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Richmond Cycles Journal:

Digging deep to ride up the majestic Mont Faron

March 26th, 2018

Quote from Sean Yates

” I had the yellow jersey by some two minutes going into the 88 edition of Paris-Nice stage and managed to hang onto it by one second by the end. The start was steep, the road is narrow and rough, the run in was dangerous, position was key. So no time to settle in, by the second hairpin there were always guys everywhere. The climb settled down in the second half but by that time the race had already been won and lost.”

Extract from Stubble & Steel by our visiting author,  Tony Blake


Today Toulon sprawls across the bay from the smaller tourist harbours to the industrial shipyards and the quiet cove beaches. The town spreads to the foothills of the mountain and comes to an abrupt halt before the ‘Area of Natural Protection’. The town is densely built, and any gap in the buildings is bridged by the white limestone backdrop of the majestic Mont Faron.

This outcrop acts as a natural boundary overlooking Toulon, rising up to a calcareous summit peak at 580 metres above sea level.

Mont Faron is part of a chain of mountains protecting Toulon from the cold Mistral north-west wind which sweeps through Provence. It’s magnificent profile can be seen at the summit of Mont Ventoux several hundred miles north, the mistral blowing the mountain top barren two hundred days of the year. This range of mountains by the coast create the localised microclimate.
There are three ways up to the summit of Mont Faron, a footpath, the road and Téléphérique (cable car).  The road gave me a choice of two right hand turns. Rue Valès or the Chemin du Fort Rouge.

Rue Valès starts to rise dramatically close to the cable car station and touches 15% several times before the actual mountain road begins. This was a slight relief, dropping to 12%.

The Chemin du Fort Rouge road had similar gradients but was shorter. The start of the climb is well signed from either route.
There were wider hairpins, presumably to let larger vehicles through, but ideal as a staging point to launch an attack by riding through the apex as I stood on the pedals.  The gradient was constant, but enough to bite and the asphalt road was a little rough and cracked in places. Recent rains had washed stones and shingle into the middle of the path.
The climb is quite repetitive with long zig-zag sections broken by hairpins with short retaining walls. The edges of the straights were often marked by these discarded rocks and shingle unless the edge was particular precarious and a short wooden barrier would offer a little security for cars that were desperate to overtake.
The climb afforded little shade. The soil erosion from the steep slopes was most likely the cause for the stunted Bonzai pines which allowed views of the port from the very start making a beautiful distraction from the gradient and the effort. Every hairpin offered a new view across the bay. The light of the autumnal sun reflected up from the sea only to strike the white limestone walls of the Mont Faron and send those rays straight back out to sea. The clarity of the light was intense even with eye protection.

Overhead the Téléphérique cables hummed to signal to look up as the cable carts passed over the route heading to the summit.

 The cars run for much of the year but if the winds picked up tourists could be stuck at the top looking for an alternative ride down. The fact they were running today was a good indicator that the Mistral winds were being tamed by the mountain.
Finally the pine trees began to thin and I hoped this was a clue to indicate I must be getting nearer the top. However, the higher I climbed the more exposed I was to the winds. And then the most definitive visual cue –  I caught a glimpse of mountains inland- and from that point the final bend soon arrived and I could see the cable car station that marked the top. With a final look out across the bay of Toulon I was able to take in the full panorama as the road turned away from the sea into a forest area just above upper the Téléphérique cart landing station.

The official top of the climb complete…and as with the end of all good adventures my next thoughts turned to ice cool beverages.

Viva Mallorca: The Lighthouse Ride

January 31st, 2018

There’s something intangibly compelling about travelling to the very end of somewhere. To John O’Groats. To Key West. In cycling, that will often mean to the top too, like Ventoux, or the great dead-end Pyrenees roads to Hautacam or Luz-Ardiden.

On Mallorca, this feeling transmutes itself perfectly into the shape of the Cap de Formentor, otherwise known as the Lighthouse Ride.

Mallorca sits in the Mediterranean like an angel fish forever swimming west towards Valencia. At the very top tip of its diamond shape, the trailing edge of dorsal fin cuts through the sea in a series of breathtaking cliffs and beaches known as the Formentor Peninsula, named for the frothing opposing tides that crash into each other at the Cap.

Zigzagging up from the cyclist enclave of Puerto Pollenca, this is literally the road to nowhere, and bikes outnumber motorised traffic all year round. The last habitation seen at this end of the road is the stunning complex that played Richard Roper’s house in the lavish BBC drama The Night Manager. After that, it’s just you and the mountain. Peaking initially at the Mirador (viewpoint) Colomer, the road offers you a choice. The brave will take a right turn here to continue upwards on cracked tarmac to gaze down from the old Roman lookouts that still stand sentry on the heights of the peninsula. Those intrepid travellers may be rewarded with a glimpse of the island’s rare black vultures before dropping back down to the col where they left the Lighthouse Road.

