This article was published in 2016, in Newsletter 126.
The Ride was a great success and a lot of fun.
The village of Reach, at the end of Devil’s Dyke, has a tradition: for the past eight centuries it has hosted a May Day fair. Camcycle also has a tradition: for the past ten years we have led cyclists and cycles of every shape and size along a leisurely 12-mile ride to the Reach Fair. Town bikes, touring bike, trailers and tandems, and of course Dutch-style cargo cycles favoured by children who enjoy a front-seat view. This year we estimate about 720 people joined us despite there being heavy rain forecast for the afternoon, somewhat typical English Bank Holiday weather.
Preparations for the Ride began months ago, an effort led by Simon Nuttall, and supported by many volunteers from within Camcycle. First, funding had to be secured in order to promote the Ride (fliers, posters etc) and to buy, among other things, bottles of water, granola bars, and the ever-important tyre patch kits for all our riders. We are grateful for the support of Bike Week as well as the city council, who doubled their funding of the Ride this year.
In the month before the Ride, volunteers cruised around the city distributing flyers and posters to almost all the cycle shops in Cambridge as well as community centres and cafes. Outspoken offered its generous support, transporting our bundles of flyers to local schools. The message was pushed on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter using the hash-tag #ReachRide, as well as through more traditional media outlets.
The day before the Ride, several volunteers for the Campaign went on a ‘recce’ ride to check the planned route for any problems such as overgrown paths, construction obstructions, or shattered glass pieces and to prune, shift or sweep as necessary. This year the route was pleasingly clear of any issues.
On the day of the Ride, starting at 9am, people began assembling in front of the Guildhall as the usual day’s market began to open up. As luck would have it, the first puncture of the day occurred right there! After a rousing opening speech by Councillor Noel Kavanagh we set off, providing the city centre with the now familiar May Day spectacle of hundreds of bikes weaving their way up Sidney Street and out across Jesus Green and along the river.
Initially, I followed along with the rearguard. Captained by the indefatigable Nigel Deakin, we kept company with any riders who fell behind. At one point Nigel held a master class in puncture repair for a couple who had found a thorn in their tube, whilst Katrina Nuttall helped get another group back on their wheels.
A little further on I decided to try to move up to the front of the procession, in order to obtain some video footage. After 40 minutes of carefully passing alongside other riders I looked ahead along the vast horizon of the Fens and realised that there were people on cycles as far as I could see. I stopped at a particularly scenic point and filmed the happy cyclists passing, group by group. To give you a sense of the scale of the ride, I was still filming an hour later! Portions of that video, heavily edited down to seven minutes, are available online for your enjoyment at https://vimeo.com/165364204
I returned to the rearguard once more, which meant that I missed the opening ceremonies at Reach, but I understand that most of the riders did make it on time and were busy enjoying the stalls, fairground rides, maypole, morris dancing and food and drink tents by the time I arrived. I celebrated with a visit to the beer tent, the salad and pitta tent, the ice cream van, and then the ice cream van again for good measure.
People started filtering out and back on their own. Camcycle officially led the way back from the Fair at 2pm, with an eye on the clouds and getting ready with our rain gear. As it happened, the storm was not serious and mostly held off. At the end of the Ride we gathered for the annual photograph in front of the Guildhall. On the first Reach Ride in 2007 44 people took part. On past, warmer and sunnier May Days there have been nearly 1000 cycles counted at Reach Fair; however, this year’s 720 was definitely a great success given the iffy weather.
Camcycle is incredibly proud of the Reach Ride, and rightly so. It has become a familiar start-of-summer event in Cambridge and surrounding villages; a fun day for families, current and potential cyclists of all ages and abilities. It is a great way to encourage people to try cycling in a supportive environment, to show them a route out of Cambridge that they can easily explore again on their bikes, and prove to many that they can cycle much further than they thought.