STORIES ABOUT PEOPLE WHO ARE PASSIONATE ABOUT CYCLING, ESPECIALLY IN PLYMOUTH.
If you have a cycling tale you would like to share please email it for consideration to email@example.com. Let’s make this a page to inspire!
PORTRAIT OF CLARE SMITH
Clare was brought up in York, worked for 10 years in London and came to the West Country 25 years ago. She became joint chair of Plymouth Cycling Campaign in 2018.
I caught up with her cycling along Drakes Trail. “Your bike looks like an old friend” I observe. “How old is it?” “It’s 31 years” she replies enthusiastically. “I don’t have another bike. It’s a Gazelle and I go everywhere on it”.
I discover the story about the bike. In 1988, Clare had an old bike to cycle around London which she described as a wreck. A friend came down from the Lake District with a return train ticket but did not need the return so offered it to Clare. On an impulse, Clare caught the train and did a tour of the Lake District with the wreck. Realising that she needed a new bike but financially insolvent, she cycled over to her parents’ home in York and went to Tony Boswell’s bike shop. Tony made up the Gazelle using a lightweight 531 frame and Campagnolo gears but saved money by reusing less vital parts from the wreck so the cost was very cheap. Having used what little money she had, there was none left for a train ticket back to London so she decided to cycle. She tells me that a strong south west wind was blowing and found herself blown off course in Norwich.
In London, her bike was her daily transport. While enjoying watching racing, she goes cycle touring. Her first big tour on the Gazelle was around Scotland and Orkney. She went to Scotland again last year and found it just as enjoyable. Never having heard of a Gazelle, I ask her about the brand. “Today it is known as a city bike in Amsterdam” she tells me.
In a typical week, she uses the bike most days and is realistic about cars. She recalls London. “London has been transformed” she says “the infrastructure is substantially better.” Clare became Chair of PCyC because she cares about cycling. She can see how Plymouth’s infrastructure can be improved. “We all feel powerless about climate change but the more people cycle, it helps climate change. I feel sorry for motorists, especially when stuck in traffic.” She says “They don’t realise the opportunity with cycling. Walking helps you get your thoughts straight but cycling makes you feel good.”
Clare’s favourite bike route in Plymouth is to cycle along the sea front and she sometimes uses the Cremyll Ferry to go into Cornwall. Occasionally she goes for a swim at Mount Wise. I ask Clare what are her future ambitions. “Later this year I am planning a tour in Yorkshire and hope to go into Wales” she replies. “Future tours include another visit to Scotland and my first to Denmark where I want to experience Copenhagen”.
William Nel-Barker organised a very successful Santa Ride on Saturday 15 December 2018 in rather inclement weather. The group of hardy souls set off from the Rockets and Rascals shop and café at The Parade, The Barbican, Plymouth at 1000 hrs with one cyclist having mounted a novelty reindeer’s head on his handlebars and another was towing a sleigh fully lit and heaped with presents.
Throughout the ride that took us down New George Street, Armada Way and along the byways that led onto Outland Road and the A386 to Derriford Hospital we were greeted by people waving and drivers sounding their horns in encouragement. At the hospital we were met by staff who accepted the presents for the children spending Christmas there. Some folk had donated money to help decorate the children’s ward and buy items that would make their stay more enjoyable.
Some of the riders then enjoyed a welcome cup of coffee and a cake at the nearby Costa Coffee. A great effort that will be repeated in 2019.
GIRO DI PLYMOUTH 2018
On Sunday 7th October, 25 cyclists of all ages, shapes and sizes enjoyed a 10.5 mile leisurely ride in glorious weather through Plymouth. Starting and finishing in Devonport Park, the route used off-road paths, parks and quiet roads to circuit parts of Devonport, Stoke, Greenbank and Cattedown, returning via The Hoe, Millbay and Stonehouse.
John Abraham from Plymouth Cycling Campaign, that organised the ride said: “It was great to see cyclists of all ages and experience join us for this ride. The event proved that it is possible to get around Plymouth by bicycle. There is a lot more to achieve before we can be a true cycling city, but cycling provision is slowly improving.”
Stuart Mee said “Some of the riders told us the route gave them some ideas to help them feel safer riding around the city. And they cycled along back streets they didn’t know existed! We hope to organise a similar event in the spring so watch this space.”
