Retro cycling festival returns with world's longest ride

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5 January 2017 8:29PM

A RETRO biking festival is returning to Cumbria for its fourth year this summer.

By Samantha Ewen

The family-friendly Velo Retro, which is held between Friday July 14 and Sunday 16, welcomes everyone from families to hardened bike-riding professionals.

The Ulverston festival promises food stalls, retro markets, outdoor gin bars, a cinema showing vintage classics, live music, classic car and motorbike displays and, of course, three bike ride trails with varying distances and difficulties.

The easiest ride is called La Loafeur, which is 47km and aimed at people who aren’t regular riders. À L’ancienne Classic is a more intermediate ride at 85km, with a checkpoint at the Sir John Barrow Monument. The Mighty Corinthian is a whopping 300km, which is the longest retro bike ride in the world.

Organiser Alan Brenton says: “Velo Retro is inspired by a big retro event in Italy called L’eroica. It’s just a small town in the hills, so the event really put it on the map.

"We decided to create an English version in the welcoming town of Ulverston.”

Velo Retro is part of Retro Rendezvous, a weekend event celebrating all things vintage.

Alan continues: “It’s a retro festival at its core with our biking event. We’re one of the founding partners of Retro Rendezvous and we put it all on ourselves.

“In 2016 the weather was appalling, which made us realise that we needed to provide a more weather-proof space. This year the festival will be 70 per cent weather-proof, which has doubled since last year.”

Organisers have responded to feedback from people who don’t own bikes, pointing them towards online cycle retailers Glory Days. The company has vintage bikes for hire, which according to Alan, are “good quality, well-maintained bikes”.

Festival-goers are encouraged to pick their own era and flaunt vintage outfits.

"The fancy dress is not compulsory, but more people than ever are getting on board now," says Alan.

"There are people dressing up who wouldn’t have five or six years ago. There’s no fashion police!

“We’ve started to recognise returning faces and we’ve even made friends that we see when we go to Italy.”

The outdoor stage introduces a variety of acts, including Jackson Sloane and the Rhythmtones, who are frontrunners in the rock ‘n’ roll scene.

“Some people just sat outside Victoria House, drinking gin and enjoying the music, and others got involved with riding bikes. Many enjoyed the markets too. There’s something for everyone at Velo Retro.”

The event’s future lies in building a fringe with local shops and restaurants.

“We want to create a big festival without having to manage it all. We’d provide a platform and publicity for local businesses and people to get together.”

Alan encourages: “If you’re reasonably fit, come and have a go in the bike rides. Otherwise, just come along and have a laugh!”

Tickets for Velo Retro are due to go on sale this month via www.sportivelakes.co.uk

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