For those that haven’t heard of it, the “Batch Burner” (www.batchburner.org.uk) is an organised 48km MTB Challenge that runs over the Long Mynd hill range in Shropshire (the below picture giving you an idea of what sort of hills we’re talking about) during the first Saturday in June and was started in 2013.
For those that haven’t heard of me, I’m Peter Flint a 37 year old XC rider in my second season of competing in XC type events, having taken up cycling in January 2012 following an operation on my back and as a way of keeping a decent standard of fitness and core strength, before that it was 1991 since I last rode a bike round the woods… and its wasn’t very well even back then! These shortcomings make sense a bit further on.
I took part in my first Batch Burner in 2014 and “had a mare”, initially with the front group we found ourselves going up the wrong “hill” due to a slight lack in signage, then being sent down another the wrong way courtesy of some pesky local scamps and their idea of a practical joke (I remember how hilarious I found that when my HR was 185bpm+ coming back up it) and no sooner had I joined up with the other riders and made my way towards the front following that then I ripped the side of my ‘oh-so-flimsy’ Rocket Ron TLR tubeless tyre (I thought they were supposed to have thicker sidewalls?!) cue spending an inordinate amount of time at the side of a soaking wet Carding Mill Valley putting an inner tube into the rear wheel then trying desperately to warm up enough to finish the rest of the challenge.
Anyway! That was all last year and despite it I was really looking forward to this year’s event.
I arrived an hour and half prior to the mass start (the event is strictly limited to 350 riders to minimise impact on local trails and this year the event sold out within 26 hours!) to ensure my usual pre race rituals could all be fitted in. My customised Canyon Lux 29er frameset replaced the hard tailed version I had used last year (and found more than a bit bumpy on the descents) but unfortunately Round 4 of the Southern XC at Bordon (I ride Sport Cat at present) and a local blat earlier in the week had taken its toll on my shift cable, internal grime made shifting down the cassette more and more of a mission and today the smallest cog wouldn’t engage at all and the second from bottom wasn’t overly keen either, with the 4 hour delay on the M40 the day before meaning I couldn’t get it to an LBS in time to rectify the issue it would be riding but not as you’d want it.
After the rest of the pre ride prep I lined up at the front of the amassed riders with the other lycra wearers (spotting some familiar sponsored riders from last year) and at 10am we were off!
The first couple of miles were country lanes, tracks and a couple of fields and by the time we hit the first of four Cat 3 climbs, the “Plowden Puff”, which took us initially up a couple of farm tracks, I had settled a few riders back, pulling in behind one of the ‘Trailhead’ riders “Dave” who had a good piston-pumping type fast cadence and still upper body, this guy, I thought, will be a good gauge/canary down the mine to follow behind, so I settled in and tried to calm the breathing down. A couple of hundred metres further on I got that “I can go quicker than this” feeling; and, knowing most of these guys will eclipse me on the descents, I attacked the climb and pulled off the front and made some headway whilst trying to concentrate on breathing, keeping the cadence up and legs pumping as the lactate started to flow and quads started to burn! I took a left as guided by the marshals and it was out onto fields, climbing up to the top of the picturesque Long Mynd plateau with an impressive crosswind I was able to lean into, I glanced behind and could see I’d put around 30 metres into the next rider and although I was only half way up I began to think “This might be easier than I thought!” clearly failing to notice I’d only covered around 4 miles – schoolboy error. In went a Torq Gel anyway, I was going to need every ounce of energy today.
As I got another 150 metres on I had another quick glance behind only to see “Dave” was now only a few metres behind, I’d pulled some time on the rest but Dave clearly wasn’t here for the scenery. As he pulled alongside we exchanged a quick “Hi” and as friendly a smile as I could manage as my HR hit and settled around 187bpm. As we finished Plowden Puff, Dave had taken a few feet of lead and it was now a gradual but fast descent across the plateau and through the next couple of check points and a nice chance to have a quick glance at the stunning scenery that brings walkers and hikers from far and wide – it’s easy to see why! The weather was a breezy 13 degrees but the sun was out and in its glare I had quickly realised the base layer was a mistake.
