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FOUR SEASONS: SADDLE UP, IT’S BIKE SEASON

The Scotsman (TSMag) 27 April 2013

THIS weekend marks the start of the Scottish cycling season. Yeah, I know: technically there’s no such thing – last time I checked, bikes seemed to work just fine from September to March, and there are lots of great events going on all over the country right through the winter. But if you had to define a cycling season then you’d probably say it was sometime in late spring and early summer, as that’s when the majority of the big competitions and festivals take place. And if you had to choose a weekend when these events start happening in earnest – in 2013, at least – then you could do a lot worse than plump for this weekend, when the Scottish Bike Show (SBS) moves into its new home in the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome in Glasgow.

Attractions range from mindblowing demos from BMX blackbelts BSD to an inflatable Kiddimoto track, where junior Hoys can get their first taste of balancing on two wheels, and there will also be appearances from various cycling worthies, notably world record breaker Graeme Obree, in conversation this afternoon with journalist and broadcaster Richard Moore. A 1km long outdoor test track will give bike buyers a chance to try out all the latest models and yes, in case you were wondering, there will also be an opportunity to have a shot on the velodrome itself. Taster sessions will be available to the public all weekend, although you might want to bring a good book to read while you’re waiting for your turn.

Following hot on the wheels of the SBS, the Highland Perthshire Cycling Festival (HPCF) rolls around next weekend, running from 4-11 May. This year’s event will begin with a brand new race: the Highland Perthshire Enduro (4 May). Event organisers are keeping details of the course strictly under wraps, but they’ve let slip that it will be approximately 49km long, based in Dunkeld, and offer a combination of “lung puffing uphills, technical downhills and fast fire road.”

Other highlights include Escape Route: Back to Nature on 8 May, a fast-paced guide to natural trails around Pitlochry and a family oriented BIG Day in Aberfeldy, on 11 May. Then, on 12 May, it’s the Marie Curie Etape Caledonia Road Race, starting and finishing in Pitlochry.

Kicking off at the same time as the HPCF, but a little further north, the Maggie’s Monster Bike & Hike (4-5 May) is a charity fundraiser for the very fit and/or the very determined. A 24-hour event for teams of between two and six members, it involves a 31-mile bike ride, followed by a hike of either 9, 23 or 41 miles, depending on how energetic you’re feeling. The route passes along the Great Glen Way from Fort William to Inverness, so weary participants will have plenty of stunning scenery to look at to take their minds off the pain.

After this veritable explosion of biking activity in early May, there will be time for just a short pause for breath before the TweedLove Bike Festival is upon us. Running from 24 May until 2 June, there are events throughout the Tweed Valley, but the main focal points will be the world-class trail centres at Glentress and Innerleithen. As at the Highland Perthshire Cycling Festival, the big draw will be an enduro event – in this case the POC King & Queen of the Hill race at Glentress. Building on the success of last year, the course has been tweaked slightly to include even more descents, both on man-made trails and on natural dirt, roots and rock. Five year-olds in the Tweed Valley ride mountain bikes better than most grown-ups, so winning this one is a very big deal indeed. And speaking of big deals, once TweedLove is done and dusted, there will only be a few days to wait for the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Fort William (8-9 June) – the first round of the 2013 World Cup Downhill calendar, the second leg of the 4X Pro Tour and arguably one of the most dramatic sporting events in Scotland.

Want more? Then get involved in the Pedal on Parliament campaign for safer cycling on 19 May, or the inaugural Edinburgh Festival of Cycling, held from 15-23 June to coincide with UK Bike Week? And these events are just the tip of the iceberg. There are literally hundreds of celebrations of cycling taking place around the country this summer. To find out what’s going on near you, visit www.bikeeventsscotland.com

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