Exhaust fumes, noise and congested roads can make cycling in the United Kingdom’s busy towns and cities more of a chore than a pleasure, but there is a safe and traffic-free way to ride around Britain’s metropolitan landscapes. Sky Ride is a free-to-enter event that allows cyclists to see participating cities in a new light.
The event aims to encourage people of all ages and abilities to enjoy a fitter and healthier lifestyle by getting back in the saddle. The target is to get a million more people on a bike by 2013 and in 2009 more than 110,000 cyclists took part in rides in Glasgow, Manchester, central London, Leicester and Hounslow.
Participating venues close their streets to traffic for one day to allow cyclists to ride in a safe and controlled environment. It is a fantastic way to see some of the UK’s most famous landmarks and many of Great Britain’s cycling champions and other well-known personalities come along for the ride. Coaches are on hand to provide tips and advice and there are fun cycling challenges en route.
As well as the mass participation city events, there is a series of Sky Ride Local rides. These are led-rides that vary in skill levels. They give cyclists the chance to ride on safe routes and explore the countryside with a British Cycling qualified ride leader.
There are four grades of Sky Ride Local events – Ride Easy, Ride Steady, Ride Well and Ride Strong. The Ride Easy routes are slow paced and traffic free and for those who have not been on a bike for a while and want the easiest way to get back in the saddle. Rides last no more than an hour and are open to all ages, so are an ideal way to introduce friends or children to riding and build confidence in a relaxed environment. Children under five years of age must be secured in a trailer or child seat.
Ride Steady routes last about 90 minutes and are for those who are a bit rusty and will welcome the chance to stop, see the sights and socialise as the ride meanders through parks, over rolling hills and on smooth trails, towpaths and minor suburban roads.
For more of a challenge, try a Ride Well route. This lasts around two hours and is open to over 16s and 13 to 15 year-olds accompanied by an adult. Riders will push themselves a little and may tackle some modest hills, with places of interest and viewpoints along the way.
The ultimate Sky Ride Local challenge is the Ride Strong event, a two-and-a-half hour route open to over 16s and 13 to 15 year-olds accompanied by an adult. Riders should be fairly fit and know their way around a bike. There will be a brisk to speedy pace set on mostly quite roads, so expect to cover between 20 to 30 miles and do not be surprised if some hill climbs are thrown in.
There is no limit to the number of Sky Ride Local events a cyclist can take part in, so it is possible to start off with an easy ride and progress to the more challenging routes later.