Championships

The National Cyclocross Championships was a new race for me. In only my third full season of cyclocross racing I thought I'd give it a go. It helped that team mates Laura, Rich and George had also entered the pinnacle race of the season. It all started for me about just after 4am on Sunday the 11th January. The alarm sounded and I quickly prepared myself and packed my kit ready for the drive to Abergavenny.

I arrived at the venue just after 8am, the car park already filling up quickly and soon after Laura and George turned up. We prepared our bikes for the official course inspection, an hour and a half to ride around and see what the days course had in store for us. It was quite flat, a technical woodland section, a few run ups and a patch of deep mud. The deep mud that I came a-crop on whilst trying a race speed assault, the result of which was quite a bruised leg.

Claire and Chris had arrived with the jet wash and extra equipment. We cleaned ourselves and the bikes, sat down and waited until the 2pm start time. George had looked over the staging for start. It was to be expected racing against 50 of the best in the country, even with a smattering of national points, I was back row material.

Rolling up and down the start straight, it was the first time I'd ever seen so many top elite racers. All primed and ready for the off. On the start line Claire grabbed the kit, the gloves were off, in my case quite literally as the velcro broke putting them on. 30 seconds... GO! I clipped in, George was to my right, he was slow to get away and I moved past. I past a few others on the drag to the first corner, it was literally like a bunch sprint at the end of a crit. The first few turns I held my position, the first incline I had to unclip, a rider ahead had stumbled. I ran, I got past by some riders, quickly my momentum had gone, I was near the back again.

I then spent the following half hour riding around with a chap from Bath. George had caught up, and the three of us jostled for the honour of first to be lapped. After 35 minutes Ian Field flashed past, a moment to see an international elite on top form. Effortless control on the tricky corners, he won quite comfortably in the end.

Then it was a case of packing it all up and heading home. 325 miles in the car. 15 hours out of the house. A big thank you to Claire and Chris for coming along, Laura for her vocal support and Rich for letting us use the pressure washer. I enjoyed my day, even with being pulled out before the end I took some positives away from the day. I'll be back next year, stronger and faster. The official result was myself in 47th, George 48th.

Until next time,


11th January 2015

GIRO helmets available at Imperial Cycles

GIRO helmets

From the launch of the original lightweight vented ProLight helmet in the mid 1980’s Giro has been a leader in helmet development – their extensive men’s and women’s range now covers road, dirt, aero/tri and urban. Designed in Santa Cruz California they meet most cyclist’s ultimate goal – style and function. All Giro helmets come with a liner that deforms on impact reducing the transfer of energy to the brain. Giro is now introducing a further step forward in safety Multidirectional Impact Protection System – MIPS – into some of its helmets to further help to reduce the rotational forces transferred to the brain in the event of an impact.

We are proud to add this brand to our offerings, another that we trust and use ourselves!

12th Septemberl 2014

Santini kit tuscany


Many of you will be familiar with the Santini name and SMS logo resplendent on professional's jerseys - Belkin Pro Cycling, Cinelli and the Australian National team - as well as the Giro D'Italia's maglia rosa. Since 1965 they have innovated with material types and construction, fit and garment solutions and all their products are designed, rigourously tested and produced in Italy to maximise the most important features of any clothing - comfort and performance. This matched with a range of styles and colours means that there's something to suit everyone; their current head line 'Gambe, Testa, Cuore' (Legs, Mind and Heart) pretty much sums it up.

Rich says "having now ridden extensively in the Santini kit I am really impressed, the fabrics used are clearly high tech and the fit is superb".

We are proud to be associated with Santini and are currently stocking the Summer range - jerseys, shorts, track mitts as well as gilets, and arm and leg warmers for the colder mornings.

see for full details

10th August 2014

Salice - as worn by George Kirkin Imperial Cycles


Summer is rapidly approaching and summer = theory anyway. A good pair of sunnies is an essential for any cyclist and we are delighted to be the latest stockist for leading Italian brand Salice.

