May the Force (GB) be with me…

One of the most time consuming but ultimately rewarding parts of the preparation for the trip has been the decision to try and replicate the Raith Rovers RemembeR kit in cycling format.

The strip was introduced in 2014 marking the McCraes centenary and has remained our away top through to the end of the 2015-16 season. Fitting in many ways that the Battle of the Somme Centenary will herald the end of the kits use though the longevity of the decision to make such a radical change to our traditional colours will endure.

The production of cycling kit is a booming business though the options are very much hindered by the small production run for an event such as this one. The first step was to approach a range of providors who were easily found by virtue of a google search and a trawl of the most used cycling forms such as: Bike radar, cycle chat, road cc, Road cycling uk. In addition discussion with a couple of local cycling clubs and my own local bike shop gave me a list of a dozen to approach.

The response was varied from “couldnt be bothered to reply” through to “we would like to help you but cant/wont” This was far from futile as each response guided me towards new questions and ideas.

A short list of 3-4 companies stood out with price and production times in line with my hopes and expectations. I asked for a draft design and this is where one company stood out. Force GB Company site based in Yorkshire promised:

Free Design & Graphic Service- the highest quality fabrics sourced from suppliers across Europe and a rigorous quality control system.

Design & Construction- Graphics are prepared to incorporate all design features, colours and logos. Once approved the latest digital print equipment is used to ensure pin sharp reproduction of the design. This is then sublimated into the fabric ensuring no washout or fade

Made in the UK- Customer service, design & manufacturing is all under one roof at their factory in West Yorkshire.

Competitive fixed price, No minimum order, Friendly & efficient customer service

The process started with receipt of a base design which on its own was enough to generate positive comments from a host of parties with an interest in the cycle challenge.


I have no doubt that the professional nature of the design contributed towards the level of interest that sponsors have shown in the kit. The time delay in securing sponsors and providing their logo details has been a test of extreme patience for Graham who has linked all of my communications since i first showed interest. No calling and explaining my idea to a dozen different people, no promises of call backs that didnt happen, no tales of a key person having been “just missed” as I make my umpteenth attempt to discuss the order. 1 person start to finish, excellent.

As sponsors changed and evolved I have chased PDf and EPS logos for more time than I wish to recall. As such we have seen 6 different design production proposals come and go with every one seeming to cause no great inconvenience. This is key as the time has allowed for me to secure support that would not have been there but for the fluid nature of my agreement with Force GB.  We also avoid disaster as the “final” kit draft contains an error that would have brought ridicule to the whole project McCreas….McCraes  spot the difference?  Subtle but vital.

In the midst of kit design the subject of sizing caused me sleepless nights as any cyclist will tell you the variation between a medium/large in one manufacturer and that of another is potentially enoromous. My own cycling kit cupboard has jeseys sized small/medium thorough some premium kit from the manufacturer Castelli which sizes me for some items at an XL- yep 68KG, 5 foot nothing and I weigh in to the oversized “step away from the fish supper” section of their website!!

Vanity isnt the key isssue here its more the case that custom kit doesnt come with a try it and swap it gaurantee. Instead Force GB save the day with a simple try before you order protocol. So I send 1 email and a couple of days later I have a test size medium and a large at my door. Panic abaited I know where i fit on their sizing spectrum and I order with the knowledge that I am not going to be challenging the local dress makers to resize something designed for a 10 year old into an article fit for a grown man to be seen wearing in public. Yep Ive been there before!!

So we finally reach the point of no return and the order is placed. Well I say the point of no return it still didnt stop me chasing Graham 10 days after the design was submitted for production hoping to add one last change. An email which appears to spend a week lost in the emailsphere lands with a kind request for ‘The Neeburs O’ Geordie Munro’ to add their support. The point is that I knew i could ask Force GB without it being a huge drama.

As a result Force GB benefit to as we decide to order some additional kit for my pitstop crew who will be on hand to massage my wearly mind as the trip gets going.

Pics of the kit will be posted when it arrives but meantime here is what we are working with.


I am keen to add that none of the recommendations on the site have offered any inducement for me to wax lyrical about their provision. The simple intention is to give fair praise to people who have offered support and quality provision.