The event was organised by Mike Kelly and Stuart Mee of the Plymouth Cycling Campaign www.plymouthcyclingcampaign.co.uk
THE PASTY RIDE
We like to celebrate when Plymouth City Council provides good cycle routes. John, one of our committee members, had this imaginative idea to say thank you in style. John suggested a short ride from Saltram to meet the workforce of a new cycle-path under construction close to Laira Bridge and give them some pasties as our gesture of appreciation.
This is no ordinary cycle-path. Plymouth City Council has followed our request and is building a path 4 metres wide. This is to a fullEuropean specification. Ultimately it will become, we hope, part of a primary cycle route connecting Elburton and Sherford into the city and train station. Our request is that, when complete, this path will be for cyclists and mobility vehicles only while the existing footpath alongside is dedicated for pedestrians. A primary cycle route can take up to 14,000 people per hour while a similar road at peak times can take 2,000 vehicles per hour with much the same average speed.
With current traffic congestion where speeds are 11mph at peak times and getting worse, it seems the obvious solution as cyclists travel at much the same speed. Cycling is normal in Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Malmo and other cities who are genuinely worried about traffic congestion. So why not for Plymouth too?
We were delighted that 30 cyclists turned out at short notice and we were pleased to see a gentleman in a motorised wheelchair as well as a few children. We presented the pasties to the workforce and enough were left over for hungry cyclists. We were pleased to receive good press coverage from our local papers too.
A RIDE TO THE COAST BY BIKE: TAKE A TIDE TIMETABLE
The countryside and coast around Plymouth has many hidden places. In our digital world it is easy to forget the real world where cliffs fall into the sea, woodlands are so ancient that if we ourselves were alive 500 years ago we would recognise them as the same today, we can picnic in wild flower meadows or we can go skinny dipping in a remote Dartmoor stream.
PCyC member, Dave Hext, gathered together a group of 16 cyclists in early September and took them on a micro-adventure to discover some of these places. We were told to bring sturdy bikes, a tide timetable and some money to pay for pasties and cream teas. All else that was needed was to follow him. He warned us that there would be hills and three river crossings, none being over a bridge.
We met at Chelson Meadow beside the new cycle bridge at Laira and peddled off to Yealmpton for our first coffee break where we took over Market Street Cafe. Dave used to be a volunteer with Sustrans and knew John Grimshaw, Sustrans dynamic founder many years ago. “Our ride used to be one of John’s favourites” Dave explained. “He wanted it to be part of Route 2 of the National Cycle Network”.
We started by following NCN28 to Modbury, neatly avoiding the main road. It then went along windy lanes through Kingston to Wombwell Beach where we discovered a wide estuary. Now we knew why we needed a tide timetable as we saw a wide unspoilt estuary that can only be forded at low tide. Stuart and Graham tried to cycle across but hit submerged rocks. We ate our pasties at the little cafe on the other side.
Our next crossing was at Noss Mayo and we were taken over 5 bikes at a time on a small motor boat. The Great Mewstone at Wembury caught the eye out to sea as we made the climb from the ferry. Our next stop was the cafe at Jennicliff where some of us tucked into cream teas.
Journey’s end involved our final crossing on the ferry from Mountbatten to the Barbican and cycling along NCN27 back to Chelson Meadow. The total journey was 36 miles. The general verdict was that we had a proper westcountry ride.
I met David List at Cap’n Jaspers on Plymouth’s Barbican taking a short break on his way to work by bike. It was early December but not too cold to have mugs of tea sitting outside in this delightful setting.
David is passionate about cycling and today he is on his single speed hand built bike on a journey from Yealmpton of roughly 12 miles each way. I feel slightly shocked and ask him about the hills, especially at Yealmpton. “A single speed bike is hard work but is great training” he replies. “It has a 65 inch gear and is pretty light. I do tend to spin out downhill but I need a lowish gear for the uphill! I have 8 bikes but I like this the best for commuting.”
I realize that David takes his cycling seriously. “When did you first ride a bike?” I ask. “I didn’t ride seriously until I was 35 years old, albeit, like everyone, I first started as a kid. My first bike was a little red one from Halfords when I was 7. When I was 11, my parents gave me a Claud Butler for passing my 11 Plus. In my early years, I did lots of running and competed in 15 marathons and two ultra marathons. I was living in Hong Kong when I took up cycling.”