Hailing from the shores of Lake Como, Salice make a range of stylish and affordable sunglasses and helmets. Just check out Lampre Merida, current World Road Champion Rui Costa and UK teams Pedal Heaven and Starley Primal if you need convincing how great these glasses look!

In store now we have the 005, 006 and 011, with all other models available to order within a few days. Each pair comes with a hard shell case and spare lens (with a colour choice if ordering) and cost between £60 and £70.

29th April 2014

Click to expand/collapse the text

Sainte Foy Tarentaise

I haven't been on a holiday without my bike for four years...

Sainte Foy

and now didn't seem like a good time to break the habit. Our friends at 45 Degrees North, the Sellings brothers Chris and Mike, had asked me if I fancied coming out to the French alps for a week of cycling. I was part of the original set up in 2012, spending a month in the great little ski station of Sainte Foy Tarentaise. I'd had an awesome time and was keen to come back.

The setting is pretty beautiful, Sainte Foy is quiet and sleepy, and perched at 1500metres on the side of the Tarentaise valley, it offers amazing views, and quick access to a variety of climbs. Now in its third season their friendly and relaxed brand of cycle holidays in the mountains has been going from strength to strength. The boys had branched out this year, adding a second, catered chalet, complete with master chef Lewis, and had found a bunch of new routes and cool little places to hang out.

We arrived by car to meet fellow guest Tom and this years mechanic, Max. I'd had a pretty crap time of it on the way down, feeling pretty awful, so finally arriving in the peace and quiet of Sainte Foy was just what I needed. Turns out Tom had had a pretty rough time too; SwissAir had mislaid his Dogma somewhere between Heathrow and Geneva, not the best start!

Immediately it became apparent we were in for a pretty sweet time, Lewis' food was top notch, and the chalet luxury - an ensuite room with walk-in-wardrobe was a bit of a step up from our roadside motel on the journey down.

lung-opener of a climb up a 20 per cent gradient to a remote habitation in Le Crot. A couple of punctures aside, the cycling has been amazing and exhausting, with over xxx m of climbing in the first three days. Mike is always close at hand with the van, a great luxury, not something you want to get too used to!

Today we had a well-earned rest from the bike, instead opting for a hike up the valley to La Manal, an essential experience for anyone staying in Sainte Foy. A return to the previously mentioned Le Crot for lunch (this time by car!), rustic French food in a little restaurant that has to have the one of the best views in the world! And a Bourg visit to check out the weekly market. So there is plenty to do here other than ride.

A couple of big climbing days ahead, then onwards to Lake Annecy at the weekend. I can't really think of a better way of spending 10 days of my summer. Would strongly recommend 45 Degrees North. Having been involved on year 1, I have been super impressed with the rate of expansion and development, and they have retained their personal and friendly vibe! What's next, maybe a ski season?


24th August 2014

National Vets Criterium champs Hillingdon circuit

A funny old race this one...

Rich races the Nanoo

a surprisingly poor entry affected by another race apparently more important than a British Champion’s jersey? Bill B.soldiered on regardless in inimitable fashion.

I wasn’t entirely sure that I should be there, given that Tom was in his first week in hospital and my attention span was a matter of seconds – that’ll help with watching the breaks going!

Anyway it was nice to line up with some familiar faces plus some new ones from further afield but we weren’t going 10 minutes before they stopped both races; we had the temerity to hold the other race as they passed us! It settled down a bit after that but gradually we were whittled down to what appeared to be a handful – a few had gone up the road and were uncatchable – some others chose to get mixed with the group passing (again!?) and were subsequently disqualified. Ended with 11th place and some points – yeah!

National Vets Criterium photos by David Reed


15th June 2014

London Nocturne Folding bike race Smithfield

This was always going to be an experience...

Rich races the Nanoo

and as with all new things I had a fair degree of trepidation! Simon Whiten’s piece the week before suggested that the Nanoo ( wouldn’t go much faster than 16mph - I wasn’t sure how fast I could push the Italian Nanoo but I knew that 16mph wasn’t going to cut it!

