Diss is how you do it: Over a thousand take part in Diss Cyclathon
Riding the 100 mile route
When you are looking to take part in a 100-mile sportive, perhaps for the very first time, there can be no better place than the beautiful, gently rolling scenery of south Norfolk. Setting out north-eastwards from the small market town of Diss at just after 8am on a gorgeous midsummer morning, we were soon riding on extraordinarily quiet lanes accompanied only by the sound of birdsong and swishing tyres as we headed into the lush landscape between the eight other towns that feature on the route.
New Cycling UK member Jez
The excellent signage, smooth road surfaces and gentle breeze meant we could keep up a fairly brisk pace and I couldn't believe it when we arrived at the first water stop in Loddon at around 11am to find that we'd already covered an amazing third of the route.
A quick stop to replenish our water bottles gave us the opportunity to chat to some of the other riders, including Jez pictured on the left below. (Jez subsequently joined Cycling UK as a result of our chance meeting en route, saying: "So that’s another positive on what was a good day in the saddle".) But we were soon off again, buoyed by the thought that it was only another 15 miles to the lunch stop at Long Stratton Leisure Centre.
Among the many other riders out on the course, we encountered quite a few with inspiring stories of their journeys into cycling: a lady who hadn't left her house for several years because of her weight but who had started riding an exercise bike at home then taken part in the 25-mile ride last year and was now riding the 50-mile route.
Then a father and his young son who, despite a small tumble very early on, overtook us at about the 80-mile mark and were soon disappearing as specks on the horizon.
And, perhaps most impressive of all, four ex-military guys on hand cycles and recumbents, at least one of whom is a wheelchair user following an injury sustained in Afghanistan. After three years, he took up cycling and is now loving the fun, freedom and fresh air it provides.
Bring the community together in record number
Organised by Cycling UK members Alan Franks and Neil Collins for the fourth consecutive year, the Diss Cyclathon continues to build on its appeal, with record numbers taking part in 2019. Around 850 entered the sportive, with approximately 175 doing 100 miles, 400 doing 50 miles and 175 doing the 25 mile route. Another 330 entered the shorter family friendly 5 and 15-mile rides, half of whom were under 16 (and many under ten!).
The event is also now part of Cycling UK's Challenge Ride Series, which aims to encourage people from all backgrounds to take on a longer distance ride, with affordable entry fees and a free medal for all finishers.
"It’s amazing how cycling can bring the best out in a community.
Neil Collins, Co-organiser of the Diss Cyclathon
Neil Collins, one of the organisers, said: "It’s amazing how cycling can bring the best out in a community. We’re thrilled how many riders of all ages and all abilities joined us for Diss Cyclathon and every single one rode with a smile on their face. The sunshine and beautiful Norfolk and Suffolk countryside didn’t hurt either!"
One of the many attractions of the day are the family activities on the park in the centre of Diss, which keep young and old entertained throughout the day, perhaps while waiting for riders to finish. Crafts, live bands, real ale, stalls and more bring visitors to the venue, whether they are actually cycling or not, helping raise awareness of the event and building on its great community spirit.
DISStinctly good fun
The last 25 miles proved to be the hardest as our small group had split up and we were battling a strong headwind all the way to the line but the miles flew by and before I knew it, I was back in Diss with a weighty Diss Cyclathon Challenge Ride medal around my neck and making a beeline for the food stalls.
After a large cup of tea and a vegan wrap, I was feeling very refreshed and looking forward to the barbeque in the evening at the nearby Cock Inn.
As well as enabling and encouraging hundreds of people to enjoy a fabulous day out riding their bikes, like last year, the event is expected to raise an amazing £10,000 for local and national charities. If you'd like to find out what it takes to organise such a great day out AND raise much-needed funds at the same time, Alan Franks explains on the right how the Diss Cyclathon has grown from small beginnings to such a successful event and if you think you'd like to put on your own Cyclathon next year, please get in touch with the Volunteering Team at Cycling UK.