The next couple of miles followed the sheep trails across the tops of the hills, (time for another Torq Gel) but the first steep descent then presented itself with a couple of hair pins and I now struggled to hold Dave and slowly watched him pull away down into Carding Mill Valley (memories of my puncture last year at this spot still fresh in my mind)
Towards the bottom I was impressed with a gutsy off-trail overtake from another rider and even though I was concentrating on not losing my front or rear end on the loose trail, the fact this other rider was on a hard tail didn’t escape me! I took the knock and continued “Riding my ride” and could see the friendly marshals at the bottom pointing Dave and the speedy hardtailer up the bank, I duly followed but now some 20 seconds back. Having negotiated the steep bank powered by pure frustration, the ride joined a farm track onto a country B road and I put the power down and popped an SiS Caffeine Gel as I pulled back to Dave and Mr Hardtail (who was introduced at the end as Darren) who I noted was riding a very trick Orange Clockwork Anniversary (love those bikes!), I broke the silence with a loud “Wish I could go down hills quickly gents!” which received giggles and nods before we all settled into the next Cat 3 “Long Mynd Climb”. A couple of hundred metres into it I decided I needed to adopt the same approach and attack the climb to make some time up that I now knew I’d lose on the next steep descent, so I stood up on the pedals and began the familiar breathing/burning combo as I pulled away. At the end of the climb some 600 metres further, I could see I was clear of the other two and enjoyed the hill check point on my own. The next descent was almost immediate and was also almost a repeat of last time, only this time I was overtaken half way down by Darren and another rider (introduced afterwards as Dave as well – let’s call him Dave2) Where did he come from?! All I knew was my descending “skills” were sadly lacking and I couldn’t just switch off and attack them Downhill stylee as the others seemed to.
As everything settled at the bottom and I again made up the lost ground, we began the third Cat 3 “Sandbatch Slog” – the longest of the four major climbs but my legs now really feeling the burn. Dave2 was at the lead and through a boggy lane I had my way to his wheel with Darren and Dave now behind me but thankfully no one else in view. Sandbatch Slog really lived up to its name, at the bottom of it we’d made it to almost half way at 15 miles, as I looked up I could only see an impressively steep and rocky trail which was more than a little daunting, so I instead focused on Dave2’s wheel and just kept repeating “Just follow the wheel, follow the wheel”. As the climb double backed on itself and got steeper again half way up, I realised for the first time in the last 12 months I was in the biggest cog on the cassette yet the burning just continued, I was now panting for all I was worth, as my HR hit 189 Dave2’s wheel started to speed up out of the climb but I wasn’t about to let it go now so I dug in and a quick look showed we’d made a good 75 metres on the other two, which for me were vital seconds I knew they’d make up on the down.
The next few miles were again beautiful and although my legs were now hammered the views over the sun blessed valley really helped lighten the mood; Britain up here is truly beautiful I thought. The next thing I could hear was music and as I went through the midway check point and feeding station I could see it was equipped with its very own brass band! Now at full bore trying to keep Dave2 only a few seconds in front of me, I couldn’t even shout a request only a quick “No Thanks” as the locals were there with arms outstretched with cups of water and sweets.
The next descent was more manageable but on a sheer hillside with only a small sheep track between you and a fall that would only come to a stop at the valley bottom, found me again on the brakes and I could see Dave2 had come to an abrupt stop in front of me at a 50/50 fork in the path – which way do we go? Signage this year had been very good, but right now we needed the right direction. Dave and Darren had caught up and we all decided on the very slightly better trodden path up the bank with me knowing I had my work cut out to stay with this group as the second part of the descent started. Sure enough Dave2 and Darren took full advantage of it and made seconds of lead up as I struggled to hold them, fatigue was really starting to set in so I took my second caffeine gel out and consumed –yuk! The acrid flavour hit me (won’t be trying that brand again), washed down with the Torq energy drink from the Camelbak (I seemed to be one of the few lead riders with these, others having team mates and family members to help with speedy bottle changes at check points)
The journey now came back in to the main entrance to the Carding Mill Valley and its Cat 3 climb, I knew what was ahead as I’d been on a walking holiday in this area years ago and also remembered the ride last year had followed the main footpath ascent, but unlike last year where the climb was early on I’d now been riding hard for 1 hour 50 minutes and was beginning to seriously flag. I was trying desperately to keep my legs pumping and keep the lactic acid flushed, but the path up the hill had rocks across it in places that would require a quick dismount and as I reached them and swung my leg back over the bike I felt my hamstrings cramping up and the lumber region of my back was now getting very painful, I quickly tried to stretch both but could see Dave only a little way behind me and with the constant flow of walkers clapping and giving me the usual “Well done, keep it going” I ignored any further body warnings and tried to make headway on the climb. I could see 75 metres in front Dave2 and Darren disappear over the top but the pain was really kicking in – this wasn’t happening I thought as I had to dismount again and repeat the earlier stretches before negotiating the rocks that covered the path once more. As I remounted I realised I was now in a world of pain, I started slowly peddling but was quickly been joined by Dave at which point I managed to muster “That was seriously hard!” – Dave clearly agreed.
