Encouraging the next generation to love cycling
Yorkshire’s link with cycling goes back many years, and it staged an impressive return to the limelight when the world’s biggest cycle race, the Tour de France, held its opening two stages in Yorkshire in 2014.
The inspiration cycling brings, doesn’t just take place at grand international levels as Cycling UK discovered talking to Eric Waters.
67-year-old Harrogate resident Eric discovered cycling later in life back in 2007. He explains; “I first really got into cycling when I joined local club Wheel Easy, which was set up for ‘people who don’t wear Lycra’. I fitted that category having not cycled much before, so I enjoyed meeting similar people and discovering local short rides.
“12 months later I took early retirement so had more time to cycle. I was looking for a personal challenge, and soon progressed from shorter rides (of about 15 miles) to longer rides of over 60 miles. This then extended to trips abroad to experience cycling in other countries and in 2011, I planned a trip to cycle from Italy to Harrogate including the full length of the River Rhine from its source in Switzerland to the North Sea .”
Tackling such an extensive route, Eric decided to do it for charity, and raised an impressive £8,000 through the challenge along with the title of the first cyclist in 2011 to cross the newly cleared St Gotthard pass in the Alps with metres of snow piled high above his head on either side!
Cycling stopped in its tracks
Eric continued to enjoy incredible trips around the world, including crossing the Himalayas on the highest road in the world (over 18,000' above sea level). However, in 2013 a shock accident threatened to halt his passion for cycling in its tracks.
Eric recalls: “I had a freak accident on a friend's tandem which resulted in a hip replacement operation. When we came off the tandem and I couldn’t get up, I remember thinking ‘this is not good’….my next thought was for the cycling holidays we already had booked, and that a taxi to the airport was booked for a group of us only four days later! Needless to say, I was unable to go on that trip, but I was absolutely determined that the operation wouldn’t stop me cycling nor my ability to experience so many great places.”
In fact, Eric views cycling as a great aid to his speedy recovery, as he was advised not to partake in exercises that could impact his new hip like running and squash, so cycling was a perfect option.
Eric said: "I had seen amazing parts of the world through cycling and my determination to get back to fitness was certainly motivated by my love of riding. Just four months after my operation I completed a 500-mile ride across the Pyrenees – and I think I am fitter now than I was before the hip replacement.”
Eric’s enthusiasm has been infectious throughout his family with his wife and daughters joining him on trips and rides, but not least with his four-year-old grandson Robert. Robert had already been getting to grips with his balance bike aged one, when the Tour de France hit Yorkshire.
Tour de France inspires one year old
Eric explains: “We were all looking forward to Day 1 of the Tour de France finishing in Harrogate and even at his young age, Robert was swept up by the atmosphere and occasion – he loved it. We even bought him his first cycle jersey that day.”
As part of the legacy of the Tour, 12 months later, roads were closed off in Harrogate and cycling events were staged for residents to take part in. Eric decided to enter his family into the one mile family-friendly circuit around the town centre. He remembers; “Robert was the youngest participant that day – there he was only two years old, cycling the whole circuit on his balance bike. The crowds were erupting and cheering him on along the whole length of the course, he had the most memorable time. In fact, one lady who saw him go past walked the whole course to find my daughter and Robert to say how happy she had been to see him loving being out on his bike.”
After this thrilling experience Robert was even more hooked and Eric soon suggested he try a bike with pedals. The stabilisers only stayed on for 45 minutes and Robert was away!
Cycling UK launched their summer of cycling campaign, The Big Bike Revival in Harrogate at the end of April, and Eric took Robert along to get his next bike from bicycle recycle centre, Resurrection Bikes.
Robert has so much enthusiasm for cycling, it’s a pleasure being able to share the experience with him. We are fortunate we have great routes nearby including cycle paths along old railway tracks, so we often go out together on a 15 mile round trip."
Eric Waters on cycling with his four year old grandson
Eric said: “Its remarkable really; Robert is on a small child’s bike with no gears and he keeps going full of excitement. In fact, he asks ‘Pops lets go further!’ and I have to remind him that the further we cycle out the further we have to get back home!”
Robert has learnt his cycling etiquette well from his granddad, and puts a smile on everyone’s face as he calls out “Cyclist coming through!” to walkers they pass on their rides.
Eric concludes: “Now Robert’s sister, my granddaughter, can join us on some family rides, she comes along on my bike trailer and is starting to learn using Robert’s balance bike. Cycling brings so much pleasure to our whole family and I can only see it flourishing as our grandchildren grow up.”