The uItimate bike guide to Oslo - the Top 5 places to visit on two wheels.

As the first of our World City guides to the very best places to stop by bike we venture over to the Norwegian capital Oslo. Nestled at the soft nuzzley neck of Norway, Oslo is a cultural centre and a perfect weekend destination. According to the Lonely Planet - Oslo "is home to world-class museums and galleries rivalling anywhere else on the European art trail. But even here Mother Nature has managed to make her mark, and Oslo is fringed with forests, hills and lakes awash with opportunities for hiking, cycling, skiing and boating."

Photo by Andris S. Visdal

Rumour has it that you are never more than 15 minutes away from a bush in the city, due to its plethora of parks and as it is sat at the head of a Fjord (Oslofjord no less) the city is also relatively flat making it a mecca for cyclists. Like London, Oslo has a bike hire scheme so you can hire a bike on your weekend away and cycle around the city.

Who better to ask where to visit by bike in this city than the authors of the rather beautiful bike guide book - Bikevibe. A story of cycling in Oslo, featuring some of the leading voices in bikes around the city illustrated with some stunning photography. The authors - Mari & Silje - have also given us one of their handsome Oslo guides to give away to one lucky winner.

To win the copy tweet, facebook or instagram us your favourite place to ride - at home or abroad. Remember to follow us so you find out if you are the winner. The competition closes on the 10th September.

 Photo by Even Suseg

Photo by Even Suseg

So here are Bikevibe's top 5 places to visit by bike in Oslo: 

Oslovelo

The best coffee (and drinks), the best people and the best bicycle service in town. Oslovelo recently re-located and expanded their workshop with a daytime café/night time bar. 

 Photo by Mari Oshaug

Photo by Mari Oshaug

Sørenga

Do as the Bikevibe-team so often does on hot summer night: take your bike down to Søregna for a swim. Bonus: you get to see the impressive Opera without all the tourists.

Swimming post cycling sorenga

Botanisk hage

Bike over to Tøyen and find yourself a bench inside one of the greenhouses at the Botanical gardens. Daydream while you take in the smell and the relaxing atmosphere (or just look at some seriously impressive plats).

 Photo by Mari Oshaug

Photo by Mari Oshaug

Rouleur

Located on St.Hanshaugen, Rouleur is the perfect place for local beer or cup of coffee while out and about.  During winter there is even a fireplace!

 Photo by Mari Oshaug

Photo by Mari Oshaug

Ensemble, Kaibosh, Dapper

Good things come in threes, at least in Nordre Gate 13-15 at Grunerløkka.  Here you’ll find our favourite brand of glasses and sunglasses (Kaibosh), lovely, lovely clothes (Ensemble) and beautiful bikes and other nice looking stuff (Dapper). Because looking good and biking goes hand in hand. 

Photo by Andris S. Visdal

And in the words of one of their featured cyclists Jonas Stromberg: "Let's just say if I don't get to ride, I'm not the easiest person to live with. I get cranky." Quite! 

 Photo by Vi Duc Truong

Photo by Vi Duc Truong

Remember, to win a copy of the gorgeous book Bikevibe Oslo, tweet, facebook or instagram us your favourite place to ride - at home or abroad. Remember to follow us so you find out if you are the winner. This competition closes on the 10th September. 

Cycling in Oslo

How to save Money by cycling to work?

Looking to save a few pounds after the #Brexit result? Well cycling to work could just be the perfect way to do it. 

Commuting on the tube & rail is getting expensive, in London - a return trip just in zones 1-3 cost is £7.60 and in Manchester travel on the Tram system is £7 per day. An average of £5,928 over 3 years. Driving to work is more. At the moment the average local driving commute (25 minutes each way) could work out about £6 in petrol and £4-£20 in parking - that's £14,094 over 3 years. But then there's the insurance, MOT and servicing to take into account... 

Luckily there is the perfect answer to keep your Toy Fund well and truly stocked up post #Brexit: Biking to Work.

Cycling just needs you, your bike and your granola to get going. Taking into account the cost of a bike (approximately £550) and servicing over the course of 3 years the average cycling commute could cost around 89p a day, and that assumes you will buy a new bike after the 3 years. Of course the cost of the granola could possibly out do your good work so try not to choose the one hand moulded by artic penguins with nuts picked out by truffle pigs... but if it's your favourite... 

So granola choice aside, that's a saving at the very least of £5,178, an extra 1-2 holidays a year. 

If you want to work out how much exactly you will save by cycling to work here is a handy calculator: http://www.cycletoworkcalculator.com/

Then there is the fun of buying the new kit which is perfectly justified when you're still saving... Here's a few suggestions: www.hillandellis.com/shop

And remember we give you free delivery and £10 off when you sign up to our Member's Club

Beginners Guide to the Perfect Riding Position

Hooray Spring Cycling is here again & it's the perfect time to get out on your bike. It's cool, often sunny (hopefully) and the nights are getting lighter. As many of you are getting yourself ready to get back on the bike again, we thought we would give you the lowdown on perfecting the ideal riding position with our little Beginners Guide. 

Ultimately there are three things that you need to adjust: The saddle height, the handlebar height and the saddle position.

Saddle Height 

The right Saddle Height is very important as it allows you to get the optimum power from your legs, which makes the ride feel easier and it also ensures you don't put unnecessary pressure on your knees. If the height is too low your knees will be taking the strain and if it is too high your back will be over arching which could lead to injury. 

How to get the perfect height? Get on the saddle and put your heel on the pedal in its bottom position. Your leg should be straight but not over stretched. Loosen the allen key, adjust the saddle to this position and then tighten. (Remember LEFTY LOOSEY, RIGHTY TIGHTY! - It's right up there with S CLUB 7's  "Right up on the dance floor is where you've got to let it go" as useful mantra's to live by!)

Get on it to check you've nailed it first time (you probably have) and that's the saddle height, now for the the Saddle position. 

Saddle Position

The perfect saddle position will stop you straining your body and will also make sure you're as comfortable on the saddle as possible, if you get what we mean! The saddle can be moved forwards and backwards on the seat post with a bolt underneath the saddle itself. 

Your leg should be vertically below your seat when pushing down fully on the pedal. To adjust it, loosen the allen key (LEFTY LOOSEY.... ) and tighten at the perfect position for you. It is also worth riding to test it as you might feel like you want to move forward on the saddle or back. If so move it accordingly until it feels right. 

Handlebar position

Handlebars can be adjusted in different ways and the perfect height ultimately comes down to how you like to ride. Often experts tell you to have the handlebars at the same height as your saddle, but if you prefer a sit up and beg style ride you can higher the handlebars, and if you prefer a lower 'racing' riding position you can lower the height. As long as you can comfortably reach the brakes, the handlebar height is all about you! 

Now your bike is correctly positioned check your tyre pressure. 

Tyre Pressure

Without doubt the one thing that will improve your ride is the tyre pressure, it stops drag and makes the ride feel more effortless. The tyre pressure varies depending on your tyres but it is usually marked on the side of your wheel in the rubber so it is super easy to find out what pressure you need. Road tyres vary from 80-130psi, hybrids from 50-70psi and mountain bikes from 30-50psi. The right tyre pressure will also help prevent punctures so it is worth checking it's right. Your tyres will lose pressure with every ride so aim to re-pump your tyres every 5 days if not more often. 

