10 Things I Learnt At The Cycle Touring Festival 2019

Another inspiring Cycle Touring Festival has been and gone and I am beginning to miss it already. It will hopefully be back in 2020. The festival has now been running for five years and I’m proud to say that I have attended in four of those years, only missing the first as I was cycling through Belgium at the time. This year, however, was the first time I haven’t actually spoken at the festival and it was good to have the time to take in what others had to say. It was all very informative and here are a few snippets of information, links and comments that you may (or may not) find of use…

In no particular order (other than the one in which I remember them):

1: The sun is always guaranteed to shine at the Cycle Touring Festival…

…just not all the time.

2: Theming your bicycle tour around your other passions in life is a great way of killing two birds with one stone.

This was perfectly exemplified by two of the cyclists speaking at the festival. First up was Caroline Burrows, a teacher of creative writing who decided to pedal across the north of England taking in destinations that had literary connections. These included the Forest of Bowland (inspiration for J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth), Haworth (the Brontรซs, of course), Goathland Station (Harry Potter was filmed there) and Whitby (Frankenstein et al…). Then there was Oli Warlow, the very last speaker at the festival, who recounted his cycling journey across the UK which involved linking up the 82 rock climbs listed in the ‘Classic Rock’ guide book. His tale was quite an emotional one as he had been inspired on his quest by a friend and mentor from his youth who had been tragically killed in the Alps in the late 1990s. His ride was a horizontal and vertical tour de force. More details on his website, And here is the man himself at the top of his final climb on Skye:

Wisely, he left his bike at the bottom

3: You don’t have to understand everything to benefit from someone’s words of wisdom.

I attended the talk of master frame builder Richard Hallett and I have to admit that although I recognised all of the words he was using, when it comes to building a frame from scratch and welding the thing together, I remain just as ignorant as the moment I walked into the room. The talk was, however, strangely beguiling with discussion of brazing, capillary action, ‘shorelines’, solder and spot welding (I could go on). Unfathomable yet fascinating stuff. Richard kindly gave me five minutes of his time for a recorded chat for the upcoming ‘new bike’ episode of The Cycling Europe Podcast and here is what he had to say:

You should be able to hear the full podcast in early July once I’ve actually picked up the new Koga. On the subject of which…

4: The name of my new bicycle

It was great to meet up with people I had previously encountered at the festival; Steve, Tim(1), Brenda, Angela, Christine, Andy, Mike, Allysse, Frank, Ann, Barry… (as well as the organisers Laura and Tim(2) of course) to name but a few. It was equally good to meet people with whom I had only previously exchanged tweets or even chatted over Skype, Suzanne and Tim(3) being very good examples. And, of course, it was wonderful to meet all the new people who will, I hope, become festival acquaintances of the future. Some of these people had read the books and I was once again asked (on several occasions) ‘what next?‘. It’s a reasonable question to pose and there was much discussion of Japan. Will I make it there in 2020? Who knows? Debs Butler’s talk about cycling across the country certainly gave me no reason to downgrade my aspiration of doing so. I just think the the hurdles that lay in my way might not be addressed before the summer of 2020. There used to be two; the financial one and the bicycle one. With the arrival of the Koga on June 27th, only the financial one remains (fancy sponsoring me?). Arguably this latter hurdle has become somewhat less attainable by me addressing the bike issue… Anyway, in discussion with a few of the above-mentioned folk, the name of the new bicycle was brought up. K is a cruel letter when it comes to the consonantic naming of inanimate objects. Kevin? Keith? The Koga is, however, also a ‘WordTraveller‘ and W is far more friendly when it comes to a touch of personification. A name has been decided. She will be… Wanda, Wanda the WorldTraveller. Brenda wasn’t a great fan but Wanda it is. First there was a fish; now there’s a bike. She’s even now on Twitter @WandaTheBike (or she was until she got blocked for being too young…).

5: It’s good to talk

One of the Tims mentioned above – the one I had previously never met face-to-face – is a brave man. I spoke to him for Episode 001 of The Cycling Europe Podcast back in September 2017 (listen again via this page of about his cycle from the UK to Istanbul. He told me at the time about his mental health issues and I have kept in touch with him ever since. He continues to have good times and bad but is admirably open about the challenges he faces. He joined Lucy Greaves, Tim Moss and Ed March-Shawcross to chat candidly about cycling and mental health. Cycling might not be the solution to the problem, but it certainly helps. Their chat was probably the most memorable of the weekend.

6: The cyclist and filmmaker Barry Godin always has good advice.

I didn’t actually attend Barry’s talk about filmmaking this year as I had seen it before, but I did catch up with him for a chat and we got talking about the iPhone X and image stabilisation. (Hey! It’s an important subject, especially if you are filming from a hike…) Barry reckons that the internal image stabiliser of the iPhone X can be switched off by using one of the apps that he uses. I need to follow this up with Barry (as I didn’t make a note of it at the time) as it is important. Barry has started using a gimbal to make his films and switching off the image stabiliser on the iPhone X is essential when using a gimbal. I thought it was impossible, but apparently not… Barry: I’ll be in touch! You can see Barry’s films on his You Tube Channel. They are worthy of your time. Here’s one he made earlier (en route to the 2018 Cycle Touring Festival in fact…):

7: Barry isn’t the only one who has made some good cycling films.

