On your bike!

Words by:
Kate Chapman
Featured in:
March 2024

Kate Chapman discovers the delights of cycling around the county with members of Cycling UK Lincolnshire.

A group dedicated to promoting social cycling around the county is keen for more people to join in and enjoy the multiple benefits the activity has to offer.

Cycling UK Lincolnshire is part of the national charity Cycling UK and has more than 350 members countywide – with groups regularly meeting in Lincoln, Louth and Gainsborough.

Formed in 1878, when it was known as the Bicycle Touring Club, it is the world’s oldest transport organisation and was the first to permit women to join on equal terms.

Today members get together for leisure rides, touring, bike weeks and charity events and campaign for improved facilities for cyclists as well as provide cycle training.

Cycling UK Lincolnshire chair Tim Newbery has been a member for 40 years and would love to see more people get involved and enjoy cycling on the county’s roads.

He explains: “The organisation can be dated back to the very early days of cycling – when people still rode penny-farthings. It was originally called the Bicycle Touring Club when it set out to identify suitable hostelries for its members.

“Then it was felt that those who rode and wanted to ride tricycles were being ignored, so in 1883 it became the Cyclists’ Touring Club. Now 145 years later, to some extent the aims are still the same. It’s all about getting like-minded people together to enjoy a bike ride.

“We’re championing the cause of recreational and social cycling and promoting it to existing and would-be cyclists. We want to make it easier for people to get out on their bikes in a safe environment – and that’s not limited to recreational purposes, it could be for going to school, work, or to the shops.

“We also work to improve safety and have member groups which lobby government on issues including carbon-free environments, cycling infrastructure and active travel.

“There are so many benefits to cycling – it’s good to get outdoors into green spaces, it’s good for our physical and mental health too.”

All welcome
The first meeting of the Bicycle Touring Club took place in Harrogate in 1878 after it was founded by student Stanley Cotterell. It issued metal plaques – bearing winged wheels – to cycle-friendly places including pubs and hotels, with many still remaining in place today. Some of the group’s early achievements include the production of danger road signs to warn of steep downward hills (which were deemed necessary due to the poor brakes on many early bikes), while in 1885 Richmond Park and The Regent’s Park were the first of several Royal Parks opened up to cyclists as a result of the group’s actions.

The group also developed the Cycling Proficiency Test – a scheme for training and testing children that was introduced into schools in 1947.

Tim says that, thanks to newspaper archives, groups in Lincolnshire can be traced back to Louth in 1886 and Grimsby in the 1880s.

District associations were set up too, to encourage more local people to ride together and promote cycling, and there were many in Lincolnshire including Scunthorpe, Gainsborough, Viking (Lincoln), Louth, Boston, Sleaford, Weston and Spalding, South Holland, Market Deeping and South Lincs.

Sadly, most of these no longer exist and today there are just three groups in Lincolnshire who meet up for regular rides.

“We have around 500 Cycling UK Lincolnshire members across the county. Many join for the benefits of insurance and a members’ magazine and don’t come out on our rides, as they prefer to cycle with family or friends, or by themselves,” explains Tim.

“There are around 10 active members in Louth – they meet up on Wednesday and Sunday and take part in two rides a week. Gainsborough has around 10 members who meet up on Sunday mornings and Lincoln has a similar number who get together fortnightly, with their rides tending to be a bit shorter.

here are women-only rides held in the city too.

“Anyone is welcome to come along, we’re always keen to have new members and aim to be as inclusive as we can – people can ride e-bikes and adapted bikes, it doesn’t have to be an expensive carbon fibre bike, any road bike is suitable.”

Out and about
Tim says some of the cyclists enjoy rides of up to 60 miles, so newcomers should discuss their ability with the ride leaders, as it’s not the group’s wish to put anyone off.

“If someone has only ridden once or twice or hasn’t been on a bike for a few years, it’s probably best that we arrange a smaller ride to start with, maybe five or ten miles, to a coffee shop or something which is doable. We’d love to see more people come along – anyone is welcome.

“We have members in their eighties and children are welcome too, although those under the age of 13 will need to be accompanied by a parent or carer.

“Membership of Cycling UK also means that you can join in with other groups around the country, if you’re on holiday for example and still want to go for a cycle ride with others.”

All rides are led by designated ride leaders and Tim says that cycling is a wonderfully friendly way to meet new, like-minded people, while enjoying the best of Lincolnshire’s beautiful countryside.

“I love going out around our historic county, Lincolnshire is an ideal place for cycling, especially with all its small country roads. We find on the whole that there are not large traffic volumes on Lincolnshire’s roads either,” he adds.

“When we go out on our rides, we like to visit some local historic sites and often stop at a café for refreshments and cake too.

“Sometimes we will cycle into Norfolk, along the Wash coast, or to Newark and the Trent Valley, but we love it here in Lincolnshire – it’s lovely, there are the Fens and the Wolds to explore and so many other places.”

For more information about Cycling UK in Lincolnshire visit www.cyclinguklincs.co.uk or follow the group on Facebook.

Photographs: copyright Cycling UK Lincolnshire

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