The stand up floor pumps are brilliant and definitely worth the investment if you are riding regularly as it makes pumping up the tyres very easy but the hand pumps will get your biceps in 'pecing' order quickly so its not all bad.

 

Enjoy the lovely Spring weather and Happy Riding!

He needs to read our guide! 

Happy International Women's Day! Ladies, Get on your bike, everyone else is!

Happy International Women's Day! 

It seems fitting that International Women's Day falls in the same week that Laura Trott wins Gold in the Scratch at the Cycling World Championships and Lizzie Armitstead wins the Strade Bianche in Italy.  Unlike many other sports, women's success in cycling is equaling that of men and media coverage of female cycling events (with the exception of tennis) arguably exceeds that of any other sport. 

And it is not just the record breakers who are female cyclists. After a campaign launched by British Cycling in 2013 to get 1 million more women cycling by 2020 it seems that in the last year alone around 250,000 women have taken to the saddle for both recreational cycling and commuting. 

This upward curve is frankly brilliant, I love to see more people being being bitten by the cycling bug in whatever capacity they decide to adopt it. Despite this success, the main challenge is still getting women on a bike in the first place. Once you have experienced the extensive benefits of cycling - free exercise time, cheaper commute, freedom from sweaty packed trains or buses, that sense of adventure fuelled by two wheels, the extra flapjack you can sneak in at teatime and that endorphin hit from exercise it is hard not to get hooked. So if you are thinking of taking to the saddle but haven't enthusiastically swung your leg over the bars (so to speak) as yet, then how do you get involved?

Switch to the saddle this Spring - have a look at the Breeze Network, amongst other events, they support women who are a bit nervous about cycling to work. With an escort you can sign up to cycle to work together so you can learn the best routes and the safest way to cycle. They have even written their top tips for cycling to work on their website - click here to read it. 

One of which is to use a pannier bag to carry your clothes and work stuff. As luck would have it, you are already in the right place for that. We have a range of pannier specifically designed for women, which cunningly don't look like panniers - view our collections here. 

British Cycling is also a great source for support and routes for cycling and has all the information your need for bike events, competitions and races in case you get bitten big. 

Also have a look at Sustrans, they have mapped the best routes in the country for cycling on. Traffic free, scenic and quiet they offer the best for pottering with your pedal and speeding in the saddle (not actual speeding though, that would be dangerous.) 

Finally check out #thisgirlcan an initiative which started to stop the barriers women feel from starting up a new sport. If you don't have a sport at the moment this is a great place for inspiration - you'll be hill climbing in no time. 

Chris Boardman recently declared that aerodynamics is more important in cycling than strength so with smaller heads, smaller shoulders and a lighter frame, its possible women are better designed for the bike. Just to be clear the second part of that sentence has no scientific back up whatsoever but isn't it great to speculate? 

Whatever happens, give cycling a go this Spring. Who knows perhaps you will go from riding on the road to riding in Rio. Even Trott and Armitstead had to start somewhere! 

Happy International Women's Day! 

The Perfect Pair - Hill & Ellis meet Meame.

The search for the perfect jacket is as elusive as finding that ideal pair of jeans, add to the pre-requisites a style that fits your penchant for cycling and the search becomes like the proverbial Dodo looking lively. Luckily Meame have developed a stylish blazer designed for cyclists that have an eye for style. Crafted in a striking woollen fabric (made in Yorkshire) with hidden reflective thread woven within it, their jackets have the aesthetic of classic tailoring with a style adapted for cyclists. They have designed a bike blazer with more room around the shoulders so it's cycling friendly, used temperature regulating fabric to help you keep your cool on the ride and then of course there is a reflective thread which glows at night to make sure you get seen after dark.

They had us at "Bike Blazer"! And with love in the air all this week, Meame have Exclusively given Hill & Ellis' subscribers a 20% discount on their range until Valentines Day. Just use the code ELLISLOVE at check out to take advantage of this offer. 

The perfect gift for your sweetheart, or for yourself, this Valentines. 

We caught up with the founder Megan Aylott to find out more about their brand, how they developed their iconic jacket, and their secret London cycling hideaway that they want to keep to themselves. 

How did Meame start life?

Well the idea started to grow when Steven bought me a bike for my birthday a few years ago. I’d previously been really daunted by the prospect of cycling in a chaotic traffic ridden city, but I loved it and the freedom it gives you. So I started cycling a lot more around town, however I was still conscious of my safety and after getting drenched through a few too many times realised I needed some practical clothing. 

The search began, and after searching persistently it ended fruitless other than a few sporty styles, or derivatives of males sports clothing, it felt like women were an after thought in the design process which frustrated me. Women are far more conscious about how clothing makes them look and feel, and items that are stylish, functional and offered discreet safety features weren’t available when I was looking. There was a clear gap in the market especially as cycling popularity grows, so with my fashion experience and Steven’s love for cycling, we set out to solve the problem. 

Initially it set out to be a female only brand but during the development process, we began to get a lot of feedback from male friends, retailers, and male cycling enthusiasts that they wanted the same. With our smart styling, sleek aesthetics and technical features, we set ourselves a side from the market offering ‘Performance Fashion’ for active lifestyles.


With Valentines Day around the corner and love in the air, what romances you about cycling?

Cycling just has an air of romance! When your leisurely cruising and suddenly find a secret little haven in the city or an amazing sunset that’s romantic – the surprises that come out of a bike ride I personally find romantic. 

 

The fabrics you use at Meame have cunningly hidden reflective thread. How did you design and manufacturing the fabric?

 

When we were developing the fabric, one of the core objectives was to completely disguise the reflective thread, so it wasn’t visible during the day. That’s what makes our fabric really cool. Along with our Yorkshire Mill (shout out to Yorkshire – it’s not that far from my family home) we played with the way the fabric was put together to hide the reflective. It was a balancing game to get the right amount of reflective within the fabric and ensure that we hadn’t disguised it so much that it wasn’t reflective when headlights hit the fabric. The fabric is made from a luxury wool, this fibre is naturally temperature regulating, which helps perform for you when your active. We’ve also added a Teflon water repellent coating, so getting caught out in a shower won’t be a problem. I really enjoyed creating our fabric – I studied textile design and reflectives at university so it was in my roots. Developing a fabric from scratch did mean getting the brand to launch date took a lot longer than the normal process, but it was worth it. 


The Blazer feels so inherently British. What do you think is so special about this style of tailoring? And how have you adapted it for cycling?

The blazer is a wardrobe essential, the only problem with normal Blazer tailoring is you’ll usually find when you stretch your arm forwards for the handle bars for instance, it’ll be really tight in the bicep and uncomfortable. To solve this problem, we’ve taken the traditional shooting blazer as inspiration with the pleated back to allow for extra movement, and to make sure it doesn’t lose the slim fit we’ve added an internal elastic which will pull back the jacket pleats when upright to keep its sleek shape. For added benefits on your ride, we’ve included a number of features to help the rider, the key feature is our exclusive reflective fabric which helps increase visibility at night. Other features we adapted were to help regulate temperature so instead of fully lining the jacket we only used a half lining to give extra breathability in the back and have added underarm eyelets to increase air flow. It’s great for walking the dog at night too! 

