Cycling is now big business in Sheffield. Campaigners and industry insiders say the annual economy is worth well over £25m, and there is growth in retail, manufacturing and services to meet rising demand.
And the world’s biggest free sporting event arrives in a few weeks. Last weekend the UK’s biggest independent cycle retailer, JE James, held a ‘CycleFest’ at the Norfolk Arms in Ringinglow, while in the city centre, campaigners from CycleSheffield led a 240 strong ride to highlight their part in the national Space For Cycling campaign. “It’s a very exciting time for cycling in Sheffield,” said CycleFest organiser Adam Simmonite. “With the right promotion and support Sheffield could be a real cycling city in the next two to three years.”
The Ringinglow event included demonstrations, rides and cycle promotions. Adam was leading rides on the new off road trails being developed through the nearby Lady Canning’s Plantation.
“If you look at the green links being developed, you can cycle from the city centre through the fabulous Porter Valley all the way out here to the Peak District,” he said. “Where else in the world can you get that? Sheffield is very well placed to develop those links between leisure and utility cycling.”
Mark James (from JE James) said that in the early days of the family shop on Bramall Lane, the local Raleigh rep would still call round in his bowler hat carrying his briefcase and umbrella.
“The bicycle was a workhorse, then cycling changed into a leisure activity, with BMX bikes, choppers and mountain bikes. Now more people are going back to using their bikes for short journeys again, but the council definitely needs to look at making more space for cyclists, on Queens Road for example, and the road surfaces are crazy for cyclists - improvements there are desperately needed.”
Le Tour will probably help with some resurfacing, he noted. But he still feels the city is way off the mark with estimates of 250,000 tourists arriving. “I think we could be seeing a million people coming to watch in Sheffield and the surrounding areas.”
Former professional racer, Sheffielder Dave Coulson said that the city has always been an important location for cycle racing, with many other professionals hailing from the city, or coming to train on local hills. “Part of that local success is to do with the terrain, although some say it’s because we’re tougher here.”
Now a development trainer with the local Team BikeBox, Dave said racing clubs are booming in the UK, and Sheffield is well placed to pick up on that demand, driven by Olympic and Tour successes.
The increased demand for racing bikes has meant a drop off in sales for mountain bikes in other parts of the UK, said Mark James.
“But sales have stayed the same here, because we have this countryside on our doorstep. People say Sheffield is the capital city of mountain biking in the UK, and I’d agree.”