Noticed the large number of cyclists racing around Surrey lately? Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish and Chris Froome have all played their part in inspiring the nation to get on their bike and peddle for England but Surrey seems to be the place they all want to be .
Cycling is now the 3rd most popular participation sport in England beating football into 4th . One could be forgiven for thinking that most or at least a large proportion of those cyclists head for Surrey and the Surrey Hills at weekends. Surrey’s country lanes and Box Hill in particular are welcoming huge numbers of cyclists often to the frustration of the Surrey weekend driver.
Surrey County Council has been quick to encourage this new phenomenon with the Surrey Cycle Strategy 2014-2026. . The strategy wants to build on the positive aspects of the growth in cycling to support economic growth , tackle congestion, improve personal mobility and address health problems. According to the strategy “Surrey’s economy will also benefit from the county’s role as a centre for sports cycling, while the negative impacts on affected communities will be minimised”
Surrey’s plans involve maps, cycle routes, training, cycle festivals and promotional activities as well as a new website with journey planners and “a wealth of information for cyclists”. They will also be investing in a new cycling infrastructure in Woking, Guildford and Redhill/Reigate.
Surrey has hosted hundreds of cycle events this year including the Prudential London-Surrey 100, The Guildford Town Centre races, local town Bikeathons, together with numerous smaller events. The Surrey Cycle league will be providing racing for over 1300 riders in over 150 race this year and most of those are in Surrey and on Surrey roads. Camberley will be hosting the penultimate stage of the Tour of Britain in September.
Prudential Ride London Surrey 100 have introduced Celebration packs including flags, beer mats, bunting and water bottles to give to local pubs, cafes and community centres embracing the cycle race and organising events alongside the race. More than 50 took up the offer, including Celebrate Pyrford and Sullivans Wine Bar in Weybridge. Prudential London also organised “community information sessions” to help make the most of the opportunities the race offers to local businesses.
As a result of Prudential Ride London-Surrey 100, organisations in Surrey are now eligible to apply for grants from the London Marathon Charitable Trust and, to date, 39 communities in the county have now received LMCT grants totalling £627,104. The grants are to help communities improve local outdoor recreational facilities.
Participative rides such as sportives and sponsored events are important drivers of cycle purchases. An April 2014 Mintel Survey stated that roadbikes have seen the strongest growth over the last year up 4.2%
Type in “Cycle shops and Repairs in Surrey” to Yell.com and you get 97 results. Plenty of these businesses are seeing a boom in sales. Brad Preston and his partner Bijan Tahan run Pure Motion Cycles an independent bike retailer in West Byfleet and have seen a “very very big boost “ in business since the Olympics. Brad is in no doubt about the effect the Olympics and more recently the Commonwealth games have had on their business. “Our workshop is flat out all the time”. In the last month they have been “inundated with people coming in with bikes for the London 100”.
Brad explains that cyclists are now participating in more than one event each year and they are coming into his shop 3-4 times per year to get their bikes ready for each event. In addition he’s seen a small increase in women buying road bikes and cycling.
He agrees that people are spending more on their cycling and even existing cyclists are upgrading to higher spec bikes and equipment. People are now customising their bikes and wanting something different. “They want bespoke bikes and custom spray jobs”. Asked whether he has seen an increase in middle aged cyclists, Brad says “There are more men in lycra, FULL STOP”.
Bike Shops are not the only businesses benefiting from the increase in cyclists . Head for Hampton Court at the weekend and you will see most of the cafés near the Palace heaving with cyclists. The same can be said for The National Trust Tea Shop at Box Hill where cyclists meet to follow in their heroes footsteps and climb Box Hill
Peaslake Village Stores set in the heart of the Surrey Hills, has definitely seen an increase to their business over the last 5 years from not only road cyclists but mountain bikers and off road cyclists. “Cycling clubs are coming from all over, especially London, to cycle in the Surrey Hills” according to manager, Gaynor Summersby.
“At the weekend the Surrey Hills becomes a cycling Mecca” Says Gaynor with 80% of the Store’s customers being cyclists dropping in for their delicious Flans and Sausage Plaits. Gaynor quotes one of her customers as saying that “the Surrey Hills are the best cycling this side of Scotland”.
Bob and Dave Keech, cycling brothers from Salisbury and Eastbourne respectively, say they “meet up regularly to catch up, cycle the Surrey Hills and to eat quiche “ made in the Peaslake Village Stores.
Surrey Cycling strategy states “Surrey countryside is well suited to cycling and recent high-profile cycling events such as the Olympic road races have provided high-profile coverage of the county as a cycling destination and as a beautiful place to visit”. Surrey has agreed to host the London-Surrey 100 for 5 years.
It seems the cyclists are here to stay for the foreseeable future and the weekend driver is going to have to either get on their bike and join in or embrace the boom cycling is giving to Surrey.