 

What’s your best secret cycle hideaway in London? (It’ll just be between us, honest.)

It’s not really a secret, but I love Lee Valley. It’s a real sanctuary, I love the water, the cycle routes and the peace and quiet, you feel like you’ve been transported a million miles away from the busy city. We live right in the centre of London, so those quieter escapes are blissful.


What is next for Meame in 2016?

We’re getting ready for the urban cycle trade show SPIN in the Spring, which will be great to meet customers and avid cyclists to get their feedback on the range. We’re also planning our next range, looking to develop some more accessories and jersey layers that perform well for every day life.

 

Why do you think Hill & Ellis and Meame make the perfect pair?

Both Hill & Ellis and Meame have a clean and smart aesthetic which work effortlessly together. The colour combinations Hill & Ellis use for the bags are great fun and really set off the jackets. We adore the Yellow Bradley … but we are biased because it’s an accent colour in our branding.


For those out there still looking for love, what’s your best chat up line?

Oh wow – that’s awkward, chat up lines – umm avoid cheesy ones at all costs? Although a friend of mine said the best way, is just to ask where someone is from – everyone has a story and that’s a good way to get chatting.


Remember we have arranged a 20% discount for our customers with Meame. Just shop on their website http://www.meame.co.uk and use the code "ELLISLOVE" to claim before Valentines Day. 

New Year New You! Sound Familiar?

If you have committed to getting fitter and healthier this year by bike, cycling to work is a great, efficient way to factor in fitness to your life. Not only can it save you time and money (and get you out of that laborious commute) but there are many surprising reasons why cycling to work is one Resolution definitely worth sticking to. 

1. Cycling makes you happier.

Exercise releases endorphins the “feel good hormone” which also helps to relieve stress. Just 30 mins a week is enough to release these hormones. That’s the average time it takes to cycle to work just once. Cycle back and you’ll feel even better.

 2. It makes you even happier than that.

Exposure to light helps boost our mood, adjusts our circadian rhythms enabling us to sleep better, and increases our mental ability. The recommended office lighting is only about 300 lux, whereas the strength of the sun measures over 1000 lux even on overcast days. Full daylight (not directly in the sun) is 10,000-25,000 lux. To function at our best, we need at least 1000 lux so increasing your exposure to sunlight is the best way to achieve this. Cycling to work can only be done outside so that’s at least 30 minutes a day when you are guaranteed exposure to this valuable light.  

3. It helps you beat Illness.

Cycling regularly boosts your immune system as regular exercise makes immune cells more active so they are ready to fight infection. According to research from the University of North Carolina, people who cycle for 30 minutes, five days a week take about half as many sick days as couch potatoes so you could pull a “sickie” and be more likely to get away with it. 

4. It helps you look younger.

Increased circulation through exercise delivers more oxygen and nutrients to skin cells, flushes harmful toxins out and creates the ideal environment for the production of collagen. So cycling makes you look younger.

5. It improves your sex life.

Regular physical activity improves your vascular health, which in turn helps boost your sex drive. One study at Cornell University, found that male athletes had the sexual prowess of men 2-5 years younger, and physically fit females delayed menopause by the same amount of time. Men over 50 who cycled for 3 hours a week have a 30% lower risk of impotence than those that didn’t.

6. You can look after the planet.

20 bikes can be parked in the same space as one car, it takes 5% of the materials and energy to make a bike instead of a car, and the bike produces zero emissions.

7. It’s quicker by bike.

The London Cyclist put the bike versus tube to the test. They found that travelling by bike was on average 42% quicker than travelling on the tube. Add to that the time you save going to the gym and that’s many more minutes to your day. 

 

So with all these benefits cycling or committing to cycling to work daily is definitely one resolution worth sticking to. If you are looking for a suitable work bag to cycle with we have a range of handsome bags to suit your work style. See our range here

 

Cycle Revolution: A Q&A with the Team Behind the exhibition.

The Design Museum's latest exhibition "Cycle Revolution" is honouring the evolving beauty of bike design. Launched in November the exhibition is running through until the 30th June next year and showcases the best and most original designs in the cycling world. Amongst the picks are Paul Smith's stunning shirt designs for the Tour de France team, Sir Chris Hoy's winning 2012 Olympic track bike, the iconic 1969 Raleigh chopper from our childhood dreams, Eddie Merckx's 1972 winning Hour Record bike and the earliest Brompton bike prototype in existence.

The exhibition has already got rave reviews: 

"As an assembly of bicycle porn the Design Museum's new Cycle Revolution is absolutely filthy." The Times

"Design Museum's bike exhibition is a dream for all who love two wheels." The Guardian

"If you aren't already in love with the world of cycling, this exhibition will change that." ★★★★★ Londonist

"Fascinating." ★★★★ The Telegraph

 

We caught up with the design team that put the bike exhibition together to find out more about how it came about, what they were most excited about displaying and what it felt like to get their hands on Bradley Wiggins' bike from his Tour de France win. 

The Main Hall, photographed by James Harris

How did cycling become the subject of an exhibition at the Design Museum?

It was the museum’s trustee and founder Sir Terence Conran who first had the idea of creating an exhibition about bicycles. Cycling is gaining popularity in the UK at a rate not seen since WWII, so it felt very timely. The Design Museum always aims to give its visitors a picture of where the design industry is now, and where it may be headed, so we wanted to look particularly at contemporary cycling culture – from professional sportspeople to urban planning.

A few of the product designs at Cycle Revolution...photographed by James Harris

2. There are so many unique pieces in the exhibition, how did you go about deciding which items to feature?

The curation process was guided by a desire to look at innovation in bicycle design, and also at what cycling means to the people who love it. Our curator spoke to lots of people when deciding what pieces to include, from Sir Paul Smith to planners at TFL – cyclists love to talk about bikes so every conversation seemed to lead to at least four more!

 The strikingly different Arvak Bike

The strikingly different Arvak Bike

3. Which item were you most excited about receiving?

With some many classic and beautiful bikes on display it’s very hard to pick afavourite, but we are very excited to be showing Eddy Merckx’s hour record bike from 1972 beside Sir Bradley Wiggins’ from earlier this year.


4. If you could cycle any of the bikes in the exhibition which one would it be? (And have you given them a go in the exhibition hall already?)

Tempting as it was, we didn’t have a go on any of the bikes! Maybe because it is so unusual looking, it would be interesting to do a circuit on Peter Georgallou’s Tall Bike.

The aptly named Tall Bike by Peter Georgallou, photographed by Ben Broomfield

5. What do you find most inspiring about bike design?

There is so much passion, and a desire to achieve the best ride possible, whatever that might mean to the individual - whether it’s a bike that allows your kids can travel with you in comfort, or one that helps you become King of the Mountains in the Tour de France.

The Main hall including a range of cargo bikes, photographed by James Harris

6. What is your favourite Hill & Ellis bag? 

The Bunbury has attracted lots of attention in our shop – style-conscious city cyclists love the size. 