Still that was it for the hard climbs so time to “Man Up” and finish this challenge properly, through the last couple of checkpoints and a welcomed gradual farm track descent. I could feel an inner rejuvenation, the lactic was shifting fast and a look at my Garmin showed 26 miles and confirmed the pain would soon be a distant memory, I glanced behind as we reached the other end of the track before the final smaller climb and couldn’t see anyone, I was feeling my power returning by the second and decided to capitalise on this and bury myself into the final more gradual climb, I got up on the pedals and gave it everything making some ground on Dave by the end of it. The descent had now hit the country B roads and despite my rear mech refusing to give me the smallest cogs, I pumped for all I was worth in the smallest that would engage and made the most of the change to easier terrain for the last 2-3 miles. The Start/Finish area has never felt more welcoming when it arrived further on, I’d managed 3rd place in a time of 2h 33:47 minutes with Dave2 crossing the line 3 minutes 47 seconds earlier – a well deserved victory!
There were claps and cheers and a fantastic band playing, I was presented with a mug, voucher for food and a choice of prizes, selecting my choice of SealSkinz items before it was over for a much needed recovery shake whilst the local Scout Group took the Canyon off for its post ride clean.
The Sun was shining, the weather was sweet and the smell of the BBQ was waiting for me as soon as I got off the floor from my impromptu but much needed stretching whilst being accompanied by the band playing a fantastic cover of “Valerie”.
Batch Burner is a fantastic event and great for XC and Marathon training, I found the organisers (PTA and friends from Norbury Primary School with some help from Plush Cycles) really friendly bunch and can thoroughly recommend the event and will be sure to be returning in 2016!
Coast to Coast MTB Adventure – 1st – 4th May 2015
We started planning this event back in January and we wanted to do something slightly different from the norm, so we opted for the “off-road” version of the route, which we thought would be more of a challenge than the normal “on-road” version.
Fourteen of us put our names down for the trip, with one dropping out through illness 2 weeks before we left. Luckily we were able to fill his place with another rider, without too much trouble.
We employed the services of Trailbrakes Biking Holidays to organise the route. Not only are they experts in this field, but they provided support over the 3 days of cycling, should any of the bikes suffer mechanical failure. They would also take our suitcases to each night’s stopover. This was essential as the weather forecast was pretty grim and there was no way we could have carried enough dry clothes for the duration.
The plan was to drive to the finishing point at Tynemouth, so that our transport would be waiting there on completion of the ride. Once we arrived there, we would be driven to Keswick, in the Lake District for our first night’s stop. The next morning we would be driven the 40 miles or so across to the starting point at Whitehaven.
Our bed and breakfasts were conveniently situated next door to each other, with seven of us staying in each one. One of them was significantly better than the other, with cakes and other goodies being provided on arrival on both nights, whereas the other one felt like the owner didn’t like bikers!
Church Stretton Square, ready for the off!
Arrival in Tynemouth after a 4 1/2 hour drive.
View from the mini bus – snow on the hills in the Lake District.
The two bed and breakfasts in Keswick – home for the first 2 nights.
Day 1 – Whitehaven to Keswick
An early rise of 7am was called for on the morning of our first ride. After much deliberation of what to pack in our backpacks we went down to breakfast where we were greeted by a full English breakfast, which was to power us that morning.
Trailbrakes arrived promptly just before 8am and we secured our bikes onto the trailer, with the others on a roof mounted bike rack on the second mini bus. We then set off for Whitehaven.
Loading up the bikes to drive to the start.
When we arrived, we got our bikes ready and made sure all was well with our kit bags. One of our party decided to venture down the ramp to get his wheels wet, so he could say he started at the correct point. However he forgot that the surface under the water would be extremely slippery from the algae growing there and took a tumble into the icy cold sea. The poor bloke was soaked from the waist down! We lined up for the customary photo and set off at just after 9am.
Let the fun begin!
The first hour or so was on the Ennerdale cycle path, a disused railway line, on which a lot of the standard C2C route was based. Soon however, the railway gave way to country roads with fantastic scenic views of the hills and lakes.
Towards the end of the morning on this first day, four of us were racing down a hill and we missed the turn off to the first part of the off road course. After waiting for around twenty minutes for the others to catch up, we decided that something was amiss. After ringing one of the other riders, we discovered our error and arranged to re-group at Buttermere, at the bottom of Honister Pass. Whilst we were waiting for the others we ate lunch, consisting of soup and rolls and a slice of cake at a quaint little cafe by the lake.
By now it was raining heavily and with a 20mph wind in our faces, Honister Pass with its 25% gradient was by far the hardest part of day one. We felt bruised, battered and cold and now we had to wait for the others to finish their lunch in the cafe at the top of the pass, before we could set off again.
After this climb it was a fairly easy ride back in to Keswick.
I would like to say that the rest of day one passed without incident. However when we arrived back at Keswick at about 3:30pm after 37 miles, some of the group decided to go kayaking, while the rest of us went for a walk around the town searching for a good place for our evening meal.