However, I race prepped the black FB14 model with Fizik saddle and SPD pedals and fiddled with the position until it felt racier. Plus with some concerted practice I could unfold it in 6 seconds – I knew that this would trouble the opposition on the Le Mans style start as least.

Rich races the Nanoo

I had a little excitement in practice with the bars coming loose (my fault!) through the cut through in East Poultry Ave. and fair scared some spectators with an unplanned drift/shitmyselfpartiallossofcontrol! Fixed that and lined up for heat 1 in black in the blazing heat with obligatory dry mouth but manage to cadge a drink from mates Jim Leach and Tim O’Rourke on the start line. Blisteringly start resulted in 2nd in the first corner but then faded faster than a Sky rider in the rain! 3 lads fell off in front of me on the straight (Sky riders?) so finished 5th – so, so and potentially good enough for a top 10 in the final.

I must have impressed someone because Matt Barbet of Channel 5 came to borrow the Nanoo after the race to do some pieces to camera – that’s the sponsor happy! Same pattern for the final - again a great start but not aggressive enough in the run for the bike – still 3rd initially but my lungs were burning all the way – although the Nanoo corners well enough I felt like I was standing still on the straights and the din from the crowd was not enough to lift me from a final placing of 17th.

I blame it on the smell of flesh in the air – Meat is Murder!


7th June 2014

London Bike Show Indoor Crit 2014

“As much as I enjoyed the craziness...

Les Filles Nicole Oh

of last year’s Indoor Crit, I must say, I thought it was a case of “getting away with it (without crashing)” and filed it away as something good to do… once. This year, Imperial Cycles stepped in at the last minute to put on the race after the original organisers pulled out, and Rich was keen to have a Les Filles representative, being one of our sponsors. I wasn’t so keen, but have quite a twistable arm when it comes to racing bikes, so I ended up on the start sheet last minute.

The course wasn’t ideal to say the least, no doubt due to the space constraints within the exhibition centre. It basically was a giant sausage, with two left hairpins and two straights. Despite watching numerous people come off in the preceding races, by the time it came to our chance to get on the course, I was a little excited. And then I came off. In warm-up. Along with about 4 other riders. Not to be deterred, I jumped straight back on and continued round for a few more laps, thinking that at least now I knew how fast was too fast for the race. And I let a little more air out of my tyres, which now read 75psi.

There were 17 women on the start line and I knew the wheel to jump on to was Lydia’s from Velosport-Montegrappa. Keira McVitty went off like a bullet, but I managed to latch on to Lydia’s wheel down the first straight. And then on the second corner, I slid straight off it and hit the deck. I don’t even really know how it happened. My chain came off, and with no laps out, my race was effectively over, as I put it back on and jumped back into the pack, already a lap down.

I tentatively rode around for another 15min, watching rider after rider either come off or slip their back wheel. I was cornering like a tractor and being overtaken by what seemed like the world. Cornering is usually my strength, but with my head completely not in it, and continual thoughts of broken collarbones (which being a self-employed Physio, would be nothing short of a disaster), I pulled out - DNF. The first time in 3 years of racing where I have just simply quit.

No matter. The season is notoriously long, and for the price of a few bruises and a bit of missing skin, it did give me the motivation to go out and start some proper training. Winter is officially over.


12th March 2014

More than a bike fit...My day with the Bike Whisperer

“Would you like to have a bike fit” said Rich, “would I ever” was my reply.

imperial cycles Sally Stubbs

When I bought my bike a year ago the guy had done the usual stuff, saddle and bar height but apart from that I’d been pretty much riding it and thought it was ok! That was until I met the Bike Whisperer.
I had a few friends who’d had a bike fit before and had told tales of how great it was, how they had been strapped up to computers and what a difference it had made. So when I arrived at the industrial unit and saw no fancy gadgets I was a little disappointed. However, this feeling soon left me to be replaced with awe and wonder. Scherrit and Corinne were so lovely and welcoming the assessment turned out to be so much more than just my bike.

