Report: Sky Ride Birmingham
Event: 12th September 2010, Birmingham | Report and Images: Eddie Allen
Sky Ride 2010 city rides took their final bow on Sunday 12th September as an estimated 15,000 West Midlanders turned out on a gloriously sunny day to make Sky Ride Birmingham a fitting close to what has been an incredible summer of city events.
From as early as 9:00am there was a buzz in the air on the approach to Cannon Hill Park, home to the Sky Ride Entertainment Zone. Cyclists in ones, twos, threes and more were homing in the suburban park. When the riders arrived they found the event village cranking up for a huge day. The Sky Ride Stage was set against the backdrop of the lake and fountain, and was surrounded by an encampment of tents and marquees. Already amid the tents were thousands of cyclists, pulling-on Sky Ride bibs, checking their bikes over and heading for the growing snake of riders amassing at the start line.
They were all eagerly anticipating their chance to sample Birmingham's streets in a uniquely traffic-free mode. An 8.3km loop had been closed to traffic for the whole day; from the park, the route headed out past the impressive Edgbaston cricket complex and onto Pershore Road. From here the route made a bee-line for the city centre on a broad, tree-lined road which passed Calthorpe Park. Once past Calthorpe Park riders were taken across the usually busy roundabout over the dual-carriageway and soon the buildings of the city centre began to loom large.
Above: Browse our Sky Ride Birmingham photo gallery
At the iconic Bullring riders swung right into the usually pedestrian-only shopping precinct. It was here where Sky Ride Birmingham's route delivered its trump card, threading the ever increasing throng of cyclists indoors and through the market! The stalls were all closed but one had been taken over by Sky Ride's Drummers, who pumped out a pulsating rhythm as a constant stream of enthralled Sky Riders funnelled through. Bizarre, unique and a huge amount of fun!
Once past the market, it was back onto the road out of town, this time detouring through Calthorpe Park, which proved, for many, to be the perfect refreshment stop. The Gatorade guys and girls were on hand to keep the thousands fully watered, whilst amid the refreshment stalls, local cycling and environmental groups had been invited to promote healthy sustainable lifestyles.
Once out of Calthorpe Park, riders were taken past a bike polo demonstration before once again passing Edgbaston cricket ground and heading back into the park, past glorious flowerbeds and one of the park's cafes, whose staff learned that cyclists are a hungry, thirsty bunch - they did a roaring trade in tea and cakes all day! And so after tea stop number two, riders returned to the Entertainment Zone, where a whole heap of fun activities were in store.
Young Sky Riders were scaling the climbing wall in the foreground, while in the background one of the day's live bands were rattling through their set. Further into the event village and British Cycling's Love Cycling area had a four-way Wattbike challenge, with riders going head to head on a simulated lap of the velodrome. Next door it was non-stop action all day at Go-Ride Racing, proving that kids of all abilities just love to race their bikes.
Also in the mix was Sky Ride Local, which offered information on Sky and British Cycling's programme of led rides in the area. Cycling Projects, the innovative charity responsible for a groundbreaking network of cycling opportunities for disabled people, were on hand to promote Wheels for All and Cycling for Health programmes in the area.
For those whose bikes weren't running too smoothly, Evans' Cycles were there to sort out skipping gears, rusty chains and squashy tyres, while Adidas were there supplying Team Sky to sort out any sartorial problems. For those after a visual treat, the Sky 3D 360 degree cinema experience showed some incredible and inspirational 3D footage from Team GB, Team Sky and Sky Ride, leaving everyone who passed through slack jawed and inspired to ride another lap of the traffic-free route.
The Entertainment Zone was also the place to be for a bit of celebrity spotting, with Sky Ride Ambassador and supermodel Erin O'Connor and Team Sky pro Juan Antonio Flecha amongst the big names. It was here that we spoke to some of the thousands of Birmingham Sky Riders, who summed up the spirit of Sky Ride 2010's swansong in Birmingham:
The Crane family from Selly Oak:
Gary Crane (Dad)
"I think the Sky Ride has been superb. There's so much for the kids to do - my eldest has been on the climbing wall three times already and Ella has been pestering me all day to take her on the Go-Ride Racing"
Debbie Crane (Mum)
"My favourite bit was riding through the indoor market! It was good enough to have the roads closed all day but I never expected to be riding through there! Wait til I tell my Mum!"
Ella Crane (8yrs)
"I've had a great time. There's loads of free stuff. I got my bib signed by one of the cyclists and got lots of Gatorade".
Sebastian Crane (11yrs)
"It was a good day. I loved being able to ride my bike into market. I wish I could do that every day. I liked the climbing wall and the 3D cinema tent was cool."
Sky Ride city events may be at an end for 2010, but Sky Ride Local continues throughout all of the Sky Ride cities, offering small, friendly rides led by British Cycling qualified leaders, letting you discover cycle routes and parts of your city that you never knew existed. For more information on Sky Ride and Sky Ride Local, go to www.goskyride.com