Anyway, the same chap that got a soaking before we had even started decided to upturn his kayak and ended up in the water again, for his second soaking of the day!
After a few pints and a fantastic dinner at the Dog and Gun pub, we retired to the bed and breakfasts to prepare for the next day’s journey.
Day 2 – Keswick to Alston
The weather forecast for day 2 didn’t look good and we awoke to heavy rain. We had 6000 feet of climbing ahead of us to get us to the top of the Pennines and it was sure to be a tough day. After a good breakfast we set off, in all our waterproof gear.
We soon came to our first off road section, which was a farm track that consisted of some very technical climbing over large rocks. The rain had made them slippery which did not help the ascent.
After half an hour or so, the track levelled out a bit and we sheltered in an old shepherd’s hut, whilst waiting for the slower riders.
We were now cold and wet and some off us had waterproof clothing on that proved not to be waterproof. Looking for somewhere to stop for a morning break, we came across the delightful Greystoke Cycle Cafe, a refuge that some of the guys had found during last years Land’s End to John O’Groats cycle. The owner Annie looked after us magnificently with tea and cake. She also let us dry our wet gloves on her aga and provided several of us with plastic bags and dry socks!
Annie’s Tea Room
Best way to dry gloves!
Suitably refreshed and somewhat drier than when we arrived we set off again along country roads, passing through some small villages psyching ourselves up for the Pennines.
At lunch time we met Pete from Trailbrakes outside the pub where we were to eat. He was on his way to Alston in the mini-bus with our luggage and it gave us the opportunity to change into some dry socks and gloves. Lunch consisted of hot soup or a tasty baguette and the pub was very welcoming towards us.
45 minutes later we were back on the road and heading for Nenthead, 5 miles from Alston. We were a relatively short distance of 15 miles from the hotel, but we hadn’t started the climb over the Pennines yet. Thankfully it had stopped raining and the sun was even trying to shine, injecting us with some much needed warmth.
The long road to the top!
Resting at the top.
Once we left the summit, we had about 4 miles of beautifully smooth tarmac taking us back down towards Alston. The roads were almost empty, so we were able to take full advantage and raced down the hill, managing to hit 45mph in some places!
When we reached the bottom, we had another stage of off roading, this time downhill over some gravelly tracks, through a disused mining area that had a huge water mill in it. This brought us out onto the road, where we had a 2 mile downhill cruise to our evening’s accommodation, the Nent Hall Country House Hotel.
What a fantastic place this was; a huge old building with big rooms and high ceilings. We were given a warm welcome by the manager Pamela and went off to unpack and get showered before regrouping in the bar!
Dining in style!
Back to the bar after dinner, where they stayed open as long as we wanted them to, before retiring to our rooms at about 11pm.
Day 3 – Alston to Tynemouth
We set off just after 9am on Day 3 and the weather had changed. The sun was out and we had the wind behind us for the first time since we left Whitehaven. There wasn’t going to be so much climbing today, as we had to get back down to sea level by Tynemouth.
We had to re-trace our route for the first few miles, back up to Nenthead and up Black Hill, the highest point of our trip at 1998 feet. Climbing up this hill, we were humiliated by someone who zoomed by on an e-bike, leaving us all standing. The northern Pennine scenery was now very much wider and open and was scattered with the remains of former mining activity.
Some more off-roading followed, up another farm track. This took us up to some spectacular views overlooking the north Pennines. When we reached the top, we had a 10 minute break and did a spot of sunbathing.
Sunbathing at the top!
This trail led to a huge open area that reminded me of the Shropshire Hills. Some beautiful views, some fantastic single track and some rocky paths. It was on one of these rocky paths that two of our group took a wrong turning and they were unable to hear our shouts at them that they had gone the wrong way. We hung about for a while to see if they realised, but they did not appear. We carried on until we had some phone signal, when we contacted them and arranged to meet them in a small town called Consett.
In Consett we would pick up the old railway track, known as the Derwent Way which would take us to Newcastle.
Once this 15 mile railway section was finished, there followed a section of industrial wasteland around the back of Newcastle’s Metrocentre, before we crossed the river to pick up the vibrant and busy Tyne riverside path.
The last section from the new shopping centre by the Tyne tunnel to Tynemouth was quickly over and we soon found ourselves at the end of our journey.
We didn’t hang about in Tynemouth for very long. Pete from Trailbrakes greeted us with some whiskey, ginger beer and some chocolate brownies, which was much appreciated. We then biked the 5 minute ride back to where our cars had been left for the trip. 5 of the group set of back to Shropshhire that afternoon, arriving back at around 8:30pm, whilst the rest of us drove to Durham to spend the night there.
We had an enjoyable evening in a nice town and sampled a Durham curry together with a few of their finest ales.