After taking a very thorough history Scherrit went on to do an assessment of my flexibility and physiology. It really was from top to toe! From this we moved to fixing me and my bike. Starting with my shoes and not only my cleat position but also my position in my shoes. Scherrit gave me some useful pointers on positioning cleat’s in the future as well as a whole heap of tippex on the bottom of my shoes for when my new ones wear down!! My saddle was the next in line for scrutiny, it went back, back some more, pointed down, seat post up, then up some more and post turned back the right way. Seriously have I really been riding my bike for 3 years with it round the wrong way!
Now for my bars, this was probably the only thing I thought needed changing. Whenever I rode on the drops I felt they were too low, and yay! I was right they were. So my stem was shortened, bars rotated, gears and brakes adjusted and it certainly feels better.

I have a feeling I may need a new saddle. My new bike position and set up may turn me into Marianne Vos (a girl can dream) but I feel my bits may be squeezed forever unless I change my saddle. The whole day, 5 hours was such fun, I learnt loads about my bike and Scherrit gave me loads of handy biking tips. I can talk loads but I reckon Scherrit almost out talked me! Was it an expensive luxury that you can do without? The simple answer is no way. People spend more than that this on clothes and they won’t make you go faster or avoid injury. A part from the bike set up I came away with all the facts and figures that would enable me to set up any of my future bikes.
Scherrit is also more than happy to see people again if all does not feel right once they go away and ride, but I have my doubts he has many people who return. I left the industrial estate a different women, I may not ride like a Pro rider but thanks to the Bike Whisperer I certainly left feeling like one.


28th October 2013

Gran Fondo Prosecco

I couldn’t let Rich have all the fun over in Italia,...
so I decided to skive off for a weekend of riding and Prosecco drinking. Me, Coralie and Nic, my Les Filles RT buddies, had been invited over to ride the Gran Fondo Prosecco, and with the promise of free bubbles, we couldn’t resist!

We were staying in a great new cycle friendly hotel, Hotel Villa Del Poggio, right in the heart of Prosecco country. The view was beautiful, and the road up to the hotel seriously steep! After a late night arrival on Friday, we got up early Saturday, got our bikes together and rode over to sign on for the Fondo the next day. We were riding with a group of locals, including Sacha Modolo, a Bardiani Valvole rider, fresh from the Tour Of Britain. The roads are best described as ‘grippy’, either going up or down, not my favourite type of riding, but great fun nonetheless. The sign on was being held in a large villa and vineyard HQ, so of course the obligatory vino was presented on arrival, followed by a small buffet. Fed and watered we headed home, with the help of our local guides, taking different roads. I was slightly surprised we weren’t going to ride up the ‘morro’ or wall, to the hotel, and decided it was a good idea to try it when we arrived back. BAD idea, horrible, hateful, painful climb! Very short, probably just under 1k, but really not fun. Nic decided to join me, and was close to vomiting at the top. I was glad we wouldn’t have to take it on again the next day! So the hard work for the day was well and truly over, there was the women’s Worlds to watch, and of course more to eat and drink.

Our dinner and drinks probably weren’t the best preparation for the ride, but hey, we were on holiday! The weather on Sunday morning was pretty awful, lots of rain and thunder; there was some question as to whether to ride at all. I was pretty keen, a bit of rain wasn’t enough to stop me, and I had flown all the way there with my dam bike box! Everyone was persuaded, and with rain jackets and some embro on the legs, the rain wasn’t too bad.

I am always surprised by Italian bike riders. In the UK we seem to look on Europeans with such reverence, they are the originals, the trend setters. I am yet to be convinced! The kit on display was pretty horrifying, men with shower caps over their helmets, people wearing bin bags! And the riding leaves a lot to be desired, most seem to be fairly good at climbing, but useless at everything else. This does make for some interesting moments, but they don’t seem to mind being shouted at, so its actually quite fun.

