Top Gear – on two wheels !

Much of my relaxation time each day , which usually isn’t a whole lot , is often spent in the company of ‘Dave’ . Now Dave is not my neighbour , or a good friend . It’s not Dave Harmon or David Duffield . Dave doesn’t even ride a bike . Dave is actually channel 111 on Sky digital . The home of the ‘Top Gear ‘ re-run .

After years of watching ‘Jezza’ , ‘The hamster ‘ and ‘Captain Slow’ , last Monday afternoon I found myself  sitting in the driving seat of a Mercedes SL 55 AMG for one hour of advanced driving instruction and some nappa leather body wrapping during the rocket like accelerations .


The venue was Mercedes Benz world at Brooklands just outside of London . For £150 you get to drive an AMG more power-full than most Ferrari’s , Lamborghini’s or Aston Martins . Over 500 bhp under my right foot felt a good deal more exciting than the Dura ace spd-sl which I’d been pressing for three hours the day before .

On the plane home I began to wonder what a ‘Top Gear ‘ type programme on bikes would be like , and here’s what I came up with ;

The three hosts walk out into the stage in a converted Hay shed . Kelly , Harmon(d) and Duffield welcome the studio audience whilst standing next to a Specialized Roubaix , a Pinarello Prince and a black Mercian with a brooks saddle and downtube shifters .

Kelly goes first :

Hello and welcome to Top Gears . On tonight’s show I relive the glory days by road testing a Specialized Roubaix over the pave in the forest of Arrenberg , whilst  Harmond takes Pinarello’s latest top of the range offering and his hair gel for a spin over the Wicklow gap and Duffers does a few laps of Sundrive road on a restored 1969 Mercian . Our test rider ‘The Stag’ will also take the Pinarello out around our car park for a power lap standing start 1k time trial . There’s also a race between the three of us with me on a bike and the other two using public transport to get from Dublin to Carrick .We’ll also have our ‘Star on a reasonably priced bike ‘ guest , taking out the Giant SCR 4.0 . So on with the show !

A wide camera angle shows a bleak cobble-stoned road within a grey forest . It zooms in on a puddle of muddied water with a constant drip of drizzly rain . This image is quickly replaced by another showing a small bunch of riders following a number of Peugeot lead cars and BMW motorbikes . It zooms in on a face covered in 10mm of caked on mud .  Only the pink eyes and mouth make it recognisable as a human face . The camera zooms out just as a rider attacks and Phil Liggett shouts : Plankaert attacks again and Kelly reacts immediately . All of the belgians are trying their best to rid themselves of the Irishman who they fear if it comes down to a sprint finish , but he is just too strong  . De-wolf counters on this the toughest section of road in all of cycling and once more Kelly is first to react . The Irishman is making the pave look like smooth tarmac . What a fantastic display by the worlds number one bike rider .

Next shot shows Kelly crossing the finish line in Roubaix , both arms aloft five bike lengths ahead of his nearest challenger .

The camera goes back to a cobblestone and rises up to show an approaching lone rider in the deserted forest . The man in An post green on a red, white and black Specialized stops in the deserted forest as he approaches the camera and says :

‘ It’s a few years now since I’ve ridden over these cobbles but they still look the same . This was always the deciding point in the race when I rode and you always had to be up at the front of the bunch fighting off those big Belgians on the approach . At the time I used to have a carbon and aluminium bike but neither were a patch on whats out there today . This Specialized just seems to soak up the cobbles . We used to go through here on a 52 x 14 , slogging away trying to keep the momentum going but today I can get over them comfortably in a 53 x 17 on this machine using a higher cadence . Even the Gel bar tape is a huge improvement on the Benotto plastic tape we used to have before . Out of ten I give it a nine , a really super bike .

Now it’s over to Harmond :

With a backdrop of Glendelough Harmond is pulled in at a viewing car park .

‘ I’m here in the Wicklow mountains test riding Pinarellos latest offering , The Prince . It has been revived and re-invented and some say that this is the best bike ever made . So lets give it a try .

