Cycle Touring Festival 2017
Laura and Tim Moss, an intrepid couple who cycled 13,000 miles on their world tour in 2013-14, came back so enthused by their experiences that they set up the first Cycle Touring Festival at Waddow Hall in Clitheroe in 2015. I have just come back from the 3rd edition of the Festival, full of that ‘cycling spiritual refreshment’ that only comes from joining hundreds of other cycling ‘pilgrims’ at the mecca of cycle touring in the UK.
This was no ordinary festival. It steadfastly refused to follow the usual format of being dominated by sponsors and traders. The event was born of enthusiasts, it was run by volunteer enthusiasts, all the workshops, demos and presentations were given by enthusiasts without payment, and the inevitable end product was that, at the end, everyone went away brimming with renewed eagerness to go out and storm the world on their bikes.
One of the great ironies of the weekend was that the programme was so crammed with fascinating events on site, that it left no time to actually go out on the bikes and enjoy some of the local lanes. A bit like going to a pub with no beer, really. Everything was geared for the cyclist (or budding cyclist) who simply wanted to go on adventures on their bikes, whether multi-year round-the-world expeditions, or simple weekend micro-adventures in their own locality. Volunteers gave presentations on their own adventures, experts shared their knowledge of GPS systems, filming on the road, camp cooking and stoves, wheel building and basic mechanics, and much much more.
We enjoyed a presentation by a family with two young boys of their 6 month adventure in Japan, and cycling the west coast of Scotland. We had a yoga session specifically for the needs of cyclists, given by a yoga teacher and physiotherapist, who also happened to have cycled mega-miles across the globe. There were films, kit demos, talks on bothies in Scotland, bikepacking demos, discussions on dynamos and lighting systems, bike and light-weight tent demos, and an advice session on coping with cycling-related injuries.
They were the ‘serious’ parts of the programme, but in the gaps and in the evenings there were fun plenary gatherings in the marquee, an open mike session to hear 3 minute travelling stories from anyone who wanted to stand up, and the inevitable beer drinking to keep the bonhomie going late into the night.
Most people camped in the grounds of this splendid estate, within earshot of the river Ribble crashing over a nearby weir, which created a swimming-pool effect that enticed many to go swimming in the breaks. We were contained within a fantasy bubble during the entire weekend, ready to burst back out on the world when the final session was concluded, the final pint drunk, and the spare food doled out for people to take home with them.
If any of this inspires you, check out the Festival website, and sign up for a newsletter to be kept informed of the next event in 2018. In the meantime, you may want to tie into another festival taking place this weekend, June 2nd-5th, at Brathay Hall in Ambleside. If you do, I’ll see you there………………..