In front of Durham Cathedral
All in all a fantastic trip and very well organised. If anyone else is thinking of doing the same, or any other biking holiday, it is well worth giving Trailbrakes a shout, as their support and knowledge is excellent.
Stretton Hills Biking MTB jerseys are now available from our online shop
They are Madison branded jerseys, with the SHB logo on and are priced at £29.99.
The 2015 Batch Burner will take place on Saturday 6th June.
Entries open on Sunday 25th January at 6pm.
Entry form is here: https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/events/details/124969/LongMynd-Batch-Burner
Established in 2013, The Long Mynd Batch Burner takes place on the first Saturday in June each year. Organised and run by volunteers the Batch Burner promises to be the most fun and friendly Mountain Bike Challenge event that you can enter.
Local councils are pulling funds away from small rural primary schools making it harder for them to survive but with the help of the PTA, the local community and a little bike shop with a big heart we are not going to let them win.
So on 11th May 2013 the first Long Mynd Batch Burner challenge mtb event took place on the Long Mynd in Shropshire. Showcasing 48k and 4000ft of the best of the Long Mynd’s trails it left you with sore legs and huge grins.
A collision of circumstance has brought together the PTA of Norbury Primary School (a tiny rural school located behind the Mynd) with Church Stretton’s local cycle shop Plush Hill Cycles to organise the event. Also building on the work of the local mountain bike community and the major land owner National Trust everything has come together to offer what promises to be a well organised and relaxed event taking in all of the best singletrack in the area.
The event will be a mass start challenge event, so no racing, it’s all about having fun and raising funds for Norbury Primary School (all profits will go to the School). Places are limited to 350 riders in 2014 to minimise the impact on the natural trails and avoid singletrack bottle necks. Your entry fee will include the usual race support and on arrival back at base live music and a barbeque plus a Batch Burner goodie bag. There will be a bar and plenty of cake too.
On yer Bike! The inaugural Tour d’Arts Alive event. A day of two wheeled fun, whatever your age – Sunday 28th of June 2015. Coupling a sportive with FREE family friendly activities, to create a cycling event that the whole family can enjoy!
Whether you are a Wannabe Wiggo or more of a part time pedaller, whether you ride a Pinarello or a vintage velo, Arts Alive, Flicks in the Sticks and professional bike tour company Rideventures have combined forces to create a day of cycling, fresh air and fun in the beautiful south Shropshire hills. This will be a family friendly event with something for everyone.
The Tour d’Arts Alive is a fund raising event for Arts Alive and Flicks in the Sticks, the charities that bring professional live performances, big screen films and live satellite screenings to communities all over Shropshire and Herefordshire. By taking part you will be helping the charities to continue to deliver high quality arts events to this rural area.
The Clun Sportive will be clearly signed through the beautiful South Shropshire landscape. Choose between two different routes (in Kilometres):
The Clun 100 – for the dedicated cyclist who likes a challenge
The Clun 50 – a shorter route with less climbing
Entry fee £20 per cyclist (includes homemade cakes), all family events are FREE.
Entry via https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/events/details/123915/The-Clun-Sportive
Ludlow Cycling Festival takes place on 21st September 2014 at Ludlow Rugby Club.
The festival is to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support and events taking place include:
South Shropshire Tors – 100km road ride to the Welsh borders and back.
Beginners/Family ride – A led 11km ride to Ludlow Food Centre
The Orchard Ride – A led 30km ride to Tenbury Wells
Mountain Bike Rides: Off-road rides in Mortimer Forest
Turbo Trainer Time Trail
Win an Islabike
Hot and Cold Food
More details and booking forms can be found here: http://ludlowcc.org.uk/ludlow-cycling-festival/
From the 6th May 2014 to 16th May 2014, 9 lads from Church Stretton set out to complete the 928 mile journey from Lands End to John O’Groats.
Congratulations on successfully completing it to, Dave Power, Joe Green, Ian Townsend, Pete Arden, Ian Beaver, Mark Davies, Lee Brown, James Russell and Tony Griffiths.
This is their story in pictures.
The Long Mynd Cycling Festival is a Church Stretton and Cardingmill Valley based cycling festival which is taking place from Saturday 7th June 2014 to Saturday 14th June 2014.
It will feature road and mountain biking events for all the family.
Events for Adults
Saturday 7 June – The Long Mynd Batch Burner
A 48 km Mountain Bike Challenge over the Long Mynd and surrounding hills. SOLD OUT.
Sunday 8 June – The Long Mynd 2000 Sportive
Choose between a 55 mile or 92 mile route which take in some of Shropshire’s most challenging climbs. Departs from Carding Mill Valley between 8.30 and 9.30am.
Monday 9 June – Free Women Only Breeze Rides
Choose between a 20 mile route departing from the Chalet Pavilion in Carding Mill Valley at 10am or a 10 mile route departing from the same location at 7pm.