We decided to ride together, so me, Ewan, Nic and Stuart headed off into the hills. The roll out was pretty civilized, hitting a climb immediately kept everyone subdued. We formed a little group, picking up Italians as we went, and soon Stuart was towing 25 people along. They don’t really do group riding, and certainly were more than happy for us to ride on the front. I wasn’t too bothered as it meant we were out of trouble.

It’s a beautiful ride, with some nice little climbs and descents and with full road closures; we made good time, the short course only taking 2.5 hours. We split up a bit on the run in, but all finished within 5 mins of each other. Nic taking fastest International Woman, and forth fastest Woman overall, not bad considering we weren’t racing like the locals were!

imperial cycles

A really good weekend, great riding, food, drink, company and some good racing to watch on the telly! We all agreed to return next year; maybe we will tackle the longer route, and not drink quite so much...


29th September

Dolomites, Italy

Chrispy and I arrived in Cortina first ahead of the rest of the party...

Day 1
imperial cycles (of which I am an invited interloper) and the first thing that struck me was the truly stunning beauty of the Dolomites - bright blue skies and every way you turn there are trees, meadows and the fantastic pink granite and limestone cliffs which have forced themselves vertically from the earth resulting in landscape least as spectacular as the Rockies. Cortina is situated at 1,200m in perfect reach of a every bucket list climb you can think of - there is a downside, however - more later.
We thought we'd start easy (not sure why I keep falling for this Chrispy!) with the Falzarego - 15km at a steady 6-7% rising to just over 2,000m - pretty cold and windy at the top - but pleasant enough. We dropped down the other side to join up with the climb of the day - apparently the rest of the group weren't keen on this so we thought we'd do it on the first day - the Passo Giau - a Giro must and easy to see why - for the pros! This isn't that nice simply because it's 10km at an average of 10% finishing at 2,200m - I felt rubbish at the top barely able to winch the pedals round - add to this a poor choice of clothing for the cold descent in early evening left me unwilling to decant from the shower. This didn't bode well for the big day tomorrow.

Day 2imperial cycles
Four cols today all over 2,000m and my stomach was not feeling too good but expectation on the first full day was high; first we went back over the Falzarego with one member of the group not making it with sickness. The Falzarego pass has considerable historical significance being the pass overlooked by the Lagazuoi peak where the Austrians entrenched in the rock faces in the First World War facing off the Italians in the opposite valley; neither side achieved much but the Italians secured it in the post-war carve up.
A descent of the Falzarego led us to Andraz and past Caprile and through the gorge at Sottoguda towards the Fedaia (often referred to as the Marmolada) this is a short but vicious climb only 5km after the gorge but with a virtually straight road of between 10-15% topping out at over 2,000m. We were glad to see the back of this although it actually has something to see at the top - a vast lake with a dam, overlooked by the glacier above. Next stop another Giro D'Italia favourite the Passo Pordoi via Canazei. This is a truly beautiful climb rising from the valley through a forest surrounded by the vast scenery of the Dolomites followed by a spectacular 30+ hairpin descent into Arabba. We were then back in familiar territory - an ascent of the Falzarego from the other side then the swoop back down to Cortina. A pretty serious days riding - 130km and 3,500m of ascending. Some of Horner's anti-ageing cream required?

Day 3
An easy day in the Dolomitesimperial cycles
And here's the problem - you can't find a route that constitutes an easy day - no roads to the beach, along the valley etc - it's either up or down!
Plus Chrispy's idea of an easy day is clearly not mine - apparently the Dolomites themselves are quite young at some 30 million years old - my legs and body felt only slightly younger this morning. So our soft day entailed the Pordoi (again) and as much as it's pretty it's still hard; we then headed north on the Sella Ronda (a ring of roads surrounding a huge lump of rock but with stunningly views accentuated by the clear blue skies we were lucky enough to have) crossing the Passo Sella at 2,214m - fortunately I started to recover at this point and made it to the top first. After lunch we took in the Gardena - then descended into Corvara, La Villa and Santa Cassiano - each of these towns speak Ladin and have place names in that language as well as Italian and Austrian! Final climb of the day was the Valparola before a manic descent down the Falzarego. An 80km easy day.