Keen to add their support to the Business partners who have came forward so far are Fosterplus, Foster care services who; recruit, assess, train and support Foster carers who look after young people unable to remain in the immediate care of their families of birth.
The Agency covers Scotland and England with local offices in Dundee, Edinburgh, Hamilton, Pailsey and Ayr. Established in 1996, Fosterplus has extensive experience of working with local authorities to provide a positive and stable family environment for children and young people who have had a difficult start in life.
Fosterplus works nationwide with a wide range of carers across England and Scotland, who are all committed to ensuring that looked after young people receive the very best support and care in a positive, safe environment where they can thrive.

Their mission is to: Provide positive & stable family based environments for the children and young people placed with our carers. We aim to ensure that with the support of our carers they can thrive emotionally and academically.
“Everything is focused on ensuring we can give children and young people the chance to live in a family setting where they’re valued, encouraged and given exactly the support they need to reach their full potential.

We bring together social workers, education, health and support professionals to provide holistic care for all of the children and young people we place. We work to create innovative types of foster care that lead the way in the sector.

To support its carers Fosterplus provide support 24/7. It’s our aim to be responsive to the needs of every child, and every carer in those families. It’s vital to us that every one of them has a voice. The high-quality training, support services and rewards we offer make sure everyone who fosters for us has the resources they need to rise to the challenge”

Head of Operations for Fosterplus Scotland Geoff Armstrong commented; I heard about this cycle through my own staff and we immediately saw an opportunity to acknowledge our respect for the debt we owe all to those who made such sacrifice on our behalf. In fact we have direct experience of supporting young people who have chosen to explore a career with the Armed Forces after leaving our care. With regards the sponsorship we know David is taking on a big challenge and we will be proud to see the Fosterplus name on his kit as he makes his way to Contalmaison. Good luck

Contact Fosterplus


Raith Rovers Fans Forum and The Neebers O’ Geordie Munro…

It is great to see that our own enthusiasm has been matched by the first people we have shared our plan with.

Having been contacted by Andy Mill I popped in to see him before the recent Hibs game and was delighted by the clubs donation.  The 200 club got us up and running as a fundraiser. This has also been a springboard for opening discussion with the Raith Rovers fans forum representatives and boy have they delivered in kind with each of the 5 groups getting behind me in terms of encouragement and financially placing their collective weight behind McCraes Battalion Trust cycle fundraiser.

The 5 groups are; The Raith Rovers Supporters club, Raith Rovers Down South, Raith Trust, Jim McMillan Club and the aforementioned Raith 200 club

imageThe 200 club is a Raith Rovers institution: Fundraising for the club, entertaining home and away fans, hosting events to entertain and generally welcoming anyone who expresses a respectful interest in our team.

If you are local on match day pop in, you will meet good people and you might even bump into the manager or some of the players if they are in for a pint.

Manager and fans share a pint



Raith Trust

imageRaith Supporters Trust was set up in 2001 to make sure that the voice of the Raith Rovers support is heard.

The Trust are a democratic organisation made up of ordinary fans of Raith Rovers FC. They work with the football club board and other fan groups to help make sure that Raith Rovers FC has a strong and stable future as a club at the heart of the community.

The Trust is the legal vehicle for the Raith Forum’s shareholding, which represents approximately 14% of the total shares in the companies which make up Raith Rovers. As a result the fans are now represented on the board of the football club with a ‘Supporters Director’ giving Raith fans a real say in the direction and running of the club.

Raith Rovers Supporters club

imageRaith Rovers Football Supporters Club was formed in 1926, the Supporters’ Club is a major shareholder in Raith Rovers F.C Holdings Ltd.
The aim of the club is to assist fans in their efforts to attend matches both home & away, and to encourage them to become involved in the club at times other than on match days.
Most people support “the team”, The Supporters’ Club also supports “the club”. Over the years we have received requests from The Rovers to assist in the purchase of equipment, and whenever possible we have been happy to oblige. During the Frank Connor years we helped with the purchase of suits for the players. We also stocked up the gym with up to date equipment for Jimmy Nicholl. The old shop at the rear of the main stand was converted into a laundry room with washing & drying equipment paid for by the Supporters’ Club. And during the much publicised “Save the Rovers” campaign, members of the Supporters’ Club spent many hours fundraising in shopping centres and supermarkets. In the last few years the Supporters’ Club have contributed over £100,000 to help in the running of Raith Rovers Football Club.