At this point, I am completely enthralled. “Tell about Hong Kong?” I ask. “I lived there for 16 years and have cycled a fair bit in southern China. Because I spoke reasonable Cantonese I tended to be the tour leader for a group of friends on short tours. Being on a bike can really break barriers” he confides. “It is especially so in China. People really relate to cycling and the locals and kids come up to look at your bikes. They ignore you if you are on a tour bus. The image was taken when we were cycling from Guilin to Yangshuo in Guangxi province. We were cycling sort of parallel with the Li River but needed to cross the River so we blagged a lift on a river boat and decided to stay on it for 10 miles or so. Stunning scenery”.
At home, David’s other bikes include a full carbon road bike, a retro Holdsworth, a steel Colnago, a mountain bike and a touring bike. He enjoys riding long sportives on varied terrain like the Dragon Ride Sportive (140 miles) and the New Forest Sportive (100 miles), sometimes with his son Tom. He also enjoys occasional mountain bike rides and short tours.
I ask what his future ambitions are. “I enjoy cycling in Europe, especially the mountains because the uphills test me and I really love the long descents. In the next couple of years I hope to ride the Raid Pyrenean. This is a timed bicycle challenge over a route that traverses the length of the Pyrenees between Hendaye on the Atlantic coast and Cerbère on the Mediterranean.” I can think of no greater challenge.
PLYMOUTH CYCLING CAMPAIGN RETRO RIDE 2015
Purple shoes, leather boots, tweeds, and long flowing dresses were some of the clothes that saw approx 70 cyclists come to Plymouth Cycling Campaign’s first Retro Ride on 12th September. People dressed up wearing everything from the 1920’s to the 1970’s. Cyclists danced in joy in Devonport Park to the accompaniment of Artene. Welcomes were given by the Lord Mayor and a giraffe while every cyclist was happy to pose for the camera.
The route followed some of Plymouth’s fine waterfront where the city council has worked hard creating new networks of paths.
We pedalled beside Mutton Cove, into the Royal William Yard, along the Hoe and though the Barbican. I could not work out the oldest bike and wondered if it was a 1936 tandem…..Ah, those were the days.
No one had a puncture but everyone enjoyed coffee breaks with some sampling cakes. There is no need to feel guilty eating cakes while cycling. We pedalled on past the Marine Aquarium to our finish where we were hosted at Saltram House with welcoming smiles from the National Trust. Awards were given by local MP, Oliver Colvile for the best dressed lady, man, child and best adorned bike.
Here are a few images from the event. PCyC are thinking that it could produce a calendar for 2016 where proceeds would go to furthering our campaigns so if you like the idea, please send in your comments.
written by Graham Wilson
PORTRAIT OF SUE JENNINGS
IN HER SPARE TIME, SUE LEADS CYCLE RIDES FOR BOTH BREEZE AND SUSTRANS. She does this most weeks between March and October. Born in Newton St Cyres, Devon, Sue moved to Plymouth in 1980 so she is a proper Devon girl.
“I have 4 bikes and I love cycling but Plymouth is a special place to enjoy lots of outdoor sports. As well as cycling, I go walking, paddle boarding and surfing”, said Sue. She is now retired having been a teacher and enjoys taking an active lifestyle as well as helping others. She finds leading Breeze rides extremely worthwhile because this helps women get into cycling in an easy way. Along with other volunteers, her regular rides take cyclists up from Plymouth up Drakes Trail and around Saltram Park.
She tells me that she cycles roughly 4 times a week and that her favourite ride is along Drakes Trail, turning off at Clearbrook, past the Meavy’s ancient oak tree to Burrator Reservoir.
“Do you have any special memories of cycling?” I ask Sue. “Oh, lots. My earliest was about my mum when I was a child. She was a post woman and I used to cycle with her on her post round which was 16 miles. I really enjoyed that. Two years ago, I cycled 1,000 miles on La Vélodyssey from Santander in Spain to Roscoff in Brittany, while last year it was Narbonne on the Mediterranean to Lacanau on the Atlantic. I also love cycling in Scotland, having recently been in the Hebrides and completed the John Muir Trail”. Her next ambition in Scotland is to cycle the Rob Roy Way and another European trip is planned.