Day 4
imperial cyclesA new route today but we have to go up the south side of the Giau to start with and that's after a 1,000ft warm up to Pocol - I want to lie down and sleep! The south side is apparently easier but even after coffee and chocolate I was ready to head home - don't worry Chrispy said it's mostly downhill from now in a big loop to Cortina - I am as gullible as a hungry Marmotte.
We flew down the other side of the Giau wrestling for space with the thousands of motorcyclists that frequent the area. It is one of the best descents I've ever ridden and the bikers and occasional car make the race to the bottom more exciting. We lunched in the sun after the vertically challenged Staulanza (only 1,773m) and then descended to the lowest point of the trip so far - 860m. The sun was now burning hot and the so called meandering long climb to Passo Cibiana did anything but meander - another 10km at 7%. Similar to the Passo Duran I was told, not that that made any difference. The hair raising descent was the best so far and fortunately at the end of the road we picked up the old converted railway line which provides a tarmac path practically all the way back to Cortina; this is the easy road I was looking for.....

Day 5
imperial cycles

Always best to leave the hardest to last on the morning of departure! The Tre Cime di Lavaredo is one of the highest peaks in the area; Nibali won here in the snow in the Giro this year. Although not the longest the last part of the climb being only 6km it ramps up to 15%+ on a number of sections for 3-4km; not really fun but a justifiable achievement to reach the cafe at the top at 2,300m and look over the edge into Austria.
Best comedy moment came in the cafe when I went to buy a sticker in my poorest Italian and the lady behind the counter spoke perfect English having spent over 20 years living in London, the last of which was in Dagenham - not much of a contrast!


24th September - click on photos to enlarge image

Surrey League Road Race Norwood Hill

Well, back to reality with an old favourite...
Surrey didn’t disappoint with the normal smattering of irate locals, patchy parking, super excitable horses – coupled with a bunch of August-fit 3rd cats who didn’t want to ride at my pace…. On the finishing straight I remembered that I’d written off a brand new Bianchi here many years ago after flying across a ditch and creasing the top tube with my knee! imperial cycles

I punctured on the penultimate lap and George lost contact with the chase group after another pair of nags straddled the road. Anyway I kept reminding myself that you have to suffer to improve.

Have cake, go home and forget about it…


11 August

Tuscany 2013 Le Pizzorn

As Monte Serra clearly wasn’t challenging enough...

imperial cycles george we went searching for another climb early on Wednesday morning – I’d been trying to find the route up to Le Pizzorne for the last 2 years after reading an article in Procycling by American Liquigas pro Ted King. This climb is on a range of hills directly opposite Monte Serra on the other side of Lucca – I could see the radio mast at the top but in typically Italian fashion couldn’t find the route from the bottom. The new Garmin assisted and once we’d got out of Matraia it was actually well signed! Again it was stinking hot and early on I shouted to George that as the climb was heavily forested it was difficult to see the road but if it went directly up the valley on the right we were in trouble – not much! After a relatively gentle meander up to Matraia we turned sharp left at the church and were faced with a kilometre of 15% average with a couple of bits reaching 22-23%. We headed into the trees for some relief from the sun for the remaining 3km to the top at 860m – checking on Strava later we clocked the 2nd fastest time with a modest 33 minutes with only Cannondale’s Ted faster in 29 minutes. He must have been cruising but we certainly weren’t!


31st July

Tuscany 2013

Just as we were getting going,...

imperial cycles rich collins the Imperial Cycles boys, (and girls) have decamped to Tuscany for a few weeks of serious riding and relaxing.

