White beards and hairy legs!
I told some ‘roadie friends’ (all of them retired and of a certain age) that I was going to the York Cycle Rally and, despite its 70 year history, none of them had heard of it. I was amazed. When I explained a little of its history and the kind of cycling it catered for, one of them said “Oh, you mean old school cycling?” ……in other words, a polite way of referring to the predominance of white beards and hairy legs!
All of which, of course, got me thinking. This event had been founded in 1945, just after the war, by a group of cycling enthusiasts, and its only objective was to bring like-minded people together to enjoy, what was then, a burgeoning sport, especially amongst the working classes. Over the years, the numbers swelled, it was relocated on The Knavesmire, (York Racecourse), traders saw an opportunity and exhibition marquees were erected; grass track racing was introduced; and the programme expanded to include Audax rides, social rides, veteran bicycle parades, pub runs, and something that came to be named ‘bicycle belles’…….no need to guess what that was all about.
But sadly, in 2013, because of waning interest amongst traders and the changing buying habits of the cycling public, the event had to be cancelled, only to be given its re-birth two years later by a group of enthusiasts who had decided that the future of the event was not going to be so money-dependent, nor would it lean heavily on the support of traders buying exhibition space in marquees. So, after a two year ‘interregnum’, the York Cycle Rally was reinvented and restored, once again occupying its traditional mid-summer weekend in the calendar and, though they didn’t come in their thousands to fill the racecourse with tents and campervans, they did come in their hundreds. And there was something for everyone……..and there were bicycles of all descriptions. If something had a set of wheels and it was human-powered, you would likely find an example of it somewhere on the Knavesmire.
My two day weekend became a six day venture, when I decided to cycle there and back. It was quite an undertaking, adding nearly 500 miles to my annual calculations.
Stay tuned because I will share some of the routes in the next couple of posts.