There’s no denying that cycling is a great way to get around the city – it’s healthy, environmentally friendly, and affordable. Cycling traffic has risen almost every year since 2008 – and with more of us choosing to take to two wheels rather than reaching for the car keys, it is unsurprising that Leicester has seen a boom in its cycling culture too.
Bike Lounge Leicester is a social evening founded by local enthusiast David Weight. Focusing on various aspects of cycling, David has created an evening for cyclists in the city and beyond to meet, chat and to, in David’s words, “think about the journey” that cycling offers.
With many different socials and groups around the city encouraging group riding, there is no shortage of ways to get involved in cycling in Leicester. The idea of Bike Lounge is to bring to the city an inclusive event thats suitable for everyone. “There are a lot of cycle clubs, but I think quite a few you’re never quite sure if you’re ‘good enough’ at cycling to join in”, says David.
Bike Lounge, however, is an attempt to bring cycling to a wider audience. “It is about humanising cycling – cycling is a manual thing and something that most people can do”, says David, “It has been a few years now since the success of Bradley Wiggins and since then I think cycling has become more and more popular – especially in Leicester”.
“Bike Lounge isn’t aimed at one kind of cyclist”
The event itself is held at 96 Degrees Coffee, Braunstone Gate and pitches itself as something for everyone with an interest in cycling – no matter their ability, background or lifestyle. “I think the thing with cycling, here especially, is that there is no set way of being. You get a real variety of people, and the Bike Lounge isn’t aimed at one kind of cyclist”.
Each month a different speaker comes to Leicester to share their love of cycling to an audience who then get the chance to ask questions and discuss what they’ve heard. It’s friendly, informal, and speakers encompass a wide variety of cycling topics. “We started it in town originally, and I wanted to really develop the idea”, says David. “Guests come and talk about cycling from a health point of view, from a ride point of view, or from any angle really”.
“We had the guys from Julie’s Cycles come and talk about the history of the shop. They had loads of photographs of the old velodrome off Saffron Lane and it was really cool. I got a lot more interested in the idea of it being about the journey, people come and they talk about the rides they’ve been on.”
David has also drawn on influences from elsewhere to develop the event. “About three or four years ago I was working with some friends in Birmingham and they were making a film called Bicycle, they asked me to get involved doing the design work for it. We were talking and said it would be interesting to look at different aspects of cycling. We said, ‘what about doing an evening where people can get together who are cyclists? And it’s open to everyone.’ As we worked on the film, we started putting Bike Lounge on in Birmingham. We’d have different stuff each month and because we were making the film, we were able to get some guests who were in the film to come and speak. For example, Gary Fisher who invented the mountain bike. After a while I just thought, it would be really nice to do something like this in Leicester, too.”
Another big influence has been a magazine from Bristol called Bone Shaker. This independently published magazine is made by a group of people who are part of the Bristol Bike Project. “Bone Shaker epitomises what interests me about cycling”, says David, “There are loads of cycling magazines but they’re crammed full of advertising and editorials. This is about the story.”
“A high point of doing Bike Lounge for me was getting Mike, the editor of Bone Shaker to come up and talk recently about cycling. He really blew everybody away. We’ve also had Jack MacDonald who works for Bone Shaker, who came and talked about cycling and philosophy.”
Whatever your connection with cycling, Bike Lounge is for you. Cycling is something that unites people from all different backgrounds, in the same way that our city as a whole does. David remembers how, in the Hare and Hounds pub in Birmingham a group of elderly ladies used to come in wearing high-vis and they’d sit at a table together and have a drink. “I asked them once how they knew each other and they lived close to each other and decided to get together once a month for a cycle and a drink”, says David.
So, If you want to get together once a month for a cycle and a drink, join the next Bike Lounge at 96 Degrees Cafe on 17th November at 7pm or find them on Facebook at facebook.com/bikeloungeleicester/