James Daley: The Cycling Column

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Indy Lifestyle Online

The annual national cycling show comes to Earls Court in London this weekend, one of the highlights of the calendar for the die-hard biking enthusiast (especially if, like me, you have a passion for mountain biking, road biking, commuting – and a keen interest in just about every other aspect of the sport, too).

As well as giving you the chance to get a first look at all the big (and small) name's new models, it's a great place for discovering about cycling holidays and other biking events that you never knew existed – and also for stumbling across the latest must-have biking accessories.

One of the highlights of this year's show for me is the introduction of an indoor mountain bike track where you can test out all the latest models – a treat for those of us who buy our off-road bikes in the city and are forced to make a decision based on a quick test ride around the block (hardly an indication of how responsive your bike will be when you're thrashing it around a muddy stretch of single-track).

There's also a test track for kids' bikes – with instructors on hand to help – and a fashion show where you can learn about the trendy alternatives to Lycra.

For those who are more spectators of the sport than cyclists themselves, there's the chance to talk to hundreds of cycling nerds and to watch indoor freestyle biking competitions (not to mention the regular punters wiping out on the mountain bike test track).

And if you're one of those strange people who enthuses about Bromptons ("Brommies" as they've affectionately become known), there's even an opportunity to ride into the show en masse on Saturday morning, from the Brompton factory on the outskirts of town.

One slightly disappointing aspect of this year's show, however, is that the Swedish car manufacturer Volvo is one of its main sponsors. For an event which has a strong environmentally conscious theme, it seems slightly perverse for the organisers to be taking money off a company whose products are major producers of pollution.

Sure, Volvo has made some attempts to make its manufacturing process eco-friendly, but it is not coming to the show to boast of its environmental credentials. Instead, it'll be showing off three of its finest gas guzzlers – no doubt looking to appeal to off-road bikers who are more concerned about how to get their bikes to the top of the hill as quickly as possible, rather than which car has the lowest CO2 emissions.

Although one of the three cars Volvo is choosing to promote at the event (the C30) is among its most environmentally friendly models – it has decided to display the sports coupé version, which emits much higher levels of CO2 than the regular version. Another of its three, the XC70, emits more than two and a half times the emissions of a Toyota Prius – the benchmark for eco-friendly vehicles these days.

Perhaps its naive to think that big shows such as this might ever take a principled stance over their sponsors, but I think it sends out totally the wrong message to accept the endorsement of a car manufacturer. Although many mountain biking areas are only accessible by a car, there are plenty that are accessible by public transport. In my opinion, shows such as Cycle 2007 should be doing more to encourage bikers out of their cars, not encouraging them to buy some big, dirty SUV to carry their toys around.

As well as biking, I count kayaking among my hobbies, and I have to admit that it's pretty impossible to get all your kit and a boat to the nearest whitewater river or weir without a car. But in the case of mountain biking, it's often just a matter of cycling a few extra miles on the road to get from a railway station to the nearest forest.

If you're going to the show this weekend, have a great time. But make sure you give the staff behind the Volvo stand a snooty look as you pass by.


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