The (Virtual) Cycle Touring Festival 2020
25-26 April 2020
In December last year while surfing the web, I came across the Cycle Touring Festival. In its fifth year and taking place in Clitheroe, Lancashire, the festival offers a range of events with speakers and films plus camping (and bikes!).
We immediately clicked the link to buy tickets. Unfortunately, tickets had sold out and we wouldn’t be able to attend. It’s a popular event so it’s worth waiting for and there is always next year (2021). And there this story would end, if not for the pandemic and the valiant efforts of the festival organisers.
The Cycle Touring Festival offers talks, presentations, short films and the chance to meet lots of people from various backgrounds and places all with one thing in common – a love of adventure by bike.
We were so disappointed that we couldn’t camp for the weekend and enjoy all the activities and events on offer. Then coronavirus hit and we thought the event would sadly be cancelled for all. We were very wrong. Organisers, Laura and Tim Moss, decided to take the event virtual. What’s more, they made it free. We could attend!
Along with hundreds of other cyclists, this weekend we have been crowded around the computer screen as attendees to brilliant talks presented by the most enthusiastic and wonderful people.
We couldn’t attend every speaker’s talk, but here’s more about the ones we did.
Trans Pennine Trail: A Family Version
Our first webinar was the much anticipated and the one of most interest to us – a family cycle touring trip. Presented by The Cline Family, we heard about their exciting, mostly off-road trip from the west to the east coast of England along the Trans Pennine Trail. The whole family was involved including their (then) 9 and 7 year old children who rode the 200-mile route. Full of top tips on what, where, when, how and why of family cycle touring, we found the presentation extremely useful and inspirational – we’ve already started planning our own similar adventure for when lockdown ends.
Next up was Bizarre Britain by Rob Ainsley about 70 of the oddest cycle-touring sights. We only caught the second half of this talk, but what we saw really opened our eyes to what is out there to see in our own country. That’s the advantage of travelling by bike – you have time to look at your surroundings and think about what you are seeing. You simply can’t do that at 40mph in a moving metal and glass box.
Spain And Portugal…On A Bike Called Wanda
I was especially looking forward to this next talk, particularly as I am half way through reading the second of this author’s books (and his third book is on the shelf, ready and waiting). A talk by Andrew P. Sykes about his adventures riding Spain and Portugal on a bike called Wanda. Great to hear the story of Andrew’s journey, his experiences and more about how he tours. Plus we got to hear all about his new bike, Wanda, as his previous adventures were on a biked called Reggie. A fantastic presentation with entertaining anecdotes throughout.
Adventure On Your Doorstep: Cycling The Great North Trail
Our final talk for Saturday by Cycling UK showcased their 800-mile Great North Trail from the Peak District to the north coast of Scotland. Launched last year, the route takes and joins existing bridleways creating one-long route which is mostly off-road. CUK presenters showed a great video of the route noting details such as bike suitability, terrain and surface features, as well as what to look out for along the way. A comprehensive presentation by people who had ridden the route and which also teased the upcoming new route Cycling UK are releasing in 2020, King Alfred’s Way, a 200-mile loop around historic Wessex.
Open Mic Night
Saturday was rounded off with an open mic night where anyone could come forward to tell their tales, anecdotes or talk about their experiences while cycle touring. With the kids’ bed times looming, we only saw the first few speakers, but what we did hear was very entertaining. It’s easy to assume that those who stood up to speak (virtually) are regular festival attendees full of interesting stories and cycle touring advice, and it would be great to meet and chat in real life at next year’s festival.
On Sunday we missed the first two presentations as we went for a bike ride (not really that surprising…). It’s hard to listen to stories about cycling all day and not want to go out on your bike. We indulged ourselves and went for a local ride on some very quiet roads.
Cycle Touring Islands
On our return we tuned in to what turned out to be one of the best, most inspiring and beautifully shot presentations of the whole weekend. Mikel Bringas, native of the Basque country, father of two and touring cyclist extraordinaire spoke about how he and his wife began cycle touring not long after marrying and continued visiting countries around the world when first their son and later their daughter were born. Varying their equipment and bikes (the semi-recumbent for father and son sticks in the mind as potentially one of the best family bikes ever), the family continues to tour year on year. Mikel’s video was a montage of all their trips and was amazing. Crabs skittering across the road, close encounters with crocodiles, glaciers and bubbling mud holes, breathtaking scenery and so much more. We sat watching the video and listening to Mikel’s commentary, mouths hanging open for the duration. Wow! Simply, wow! Check out the Bringas’ cycle touring videos on their website found here.
Flight-Free Bicycle Adventures
Debs Butler presented our second talk of the day on her experiences travelling flight-free. We learned that flights have a massive carbon footprint and so to travel sustainably, Debs organises all her touring trips by train, ferry and bicycle. Packed full of ideas for both long and short adventures, Debs provided a template on how you to travel abroad easily while protecting the environment.
Resolution Race For Climate Change
I think I’m safe to say, the final talk of the day was the most anticipated of the weekend by most of the attendees – the Resolution Race by The Adventure Syndicate. Endurance cyclists Lee Craigie (The Tour Divide), Alice Lemkes, Phillipa Battye and Jenny Graham (world record holder for fastest female cycling around the world) decided to ride from Edinburgh to Copenhagen between Christmas and New Year on two cargo bikes to raise awareness of climate change. Fun was had, tempers flared, pedals pushed – all in a race against the clock. A fascinating and riveting talk with four colourful characters and we were also lucky to have Jack Reed and Catherine Dunn on screen to detail their involvement filming and riding alongside the foursome to document their efforts in an electric van along with their personal battle to keep the van’s batteries charged. We can’t wait to watch the official film coming soon.
What did we miss?
We couldn’t attend every talk or debate but would still like to tell you what we missed:
- Are You Lost: Bikerafting in Greenland by Huw Oliver and Annie Le https://topofests.com/
- Can a bike ride help change the world? With Julian Sayerer (http://juliansayarer.com/), Kate Rawles (https://www.outdoorphilosophy.co.uk/) and Stephen Fabes (https://cyclingthe6.com/)
- The Life Changing Magic of the Cycle Touring Festival by Wendy Badger (https://www.instagram.com/badgers_tale/)
- Plan Your Perfect Route With Komoot by Eleanor Jaskowska (https://twitter.com/DrElJaskowska)
- Flight free adventures and taking your bike by train with Anna Hughes (https://twitter.com/eatsleepcycle), Debs Butler (https://twitter.com/brakesandcakes) and Louise Clines & family (https://twitter.com/EcoFamilyTrave1)
- Top tips for cycle touring kit by Tim Moss (https://twitter.com/NextChallenge) and others
Wait! There’s more!
The festival also curated many travelogue and documentary videos by attendees and contributors about their travels, experiences and several how-to videos.
We would have missed out on The Cycle Touring Festival due to our late discovery of the event, and all the ticket holders would have been disappointed had the festival been cancelled due to the pandemic. However, Laura and Tim Moss did everything they could to recreate the festival virtually with the support of all the speakers and filmmakers.
Cycling With The Kids want to give a big THANK YOU to Laura and Tim, all the speakers, the brave participants in the open mic session and lastly Gary for his enjoyable but tough quiz. We are looking forward to next year’s festival!
If you are interested in hearing more about the Cycle Touring Festival please visit their website https://cycletouringfestival.co.uk
Did you attend the Cycle Touring Festival? What were your thoughts and experiences? We’d love to hear from you so please share your comments below.