Tuesday 10 June – The Burway Hill Climb
Come and watch or join local cyclists taking on the Burway road in an evening Hill Climb event being organised by the Wolverhampton Wheelers Cycling Club. To enter the event or find out more details please visit the club’s website.
Wednesday 11 June – Free Mountain Bike Ride
A guided ride over the Long Mynd led by qualified mountain bike leaders – Come and join Kate and Allen on a gentle guided mountain bike ride starting at the Chalet Pavilion in Carding Mill Valley at 6.30pm.
Thursday 12 June – The Brewery Trip
10am Thurs 12th June from Plush Hill Cycles, Church Stretton – ride to the Three Tuns, Bishop’s Castle, take a tour of the brewery, lunch at the pub and return – back by 3pm
£5 (covers the brewery tour).
Vintage bikes and clobber option – break out your old bike and vintage racing jersey to take the trip in style.
Free Family Events
Thursday 12 June – Evening Family Bike Ride
A guided family bike ride led by qualified ride leaders. The 16 mile route takes you on gently rolling, quiet country roads. The ride is suitable for adults and children aged 12 and over (children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult). Meet at the Chalet Pavilion in Carding Mill Valley at 6pm.
Saturday 14 June – Family Day in Carding Mill Valley
Fun starts at 10am!
Create bike powered artwork and smoothies.
Power the Cycle Cinema.
Visit the bike demo stands.
Young children can ride around their own traffic free circuit and take part in the slow bike race.
Free Travel Shropshire learn to ride sessions at Teme Leisure in Church Stretton, book a place at: www.travelshropshire.co.uk/long-mynd
Plus lots more family activities.
For more information visit: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/carding-mill-valley-and-shropshire-hills/things-to-see-and-do/events/
Reinventing the Frame, Challenging the Status Quo
Spurred on to create a more efficient cycling frame that is moreover comfortable, Mr.Tortola went home one evening and began making the first sketches of his new idea (photo: Jeff Harris/Artmix; RoundTAIL)
For over a century since their creation, traditional, diamond shaped bicycle frames dominated the industry and remained almost unchanged. In 2010, however, Italian-born inventor Lucio Tortola had a simple yet industry-changing idea.
What if a new, more efficient, more reliable, more comfortable and more attractive frame for bicycles could be developed? In answer to his question, Mr. Tortola made an invention – a circular bicycle frame – that promises to revolutionize the cycling industry.
In order to commercialize the groundbreaking idea, the entrepreneur established a company called RoundTail Bike (RoundTail) – also operating as Tortola International Inc.
Intended to capture the essence of the bicycle’s frame, the RoundTail brand has resonated with expert and novice cyclists alike and sent waves of interest cascading across the cycling world.
The idea to create the RoundTail bike first came to Mr. Tortola following a long cycling season in 2010 covering 5,000 kilometers (km). With over 20 years of cycling experience, the inventor noticed that some of his cycling partners suffered from fatigue and discomfort following extended rides using bicycles with traditional diamond frames.
Spurred on by a desire to create a more efficient cycling frame that is moreover comfortable, Mr. Tortola, who is a designer and engineer-technician by training, went home one evening and began making the first sketches of his new idea. Soon thereafter, the circular bicycle frame was born.
The entrepreneur’s invention represents a step change in the state-of-the-art in bicycle construction. Before the RoundTail bike, conventional diamond frames supported a straight line tube that extends from the bracket (where the pedals are) through to the seat.
This configuration provides little protection from shock waves that emanate from the road, up through the straight tube of the frame, into the seat and through to a rider’s spine. Hence, many cyclists have suffered a variety of discomfort and injuries (including back pain) from cycles with diamond frames.
By contrast, the RoundTail frame – which is made of two parallel rings that are splayed open towards the bottom bracket and back of the bicycle and connected at the top where the rider’s seat is located – dissipates energy from the ground along its curved structure.
As Mr. Tortola said, “What I’ve done is removed the direct path of travel [of the forces] from the bottom bracket to the seat. All the stresses that occur at the bottom bracket have to travel [along] the circle and the vibrations that would normally make it to [the cyclist’s] back are lost.”
By establishing a robust intellectual property (IP) strategy, Mr. Tortola (pictured) has secured his invention and newly famous brand (photo: RoundTAIL)
The result of the RoundTail frame is increased comfort for the cyclist without loss in sideways stiffness and pedaling efficiency. In addition to improvements in function, the RoundTail’s curves aid the aerodynamic efficiency of the bicycle while creating a shape that has become a hit with many cycling enthusiasts and customers.
As one potential customer with over 30 years of amateur cycling experience said, “I’m always looking for something that is unique and at the same time very functional; and [the RoundTail] is one [of] those things where you have form and function going together into a really nice package.”
