One of the most popular sections of Peak District Cycleways is our Events Diary, which at this time of year is full of cycling activities and competitions. For example, this Saturday 15 June is ‘Women on Wheels: Cycles, Cotton & Cheese’ which starts at Parsley Hay cycle hire centre and is a leisurely 12-mile ride through the White Peak led by a Peak District National Park Ranger. It aims to build the confidence and fitness of female riders and is suitable for occasional or regular cyclists who are comfortable riding on quiet roads (but not beginners). Bike hire is available, although booking is essential – call 01629 816211.
Cycles, Cotton and Cheese (the title presumably relates to places visited en route!) is also part of the national Bike Week, which runs from 15-23 June and is the UK’s biggest mass participation cycling event. There are organised rides across the country, from short outings for families and first-timers to sportives and more challenging events. Last year’s Bike Week saw almost half a million people taking part in the celebration of cycling across the UK.
Although Bike Week has a national coverage, our Events Diary demonstrates the growing number of organised rides and competitions with a local focus. This autumn it culminates in the first ever Peak District Cycling Festival , which runs from 7-15 September and will feature over 60 cycle rides and bike-related activities. The rides themselves will vary from 6km-160km in distance, including specialisms like bike orienteering and sportives as well as beginners’ rides and women-only events; but on top of that there will be films, talks, family events and workshops that celebrate cycling in its many and glorious forms. Put the dates in your diary now, check out the website – and take part!
In many ways the various Bike Week events happening nationally are a reflection of the growing interest and involvement in cycling, the popularising of a recreational pursuit that makes it more accessible and less the preserve of the pro cyclists and mountain bikers. It’s a trend we are seeing in the Peak District and it shows every sign of developing further.
About a decade ago I wrote a feature for the Observer newspaper on walking festivals, then a relatively new phenomenon in Britain. They quickly spread around the country, inspired by a mix of enthusiastic ramblers keen to encourage local walking and tourist boards seeking new promotional angles. With the first ever Peak District Cycling Festival this September it would seem that cycling – in all its wonderful forms – is beginning to catch up with walking as a mainstream recreational activity.
It’s a hugely positive step for sustainable tourism in this crowded national park and surely will have other health and environmental rewards. But it needs to be managed properly if local communities are to benefit, both in terms of boosting the local economy and also opportunities for residents to enjoy everyday cycling. Bike Week and a seven-day local cycling festival are in themselves really welcome events, and I for one will be taking part and supporting them; but surely we must be aiming to ultimately get to a position where cycling and the sight of bikes on our lanes and trails are the norm? To mis-use a well known slogan, a bike is not just for one week in the summer.