Chipps Chippendale, editor of Singletrack magazine, talks about a cross-country adventure over the Calderdale hills with key industry figures from the biking trade, Grandma’s fish ‘n’ chips and a possible southern gathering later this year..

Singletrack’s Northern Gathering

The Hope factory is about half an hour’s drive from the Singletrack Magazine offices, and I can get to Orange in about that time too. Why is it, then, that the only time I seem to see Alan from Hope, or Adrian from Pace, or Cy from Cotic, is when I’ve travelled round half the world to Interbike, or Eurobike, or even just London? And when I do see them, we talk work while eating £5 sandwiches before we all return back to pounding the show halls or manning stands.

There’s a fair amount of the bike industry up here, north of Birmingham and it seemed silly to travel around the world to have to see them. So, we thought that it would be fun and novel to organise a day of actual bike riding and invite everyone within a couple of hours of the Singletrack offices. We’re lucky that we have great riding right out the door but, like most people in the bike industry, we find ourselves riding in our own time.

A random mid-week date was chosen in November and we sent out a bunch of invitations. The plan was simple – arrive in time for coffee at 11, spend time chatting and comparing bikes and then on to riding for a few hours, followed by fish and chips from the famous Grandma Pollard’s Chippy up the road. Whether anyone would want to, or be able to justify riding on a Wednesday, we’d have to see.

As the day rolled around, the car park outside Singletrack Towers started filling up with trade vans –Yeti, Jungle, British Cycling, Pace, Kona… It was like being at a World Cup event. We’d got an extra couple of kilos of coffee beans in and I was busy churning out hot drinks for an hour as bike folk arrived from around the country and caught up with each other.

With the faffing mostly done, riders self-selected themselves into three riding groups. There’d be a ‘Hebden Tech’ ride for all of those after a steep and rocky experience, there’d be an ‘over the hills and far away’ ride for riders after a bit more distance and there was a ‘Pootle to the Café’ ride for those who weren’t feeling fit.

As groups fanned out over the countryside, many realised that we’d never actually ridden with each other before. Even long-term bike industry types, and veterans of countless roadshows found they were riding besides long-term colleagues (or friendly rivals) for the first time. It’s all too easy to go to expos and shows and not actually ride a bike – just as it’s too easy to work in the bike industry and only get to ride on occasional evenings and weekends.

All of the rides had plenty of the usual standing around and chatting and there was a chance to see which riders of each group could actually ‘walk-the-walk’ when it came to some of the technical trails of Calderdale.

The riding order among the groups moved around as everyone made sure that they got to catch up with each other and even the weather co-operated as the predicted grim northern forecast failed to turn up.

All the groups made it back to Singletrack Towers around 3pm, just before it got dark – even the café group, who’d lingered over afternoon fondant fancies. As a mass of gritty bikes was hosed off outside the office, Singletrack’s Mark disappeared up the road to Grandma Pollard’s chippy, which had been warned to expect a bumper order, and he returned soon after with half a pallet (well, 35 portions) of well-earned fish ‘n’ chips.

The assembled mud-splattered riders tucked in with justification and soon the place was awash with empty chip wrappers and greasy pages of the Todmorden News.

Had this stunt been pulled off by, let’s say, a bigger media organisation, now would have been the time to hit this assembly of the northern bike trade with a well-honed PowerPoint presentation and 2010 ad sales pitch, not letting anyone leave before they’d signed up for a year’s advertising. However, Singletrack’s not that kind of magazine and Matt, our ad guy, wasn’t even around.

We just wanted to get the locals together for some bike riding and a natter on home turf. Well, what other excuse do you need? And the good news is there’s going to be a southern trade gathering in the spring.

*Included were folk from: Pace, Paligap, Sideways Cycles, Carradice, Scott, Hope, Hotlines, Saddleback, Blazing Saddles, Alpine Bikes, Jungle, Cotic, Vertebrate Graphics, Pat Adams, Evolution Imports, Cotic, Endura British Cycling and many more…

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