But the real joy of this road is the roller coaster dash to the end of the world at Cap de Formentor.

The genius 1930s engineer Antonio Parietti made both this road and its better-known brother, Sa Calobra, mixing enough craziness in with the beauty to remind you that he came from the same cultural explosion as Dali and Bunuel.

No sense of anti-climax could ever overcome the arrival at the lighthouse itself, perched like a citadel on the last bit of rock on Mallorca. And there’s a bar. You scaled 1500 metres in 20 kilometres to get here. All you have to do now is enjoy it all again in the other direction.

Competition Time

WIN a Cycling Holiday in Mallorca courtesy of Richmond Cycles and Viva Velo  HERE

Entries must be submitted by midnight 14.02.18 to be counted.


Richmond Cycles precision fit system

Richmond Cycles: Our precision fit system

December 12th, 2017

A dirty word?

When the more elderly of our battle-hardened Richmond Cycles crew first started selling bikes – it was in black and white and round here it was all fields – “fit” was a dirty word. Most bike shops’ idea of fitting was along the lines of:

“What is the right size bike for me?”

“That one you’re standing next to is perfect.

Fast forward to 2017 and you can find any number of experts who will use lasers and wind tunnels to shave seconds off your personal best in exchange for a week’s salary. And the ones who charge the most must give the best fit, right?

What we didn’t do

We have a slightly different take on it. We take bike fitting extraordinarily seriously, and we spend many hours discussing it. Within the team at the shop we have two sports scientists, another guy who was once assured by the original mass-market fit system that he had personally measured more cyclists than anyone else they had come across in Europe, another guy who found his life transformed after surgery and a new bike fit, and some others who just find the whole thing absolutely absorbing.

click here to read more

Winter Warmers…more than just socks

December 8th, 2017

There are few tasks more enjoyable in the bike trade than picking clothes. It’s like vicarious shopping on a grand scale.

And one of the great things about riding in winter is that you get to wear more clothes. More clothes! If Imelda Marcos had been a cyclist she’d never have got out of the house.

The TMKS Phenomenon

Everybody at Richmond Cycles has experienced the phenomenon of TMKS at some point. That’s right: Too Much Kit Syndrome. You may well wince when you see that guy in football shorts riding over Richmond Bridge on a frosty morning, especially when you realise the raw pork chops he’s carrying on his handlebars are actually his gloveless hands. That’s because he wears the same thing every day, no matter what. Laugh at your peril: he’s never been late to meet his friends for a ride because he couldn’t decide which of his five merino neck-warmers to wear. You have, haven’t you? Well, we all have.

click here to read more

Richmond Cycles Shop Front

What a year 2017 has been

December 4th, 2017

Happy Birthday to Us

It’s now a full year and a bit since we rolled up the shutters for the first time and re-opened Richmond Cycles as its new owners. We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve lost a small fortune, fixed a few bikes, made some new friends, done some great rides… and that was all on the first morning.

We’re tempted to say that we think we’re beginning to get the hang of it, but we have a feeling that in 12 months’ time we’ll be saying, “NOW we think we’re beginning to get the hang of it.” And 12 months after that, “NOWWWWW…” That’s if we’re still here to begin getting the hang of it, touch wood.

We try to trim the ship every day without losing sight of our main idea: the right bikes, the right stuff and the right workshop for riding bikes in Richmond. We’ve made a fair few changes the year… bigger workshop capacity and more pairs of clever hands, fewer mountain bikes (for the high peaks of the Twickenham Highlands), more titanium and many more interesting bits of stuff.

“The prospect of being a bike shop owner in Richmond was exciting and scary, and it still is,” says our proud proprietor Richard Roberts. “There is a strong ‘wellness’ community in Richmond that fits perfectly with our own approach. We don’t just sell bikes, we ride them. Especially on Fridays at 10am and Sundays at 8.30am. That’s been the best thing about having this shop: riding a bike with other people at least twice a week.”

Hope to see you on one of our rides (or even one of our bikes) soon. 

Dear Santa…

December 2nd, 2017

Seen something you’d like for Christmas?

Take a card from our Christmas Wish Box, put your name on it, and write down your three favourite things. You can put sizes and colours on if you like. Pop it back in our box and tell your nearest and dearest to venture in to the shop between now and late December.

We’ll rescue your card and make sure they take home exactly what you asked for. And we can tick them off to avoid you getting the same thing from Martha and Arthur this Christmas.

If they’re STILL stuck, we’ll write them a custom Richmond Cycles Gift Voucher for any amount they want.

It’s not a John Lewis advert, we know, but it’s a hell of a lot more conducive to a happy family Christmas than monsters under your kids’ beds.