Research and Development and Partnerships
From the beginning, RoundTail’s founder was eager to establish a reputation for quality via collaboration with established industry partners. With a computer-aided prototype sketch in hand, Mr. Tortola sought the expert advice and creative skill of a well-known custom frame builder in Bozeman, the state of Montana, in the United States of America (USA).
Five months later, the inventor had a fully built and functioning prototype. Thereafter, Mr. Tortola took the frame for proof of concept (PoC) testing at Microbac Laboratories Inc. (Microbac), an established company that carries out product testing for a number of industries including cycling.
At Microbac, the RoundTail frame was successfully tested for horizontal and vertical loading durability and impact strength. In addition, Finite Element Analysis (FEA) modeling – which measures the stiffness of complex structures – was carried out at the lab.
The FEA procedure showed that the RoundTail frame had 10 times the vertical flexibility and over 60 times the shock absorption capability of traditional diamond-shaped bicycle frames.
Along with shock absorption and durability, the new frame retained lateral stiffness – a prerequisite for efficient pedal power and cycling speeds (excessive shock absorption would reduce speed which would disadvantage road cycling racers).
Moreover, although the RoundTail was found to be slightly heavier than traditional frames (by approximately 250 grams in some instances, depending on the materials used), the marginal costs of the new frame were outweighed by its overall benefits.
Other tests were carried out on the RoundTail including real-world tests when two cyclists rode a bicycle fitted with the new frame over a variety of smooth and rough terrain. These cyclists provided important feedback – such as the level of vibrations felt in the backs and arms during such rides – which was compared against tests where the rider used a traditional, diamond frame cycle.
RoundTAILs are available in a number of materials including titanium and carbon-fiber (pictured), three colors (white, light blue and black), and models such as MTBs, road bikes and hybrids (photo: RoundTAIL)
Results showed that no discomfort was reported after riding the RoundTail for approximately 80 kms, whereas some discomfort was reported after riding bicycles with diamond-shaped frames after only a few kilometers.
Having completed comprehensive PoC testing for the new frame, the inventor followed his Italian roots and outfitted the prototype frame with components manufactured by Campagnolo srl (Campagnolo) – a renowned manufacturer of high-end bicycle parts based in Vicenza, the Italian Republic (Italy). Mr. Tortola also visited Campagnolo directly and received excellent feedback and support from the company.
By 2011, three RoundTail frame models were handmade in Bozeman and fitted with parts created by Campagnolo. To develop the RoundTail frame for the mountain bike (MTB) model, furthermore, the company has collaborated with other established partners including Shimano Inc., a cycling components manufacturer from Japan, and Sram, a bicycle parts maker from the state of Illinois, the USA.
Also in 2011, three more RoundTail bike models – inclding the 26” and 29er series – were made in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). A high-end titanium frame was also constructed by Lynskey Performance, a renowned manufacturer of titanium bicycle frames based in Chattanooga, the state of Tennessee, USA.
Furthermore, the company’s bicycles satisfied the requirements of the American Society for Testing and Materials – an international organization that sets the standards for materials, products, systems and services.
Branding and Commercialization
In order to attract new customers and investors, RoundTail has worked with established industry partners while developing a number of bicycle models based on quality and the company’s Italian heritage.
Apart from the RoundTail brand itself, the company has labeled all of its innovative bicycle frames with two logos: “Italian DNA” and “Tortola” – the latter word being a match for the inventor’s last name while the former pays homage to the company’s and inventor’s Italian roots.
RoundTAIL not only show-cases its bicycle’s functionality via Internet based tools; it uses Online services such as You Tube to market its products through personal testimonies by satisfied customers (photo: RoundTAIL)
Moreover, RoundTail has relied on a variety of multimedia outlets, industry events and famous personalities in the cycling world in order to raise brand awareness and increase commercialization opportunities.
One of the company’s earliest collaborations was with Steve Boehmke – a mountain biking hall of fame member and early pioneer in the sport. Working with Mr. Boehmke, who is also a public relations consultant, the company was able to establish contacts in the industry and arrange promotional interviews and awareness-raising campaigns with cycling related publications.
Furthermore, Mr. Tortola has utilized a number of media outlets in order to promote the company via interviews on radio (including AM800CKLW, a broadcaster in Windosr, Ontario) and for established magazines including the Los Angeles Times and Mountain Bike Action Magazine.
Commensurate to promoting its brands through a variety of media, RoundTail has attended industry events where the company’s products have been showcased in specialized stands. In 2011, the company’s bicycles were presented at Interbike – one of the largest annual gatherings of bicycle enthusiasts and companies in North America.
The company has also promoted its unique bicycles in neighborhoods with a high following of cyclists such as Delray Beach, the state of Florida, in the USA. During such events, Mr. Tortola has been able to meet and greet customers and explain the inspiration and method behind the RoundTail invention.