The Giro, beautifully photographed by Emily Maye

The exhibition is running until June and is definitely worth a visit, just to be in a hare's breath of Sir Bradley Wiggin's and Eddie Merckx’s bikes. For more information have a look at the Design Museum's website.  

As a museum of impeccable taste and design, the Design Museum shop is also selling a range of Hill & Ellis bike bags including their favourite, the Bunbury.  

Perfect Christmas Gifts for Female Cyclists.

Need a little help Christmas shopping for the lady in your life? Don't fear, here is a list of our most popular bike bags for women. All can be gift wrapped or personalised in time for Christmas. Order by 1pm on 22nd December for guaranteed Christmas delivery. 

BRADLEY

Bright, bold and a complete ray of sunshine. This pannier bag is made in Hackney in East London in striking yellow and contrasting grey satchel leather. Like the rest of the range, Bradley has hidden pannier hooks which are spring loaded, so they adapt to any pannier rack from 6mm - 16mm and attach securely so it won't come off no matter how many pot holes you cycle over. 

This bike bag is large enough to fit a 15inch laptop and comes complete with a waterproof cover and reversible reflective detailing for increased visibility.

If your lady likes yellow & luxury, this pannier will be perfect for her. 

DOROTHY

One of our most popular ladies bags, Dorothy is what we imagine Audrey Hepburn would have cycled with around Hollywood Studios. Made in luxurious dark brown leather with a stunning striped cotton lining this pannier is inspired by a classic 50s handbag design with over the shoulder rolled handles. The bag has a small zipped pocket inside, with a key hook and a padded laptop sleeve suitable for an 11inch laptop. 

Dorothy also has hidden spring loaded pannier clips so it fits easily and securely to any pannier rack from 6mm - 16mm and comes with a waterproof cover for when it rains and reversible reflective detailing for safer nighttime riding. 

Extremely practical but also stylish, classic and elegant. 

BIRKDALE

Larger than the Dorothy this bike bag is very popular with ladies who like to travel with more things. Styled on the classic 50s bowling bag, Birkdale is crafted in luxurious blue and tan leather with a striking striped cotton lining. Internal features include a small zipped pocket, key hook and padded laptop sleeve suitable for a 13inch laptop. 

Birkdale also comes with a waterproof rain cover, reversible reflective detailing and hidden pannier clips suitable for a 8-12mm pannier rack. 

Stylish, chic, retro and perfectly designed for the bike. 

BETTY

This bag is after attention and ideal for ladies that love pink. Crafted in Hackney, East London in black and shocking pink leather it has been made from materials sourced as close to home as possible to reduce its affect on the environment. Finished with nickel coated brass buckles, a silver embossed logo, reversible reflective strips and a black leather shoulder strap. 

Betty also comes with a waterproof bag cover and spring loaded pannier clips that adjust to any pannier rack from 6mm-16mm so they are perfect on the bike as well as the arm. The ideal present for the cyclist with a penchant for pink. 

EMBOSSING

We offer a bespoke initial embossing service so you can make your present completely unique. This service is very popular with ladies and at just £45 we will initial emboss up to 3 letters in either blind, gold or silver embossing for you. The perfect way to make your present as unique as the person you are buying for. 

Add the embossing product to your cart to include it and you will be asked for the letters you want embossed at check out. We will confirm everything with you before going ahead. 

http://www.hillandellis.com/shop/bespoke-embossing

GIFT WRAP

We will gift wrap any present for you so it arrives beautifully wrapped and tree ready for just £5. Just select gift wrapping and we will do the rest. 

http://www.hillandellis.com/shop/wrapping-service

If you have any questions about our range or want some help with present buying get in touch at HQ and we can assist you. hello@hillandellis.com

Merry Christmas!

 

 

Perfect Christmas Gifts for Male Cyclists

Christmas is nearly upon us, and if you are still looking for a gift for the male cyclist in your life then you've come to the perfect place. Our large collection of bike bags are very popular with men with a penchant for style and cycling. 

Here's a list of our top bike bags for Gentlemen. 

BUNBURY

Made in dark brown leather and lined with a striking striped cotton lining, this bag is handsomely sophisticated with an old fashioned charm. The new range has spring loaded pannier clips which securely adjust to any rack from 6mm-16mm and together with a laptop sleeve which fits up to a 15 inch laptop, a zipped pocket, key hook and waterproof cover this bag is the perfect bag for the commuting cyclist. 

BRADLEY

The Bradley, is one for the man who likes to make an entrance. Crafted in striking "Tour De France" yellow satchel leather with contrasting grey leather panels, this bag attaches securely to the bike with spring loaded pannier clips, so it's as good looking on the bike as it is on the shoulder.

The patented pannier clips adapt to any rack from 6mm-16mm in diameter and with a security bar it is securely attached through out the ride. This bike bag is also part of the British Made collection and is handmade in Hackney, East London from materials sourced as close to home as possible to reduce its effect on the environment. 

EARL

One of our new City Range this bike bag fits perfectly to the Brompton C Frame to attach to the Brompton bike making it the ideal present for the Brompton rider in your life. British Made, Earl has been handmade in Hackney, East London, in handsome black satchel leather, with full grain leather buckle straps, nickel coated brass buckles and a matching leather shoulder strap. Handsome, landed and perfect for riding, what's not to love?

BYRON

Along with Bunbury, Byron is our most popular bike bag with men. Dark and brooding in black satchel leather he cuts a dash on the bike, like Byron himself, or Poldark if he were to have ridden a bike instead of a horse! This bike bag has been made in the UK, has spring loaded pannier clips, to attach securely to any pannier rack, a waterproof rain cover and reversible reflective strips making him handsome and intelligent. 

We are currently offering a gift wrapping service on all our bags so they will arrive perfectly wrapped and ready to put straight under the tree. This serivce just £5 and can be added onto any purchase. We are also offering free delivery and extended returns until 11th January so you can purchase any of our bags as presents completely hassle free. 

If you have any questions do get in touch with us at HQ - hello@hillandellis.com and we can answer any questions you might have. 

Merry Festivities! 

The ADVENT OF CYCLING The must read story of cycling... in 25 days

 
Hill-and-Ellis-10.8.15 384.jpg

 

In the countdown to Christmas, we thought we would give you the ultimate guide to the history of cycling. If you are a Pub quizzer, cycle curious or just want to load up with some impressive banter to throw around at the Christmas parties, this the guide for you. Each day we will publish another must know fact about cycling so keep up to date and open a door to our Cycling Advent Calendar each day. 

It's as sweet as a chocolate advent calendar but will much more inspiring stories and less calories. 

Merry Christmas! 

Birkdale bike bag christmas advent calendar

Doing Good this Black Friday with Bike Charity Re-Cycle

Re~Cycle is a wonderful charity that adopts unwanted bikes here in the UK, and sends them out to communities across Africa where they transform lives. In Africa, bikes are the cleanest, healthiest, most affordable and efficient form of transport. They increase access to opportunities, whether they are economic, educational, social or personal. They connect workers with employment, students to schools, producers to users of goods and services, patients to healthcare, and everyone to family and friends.  A cyclist can cover four times more ground and can carry five times more load in weight than a person on foot. 

