Monday, 10 May 2010

Weekend of Cycling Pursuits

I had an inspiring weekend which brought back to my attention the multi-faceted, revolutionising, liberating invention which is the bicycle.

On Saturday I was part of a critical mass/ plane stupid ride from Birmingham City Council to Birmingham International airport. Despite the rain, I was one of a cheery bunch of waterproofed cyclists dancing along the A45 to the tunes from a bike-powered sound system. We were a relatively small group but were nonetheless able to make a real impact on drivers heading to the airport and on arrival at the airport itself. We had a police bike escort for the first mile or so but then they got tired and switched to 4x4s (more's the pity, the cops on bikes seemed to be enjoying it). Read about it more on the Plane Stupid blog. This was a reminder to me of the power of bikes in demonstrations and geared me up for the planned 'reclaim the bike' ride coming sometime soon!

On an entirely different note, on Sunday I went out with a touring club in Coventry for the first time which was an interesting and wonderful experience. 75 miles along winding countryside roads, past lakes and hills I never suspected to find in the midlands (and probably wouldn't have otherwise). The bike remains, as it was hailed at its beginnings- a democratic means of discovering the countryside. I was privileged as a newcomer to the midlands to be out with a group of seasoned tourers who know the best bike routes, the best hills (up and down!) and the best views. There was (as, sadly, you might expect) a significant gender imbalance in the group- 6 men and 2 women - but most noticeable of all was the age gap: I was the only person under 50. Respect to these hardened senior cyclists but where are the young folk? Sheila, the other woman on the cycle was telling me fondly of the days 30 years ago when they'd have dozens of people of all ages out on the weekly cycle. But it's nice to know some things don't change - just like 30 years ago, the contribution for the ride remains just 5p...


  1. There are other young folk on bikes out there, just not as many as there should be.

  2. Ctc in Cov are doing their own established riding thing without thought for doing owt different to encourage new riders along - hence the older average age you mention.

    There's a couple of riders you may have met on Sunday who do great work in schools as cycle trainers but for the rest it's a social... Nowt wrong with that unless you're looking at encouraging new cyclists - 75 miles is a long way for someone new to cycling!
    The sports clubs are similar - if you're good enough you're welcome - not much time for novices. Exception there is the Tri club, Cov Tri who do regular novice rides upto a couple of hours duration.

    There'll be an event at the Alan Higgs centre in Cov on 20th June to help get more people riding - using the new BMX track and other activities around there. Leave a reply here if you're interested in getting involved and i'll get in touch...

  3. Great blog!

    lfgss friend.

  4. Thanks for the feedback Vistaed/Rory, much appreciated!
    Could you e-mail us at birminghambikefoundry@googlemail with the 20th June details? Would be really helpful. Thanks!

  5. Or at our new address,!

  6. 75 miles? You make me ashamed. I only did 50 on Sunday. My excuse is that I only have one gear. Once you get to 18mph you really don't want to pedal any faster.

    Cycling has an image problem. The main stereotypes of cyclist I see in town are the serious, lycra-wearing, carbon fibre-riding roadie. The people who ride cheap mountain bikes on the pavement as an alternative to the bus. And the high-vis vest wearing commuter who rides with their saddle too low. There are a few others too, but that's irrelevant. My point is that no average young person looks at the average cyclist and thinks 'that looks cool'.

    What cyclists need to do is dress decently, make cycling a part of their everyday life and not just commuting or sport, and ride bikes that don't look like horrible contraptions of death. Then cycling will look attractive, fun and practical.

    Also, we need a cycle network like in The Netherlands. That would help...

  7. Hi Lee, some great points there. It is annoying that image has to come into it but I wholeheartedly agree that cycling should be a part of everyday life!! Nan and I always have a good giggle at these 'serious' cyclists who are kitted up to the max but then seem to cycle on the pavement, get in the way/cause accidents and think they're better than the majority of us who cycle everywhere and don't just cycle for our commute! As far as I'm concerned, all I need is a good lock, some lights for night-time rides and a waterproof because of our lovely weather! Comfy cycling clothes needn't mean spending the earth on labelled Lycra but I guess some people have more money then sense!

    Re the Netherlands, I just got back from Amsterdam and was amazed at the cycling network there so I'm about to do a post on it!!