Three years ago on a warm summer’s day in July 2014, I was wandering, probably with a bit of limp, by Bristol harbour. I’d been a dedicated runner for a decade, but when I picked up an injury that rendered my trainers gathering dust, and me, rather sad and limpy – everything changed.
My sorrow for a running-shaped hole in my life had recently turned a corner though, thanks to Cyclescheme, whereby your workplace helps you get your hands on a shiny new road bike. However, while I was the proud new owner of two skinny wheels, the first decent pair of hoops in my life, I was a total and utter novice; still yet to be truly inspired, fighting the urge to cry on descents and vomit on the climbs.My car still got a decent look-in.
On my potter along the cobbles on that balmy day, I spotted a sign. It was cable-tied to the top tube of a vintage-looking Raleigh single speed, which was propped up against the rusty railings, and it read: ‘Bristol Cycle Festival, enjoy the ride’.
“Ooh!”I paused. “What’s that?” I wondered.
What happened next was a beautiful whirlwind – of bicycles, cakes, sweaty rides, pints of beer and a flourishing passion.
Bristol Cycle Festival rode into my heart with its week-long bike spectacular that serves up an annual dose of bicycle fun of all kinds to all-manner of cyclist across the city. I picked up a programme from the wonderful, and soon to be gone (sniff, I will miss your halloumi wraps), Roll for the Soul, grabbed a biro and got circling.
Next up, I was facing my fears: chasing the boys (and passing some, ahem) up the four sides of Dundry before sucking up a pint to celebrate, quaffing cake and chatting accessibility with fellow female bike owners, riding into the moonlit cinema tucked secretly away in Leigh Woods, sticking my hand up to ask a question in City Hall at the bike summit and, perhaps most importantly, going to watch Ironman World Champ (and absolute legend) Chrissie Wellington provide the opening talk at a screening of Half the Road, an enlightening documentary about the state of equality in pro cycling, and address what can be done about it. “Pay it forward,” Chrissie said.
That week, my (then) new blog, triathlove.com, about triathlon had a massive cycle-festival shaped dose of new inspiration – and so did I. Before the week was out, I’d signed up for my first Ironman, which started a series of wonderful events in my life.
Whilst I would, I’ve no doubt, have found my way with cycling and into triathlon, Bristol Cycle Festival gave me an epic, enormous, heart-pounding boost. By the end of that week, I felt a part of something bigger; a community of passionate people who like riding their bikes, and through this simple act, make the world a better place – whether that’s by forming friendships, feeling fitter, using cars less, seeing how their children smile when they ride, challenging perceived limits or, let’s face it, just eating more cake.
Get a hearty dose of the cycling love for yourself at the seventh edition of Bristol Cycle Festival, taking place across the city from September 16-24 2017.
For more information, visit www.bristolcyclefestival.com
Janine Doggett is a writer, blogger, cyclist and triathlete
Main photo by Andy Sunders / asdesign.uk.com
Read more: The return of Bristol Cycle Festival