Re-cycle CEO

To launch our "Good Black Friday" campaign we are offering our customers 10% off this Friday 27th November and we will also donate 10% of sales on the day to Re~cycle to help them continue their good work and help more people get on their bikes.

We caught up with the founder and CEO Merlin Matthews from Re~cycle to find out more about their work. (registered charity number 1063570)

1.     So, how did the charity start?

I set up Re~Cycle in 1997 whilst I was studying at the London School of Economics and also playing the role of ‘Dr Bike’, teaching people to fix bikes in exchange for beers, on Friday evenings.

A Haitian lady approached me for advice about starting up a bike factory in Haiti, as she had seen the need for cheap, pollution free transport for the masses. I decided it was such a good idea that I offered to help.

Recycle charity girl on bike

It was then it became obvious that there are lots of bikes being thrown away in the UK which could be put to good use elsewhere, and the need for an organisation like Re~Cycle to be set up to do just that. 

I started Re~Cycle and partnered with a US organisation already shipping bikes to Haiti.  It turned out that they found a need for bikes to be shipped to South Africa, which I took on.  I then realised that it would be better for Re~Cycle to focus on Africa and for the US organisation to send bikes to Haiti.

Since that time, Re~Cycle has sent over 70,000 bikes to Africa. 

Girl trying out her bike

2.     Who do the bikes go to?

Re~Cycle sends bikes to seven African not-for-profit partners in six African countries.  All our partners work in areas where there is evidence of need for bikes, and are able to assist communities to refurbish and maintain the bikes.

Our beneficiaries include:

·       Children, who can walk up to 20km to school and back each day

·       Women, whose days often have arduous journeys just to fetch water and firewood

·       Farmers, who travel great distances taking goods to market, and

·       People in need of income generation and skill development opportunities

Household research carried out in Ghana by our partners the Village Bicycle Project, found that most bikes are used on average by six people. This is because one bike will often be shared within a family, each person making varying journeys during the week.  That means, since we began, we have helped around 420,000 people. 

3.     How do the bikes help local communities?

The bikes provide communities with a source of simple affordable transport which saves time and energy and generates income opportunities.  With a little basic maintenance a bike can benefit a family for many years. 

As well as the direct benefits the bicycles themselves make to the communities, many of the bikes are used by our partners to generate income to sustain their work. For example, one of our partners Glad’s House in Kenya sells the bikes to the local community at a low price and offers them a place to come for bike repairs and maintenance, and uses the funds to pay for many of the services they provide for street children such as food, education and welfare.  They also use the bikes to teach street children about bike mechanics and running a small enterprise. 


4.     Which is your favourite Hill & Ellis bag?

There’s been much debate about this in the Re~Cycle office! It’s such a lovely and varied range, but I would have to say that my personal favourite is the Bradley Bike Bag.  It really stands out, great design, and I really like that it’s made in the UK with materials sourced as close to home as possible to reduce its effect on the environment.  Have a look here: www.hillandellis.com/shop/bradley-bike-bag     One for my Christmas wish list! 

 

Fixing Bikes with Recycle

5.     If I get a new bike for Christmas, how do I donate my old bike?

If you get a new bike then well done you!  We would love to give your old bike a second life in Africa.  All you need to do is find your local Re~Cycle drop off point on our website: www.re-cycle.org and drop it off.  We take bikes that are in a reasonable condition.  To check yours is suitable you can find out more here: http://www.re-cycle.org/resources/faq/donations/what-type-bike-do-you-want-and-what-condition Thank you!

Girl on Bike in Africa for Recycle

There are plenty of other ways to help use get more bikes to Africa, even if you don’t have one to donate yourself.  You could donate funds, volunteer, fundraise (ride or otherwise) or simply help to spread the word to your cycling friends. 

Wishing you a Very Happy Christmas!

 

To find out more about Re~Cycle visit www.re-cycle.org and join them at twitter.com/BicycleCharity or facebook/bicyclecharity  

Remember 10% of sales on our "Good Black Friday" (27th November) will be donated to Re-Cycle. And you also will get 10% off for yourself with the code "GoodBlackFriday"

Tale of Two Cities: No. 2, Nice! & Win a Jacket and Bike Bag

A Guest Blog from our friends at Cafe du Cycliste.

The beauty about city life is that it can serve you what you need when you need it. But what makes a city beautiful? The buildings, the people, the size, the location, the diversity? One thing is for sure, you need to live there to discover the best bits.  We teamed up with London bag makers Hill & Ellis to trade some insider tips about our home town of Nice and the Big Smoke.

Only two hours apart by cheap as chips baggage restricted airlines, these cities are close by air travel but refreshingly different enough to ensure a long weekend provides the required culture shock and entertainment in equal measure.

So we took a Hill & Ellis Jasper bag on a special Café du Cycliste tour of some of the hot spots and lesser known attractions of our hometown.

#1 - Bicycle Corner

Bicycle Corner

We had to start with a bike shop, right? Bicycle Corner on the busy side street, Rue Lascaris, is a stone's throw from our Café and is a treasure trove of custom built and refurbished urban vélos.  It is a truly local shop serving single speed fashion from around the world but with its own unique take on this genre of cycling, as exemplified by the Porter style conversion we borrowed for our jolly about town. Bruno, the man behind the fixed wheel, turns refurbished frames into unique head-turning city bikes with only the finest components, finished with stunning yet functional leather accessories, made by his own fair hand.

#2 - Boulangerie Lagache

Just around the corner from, em, Bicycle Corner, on Rue Arson is Boulangerie Lagache. Eric Lagache learnt his trade in Paris but has perfected it in Nice. In 2011 he won the award for the best traditional baguette of Provence-Alps-Cote d’Azur region. Being serious cyclistes, we obviously don't eat pastries, but based on the reputation of Lagache it's where we decided to source our croissants and pains au chocolat for our Café.  But the speciality of the house is arguably the Olive Fougasse - an olive bread perfumed with garlic, olives and the herbs de Provence. Are you hungry yet?

#3 - Chez René Socca

Food to the left of you, alcohol to the right, stuck in the middle of Nice....Chez René Socca might be on the very edge of the Old Town but once you're at your table with 5 plates of delights and a large pression it feels like the beating heart of the Riviera. It is Niçoise street food at its best - Mr Jamie Oliver would do a double-flip. Socca is our food from our region and it's simple and effective.  Just remember to season it generously with pepper.

#4 - Maison Quirino

Four generations and 90 years of experience providing fresh pasta to the people Nice, you'll find not only the best pasta in town but also a weekly menu of Niçoise speciality dishes like stuffed cabagge and, the weekend treat, the pissaladière. The secret of Maison Quirino is passion for the region and its produce and the use of trusty mechanical pasta machines from, of course, our Italian neighbours.  The family have had requests from holiday makers to open a shop in Paris but have refused because they say they have to be beside their fresh ingredients.  So you'll have to fly before you try.

