Wheel Spiels: Martin

Wheel Spiels is a regular feature in which we ask members and non-members alike to share their stories of cycling.

My interest in cycling is rooted in the days out I had with school friends when we were teenagers in the seventies. We’d think nothing of setting off from York to ride to Brimham Rocks or Helmsley with no mobile phones, spare inner tubes or water bottles. How was that possible? I can’t imagine it now.

Later in life, after a few years without much cycling, I managed to integrate it into my job. I work as a Guitar Technician, that’s a flash name for a Roadie, and at the start of a three month USA tour with Judas Priest, one of the crew arranged for the people from Montague Bikes to come down to a show and sell us some folding mountain bikes. After that a few of us had a long hot summer of riding bike trails and coastal paths on our days off or between the sound check and the show. I’ve made the best work friends I have through the cycling and it’s kept my enthusiasm for the job going too.

That was in 2008. I upgraded to a folding bike which can be checked in on a flight a few years later and it’s really opened up the world to me.  Twelve years on and I can’t wait to get back to some aimless exploring

.A person riding a bike down a dirt road

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On the 10th of March this year it all ground to a halt and I was back in York wondering what to do with myself. The chances of going back to work were obviously slim to non-existent for the rest of this year at least, so I set off on the bike every day to quietly moan to myself, in my own head, about how much better it is riding a bike almost anywhere else but in the UK.

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Riding around York and the area much more than I think I’ve ever done I became more and more amused about how it’s possible to be classified as something just because you’re on a bike. 

There’s the general view that people on bikes are in some way a menace which must be controlled. Then there’s a weird set of sub sects within the cycling community. I noticed my general attire being checked out by other cyclists before they decided whether or not to acknowledge me while riding along a deserted road in the countryside. 

That doesn’t seem to be the case in many other countries, you’re simply seen as someone who’s going from A to B or doing some exercise.

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Cycling during the lockdown was a unique experience. The empty roads, clean air and lack of traffic noise had to be experienced as much as possible but it wasn’t going to last forever and I eventually ended up back on the riverside paths and off road bike routes. 

The Solar System path and the orbital route are great of course but they don’t get me from my house to the supermarket or across town to see my Dad without getting squeezed into a two foot wide channel or dodging parked cars.

After an email to my local councillor to voice my despair about the facilities he suggested I join York Cycle Campaign. I’m glad he did, the internal moaning wasn’t going to make much difference but contributing to the safe streets map, counting bikes and pedestrians crossing the Millennium Bridge and writing this may do something.

I’m remaining hopeful that the current drive to get more people cycling or walking will pay off and I’ll continue riding while wearing the wrong uniform for the bike.

f you have a story you’d like to share with us please email YorkCycleCampaign@gmail.com. We welcome stories from anyone so long as its related to your own personal experience of cycling, whether positive or negative, and it doesn’t even have to be about York – we love hearing about other places.

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