After breakfast I said farewell to the Beggs and made my way to the station. It had been a flying visit but I would see them again at England camp in a few weeks time. The night before I had used Google Maps and my own (very limited) navigational skills to make my way from the station to the village, mostly on the off-road cycle paths. This time, however I followed the directions along the roads through Marholm, a nearby village, and found my way to the station much easier. I arrived comfortably before the train was due. Unable to get a direct train to Leeds with a cycle reservation, I had to first go to York, make a platform change, then continue to Leeds. Unfortunately, the train was running late so I missed the connection at York but I was still able to jump onto the next Leeds train without a reservation.
When I arrived into Leeds station my Grandma was there waiting for me. She was confident she would spot me with the bike, but with the Tour de France in town, there were people with bikes everywhere! I spotted her first as I came through the turnstiles so waved to get her attention. It was great to see my Grandma again and she was really happy to see me too. We caught a maxi taxi back to her place, which is very close to the city centre. As we drove out from the city it was clear to see Leeds was in the grip of tour fever. There were decorations everywhere, yellow bikes, posters, yellow jerseys on statues, painted phone boxes. It was clear that everyone was getting behind it.
When we got to my Grandma’s place, my cousin Matthew was there. I had seen him briefly on my last visit, but it was really good to catch up again. We had a cup of tea together and Grandma made us some sandwiches. We hadn’t been there long before my Auntie Linda also dropped in, so I had the chance to see her too. It was a real Bickerdike family reunion! Once Matthew left, I unpacked a few things, then grabbed my bike and cycled back into the city centre to get involved with the festivities. Grandma’s place was a short pedal into the city, mostly on bike paths. I found my way to the City Square where I got a photo with the iconic inflated yellow bike. Then going down the Headrow I saw the ceremonial start line for the big race. It was a real festival atmosphere of street stalls, music, street performers with people (and bikes) everywhere. The sun was shining and everyone was making the most of it.
I headed into the town hall to check out the Yorkshire Bike Show. There were lots of cool exhibitions from local artists, tool makers, clothes designers, bike companies and brilliant custom made bikes. One of my favourites (who actually won best in show) was Field bikes from Sheffield who make steel frames (of course). Not only were the bikes beautiful, but the guy I spoke to showed me a frame badge that, in co-operation with Sheffield University, had been 3D printed in steel. So cool. There was another frame that had been painted with a camouflage pattern using a process that some how prints the pattern onto a film into which the frame is then dipped. Totally crazy stuff. Another guy had custom built a 36er. Yes. Forget 29ers, a 36 inch wheel bike! There was also an impressive display of over 20 vintage bicycles, all owned by the same guy.
After a bite to eat, I made my way over to the Leeds City Museum where there was a photo exhibition of cycling culture in Leeds called Bicyclism. It was really well done showing a great diversity of bikes, riders and riding. Underpinning that cycling is not just about the lycra-clad bunch, not that there is anything wrong with that, but it so much more. After the museum I checked out the gallery, then some of the street performers. One bloke, an Aussie actually, calling his act Pucture Kit was playing a drum kit made out of a bike. It sounded brilliant and looked awesome. Then there was a group of crazy frenchies performing bike ballet. It was hilarious to watch and very impressive to see what they were able to do on a fixie.
You can’t count on the weather in England. Inevitably as the afternoon wore on it took a turn for the worse. I headed back into the town hall for more bike show goodness and take shelter. I sat down to hear a talk from a guy who has followed the tour for years riding every major climb and now written a book about them all rating them out of 10. He had some great tips about being a spectator at the Tour like how to get the free stuff from the caravan or how to get on TV. It was a fun and entertaining talk. Somehow, during questions from the audience we got on to discussing the Chris Froome/Bradley Wiggins controversy. I asked him whether he thought Wiggo would ride for Green Edge next season, as I certainly hope he will. He agreed that there was a strong possibility and would be great for both parties. Later on I found a competition was running with track bikes on rollers. A 500m sprint head-to-head. When a girl with a clipboard approached me about, it looked like a bit of fun, so I signed up. I actually ended up the 3rd fastest time of the day! Maybe all this riding around is doing me some good after all 😉 However, more impressive than that was the 84 year old bloke that stepped up to give it a crack. I hope I’m still riding everyday when I get to his age.
As the afternoon wore on I kept sticking my head out the door to check on the weather. The rain was still coming down and I had (quite optimistically) left without a jacket. Hoping it would eventually improve I procrastinated by watching a mountain bike video on the big screen called Life Cycles. I don’t know who made it, how old it is or where you can get it, but it is one of the best bike films I have seen. Really beautiful cinematography, a good narrative and some really cool riding of course. After the movie, it was after 5PM so I sent my Grandma a message and decided to brave the weather back to her house. Unfortunately, when my phone battery died, my lack of navigation came out to bite me on the bum again. The trip into the city had seemed so easy, but I ended up going in circles around the city until I found my way back to Grandma’s. By that time I was drenched from head to toe. I was very glad to have a shower and put on some dry clothes. My Grandma even went out (in the rain) to get me a Chinese takeaway for dinner. I felt totally spoilt. Grandma and I watched the Brazil v Colombia World Cup match for a while, but at 2-0 I was nearly falling asleep, so decided it was time for bed. Ironically it seems just after I made that decision Colombia scored and Neymar got injured! Just goes to show you should never leave the game early, but I needed my rest. Tomorrow was the first day of the Tour de France, the start of the Tour de Yorkshire and I was here to see it. Ey up! In’t it grand?