#5 - Fenocchio Maitre Glacier

A true institution of Nice, especially in the Old Town, located as it is on Place Rosetti. There are apparently 94 flavors of 59 ice creams and 35 sorbets such as Thyme, Rosemary, Cactus, Beer, Black Olive... the list goes on. All we know is that indecision will be a huge disadvantage amongst the queues of tourists and locals waiting to grab a cornet during the summer months.

#6 - Café du Cycliste

We don't know much about this place but we are told it has the best coffee in Nice, sells some nice cycling clothing and has very special bikes to rent. On top of that it's located right on the water's edge in the Port so is arguably one of the best-located cycling cafés in the world.  But that's just what we've heard. We can neither confirm nor deny if it's true.

#7 - Le Plongeoir

Location, location, location. As a place to relax and imbibe, this has to be the #1 spot in Nice. And yet, because it is around the cap and away from the Promenade des Anglais, some visitors never find it. We'll not lie, we're happy for this to remain the case. The diving boards facing the sea are as iconic as the restaurant and bar perched on the rocks are spectacular. It would be interesting if the next development was to recreate the first incarnation of the hostelry with a gazebo and fishing boat restaurant.

Et Voila; a small picture of Niçoise life, coloured in by the people that have made it their home, their life and their passion.

Our cycle style was made up of Bernadette trousers, the Steve McQueen-esque Geraldine jacket, a soon-to-be-released city shirt and, of course, our Hill & Ellis companion - the Jasper Bag.

Show us your cycle style on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter using the tag #mycyclestyle for a chance to win a luxurious prize of the Jasper Bag and a Café du Cycliste jacket (a Heidi for the ladies or a Geraldine for the gents)

Bon Chance! 

The Tale of Two Cities, A competition with clothing brand CAFE DU CYCLISTE

“London: In it is all that life can afford” Samuel Pepys.

From food, to architecture, to events, to cafe's to bars, London has every manifestation of life that you can think of hidden amongst its streets. Pick a Sunday, when the roads are quieter and it is the perfect place to cycle around to soak up the city's rich diversity. 

To celebrate the launch of our Autumn competition with our friends at chic bike clothing brand, Café du Cycliste we have written our own Tale of Two Cities from our home cities of London and Nice. There is less revolution and a lot more rest and coffee than Charles Dickens’ original and both give you an insight in the best places to stop off by bike.

Don't forget our competition. To win either a Madeleine or Heidi Jacket from Café du Cycliste and a Jasper bike bag from us at Hill & Ellis, simply post a picture of your cycle style on any of our social media channels with the hashtag #mycyclestyle to enter. You have one week left. Bon Courage!

N.B This competition has now closed but be sure to follow us on social media or sign up to our mailing list to make sure you are the first to hear about our next giveaway. 

From our city tales, we start with London.

Millenium Bridge

Look Mum No Hands! Old Street. 

A bike ride in London you say? Well is there anywhere else to start?

Look Mum No Hands! not only has the coolest name of any bike café we know but it’s sells great cinnamon buns, smells of a heady mix of delicious coffee and bike oil, (thanks to its in house workshop) and is packed full of cyclists and civilians soaking up the atmosphere. On the weekend it is a popular stop off for cycle clubs after their long rides.

Open every day until 10pm and always lively. It's the perfect pit stop for any ride.

http://www.lookmumnohands.com/

St Bartholomew’s Church, West Smithfield.

On route south from LMNHs, is the oldest surviving church in London, and this little gem is hidden behind an 11th century gate house. This beautiful church is worth a peek and as it is hidden away from the hustle and bustle of the city, it is the perfect place to stop and have a sandwich in the gardens. It also has a great Cloister cafe for a spot of Earl Grey tea. 

St Batholomews church

Jerusalem Tavern, Clerkenwell. 

The pub belongs to the St Peter’s Brewery in Suffolk and has a wide selection of delicious British brewed beers. It dates back to the 18th century, has an open fire and you can even take a 5 litre mini keg of your favourite ales home with you. Just make sure you lock your bike up for the night first!

http://www.stpetersbrewery.co.uk/london-pub/

Jerusalem Tavern leaning.jpg
Jerusalem Tavern bar

The Barbican

Ok, it's not a cafe but it is worth a look and it is certainly off the heavily beaten London track. The Barbican centre was built in 1982 and is a labyrinth of modernity which I challenge you not to get lost in. The Barbican centre is also the perfect place to soak up some culture with music and theatre events there on a regular basis. http://www.barbican.org.uk/theatre

Barbican Theatre

Primrose Bakery, Primrose Hill.

Nestled in the backstreets of the fashionable neighbourhood of Primrose Hill is The Primrose Café. This retro retreat has a veritable host of cup cakes to suit even the most fanatical of cupcake eaters. The café is small but perfectly formed and their range of tea is also worth the visit.

http://www.primrose-bakery.co.uk/

Primrose Hill Bakery on the bike

From here you can cycle down past London Zoo to see the giraffes poking their heads from the fences and then up Primrose Hill itself. A decent climb, this hill has beaten many especially by bike but if you get to the top you will be greeted with a fantastic view and it is worth it.

Cafe Kick, Exmouth Market

Happy hour, Spanish beer, table football and tapas. What's not to love? This lovely cafe on Exmouth Market is fun, lively and has happy hour every day from 5pm making it the perfect after work wind down spot.  

http://www.cafekick.co.uk/

Cafe kick

The Duke of Cambridge, Islington.

It wouldn't be an autumn Sunday without a roast and if you want roast you have to try the Duke of Cambridge in Islington. It is an organic pub, and literally everything there is made from organic produce. You might need to keep cycling for a few hours after but tucking in for a roast here is definitely worth the calories. 

http://dukeorganic.co.uk/

Roast lunch bike ride

Thanks to Cafe du Cycliste for the stylish jacket and 8 Ball Bikes for the lovely Huxley bike. 

Remember to enter our competition to win a Cafe du Cycliste jacket & a Jasper bike bag by posting a picture of your cycle style. Use the hashtag #mycyclestyle to enter. Good Luck. 

 


An Interview with cycle journalist Hannah Reynolds & Win a copy of her book "France en Velo"

Hannah Reynolds is a journalist and author of the fantastic guide to cycling around France: France en Velo. We caught up with her to pick her brains about cycling to France, training, adventures, the highlights & meeting an old man who was an ex-Tour de France cyclist... maybe. We also have one of her books to give away to one lucky customer. To enter, Tweet, Instagram or Facebook us with the hashtag #franceenvelo with your favourite french word (Keep it clean please!) We'll choose our favourite. Bonne Chance!

N.B This competition has now closed but be sure to follow us on social media or sign up to our mailing list to make sure you are the first to hear about our next giveaway. 

And as if riding to France wasn't enough on its own, Hannah is also fitness editor for Cycling Weekly, Cycling Active and Cycling Fitness Magazines, as well as the co-author of Bloomsbury publications "Fitter, Faster, Further", a guide to sportive preparation and "Get on your Bike" an introduction to how to stay safe, get fit and be happy cycling. To find out more about her latest book head to the website www.franceenvelo.cc or follow her on twitter @HannahMReynolds 

 Hannah cycling in France

Hannah cycling in France

When and why did you decide to cycle through France?

