Salt Ayre Cog Set

Last week the local cycle campaign with which I’m involved, Dynamo, held its Annual General Meeting. Every year for as long as I’ve been involved in Dynamo, which is around a decade now, we’ve invited someone to speak at the AGM. There’s been a lot of variety in our speakers, but when I suggested Paul Andrews as this year’s speaker, I was a bit worried that some campaigners might see him as a slightly odd choice. Here’s a photo of this very lovely and generous man competing, in Lune RCC’s colours, during this year’s 3 Peaks Cyclo-cross race …

Paul Andrews on the 3 Peaks

I needn’t have worried, of course. People love hearing a good story, and especially a success story, from an inspiring and charismatic speaker – and Paul provided all of that. On Thursday night, his eldest daughter, Ella Sadler-Andrews, was competing in the National Senior Track Championships at Manchester velodrome, so Paul’s mind might well have been elsewhere. But if it was you couldn’t tell, as he told us the splendid story of Salt Ayre Cog Set, our district’s cycling club for children.

In a few short years, due very largely to Paul’s efforts, Salt Ayre Cog Set has become one of our district’s biggest cycling success stories. It attracts an ever growing number of children to cycling, and – probably more importantly – it has mechanisms in place to keep them cycling. The most important of those mechanisms is a fantastic team of highly committed people who – no doubt inspired by Paul’s own enthusiasm – collectively generate a really warm, supportive, inclusive and friendly club spirit. But other mechanisms include regular Saturday morning cycling sessions at our superb Salt Ayre cycle track from March through to October, and an annual programme of events tailored to appeal to kids – trips to ride at Manchester velodrome, mountain biking weekends, roller racing, cyclo-cross, family bike rides, and a range of other social events …

From a personal perspective, it’s just brilliant to have a local club where my kids can go, and be encouraged and supported, to cycle. It’s the kind of resource which serves only to entrench my affections for this part of the world, which from a cycling point-of-view is already so special.

From a local perspective, Salt Ayre Cog Set is breathing new life into local cycling. My own club, Lancaster CC, is now holding around half of its weekly club time trials on the Salt Ayre track, and Cog Set riders are taking part, many beginning at the starter distances of 2 miles and 6 miles, from which they can, if they wish, move up to 10 miles. It’s just wonderful to see the children intermingling with the old hands, and to see the age profile of local racing cycling be so suddenly and radically lowered.

And from a wider perspective, Cog Set is of course part of a much broader push, still gathering momentum, to get kids onto bikes. This push includes national organisations such as Sustrans and CTC. But it everywhere depends on dedicated volunteers at the local level, putting in time and energy on the ground, to get more kids cycling more often, and more safely.

Dynamo‘s AGM wasn’t so well supported as I’d like. There are a few stories there for other days … But the people who did come along were I think hugely impressed by what’s been achieved at Salt Ayre Cog Set, and inspired at the appetite for cycling it’s so successfully cultivating in local kids, an appetite which we hope they’ll keep throughout their long and healthy lives …

So why was I worried that cycle campaigners might find Paul a slightly odd choice of speaker? Well, to be honest I’m still sometimes a bit surprised by how ‘in their own silos’ some cycling enthusiasts can be. There are some who, if they get so much as a sniff that someone’s cycling might be to do with ‘racing’, ‘competition’ and ‘sport’, say that ‘it’s not the right kind of cycling’, ‘not the kind of thing we need to be promoting’. (Other people who claim to love cycling meanwhile find reasons to slag off mountain biking, or Critical Mass, or track riding, or time trialling, or people who ride too fast, or too slow, or kids on BMXs, or people who use a battery to help them cycle … you get my drift … the worlds of cycling are many and varied, and not equally, unequivocally loved …  I guess that, although I much prefer to view cycling worlds through rose-tinted spectacles, it’s actually the case that people who cycle are as prone to judgementalism as anybody else).

So thanks Paul, and thanks to everyone else involved in, or taking advantage of, Salt Ayre Cog Set. You are a really, really great addition to our cycling world. Every town should have one! And for myself, well the main Cog Set season might have drawn to a close, but I’m already looking forward to riding time trials – both with my family and with friends old and new – on Salt Ayre cycle track come next Spring.

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