He sprints off out of the saddle and between breaths explains that ‘the acceleration of this machine truly is phenomenal . It really does have to be experienced to appreciate just how responsive it is . Did you know ? , that Pinarello are over 54 years in the business of making bikes and that the technique has been passed form father to son . And another quite interesting fact is that they also now offer a my-way system of choosing the colour scheme for your bike which is fully user interactive on their website I remember one day during the winter when I was out for a spin with V.C. London on Thames that one of the guys was actually riding one which he had chosen the colour scheme for and it looked quite smart . Back to the bike and what more can I say , It really is quite fantastic and probably one of the best bikes ever made !

And on to Duffers :

Standing next to a railing on a very slightly banked tarmac corner Duffers greets the camera :

Yes , well hello and welcome the , ahh Sundrive road race track . This track was built back towards the end of the last century and has recently undergone a substantial improvement . I’m here today to try out a renovated Mercian made from Reynolds 501 tubing which was a fantastic race machine back in the late sixties when I used to manage the T.I Raleigh team . To help with the test I’ve added a wicker basket to the handlebars into which I’ve placed some rather delicious Cashel Blue cheese and a nice bottle of Merlot . The cow who produced the milk for the cheese grew up on a farm just outside of Killusty and was milked by hand every day for six months . Her milk was then turned into this most delicious of cheeses which I really do recommend everyone should try .Cashel is also famous for the very well known castle which is known as ‘ The rock of Cashel ‘ . The wine is a nice fragrant Merlot which goes beautifully with the cheese and really has to be savoured . Oh yes , I almost forgot , the bike rides well and looks nice .

Next up comes the race , Kelly on the Specialized versus the other two on public transport .

The three are standing outside of Huston Station in Dublin ,

Kelly says ‘ I’m looking at roughly six hours or so with the wind how long do ye think it’ll take ye to get to Carrick ?

Duffers says ‘ Well Sean , I’ve been studying the timetables and we should manage it in just under five which should give us just enough time for a glass of Sauvinogn Blanc in Tony Kehoes before you arrive .

Kelly looks at them with a raised eyebrow and says ‘ we’ll see ‘ and off he goes .

The other two run into the train station and Harmond picks up the tickets which have already been pre-booked . They’re hoping to catch the 11.10 to Limerick junction and approach a man in an orange vest with a blue cap to enquire .

He informs them that the 11.10 for Limerick junction will be leaving from platform one at 12.25 sharp . They ask why the delay and are told that this is the normal time for the 11.10 to Limerick junction to depart , although it is usually from platform three .

Meanwhile Kelly has already reached Naas and has the head down . He’s really going for it .

At 1.45 the train for Limerick junction departs Houston Station without comment from any official regarding the delay . Duffers has had two hot dogs covered in Parmesan cheese and black pepper so seems quite content , whilst Harmond looks concerned about the age of the train when he notices ‘ M.Collins woz ere 1916 ‘ on the seat back infront of him .

Harmond raises Duffers from his slumber as they approach Ballybrophy where they have to change trains . They are told that the next train is due in 10 mins so are happy to stretch their legs whilst they wait .

Kelly is fast approaching Castlecomer and is actually passing a few cars on the winding road . He is really going for it and when Jimmy McGee pulls up alongside with ‘The heat is on’ blaring from his cassette player Kelly raises it another notch .

Back in Ballybrophy it has begun to rain and Duffers and Harmond have been huddled together under one of Duffers’ hats for the past hour and a half whilst they await their next train . Eventually it trundles along and they look none too impressed as they board the first of two carriages . Next stop Limerick Junction  !

Kelly passes through Kilkenny , and the other two finally seem to be making a race of it . They managed to just catch the former Dart train which has been renamed the Limerick- Rosslare express in Limerick  junction and are Carrick bound .

Kelly is dropping down Glenbower at over 100 kph as the train passes through Cahir . It’s going to be close .

Just as Kelly is approaching the railway bridge at the bottom of Sir Johns the train passes overhead . The finish is Tony Kehoes pub in Sean Kelly square . Kelly is out of the saddle sprinting up O’Mahoney avenue . Tony Ryan is standing at his gate under the two palm trees shouting words of encouragement . The poochers are out in force at the corner as Kelly flashes by the old ESB offices . He can now see the square which was named in his honour . He sprints into the square and raises both arms aloft , yet another victory .

Whilst all of this is happening Duffers and Harmond have been waiting for the train to slow as they prepare to disembark and leg it up to Kelly square . However the train keeps on moving at the same pace . What they did not realise was that this is an express train only stopping at Clonmel and Waterford so the race is lost , and now so are they .

