Bicycology Tour 2006

The tour began at London’s RampART St squatted social centre, and after a couple day of preparation, we were off. We hadn’t even got five miles before the tallbike suffered a puncture. Soon after that, the heavens opened – not a good start! Still, by the time we arrived at Finsbury Park for Finfest, the rain had eased off. We set up, rode the tallbike around, and played a bit of bike polo.

We left in the afternoon, only a little later than planned, and rode out of London as the sun set. It was getting dark by the time we arrived at the Friends Meeting House in Amersham, who’d kindly offered to let us camp in their garden. No time to rest though, and in the morning we rode into Aylesbury, for an event in the Kingsbury Square.

Aylesbury one of six towns in the UK named “Cycling Demonstration Towns” by the government. This means it is receiving 500,000 a year for 3 years(to be matched by the local council, ie 1.5 million a year) to be spent on promoting cycling, hopefully becoming a beacon of success showing what could be done elsewhere. We were joined by people from the council, handing out information and free reflective snap-bands, while we got the kids drawing on the pavement.

We left Aylesbury late, after a fine takeaway, tried out the Tallbike on the skate-park, and chatting to some local kids. It was already getting dark by the time we left, and there were some pretty serious hills on the way to Redfield. Pedals sped off, but was audible in the distance, an inspiring beacon to chase.

By the time we reached our hosts that night – The Low Impact Living Initiative (LILI), we’d ridden 60 miles from London. Many of the Bicycology Collective had stayed at the LILI whilst on the 2005 G8 Bike Ride. There was one very important difference – we were upgraded from camping in the garden to beds for all in their converted stable. Thanks LILI!

The following day began with stretching. 53 miles and many hours later we arrived in Coventry, where we camped out at the Peace House, where the G8 Bike Ride had also stayed. The food awaiting hungry cyclists lived up to the promises made by veterans to those who’d been flagging earlier on – and then some. Thank you Coventry cooks!

The next morning we rode to a park, set up, and waited (not for very long) to be inundated by broken bikes and our Doctor Bikes did their best on at least 38 in less than 5 hours, joined by local bike mechanic Falcon. Unfortunately, a few were beyond our means and time constraints. Sorry Agnan, your Red BSO (first in and last out) just couldn’t be done. Sorry Alex with your Gold Viking, hope you got that bottom-bracket sorted.

There was plenty of room for bike polo, and Bike Beautification got underway under a much-needed shelter.

The day was completed by a very pleasant ride back to the Peace House and an even more pleasant feast (Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! Peace House cooks), before a trek into the centre of town for a bike-powered film-night. The main film shown was a documentary on the 2005 London World Naked Bike Ride, which went down pretty well.

Leaving Coventry, 120 miles covered already, and we barely noticed the 30 that took us to Leicester and a total of 150, our legs adjusting to the routine. We arrived early enough to set up in the courtyard at the entrance to Bede park, and were joined by local specialist-cycle manufacturers Cyclemagic, the geniuses behind our tallbike, amongst other delights. Some wacky races ensued, but sadly the weather took a bit of a turn for the worse, and the day was practically rained off. We huddled under a gazebo, and consoled ourselves with chips.

Pedals took a trip around the centre of town, and Leicester-local Bicycologist Charlottamiles was interviewed on BBC Radio Leicester, and the collective went back to hers for more fine food and well-deserved sleep.

The next day was partly spent in Leicester as well, with a visit to Spinney Hill Park in the morning and another 20 bikes doctored. Sadly, again, two we couldn’t solve – Sahar’s broken frame was a little too much for any Dr. Bike but we hope Suhel’s green and purple Atomic got the new chain, tyre and seat it needed.

After a quick visit to the fantastic Bikes 4 All bike-repair and recycling organisation (which had provided a Bicycologist’s bike and trailer), we set off for Nottingham, meeting on the way a family of cyclists who’d heard about us on the radio, hooray! And also getting a bit lost for the first time, boo!