I first cycled through France 15 years ago. On that trip I was on my own, sleeping in a bivvy bag and exploring with no particular plan. I cycled up lots of mountains, ate a lot of cheese and discovered how diverse the landscape, food and culture is. Even at the relatively slow speeds a touring bike travels at you can see change and variety in your surroundings in the course of a day's ride. 

France is in many ways the spiritual home of cycling, me and my bike were warmly welcomed everywhere we went and I met plenty of people with stories to tell and advice to offer.

The aim of writing France en Velo was to share a route that takes cyclists from St Malo to Nice through quiet lanes, alongside rivers, through gorges and beautiful villages so that they can experience the great variety that France has to over. 

 The smell of France... well one of them. 

The smell of France... well one of them. 

What was the hardest part of the trip for you and why?

Travelling through France was the easy bit, writing the book was the challenge! Any journey has it's difficult moments, for me it's normally because I'm tired or hungry, and that can be easily solved by a long lazy lunch in true French style! The ups and downs of life on the road is what makes it interesting. Problems and bad moods don't hang around for long as you keep your wheels turning and leave them behind you. 

 The cycle around 

The cycle around 

When I cycled to Paris we went through a small French village and stopped for lunch with a exuberant French pub landlord who thought we were doing something akin to the Tour de France. We talked in broken french about cycling with moules frites for about an hour. It was wonderful and perfectly french. What was the best gem (moment or place) that you stumbled across on your bike?

One of the best things about travelling by bike is that you always have a conversation starter. As with your experience people want to know where you are going and where you have been. In France, more often than in the UK I think, people also have an appreciation of the challenges you are undertaking. It's common to hear shouts of 'Bon Courage' from villagers as you cycle through. This makes the whole experience feel special. I once had someone chase me up a mountain in their car to give me a bag of cherries for my supper, simple gestures often make the strongest connection. 

I met an elderly and very tipsy Frenchman one morning in a tiny sleepy village. He insistently told me that he had ridden THE Tour de France as a pro racer, he applauded my efforts, clapped me on the back and sent me on my way with a loud shout of 'Bon Voyage!' Cycling away I wondered if he had really ridden the tour or whether he was simply a teller of tall tales over a morning pastis. Either way he told me a good story and I appreciated his enthusiastic support. Where else would you expect to meet a retired hard man of the road other than propping up the bar in a little cafe regaling his audience with tales of courageous breakaways and mountains conquered?

 You don't find this in London! 

You don't find this in London! 

If you would suggest one part of the trip to a distance cycling novice, what would it be?

Getting started is always the hardest part of any journey, once you are on the road you get into a rhythm. There is something really invigorating and exciting about the moment you realise you have ridden so far from home you can't turn round and get back in the same day. That's when the leash is broken and you get a real sense of freedom and the road opens up in front of you. So, with that in mind take a ferry to St Malo as a foot passenger and explore the Brittany coast line. An over night crossing means you will wake up in France ready to pedal off the boat in search of breakfast in St Malo. It will give you a real feeling of adventure and a taste for cycle journeys, plus it is a beautiful coastline with some lovely, relatively flat, riding. 

The cycle route to le mains

Do you have any training advice for someone thinking about following your route?

My first tip is you don't have to be as physically fit as you might think. If you are happy to sit on your bike and pedal away gently for most of the day you can cover huge distances without having to be in any way athletic. The more important thing is to be comfortable, your bike needs to fit you properly so you are not stretching or straining and you need to wear appropriate clothing, especially cycling shorts. Doing a little bit of training before you go will help it to feel easier once you are there, in particular get used to riding back to back days as that is what you will need to do to complete a long journey. Once on the road make sure you eat and drink well - not hard in France! Each meal will be re-fuelling your muscles and providing energy for the next part of your ride. Eat frequently throughout the day, a little snack every hour or so to keep stores topped up. If you keep eating and keep pedalling you will get there! 

Cycling through Wheat fields, south france

Which one french phrase was the most useful?

Je peux passer avec mon velo? 

French roads are beautifully maintained but it does mean you often come up against a 'route barre' Most of the time these are passable by bike but occasionally they are not so worth checking before you blunder into a road works. Often the road men will move aside their machinery to let you pass, it just takes a smile and a wave!

Which is your favourite Hill & Ellis bag? 

I think my favourite is the Birkdale as its perfect for swinging over your shoulder when you are off the bike and it packs in enough for a light weight weekend away. I like clothes and accessories that work double time, that can be functional on the bike and stylish off it. Whilst it's alright looking like a bike rider when cycling sat in a French cafe I like to look and a feel a little more chic! 

a french cycling cafe

Where will your bike take you next?

At the moment I'm in Italy. Tuscany was beautiful and hilly but I've moved onto the south through the Apennine Mountains which have been stunning - if a little tough on the legs!  The woods and vineyards have been showing amazing autumn colours, mornings have been cool and the days comfortably warm. Perfect time to visit. 

Remember to enter our competition to win one of her books. Tweet, Instagram or Facebook us with the hashtag #franceenvelo with your favourite french word (Keep it clean please!) We'll choose our favourite!

 Hannah's impressive cycle route through France. 

Hannah's impressive cycle route through France. 

A few more important phrases to know for your cycling trip to France... 

une crevaison: a flat, puncture
pneu de velo: bike tire
un pneu creve: a flat tire
freins de velo: bike brakes
graisse: grease
chambre a air: inner tube
marchand de velos: bicycle dealer
megasin de cyclos: bicycle shop
pompe a bicyclette: bicycle pump
mon velo est casse: my bike is broken

France en Vélo: The Ultimate Cycle Journey from Channel to Med – St-Malo to Nice by Hannah Reynolds and John Walsh is published by www.wildthingspublishing.co.uk  and availablefrom www.franceenvelo.cc. To get your copy for a special introductory price of £13.59, saving 20% off the RRP, enter code SMNV at the checkout, free postage and packaging to UK destinations. For a guided holiday from St- Malo to Nice visit www.skedaddle.co.uk

 The Book! Win a copy in our competition.

The Book! Win a copy in our competition.

Paris, Paris... by Velo

"It's not that far is it?" said my friend as I was trying to work out the best way to phrase the truth.

"No, not really, it just like cycling to central London 60 times. It looks like a 3 day ride, we can manage anything for 3 days, right?"

"Ok then, let's do it." She said confidently and so our first long distance bike ride was born. London to Paris. Un-supported and with, it turned out no, GPS or intelligent mapping system on our person, which sadly included our own sense of direction.

Paris with the Birkdale

Luckily we had panniers though, and two rather handsome panniers at that, the Birkdale and the Duke to act as our companions for the trip. Each one was just the right size for our clothes for 3 days along with a large perfume bottle! 

 The Thames at low tide.

The Thames at low tide.

DAY 1: Post Work to Maidstone

We started the ride after work one Friday evening and biked along the Thames (so far so easy to navigate). We travelled way past where the tourists visit. Mainly because there isn't much there apart from the Dartford Crossing, but at low tide it is still beautiful. We pushed on along the B roads for around 30 miles until we were near Maidstone where we bedded down for the night with sorer legs than expected. 