Back in the studio there are giggles from the cheap seats but the show continues on .

Next up , The Stag test .

Some say he was born in a cave up in Mahon Falls with an Enervit gel in his hand , we only know that he is called  ‘The Stag ‘ and always wears a full face Giro Helmet .

The Stag sprints away from the start line in the car park and around the first corner in a 53 x 13 . He looks quick . Next up comes the chicane . He flicks the Pinarello left and right without losing any forward momentum . Then on over the speed bump and the yellow box and down into the hairpin bend . He navigates very smoothly around the bend without losing too much momentum and is quickly back on the pedals and out of the saddle sprinting up along the home straight . He crosses the line in a 53 x 11 at full tilt to conclude what was a very quick lap . But just how quick was it ? The previous lead time was a 1.06.16 on a cervelo r3 . The Stag did the power lap of 1 k from a standing start on the Pinarello Prince in a time of one ………….zero………….six…………point………….zero four !! a new lap record !

And finally we have our ‘Star on a reasonably priced bike’ section .

Tonight we are joined by one of Ireland’s top female television personalities – Grainne Seoige .

Kelly conducts the interview ;

‘ Welcoime to the show Grainne . Tell us a bit about your cycling history ‘

‘Thanks for having me Sean . Well myself and my sister Sile used to cycle to school once a year on sports day . But it was a long way , over half a mile so we didn’t bother for the rest of the year ‘

‘And do you know any cyclists Grainne?’

‘Well there’s Padhraic Quinn from Connemara who we often bump into . He does a bit of commentating himself on our favourite channel TG4 . ‘

‘Are you sure that it’s your favourite channel Grainne , seeing that RTE are paying you a few hundred grand a year ?’

‘Oops yea, forgot about that one . TG4 is actually my second favourite channel after all .’

‘Well getting back to the cycling , and how did your lap on our reasonably priced bike go?’

‘It went well , I think , Sean . The Stag gave me plenty of pointers and was very thorough in setting up my saddle position with me on the bike ‘

‘Lucky Stag’

‘What was that Sean ?’

‘Oh , I was just saying , lets take a look at your lap then ‘

And she’ s off , sprinting away from the line in a 39 x 18 , moving her head and shoulders left to right and keeping the rest of her body and the bike perfectly still . Not exactly ideal . On through the first corner with a stiletto heel just clipping the ground . Here comes the chicane and , ohh she almost lost it there but somehow managed to hang on . Over the speed bump and her short dress gets even shorter . The Stag is now lying down beside the track , why I do not know . Around the hairpin bend and here comes the sprint up to the line , yes here it comes , any minute now , oh well I guess you could call that one a sprint , if you speed up the tape when you watch it back .

‘So Grainne , how do you think you did then ?’

‘Hopefully above that Anne Doyle anyway .’

‘That you did . Ann Doyle did it in 3.58.19 and probably has still yet to finish . Your time was three minutes ……………fifty…………………two point nine . You were faster than Ann Doyle . Grainne Seoige everyone .

And on that note , Thank you very much for reading , and good night !


6 thoughts on “Top Gear – on two wheels !

  • January 4, 2009 at 5:38 pm


    That has got to be one of the funniest things I have read in a while

    Thank you for putting a smile on my face 🙂

  • January 19, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    The thing is that Top Gear isn’t about cars, it’s about entertainment. That’s the whole point of the new format. I’ve been trying to get a cycling programme off the ground for ages now and the plain truth is that it’s hard to do because it’s tough to show the people that matter what’s particularly watchable about it. These days, getting that sort of programme on air is all about the talent, not the subject, and with respect to Harmon and Kelly, they just don’t cut it for network.

  • January 20, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    You wouldn’t know…you’ve never seen me present a television programme.

  • July 25, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    Vladimir ‘Axminster’ Karpetz
    Bram ‘Stoker’ Tankink
    Sylvester ‘Stallone’ Szmyd
    Nicholas ‘Son of a Gun’ Roche
    ‘Fast’ Ryder Hesjedal
    Levi ‘Strauss’ Leipheimer
    Roamn ‘Centurian’ Kreuziger

  • July 25, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    Denis ‘The Manace’ Menchov
    Alberto ’39 Steps’ Contador
    Bradley ‘Hurricane’ Wiggins (tribute to Alex)


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