OK, Colin Murray may not be the obvious choice as the presenter of a cycling show. He has no discernible cycling credentials that I'm aware of though he is a big sports fan and once rode 7km to a chip shop (possibly a return trip too?) but he is a very entertaining presenter. This is a quality that is sadly lacking in many (ex)Pro cyclists that have tried their hand at presenting and there'll be a few looking for jobs at the moment...thankfully the Beeb didn't go down that route.
We asked BeSpoke Producer, Patrick Nathanson what was the rationale behind the new show?
"Radio 5 live has a proud tradition of broadcasting live cycling, covering the Tour de France since the early 90's. The past 2 years especially have seen much more of a feature-led focus around high-profile British success stories, such as Sir Chris Hoy, Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins. However, the editors felt it was time for a show that properly reflected the continuing growth of the sport across society- focusing not just on the sports news and big-name interviews, but also getting inside the nooks and crannies of cycling's rich culture and history, from grassroots to the podium and everything in between!
I think our target audience reflects that - we want to make the program accessible to those whose interest might only extend to hopping on their bike to work, yet without patronising or alienating those with a genuine passion for the sport."
Great aims though a balanced Commuter/Roadie content mix will be difficult to achieve: certainly there is cross-over but most cycling commuters I know are concerned with getting from A to B cheaply and possibly for reasons of health or for the environment. As long as the chain stays on and the tyres don't puncture, they're happy! 'Roadies' are an altogether different beast: they tend to wear lycra, clean their expensive bikes with a toothbrush and spend far too much of their income on 'essential' cycling kit. Just getting from A to B isn't that important for a roadie, it's how one gets there.
That said, if the inaugural outing of BeSpoke is anything to go by, it may get the balance just right. The show certainly lifted itself above other attempts to capture the recent interest-surge in cycling with a skilful combination of wit and irreverence - delivered in spades by Colin Murray (left) - and an eclectic mix of content.
Guests on the first show included double Olympic champion Ed Clancy and Team Pursuit Gold medallist, Joanna Rowsell for a good bit of general chat (I didn't know Sir Alan Sugar was chummy with Mark Cavendish but I do know who'd win the sprint). Then there was a feature that shouldn't have worked but it did: '60 second cycle'' has a listener expressing the joy of their favourite cycle ride - Richmond Park in this case. Having the clip of 'Benson' in the background was a nice touch.
'Ok Commuter' is a small section of the show given over to topics that are of interest to everyday commuting cyclists and Murray spoke to the co-designer of the Hövding airbag helmet. A short enough feature not to switch off the 'weekend warriors' amongst us.
At the other end of the cycling spectrum was a regular feature 'Great Moments in Cycling history'. This time it was the Gold medal success of fellow Hoylakian* Chris Boardman MBE at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona (also see our On the Rivet interview with Chris Boardman). The comments from the man himself were interesting but it was the additional insight by sports commentator, Simon Brotherton, that made this feature shine: Simon talked of the positive impact of that medal-win on future media coverage of cycling, and in particular the Tour de France. Let's hope the producers continue to think out of the box like this.
No cycling show would be complete without man-of-the-moment, Bradley Wiggins, making an appearance (get well soon Wiggo!) but, again, BeSpoke gave it an interesting twist by grabbing Wiggo while he was with Paul Weller during the recording of a music-show special for BBC Radio 6 Music that will broadcast on Boxing Day. Wiggins was, as always, engaging but uncharacteristically subdued in the presence of Weller. Even heroes have heroes. Despite Wiggo's reticence, I fully expect he'll turn up on a Weller track at some point though I doubt we'll see the Modfather return the favour by trying his hand at some domestique duties.
Finally, onto an an inspired, though as Murray admits, not wholly original feature: 'The (Raleigh) Chopper Challenge'. This is cycling's equivalent of Top Gear's "Star in a reasonably-priced car" though rather than Dunsfold Aerodrome, BeSpoke has their rider/celeb tearing around the corridors of the National Cycling Centre in Manchester on this design classic. First up for this challenge was Team GB BMX Rider, Liam Philips, who put in the benchmark time of 40.26 sec (video here). It'd be worth the BBC license fee by itself if BeSpoke could get Clarkson to mount-up.
BeSpoke is certainly a breath of fresh air after the Armstrong/US Postal doping scandal and the seemingly never ending "outings" of other riders that have doped in the past. Even though doping is touched upon, the discussion centres on Kazakhstan chicken farmers...you'll just have to listen.
On the basis of the first show, I hope Bespoke does continue and is allowed to develop and find its audience (the plan is for it to continue at least into 2013). They have a good line up too with future guests including Jon Snow, Danny Boyle and Sir Chris Hoy (surely he'll take the Chopper Challenge?)
However, the best way to get the cycle show you want is tell the producers what content you'd like to hear. Just head over to the BBC Radio 5 Live Twitter Feed and tweet it - be sure to use the hashtag: #bespoke so you get noticed. Alternatively, add your comments and suggestions below.
BeSpoke will be broadcast monthly and if you missed the first show, it's still on the iPlayer or get the podcast here. Episode Two airs at 9pm GMT on Friday 14th December 2012.
Review by Andy Dawson
* Chris and I are both from Hoylake and went to the same school. There, the similarity ends.
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