This year he curated an evening of cycling films at the festival, including two of his own. I only managed to see the final four films which is a pity as I missed this beauty, made by Allysse Riordan (who I had met at last year’s festival). It’s not so much a celebration of cycling as a celebration of sound:

Although it has nothing whatsoever to do with the festival, here are a few good sounds of my own, recorded in Snowdonia last summer:

Actually it does (kind-of) have a connection to the festival. That snippet was included in the second part of my series of films about climbing the Three Peaks (the British ones rather than the Yorkshire ones) in August 2018. You can watch all three films on this page of Barry will be curating the films for next year’s festival and he put out a call for submissions. It’s my intention to respond to his request and make a film about a cycling journey (as opposed to a hiking one) over the next 12 months and see it premiered at the Cycle Touring Festival 2020.

8: Frank Burns is also full of good advice

I met Frank for the first time in 2017 at an event in the Cotswolds. We were both giving talks and I have met him a couple of times since. He’s a fellow teacher of languages – Spanish is his tongue – although unlike me he is retired. He uses the time afforded to him by no longer working well, although he must have a very accommodating wife as he heads off on his bike for numerous trips – long and short ones – every year to places near and far. He gave a talk at this year’s festival about his visit to Cuba and his cycles east and west of the capital, Havana. Frank is an intelligent traveller who values not just what he sees but who he meets and his trip to Cuba culminated in him donating his bike to one of the people he met along the way. Anyway, I was chatting with him about where I should take Wanda (remember? Wanda WorldTraveller?) this summer for a proper shakedown. Somewhere for a couple of weeks perhaps? Somewhere that would test her Rohloff hub, her Gates belt drive and my ability to use them effectively? I’m beginning to give serious consideration to northern Spain and he was singing the virtues of following a route along the northern coast, the Camino del Norte. Ferry to Santander? Head for Santiago? Turn south towards Portugal? What’s not to like? The Camino del Norte was also referenced by Neil Wheadon in his talk entitled ‘I’ve got two weeks‘ making reference to the website ( having gone AWOL apparently). It’s a useful resource and, low and behold, does contain a route for the Camino del Norte. In fact several… I can only hope that, should I choose to head to northern Spain, I have a better experience than Allysse Riordan did in 2016.

9: The Cycle Touring Festival is not a festival about kit but inevitably it does get mentioned quite a lot.

Megan Fitch is a self-identified kit nerd and she lead an interesting talk called simply ‘Favourite Kit‘. The following are worthy of mention:

Megan’s full kit list can be found here.

Megan and her daughter

10: You don’t have to spend a fortune on a new bike…

A bit late in my case, but, courtesy of a talk delivered by Dan Joyce, the editor of Cycle magazine, good to know anyway. Perhaps… That said, there were plenty of cracking bikes ‘on show’. They weren’t really being exhibited, they just happened to be the bikes of the people who had cycled to the festival. Here’s a particularly nice looking custom-made bike from Woodrup Cycles in Leeds. I’ve certainly seen it before on their website, in fact I think it’s the bike in the featured image on this post about my visit to Woodrup Cycles last year. I looked in vain for the owner – it would have been great to interview him or her for the upcoming podcast – but alas I was having no luck. Other, cheaper bikes, are available…

So that’s what I learnt this weekend. Plus all the other things that will come back to me over the next few weeks. Many thanks to Laura and Tim Moss (and their family) for once again organising a first-class cycling event. Next year, I promise to cycle there myself. Hopefully…

Four out of five ain’t bad. See you in Clitheroe in 2020!

Categories: Adventure, Cycling, Travel

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14 replies »

  1. I love your report on the festival Andrew, and I’m so glad you enjoyed my talk, it really makes a difference getting positive feedback. Wanda: Your name for your new bike is fab, especially as it’s a homophone (same sounding word): Wanda/Wander. Was that deliberate, or a language gift from the muse? Wishing you and Wanda many happy travels wandering around at bike speed. Caroline :-)))

    • Hi Caroline. Yes, Iโ€™m delighted with the name; the double meaning kind-of sums up my attitude to life on two wheels… ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿšด๐Ÿฝโ€โ™‚๏ธ First there was a fish but now thereโ€™s also a bike called Wanda.

  2. I didn’t get to speak to you this time Andrew but saw you a few times.

    Like you I’ve been to all the festivals bar the first. In your previous post you mentioned the sun always shines at the CTF and it has everytime I’ve been. This is quite unusual for this part of the country though. I used to live a few miles up the road and a local saying goes “if you can see Pendle Hill it’s going to rain, if you can’t see it, it’s raining”

    Once again a super event; great speakers, excellent food and lovely people all round. Tim and Laura are superstars.

    • Yes, they absolutely are! It seemed a lot busier this year than in previous years. You should have said hello ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Andrew, we look forward to both seeing your new bike, and hearing of the first adventures ‘Wanda the bike’ will take you on. Exciting days ahead…..

  4. Hi I’m a huge fan of touring in Northern Spain but have to say the Camino Del Norte, though popular, is pretty dull compared to the delights to be sampled away from the coast and up in the mountains. Two weeks? Picos de Europa are just made for it. Enjoy.

  5. Went to the festival to get inspiration for a long tour. I was astonished by the adventures and stories I heard and it has boosted my resolve to get that dream a reality.

  6. Sounds great, as always! Thanks for the report. I’ve never made it to the Festival as I’ve always been away, but I *must* put it in my diary for 2020. Maybe see you there…

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