Another 37-odd miles and we were in Nottingham. Scheduled as a (by now well-deserved) rest day, which we spent at the Sumac Centre – the venue where the Bicycology collective was born. We tried to rest, but there was a lot to do – plenty of bike checking, and Pedals’ new paint job was begun.

The Devil makes work for idle legs, however, and of course the ride of Sheffield had a few hills. Luckily it was pretty beautiful, and there were beers on arrival. Plus we stayed in the pretty impressive squatted gothic mansion Crookesmoor House (student accommodation until weeks before).

Our day in Sheffield was spent at Devonshire Green, beside the skate park. The rain returned, but there was a good game of Bike Polo. There was more bottom-bracket trouble for the doctors though (hope you got ’em sorted in the end, Jason and Hazel). Due to spectacular stupidity, and the tallbike’s second skate park, a Bicycologist sustained one fractured wrist. Luckily, the Bicycology Collective travels with a couple of tandems – who’d want to let broken bones get in the way of a good ride? Total distance covered on leaving Sheffield – 235 miles. Another huge hill to escape, and another beautiful day’s ride to Leeds (sadly, the mileage record was a bit neglected after this, we were having too much fun, so we can’t tell you how far that was).

Our arrival at The Common Place social centre in Leeds was greeted with cheers, which was nice. There was another fine feast (Thanks Common Cooks!), and a buzzing atmosphere, with last minute preparations being made for the Climate Camp in nearby Selby (our final destination).

The Leeds event was held in Little London’s Oakland Park. In a mere two hours the doctors dealt with more than 30 bikes. It was chaos and there were plenty we couldn’t fix – sorry Darian, Jordan, Ramore, and all the others we had to turn away.

The tour now turned toward Lancaster, and a couple of days hard but beautiful riding. We had to set our tents up in torrential rain in Skipton, but we woke to sunshine, ready to ride on. Unfortunately one of our number had a little problem with a wheel exploding – check those rims folks! Luckily this happened before we’d travelled 100 metres, and not on one of the many serious hills encountered later that day.

The bloke in the bike-shop warned of a hill to end all hills on our route, but though it got pretty rough, we made it through the Trough of Bowland, a serious contender for most beautiful bit of the ride. Someone obviously agrees, because part of our route is also part of the Tour of Britain. We travelled it the opposite way, however, and were sadly a few days off seeing the race itself. Another night of camping, in a Bicycologist’s garden. More fine food, this time round a fine fire, celebrating reaching the northernmost-city of the tour.

The day in Lancaster was split into several events, focused on a day in Market Square, with the by now well-rehearsed Bike Doctoring and Beautification, and assorted Pedal-powered cinema and sound. We were joined by representatives of the Lancaster council because like Aylesbury, Lancaster is also a Cycling Demonstration Town. It also has its own Bicycology subgroup.

It was the last Friday of the month, so we joined Critical Mass on a ride around the city having a little party on wheels to celebrate the bike and the fact that we’d virtually finished our tour.

In the evening we showed films at the Gregson Community Centre. This featured a wide variety of short films, and sparked plenty of discussion. We stayed that night in the very spacious Friends Meeting House (thanks), and then it was over, well almost.

Bicycology then made its way back down the country toward Leeds, via a different – considerably flatter, but no less beautiful, route. A fair bit of night riding and one night of unconventional camping later, we arrived at the Climate Camp outside Selby, where we would stay for a week, joined by many other groups who had come together to discuss climate change and actions that we can take, both collectively and as individuals. During the week, Bicycology travelled into Selby to do our thing, attracting Police attention for the first-time (“we didn’t know repairing bikes was an offence, officer”).

Oh, total distance ridden by this point – a whopping 467 miles (ish).

And that pretty much concludes the story of the 2006 Bicycology Roadshow, except to say that there is so much left out, so many moments of hilarity and joy and triumph (OK, and a little bit of exhaustion and pain!) that to find out what a tour is really like, you’ll have to join or visit us on our next one. We look forward to seeing you.

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