As the inventor said following one such event, “[The company has] been thrilled with the overwhelming public interest in [the RoundTail] bike. [RoundTail hopes] the many visitors and dealers [who attend the company’s promotional events] will be just as excited.”
In addition, the company has relied on its professional corporate website and utilized a number of Internet based tools, including social sharing and networking services such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube, in order to raise awareness of its brands, products and activities.
The company’s Facebook page utilized an application that can be downloaded – called “WinRoundTail” – through which participants could share information with others about the company and enter a competition to win the distinctive bicycle. Via its YouTube channel, moreover, RoundTail not only show-cases its bicycle’s functionality; it also markets its products via positive personal testimonies and endorsements by consumers.
The RoundTAIL trademark has been secured in the USA and its design and patent (pictured) is protected in Canada, the USA, the European Union and other regions and countries around the world (image: RoundTAIL’s PCT application)
Such strategic use of Internet-based and other marketing tools has raised the company’s profile internationally while allowing it to interact with potential and actual consumers from around the world.
As of 2012, RoundTail’s products were available in a variety of materials (including titanium and carbon fiber); three colors (white, light blue and black); and a number of models (such as MTBs, road bikes and hybrids).
In the same year, the company created bicycles for advanced cyclists and beginners which were commercialized in Canada, the USA and, increasingly, other international markets.
Trademark, Patent, Industrial Design and Domain Names
Since the company’s establishment, Mr. Tortola, who has inventions in other fields, has been keen to protect the intellectual property (IP) rights of his designs and brands. With his ideas protected via the IP system, the inventor has entered confidently into new markets in several regions and countries.
In order to protect the company’s brand in the potentially lucrative USA market, the bicycle maker registered Roundtail (2012) as a trademark via the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
In the same year, Mr. Tortola filed a design application for the company’s unique frame via the International Design System (the Hague System) managed by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
By establishing a robust IP rights strategy, Mr. Tortola has secured his ideas and newly famous brand while ensuring important company assets that can be leveraged in negotiations with partners – such as large bicycle manufacturing companies – or prospective investors.
Parallel to the company’s trademark, patents and design registration, RoundTail retains two domain names (roundtail.ca and winaroundtail.com) in order to enhance its corporate profile on the Internet.
RoundTAIL’s award-winning products have brought a new kind of functionality, form, and comfort to the world of cycling (photo: RoundTAIL)
Within a few years since it was established, the RoundTail brand has shaken up the cycling industry and developed an international following. As a measure of the impact the company has had on the industry, in 2012 RoundTail’s design was inaugurated into one of the USA’s most prestigious institutions – the Bicycle Museum of America, based in New Bremen, the state of Ohio.
In the same year, the company was represented at Expobici, an exhibition of cutting-edge industrial design for public transportation held in Padova, Italy. At the event, the Carbon Diamante RoundTAIL bike won a distinction award in innovation (in the “road” category) while the Pinarello Dogma MTB model won an award in the design section.
RoundTail’s product portfolio includes high-end, custom-made bikes (selling for approximately US$7,000); medium-range bicycles (selling for approximately US$3,000); and mass-produced bikes (selling between US$800 and US$1200).
The company, moreover, has already taken many of orders for its bicycles from around the world. As the inventor said, “[The RoundTail] is just another variation on the bicycle [;] I don’t want to take over the world with it, but I would like to sell a number of them world-wide.”
Cycle of Fortune
For decades, bicycles relied on the traditional diamond frame until Mr. Tortola decided to challenge the status quo with a new, circular design. The inventor quickly sought expert partners in order to develop his idea and enter a competitive and international market. Basing his company’s expansion on a strategic branding and commercialization plan that was supported by IP assets, Mr. Tortola has been able to commercialize his idea and enter potentially lucrative collaborations with established partners in the industry. The RoundTail brand, meanwhile, has brought new excitement to cycling while enhancing functionality, form and comfort.
We are excited to see the Cycle-Tec MTB Marathon series coming to Church Stretton in 2014. The Long Mynd will be a treat for competitors and having so many riders descend on the town can only be positive news for our local businesses.
The event has been taken over by Cycle-Tec Events Limited who are experienced in the organisation of events of this type.
The event takes place on Sunday 29th June 2014 and starts and finishes at Church Stretton school. The start time is at 10am.
Sunday 29th June 2014
Event village (with caterers, bar and entertainment)
Trade stands and demo bikes
Camping from Friday evening to Monday night
Showers and toilets
Full route marked courses
Feed stations (with Torq energy products)
Saturday 12 to 7.30pm & Sunday 8 to 9.30am
Entry on Day
Yes, if not sold out (surcharges apply)