Rich and co have been staying in a villa nestled in the hills just outside Lucca for the past decade. The roads are great, with lots of beautiful little climbs, some more severe than others, and endless opportunities for espresso stops. I was invited out to keep Rich company, and with the possibility of seeing Super Mario cruising along the boulevard at Viareggio, I couldn’t resist.

A couple of Cipo-less days in, and we pedalled the short distance to Lucca to hook up with Paladino, owner of classy little bike shop Chrono (, and long time riding partner of R’s. He was looking pretty tied up hiring out bikes to the generous helping of tourists that flock to the walled city every summer, so the two of us headed off south towards the biggest climb in the area, Monte Serra. imperial cycles rich collins

I’m a big fan of a good climb, and after spending the summer in the French Alps last year, I had fond memories of the steady gradients and relative coolness of the high mountains. The Serra doesn’t deliver either of these qualities, with long exposed stretches over 10%. I was soon alone, struggling to retain any form, and seriously suffering in the scorchio temperature, the Garmin was reading 38 degrees!!

It’s a great climb, and one done by lots of pros in the early 00’s. Their times make scary reading, even considering the additional assistance most were receiving. I struggled my way to the top, and went off in search of coffee! After later chatting with Paladino, and his Sheffield born colleague Tim, turns out we chose the hardest way up, at the hottest time of day, ooops!

The rest of my holiday will be more sedate in pace, rides shorter, stops longer and lots of pool time. We will return suitably refreshed and inspired to tackle the final hurdle of setup, and I’m already looking forward to that first service I get to do in my very own workshop!!

Watch this space for news on our grand opening, and remember to keep following our ramblings on Twitter @imperialcycles


27th July

My IG London Nocturne 2013 Experience

The Nocturne has always been my favourite cycling event....
It’s got everything, awesome location, great atmosphere, copious food and drink, and super fast crit racing around a tight and technical course, what more could a bike racer want of a sunny evening in June?

After several years of fruitless application to ride the support race, I was pretty surprised to receive an email confirming my place, oh shit, that means I have to ride it now!!

imperial cycles george kirkinA pretty humbling experience at Palace the week before didn’t put my mind at ease. This was going to be balls out from the line, aggressive and seriously scary. And of course if I was popped out the back 1st lap, there were thousands of people there to bear witness.

Warm and sunny conditions were a massive relief; rain would have made the corners greasy, and really sketchy. On arrival at Smithfield I found my mates Jimmy Leach and Chris Pyne and we set up a little warm up area in the pits. 20mins on the rollers, lots of caffeine and a decent position on the front row at the start, and I was feeling surprisingly chilled.

A delay to the start (sweeping broken glass off the course, very reassuring…) just to build the nerves, then we’re off, bikes everywhere, cheering crowd, loud music, and my heart rate is maxed within seconds. The first few laps were carnage, with Jimmy giving it some pure power off the start and leading for the first lap. I slipped way back from my good start position, and gaps were opening everywhere. As it settled down, I found myself in a group of 12 or so, probably the third on the road. I saw Jimmy up ahead; he had been spat out of the lead group, after going a bit hard early on. A few laps later he took a tumble on the bottom corner, sliding into the crash mats, nice one! He escaped with a few grazes.

imperial cycles george kirkinI was loving the atmosphere, but my legs were exploding out of every corner, and I was starting to taste blood, never nice. Then with three to go we were lapped, and promptly pulled out by the coms. Game over. Over a bit soon for me, I wanted a sprint for the line!

What an awesome experience! Despite never being part of the race, and just making up the numbers, I had loads of fun, and will definitely be back for more next year. To finish in a group, and not disgrace myself was way more than I had expected.

My gin & tonic and chips for dinner and watching the women’s and elite men’s races rounded off the evening. Big well done to the Les Filles girls, Nic, Lexie, Helen and Vikki, I think they also had large amounts of fun, with Olympians and World Champions laying down the hurt!

Every bike racing fan should attend this event, and long may it continue.

Thanks for reading, more to follow soon…


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