CELEBRATING THE OPENING OF THE CLEARBROOK RAMP
“ BRILLIANT” SAID PHOEBE’S DAD. “Makes the moors much more accessible” said Phoebe’s Mum. Phoebe, age 2, was the youngest of 65 participants to celebrate an impromptu opening of the Clearbrook Ramp on Plymouth’s “Drakes Trail” last Sunday. Roger Turner at 81 was the oldest.
The Clearbrook Ramp is the final section to have been completed on the family friendly walking and cycle trail from Plymouth to Tavistock. This is part of long distance cycle route, NCN27, the Devon Coast to Coast from Plymouth to Ilfracombe or, if you are a really intrepid cyclist, it is about half way on Eurovelo 1 between Sagres in Portugal to Nordkap in Norway.
Colin, Phoebe’s Dad, was much more down to earth. He said “It makes cycling to the moors so much easier as previously it was very hard work”. Roger, who has been cycling since 1949 (amazing), said “It is a very friendly route for cyclists”.
On a cold winter’s morning, the smiles at the start were as if Santa had arrived. Maybe it was the expectation of mince pies at the Skylark Inn, Clearbrook which had been promised? Mince pies are always important but the event, organised at very short notice by Sue Jennings of Sustrans and Stuart Mee of the Plymouth Cycling Campaign, was simply a really happy occasion to celebrate an important milestone for Plymouth and south west Devon. All riders set off together at an easy pace, stopping briefly at the start of the new section. Lots of other cyclists and walkers watched as our party peddled along. They too were out enjoying the magnificent scenery offered from this trail.
Who else agreed with Phoebe’s Mum and Dad? “It is an easy route for anyone to start cycling” said Sue Proctor who works at Natural Cycles. Possibly the best quote came from Val who is a cycling ride leader “Brilliant. Now we can bring Breeze and Sky rides to Clearbrook, Tavistock and the moors. We need rides to push folk as we can take them further and they can feel safe”. I could not have said it better myself.
PEOPLE PUTTING PLYMOUTH ON THE MAP
Plymouth Cycling Campaign is passionate about its city with its majestic seafront, easy living and proximity to stunning countryside, open moorland and beautiful unspoilt beaches. It is working with Plymouth City Council encouraging it to create a cycling infrastructure where people think “BICYCLE” as an easy choice for travel.
On 19th October, 50 people, young and old gathered for one of the Campaign’s organised rides. From the Hoe the ride took a route that led down through Armada Way, passed coffee shops doing a roaring trade and into Central Park where the children enjoyed the added excitement of skirting a large fallen tree brought down in the winds over the weekend. The ride then crossed through Peverell, Hartley and Efford until it joined the path by the cemetery that eventually led us into Military Road and through the tunnel to Marsh Mills. An easy ride via Saltram took us back to Laira Bridge and the Hoe for a well earned coffee or ice cream. On route, we saw Plymouth’s latest project where an old railway bridge is being restored as part of a new walking/cycling route.
Justin Thotapilly from Exeter, in his final year of study at Plymouth University said “I’ve only had my bike a few weeks and this is the longest ride I’ve done. My legs will hurt tomorrow but I’ve really enjoyed it”
Bill from Plymouth “It was indeed a pleasure to be part of a group taking in the often forgotten sights of Plymouth whilst enjoying the fresh air and exercise”
Organiser, Stuart Mee reflected that “It had been a great success and we will be doing more”
“MY FAVOURITE CYCLE ROUTE IN PLYMOUTH IS RICHMOND WALK WHICH HAS STUNNING VIEWS ACROSS THE TAMAR AND IT TAKES ME TO THE OUTDOOR POOL AT MOUNT WISE WHERE I ENJOY SWIMMING IN THE SUMMER
Ryan Evans lives for cycling. He cycles every day whether for leisure or at work.
I ask him if he would like to share his lifestyle. “That’s easy” he says “I like to live the change that I want to effect”. He is Bike It officer working for Sustrans in Plymouth helping schools to promote active travel and getting more children riding to school.
Ryan’s 3 year old son is desperate for his first bike. “Do you remember the first time you cycled on your own?” “It was on a little red bike and my dad took me onto a grassy slope in Dorset where without knowing I was let go. I tumbled off several times before I was proficient”. His special memory of cycling is the year prior to starting at Aberdeen University “I set off with just my tent and bike into the spectacular wild scenery of the Cairngorms. It gave me a sense of total freedom for a week and was very special”. His next ambition is to cycle from Lands End to John O’ Groats.”