Commuting in Cardiff on my Trek Cross Rip 3

October 19th, 2017

I’m still bouncing back and forth between my life in the shop and my life in the theatre quite happily. This past month has been my first chance to travel with my bike and be a proper commuter though. Luckily, I’ve had enough time at Richmond Cycles to kit myself out with the right stuff – and it’s made a difference

I managed to find a room in Llandaff with an opera loving couple an easy twenty-five minute ride from work in Cardiff Bay, where I had a short contract with Welsh National Opera.  My commute was mostly through a park along a river or along dedicated cycle way. It was lovely. Here are a few tips my little experience taught me.

Get your bike there

You need to book your bike on Great Western Railways. I did it over the phone and had the usual five minute dance with a computer before getting through to a friendly human being who gave me a reservation number for the train I was planning to catch. I booked the return space for the bike at the Cardiff Central station the day before and was able to change that to a different train about thirty minutes before departure. It’s a small hassle with a big payoff because there is no better way to get to know a city that to discover it on two wheels.

click here to read more

Strava Club

July 18th, 2017






Introducing the Richmond Cycles club page on Strava, the Social Network for Athletes. It’s a great place for us to advertise the finer details of our shop rides, post general updates about rides and events. As a club member it is a good place for discussion and to generally keep up with what sort of rides others are recording.

Each week we have shop rides for all abilities every Friday and Sunday. You can either click the “I’m in” button on the page, or contact the shop in person, through phone or email to let us know of your interest.

Strava is a great way of recording your activities and sharing rides with friends. If you’re not already a member, we’d recommend having a look, it’s free to sign up and use!

Please click THIS LINK to check out our page.

Seven ways to improve bike riding for your kids

December 12th, 2016

Kids will keep doing things they enjoy and the more they do something, the better and more confident they will become. So how can picking the right bike help? Here are a few of our top tips, but please come by the shop to discuss what’s right for your child.

  1. Always bring your child in to try a bike before you buy a bike. Your kids are unique and the bike should be set up to fit them not the other way round. And trying on a helmet to find the right one is just as important. click here to read more

Optimise your performance with the Trek Domane

November 21st, 2016

Trek’s carbon fibre road bike range contains three different families of performance machine. For the aerodynamic speed freaks, there is the Madone. For the climbers and slender types, the Emonda is one of the world’s lightest frames. Then there is the bike designed for the very finest return on your effort despite bad roads, cobbles or many, many hours in the saddle: the Domane.

Richmond Cycles are all over the Domane. There is a broad range of bikes, including a completely redesigned women’s alternative under the banner of Silque. From the rarified atmosphere of their team issue bike so beloved of Fabian Cancellara, they go right down to the stunning quality of the £1400 Domane S4.

The real defining feature of the Domane is kits use of Trek’s clever IsoSpeed couplings, designed to dramatically increase comfort without any loss of power or steering quality. click here to read more

JOHN’S BLOG: A biking weekend in the Highlands

November 15th, 2016

We’re lucky in Richmond to have so many lovely roads we can ride from the front door. But there is a shortage of plunging vistas and a distinct lack of wilderness, mountain or coastline.

In the course of writing 12 Months in the Saddle with Phil Ashley a few years ago, we visited some pretty wonderful riding destinations – Ventoux, Tuscany, Flanders etc – but our unanimous choice of best chapter was the weekend we spent in North West Scotland. click here to read more

Enigma Etape

Let the Enigma Etape catch your imagination.

October 27th, 2016

Enigma are renowned for their exquisite titanium frames, but one bike seems to catch the imagination more than the rest: the Etape.

When we were looking at new brands to bring to Richmond Cycles, one conversation struck a chord. We were talking to our friends at Bicycle Works in Edinburgh, who told us the Enigma Etape was unique.

“The guy who wants class and quality. Something that will last. Something he can use to smash his pals on the Sunday club run. Something that will carry him round the Marmotte or the Maratona without breaking him. But he can also sling a pair of mudguards on it, tyres with a bit of bite and ride it from Cornwall to Sutherland without touching a main road. That guy will buy an Etape, because there’s nothing like it.” click here to read more

John’s Blog: Cobbles were made for titanium

October 21st, 2016

First stop, Flanders

Armed with our demo Enigma Etape, we made a journey that we’re very familiar with at Richmond Cycles. M3, M25, M20, Eurotunnel, A16/E40 and into the heart of Flanders.

This particular pair of legs has been over the bergs of the Tour of Flanders nine times – not always in the saddle, it must be confessed. Sometimes the gradient, the cobbles and the sheer relentless intensity of the repetitive short hills just gang up on you and far better riders than this have found themselves walking. As veterans of this particular humiliation, we favour mountain bike shoes and SPDs for Flanders. At least then, if we have to walk, we can walk.

Technique is everything on the pavé. Stay relaxed, take more weight on your feet by riding a slightly heavier gear than usual, and focus on the distance to stay steady and smooth in your style. click here to read more