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Easy Rider: A Celebration of Cycling

According to Cycling UK, the number of people cycling in Britain has risen almost every year since 2008. As the sport celebrates its 200th anniversary, Melissa Emerson meets some modern-day two-wheel enthusiasts

June marked 200 years since civil servant Baron Karl von Drais invented the laufmaschine – what is widely accepted as the earliest form of the bicycle. Translated as ‘running machine’, the two-wheeled vehicle was straddled and propelled by a seated rider, and crowds were in awe of it when von Drais completed a nine-mile round trip in a quarter of the time it would have taken on foot. 

Despite the fact that motor vehicles have long since eclipsed bicycle speeds (although two wheels remain the quickest way of weaving through traffic jams), cycling’s popularity is on the rise.

Ensuring that today’s growing army of cyclists look the part, Mr Porter recently introduced exclusive capsule collections, with contemporary Copenhagen-based cycle brand Pas Normal Studios and French Café du Cycliste, to make ill-fitted lycra a thing of the past. Its cycling bib shorts (pictured, right) are just the thing for hitting the road in Marylebone, which has recently secured £1m funding to become a Low Emission Neighbourhood (LEN). It will reduce motor traffic as part of the measures. A second dockless bike-hire scheme, oBike, has also launched in London this summer, with an initial 400 bikes, which users locate and unlock with their smartphones.

“Cycling is growing year on year and we have seen a 75 per cent increase in our business since this time last year,” says Gretta Cole, co-owner and marketing director of Velorution, which specialises in bikes for the urban environment. Cole believes that safety technology is helping encourage more cyclists onto the roads. “There are lots of products available, from light-up jackets and smart helmets with indicators and a brake light, to 140-decibel loud horns and AfterShokz bone conduction headphones that you wear outside of your ears.”  

Adam Garrett, co-owner of Cloud 9 Cycles, which specialises in custom-built bikes, is equally positive. “Both the previous and current Mayor are pro-cycling which has really helped change the infrastructure of London and get more people into this wonderful sport,” he comments. 

Neil Davis, director of tokyobike, whose lightweight city bikes come in an array of rainbow shades, agrees that London is now on the cycling map. “It’s firmly moved into the mainstream and it’s a virtuous circle – the more cyclists there are, the safer it is,” he says. London might not be ready to usurp cycling capitals such as Amsterdam and Copenhagen just yet, but the wheels are certainly in motion.

Adam Garrett, co-owner of Cloud 9 Cycles

Favourite bike model?
The Cloud 9 Street Racer – the best bike for city riding you can get.

Best cycle accessory?
The Finn phone mount. It is simple yet so effective.

Where would you most like to go cycling?
I would love to go to Iran – the people I have met from there are great and the food is delicious. Mix that with the mountains in the north and you have potentially the best cycling terrain on earth.

Favourite cycling race?
Red Bull Rampage.

What should motorists remember?
Always use your indicators and look over your shoulder before you open a door.

Apart from cycling, what other activities do you enjoy?
I love coarse fishing – there is no better way to relax with nature.

Which other city would you live in? 
Tokyo – I love that place! It has the most respectful people I have ever met – you don’t need to lock your bike.

Most memorable place you’ve ever cycled?
Mérida in Venezuela was incredible. Big hills, long descents and awesome views, paired with an ice cream shop with the most flavours in the world. 

Greatest cycling moment in history?
It has to be Aaron Gwin’s run in Leogang during the Downhill Cup. His tyre came off the rim in the first few seconds yet he still finished with an incredible time. Google it! 

Never have I ever…
seen Titanic.

Gretta Cole, co-owner and marketing director of Velorution

Which country would you most like to cycle around? 
Spain or Italy.

Best cycle accessory? 
At the moment I really like the Lumos helmet; it’s extremely innovative.

Apart from cycling, what other activities do you enjoy?
Dancing, pilates or walking. 

Favourite cycling race?
The Brompton World Championships. 

What’s the best thing to do in London in the summer?
Cycle to Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. All the London parks are glorious in the summer. 

Greatest cycling moment in history?
All of the action from the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games.

Never have I ever…
Bungee jumped. Nor would I...

What’s your spirit animal?
A cat.

What should motorists remember?
It’s important to respect each other. Cyclists have as much right to be on the road as any vehicle, so give way and keep your distance when overtaking. I also think that cyclists should do the same.

Which other city would you live in? 
I have a house in the south of France; it’s so beautiful there. 

Do you cycle to work?
I don’t cycle to work as I live very close to our Marylebone store, but I do take the opportunity to cycle different models depending on what I’m doing. If I have local appointments I take a folding bike, and for longer rides an electric one (because I hate getting sweaty but I still want the exercise). 

Best place you’ve ever cycled?
London of course.

38 Store Street, WC1E, cloud9cycles.com; 75-77 Great Portland Street, W1W, velorution.com