Rovers Down South
imageRaith Rovers fans who reside south of the border,  many years on from when the London Rovers took their first faltering steps back in 1993 – the group now have 100+ Contact and host a whole host of events guided by their mission to support the club in as creative a manner as they possibly can. what have they done since ’93…..
• Sponsoring the Under 15/16 team
• Supporting the Kids’ sponsored tickets scheme with Barnardos
• Jersey sponsorship for first team players
• Sponsoring the Stramash beer festival
• Sponsoring Rock the Rovers
• House of Lords reception
• Ball sponsorship, Match sponsorship
• Legends 5s – with former players in the wilds of Woolwich – original home to Kirkcaldy founded Arsenal

Jim McMillan Club

Situated in the body of the Turnbull Hutton Main Stand the club offer a safe haven for its members to chew the fat over a pie and a pint while they develop their plans to support Raith Rovers.

The Jim McMillan Club was formed back in 1992 and was originally called the ‘Rovers Return’ Club. It’s name was changed the following season in honour of founder member and Rovers stalwart Jim McMillan who has since sadly passed away. Jim was a lifelong Rovers man who had been secretary of the 200 Club for many years and long time fund raiser for RRFC. Our club has some 50 members and since inception has raised £117,000 for Raith Rovers to help with day to day costs and youth development

The Raith forum has a voice at board level by appointment of the Supporters-Director whose role it is represent the investment of the Raith Rovers supporters in the running of the various companies:- Raith Rovers Football Club Ltd; Raith Rovers FC Holdings Ltd; and New Raith Rovers Ltd. The first responsibility is to act in the best interests of the company, as with any company director. Beyond this it is expected that the role will allow Raith supporters, primarily through the Raith Forum but also in other ways, to exert an influence in the direction and running of the club.

Equally important are the wider groups of pals, friends and buddies who get together to travel the length and breadth of the country to back the team.  some groups evolve to the point where they regularly contribute to the season to season fabric of the clubs calendar.

One such group are “The Neeber’s O’ Geordie Munro” who are almost synonymous with the sponsoring of the last home game of each season (amongst others)

I was delighted by a message I received on the day the kit design was due to be sent of asking if they could join the wide list of kit sponsors.  Given we had the kit sponsored it was even better as we added our pals name to the kit and were able to pass all monies direct to the MBT.

2016-Match-sponsors [10829]







Fallen Angels


I know that along with the great pillars of conversational dynamite: football, religion and politics, tattoos divide public opinion in a quite dramatic fashion. This isn’t the place for debate nor discussion on the wider topic. This is about thanking good people for support.

So it’s  with thanks that I recognise what I believe to be one of the finest tattoo and body piercing studios in Europe. Fallen Angels, Kirkcaldy have extended their support and it will be great to have their logo on the jersey both on the trip to France and thereafter on my CX race kit.

The Fallen Angels crew consists of 5 guys; Raphael, The Kingpin and Owner who originally ran a studio in Poland before coming to Scotland to expand his base.

Graham who is the Manager and Laser Removal Specialist is very down to earth and says it how it is.

Dean, the Body Piercer- All forms of modification interests him, he has a strong reputation for ethical practice and high standards.

Daniel, Resident Tattooist – Young, talented and gaining a formidable reputation for creative artistic expression which is evidenced by his portfolio.

Tom, Resident Tattooist – my mate and a man of true talent, he does the impossible with ease even forcing the most committed tattoo cynic to compliment the composition and execution of his work.

Together they make a good strong team with a passion for art and self expression.

They claim to all have very friendly faces (that’s open for debate!) However anyone who pops in for a chat will get a warm welcome. If you think a few hours in the company of a man with a mission and a tattoo gun sounds like fun then you won’t get better than Fallen Angels.

Fallen Angels contact details





I recall a one-time football team mate proclaiming that “I can’t get fit because I keep getting injured and I keep getting injured because I am not fit..”

