I first read about the ‘Cycle Touring Festival’ some months ago in a tweet sent by Laura Moss. Laura and her husband Tim cycled around the world through 2013 / 2014 and began organising the festival to be held at Waddow Hall, Clitheroe, Lancashire whilst on the road.
After months of planning Laura and Tim had assembled a collective of experienced cycle travellers, technical experts and knowledgeable folk for a full programme of talks and demo’s held over the May bank holiday weekend. Laura’s vision for the festival is to bring like minded people together to share knowledge, build a community and have a darn good time!
The Festival kicked off Friday with a choice of evening talks from Laura and Tim Moss, Tom Allen, Helen Lloyd, Will Fulford-Jones and Ruth Jarvis, Neil & Harriet Pike and Tom Bruce. As the talks came to a close in the lecture rooms the chatting continued in the bar, friendships made, trips compared and the drinks flowed.
There’s an option to pitch a tent over Friday, Saturday and even Sunday night on one of three camp grounds or you can enjoy the comfort of a room within Waddow Hall’s 17th Century manor house.
The first thing you notice is the Festival isn’t too commercial. There’s not someone round every corner trying to push a leaflet in your hand. The festival does have trade supporters advertising in the festival programme and Ghyllside Cycles, Exped and Ortlieb were in attendance at the show. It was nice not to have stall upon stall selling the same products but it would have been nice to have some more manufacturers showcasing / selling kit, festivals are a great place to get hands on with new products.
Saturday began with breakfast between eight and nine at the main house. Over mugs of tea and bacon sandwiches campers flick through the festival programme to plan their choice of workshops for the day ahead. There are three event rooms; ‘Three Regions’, ‘Ribble Lodge’ and the ‘Training Room’. The talks and workshops run alongside one another and aren’t repeated so you need to choose carefully which ones you want to attend.
The day’s schedule worked perfectly. The mornings consisted of 2 x 1 hour-long talks divided by a break with tea/coffee and biscuits. Lunch was 12:30 until 2pm when the afternoon talks began, again 2 x 1 hour workshops divided by more tea served this time with cake! Food, knowledge and friendship a plenty! There was free time after the last afternoon workshop for a ride out or a walk and then dinner is served between 6:30 and 8:30. In the evening there were talks between eight and nine o’clock and then there was a chance for the audience to take to the floor during an open mic session.
All the speakers were excellent, experts in their individual fields, so informative and full of enthusiasm which I couldn’t help but be inspired by. Tom Allen’s ‘just do it’ attitude was as prominent as ever, even when he was speaking about kit. Don’t let anything stop you touring, tour with what you have, all of that kit isn’t essential, just get out there and enjoy it, was the message that rang clear throughout the festival.
Hannah Reynolds’ knowledge on cycling Europe was really impressive and inspiring. I spoke to some audience members after the Europe talk, they had decided to cross the channel and ride through France to the Med rather than repeating LEJOG which they had already completed two years previous.
With dinner done and the bar open the evening talks began. I really enjoyed Kevin Shannon’s shenanigans across Europe, I believe Kevin also answers to the call ‘Wolf beater’ now. Anna Hughes re-ignited my desire to tour the UK’s coastline (with a fishing rod on my top tube). I discreetly got Anna to sign my copy of her book ‘Eat, Sleep, Cycle’ which I bought at the festival and I’m enjoying a lot!
It was great to see friendships form. Conversations between strangers were started in the queue for the bar and then continued for the rest of the evening in the lounge comparing bikes and describing destinations. Cycling celebs that had been giving talks all day seemed to be completely comfortable being pestered for advice by us mere mortals. Laura, Tim and team circulated keeping everything running smoothly and making sure everyone was happy.
After a good nights sleep in the tent I spent breakfast with an enthusiastic table of tourers, two of which were starting a tour from the festival. We chatted over which talks we were attending today, there was another full days schedule ahead. I opted for the ‘On road maintenance’ and ‘Kit’ workshops in the morning and then talks on ‘Asia’ and ‘Communications and technology’ in the afternoon.
The ‘Maintenance’ workshop was really good. After an intro the class was split in to three groups and rotated between the speakers Tom Bruce, Pete McNeil and a technician from Ghyllside Cycles (sorry, forgot your name!). Each group was shown how to repair the most common component failures experienced on the road. There was a emphasis to think outside the box, the speakers demonstrated temporary fixes to get you and your bike to the next bike shop rather than carry panniers of spare parts and tools. It was useful to watch the repair being carried out rather than just be talked through it.
The ‘Asia’ talk was really inspiring. Will Davies, Gregory Yeoman and Emily Chappell shared their knowledge and between them they very nearly covered the whole continent. I’ve followed Emily Chappell on Twitter for sometime, she’s somewhat of an unstoppable force, nothings seems to phase her and this came across in her talk. To be honest, the thought of travelling a lot of Asia scares me but Emily’s attitude as a solo traveller proves that most of my concerns are no more than misconceptions and with knowledge, respect and common sense these countries can be experienced and enjoyed.
At the end of the afternoon talks we all met outside at the fire circle where the festival was brought to a close. The whole event had been a roaring success. Laura and Tim had put together a superb collective of experts who gave their time freely. I left the festival charged with enthusiasm and fresh knowledge. Massive thanks and really well done to Laura, Tim and Co for hopefully kick-starting a Cycle Touring festival that will run for many years to come.