 The beautiful (and hilly) South Downs. 

The beautiful (and hilly) South Downs. 

Day 2: Ferry

The next day was ferry day, we just had to get to Dover first. We cycled along the Pilgrims Way, a beautiful stretch of pathway that goes from Farnham in Surrey all the way to Dover without traffic. It takes you over the downs and far away, and it certainly felt like it half way up hill no.20, but luckily after a good 5 hills too many we saw the distinctive sight of a ferry port in the distance.  The ride from here at least was downhill and snaking through the ferry port was certainly fun. The looks from lorry drivers along the way was worth it on its own. 

 Our GPS system. 

Our GPS system. 

 A few helpful signs along the way!

A few helpful signs along the way!

After a 1 hour break on the ferry, with some treats from the rather disappointing ferry canteen, we continued on through Calais. Unfortunately this is where the wind started working against us and it felt like we were cycling through treacle. It was also at this moment that we began our first impressively bad diversion. We got terribly lost, in a wet, muddy wood as the sun started to set. It took us about an hour to find our way out of the woods and we were deflated, we'd only just started the adventure and we couldn't even find out way out of a wood, let alone to Paris. But after returning to the same tree 5 times, we stumbled across a route that took us out of the woods just in time before night fall. Once back on track we cycled/limped for another 1 1/2 hours before making it to our lovely french farmhouse booked for the night. Bernard had laid out some baguettes, cheeses and wine and they all slipped down very easily. Needless to say we slept very well again that night!

Day 3: They said it was flat. They lied! 

"As soon as you get to France it will be as flat as a pancake." They said. Well, they lied. It wasn't flat, it was the worst kind of hilly, that steady incline that never gives up so you feel like you are struggling against the wind, without any clouds in the sky.

Day 3 was hard, our legs were hurting now, we both had a sense of humour bypass and every cafe stop seemed to be shut whenever we got there. Lunch of a warm, crusty french baguette with cheese helped, and as we started cycling through the battle fields of the Somme with glorious fields of poppies everywhere, our mood lifted. There is a striking peace to this part of the world, perhaps because you know what happened there, but passing through it, is certainly life affirming. It also helped that here the land finally started to flatten out.

It was flat afterall, you just had to get past the hills first.  

Day 4: Paris! 

Excited is not the word. After 3 tough days of cycling with one day in the rain the end was in sight. And not just any end, Paris, and Le Tour Eiffel. 

And the land was flat, truly flat. We flew. The roads are glorious in France, flat, smooth, and wide with drivers that love cycling so much they treat every cyclist as if they are wearing the yellow jersey. And for a while we thought it too. We past fields of poppies, fields of eerily beautiful wind farms, little french towns with romantic french weddings taking place, we went through towns where the locals were playing petanque, it was quintessentially french and have I mentioned we felt like we were flying! 

Then we started entering Paris. It's much bigger than you think, and we had to pass miles of suburbia with tower blocks and traffic before we started to recognise the Paris of the movies. After a narrow escape from ending up in the near mountainous Montmarte, we snaked through the traffic through the parisian streets getting lost virtually at every single turn. 

The Duke in L'ile de la Cite, Paris

Eventually the Eiffel Tower was peeping over the Parisian town houses and we just cycled in it's direction. Our last final hurdle was the Champs Elysee. That place is dangerous and should not be crossed by cyclists, pedestrians or even cars for their own safety. But we blindly carried on and cycled across avoiding certain death on several occasions. Once over we just had to cross the river and after three days, 350 miles and many many diversions we had made it. To Paris, from London and it was glorious. We bought a bottle of champagne and drank it under the monument with our bikes dumped unceremoniously on the grass. 

 Outside the Louvre with my Birkdale pannier. 

Outside the Louvre with my Birkdale pannier. 

The next day, after a delightful Parisian breakfast, we got a the Eurostar back home. It took us 2 hours!

We would definitely recommend it to anyone. The countryside is beautiful, the roads are smooth and talking broken french to the locals about cycling is priceless. Maybe just buy a GPS system to avoid the extra miles! 

 A celebratory bottle of Champagne on the Eurostar. With sports beans!

A celebratory bottle of Champagne on the Eurostar. With sports beans!

Thinking of cycling to Paris? We have a competition next week that will help you. Stay in touch via social media or sign up to our mailing list to get the latest on our next competition. 

Win a Free Service with Cloud 9 Cycles

We caught up with our friends from Cloud 9 Cycles to find out about why they set up their central london bike shop, what's new for 2015 and their top tip for extending the length of your service. On top of this they are giving away one bike service from their shop near Tottenham Court Road for one lucky person. All you have to do to enter is follow us on our social media channels and answer the following questions. According to Katie Melua how many bicycles are in Beijing? Tweet, Facebook, Instagram or email us the answer and we will draw one winner from all the correct entries to receive the service.  

N.B This competition has now closed but be sure to follow us on social media or sign up to our mailing list to make sure you are the first to hear about our next giveaway. 

Cloud 9 Cycles is a bike shop set up in 2009 in Store Street, near Tottenham Court Road and sells bikes, accessories, our lovely bike bags and also do a range of bike services to keep your bike in tip top condition for your commute. If you want to head on down to the shop they can be found at 38 Store Street, London, WC1E 7DB. 

Adam from Cloud 9 Cycles

1) When and why was Cloud 9 Cycles set up?

Cloud 9 Cycles started in 2009 in a small workshop in Camden town with just me and Kris repairing our own and any other bikes that came through the door

2) What's the ethos of the shop?

The ethos of our shop is to build great value, high performance bikes with the best bike components available. 

Bike Frames at Cloud 9 Cycles

3) What is your top tip for keeping your bike on the road for longer?

The best tip I can give is to buy better parts. If you buy a chain for £8 it will lost 4 times less than a chain for £16.....it is all about value and that's what we try and sell! Buy nice or pay twice!

4) Our average punctured tyre changing time is probably about 5 mins. What's your record?

We did a competition a while ago and the quickest time by Kris was 1 min and 8 seconds...!

Cloud 9 Cycles Shop

5) Any tips to improve our time?

My tip would be to go by the old saying "Less Haste More Speed" we always see people rushing it and breaking tubes. Just get the parts ready in front of you dont get too excited with the tyre levers and pump slowly to begin with!

6) What is your favourite bike ride - in either the city or country?

My favourite bike ride is at the moment 7:30am on on the Kings Road on my way to work. For London there are hardly any lights but the roads are wide, the shops are interesting and there are other riders to race!

7) What's your favourite Hill & Ellis Bike Bag?

I love the colour Yellow and so the Bradley is just epic! Mix with the fact that like us they are Hand Made in England...they are great! (Have a look at the bag they love here.)

Cloud 9 at Number 10 Downing Street

8) What's new for Cloud 9 Cycles this season?

Titanium Disc Brake Road Bikes with wide tyres! We are building lots of these and absolutely loving them! You can smash the streets, ride the hills and descent gravel paths...they are pure adventure!

Tools at Cloud 9 Cycles

Remember to follow us on our social media channels and enter our competition to win a free service with Cloud 9 Cycles.