It’s the motto of my 20’s and into my 30’s and probably the reason I never rose to the top ranks of European football, honest.

Having been on the bike for a year or two some progress was being made but; twinges, niggles, physical glitches and the type of creaking which didn’t sound right saw me slipping back to copious amounts of time sedentary on the couch. Then it happened- a tractor carrying its own weight in freshly picked carrots smacked into me.

The driver had been trying to manoeuvre round me to pass before the oncoming vehicle made overtaking impossible. The execution was at best shoddy and my head, shoulder and pelvis took the brunt. In addition my bike was smashed in half, kit was ruined and more skin was left on a verge outside Falkland than I ever aspire to remember. By fluke the incident was witnessed by a passing Police car so the argument of it being the cyclists fault was quickly extinguished.

Cue lots of claim, counter claim and lawyers taking than I could describe. Quick tip if this happens to you check your home insurance as prior to being a British Cycling member that’s where I secured my help.

I wasn’t in a good way and 6-8 months of rehab had to start. I work in Dundee and wandered into Body Motiv8 purely on the basis that it was opposite my office. A big step when you are faced with the realisation that you are in as poor shape and as heavy as you have ever been. In context I average out as a 70kg bloke who weighed in closer to 85kg.

Lee who owns the service was happy to chat and the key to his successful intervention was twofold. He is a physiotherapist and a fitness trainer, hence sessions took into account the bio mechanical needs of my recovery as well as my indulgence in cake and times where I simply had not done enough exercise to promote change. Let’s say he is honest, harsh when needed and the kind of knowledgeable up front guy that my condition needed.


Sure, Men’s Health are not chasing me for a cover shoot but with the help of the team at Body Motiv8 I have a core fitness which gives a strong foundation for what I want to do either on the bike or for my general health.

Body Motiv8 Dundee

Leslie Bike Shop



Not solely a place to buy that shiny new purchase or secure mechanical Leslie bike shop is a cycling hub where the staff and owners take pride in their reputation and the integrity of their relationships with their customers.

Having been off the bike for many years dawdling through the lowest competitive ranks of amateur football and spending too many post match evenings with a pint in my hand a chance encounter with an old cycling buddy fired up my imagination.

My initial approach to the shop was to enquire about a hybrid bike for some bridal path meandering though it soon became evident this wasn’t what I needed.

The first road bike purchase (Specialized Allez Sport) was secured 8 years ago and so the obsession began which has seen me move through a range of others: Specialized Allez comp, Colnago Arte, and Bianchi Sempre have served their time leading me to my current bikes and my status as a bit of a Bianchi anorak.

Every shop visit feels like popping in to see cycling friend’s, owners Andy and Fiona have an unnatural ability to remember the name of every return visitor, their family and their particular interests on and off the bike. It feels right visiting the shop.

The bike shop sits opposite Bikers Boutique which is the place for kit and along with the main shop offers bargains which are seriously competitive to any offering from an online retailer.

I do buy online either from necessity as I want a particular brand eg I use crank brothers candy pedals on my cyclocross bike and the shop don’t stock that brand or being honest there are some bargains which are too good to miss (SLK crankset at Chain Reaction 70% off plus 10 % British cycling discount!!)

“This time its personal” is the tagline from one of the Jaws movies and that what you bet with Leslie bike shop, the personal touch. Never mind the latest Carbon Fibre “must have”, top spec GPs units, or the aerodynamic benefits of the newest lycra it’s the personal touches that matter. I recall buying my kid a bike upgrade 5 or 6 years ago. I was running late and the shop was due to close yet they stayed open and waited for me to arrive. The bike was prepped and my kid was invited to sit on it to see if it would fit an imaginary girl her size, she sat on the bike then twigged that Fiona had written a note to replace the price tag with her name on it and a proclamation that it was her new bike. Much joy in the land and a memory that goes beyond customer service.

These are good people and I don’t doubt for a minute that my cycling would be less evolved if it wasn’t for them. That said it must be challenging listening to punters like me waffling on about recent rides and planned sportives when riding at club pace often eludes me. It never shows though……

Leslie Bike Shop Facebook