A number of the high-ups involved with the National Cycling Festival 2000 are saying the cycle trade media is happiest when theres bad news to report. Heres why this is untrue. (And read on for the actual number of paying visitors to the show it'll shock you!)

York Rally: is a positive spin possible?

My negative comments about the National Cycling Festival merely reflect what many others have told me. I dont pull bad vibes from thin air.

Lets get this straight: a lot of hard work went into the Festival. Thats not in dispute. But there were predictable and predicted flaws in the show organisation, marketing and PR.

Cynical trade hacks like me and Peter Lumley want the trade to prosper. Our mags get more ads when the trade does well. Its therefore in our interests to be optimistic and talk the trade up.

However, by the same token, when we see flaws at work we point them out. Ive been attending York Rally for nearly 15 years. Peter has been going for nearly 25 years of its 56 year existence. Weve been around a bit and we pointed out the flaws in the BA/CTC plans when they were revealed to us last year.

Aspects of the show which we pointed out as unworkable, were evident on the ground during the weekend just gone.

Peter and I have seen it all before. Indeed, flicking through copies of Cycle Trader from the 1930s through to the 1980s in Otley today (see story on the Ron Kit website), its clear the trade constantly goes round in circles vis a vis a public bicycle show that will expand the market.

Perhaps BA marketing bods should get up to the Ron Kit library in Otley and research this industry before they try to reinvent the wheel every few years?

But theres always a silver linging to every dark cloud so what good things can we draw from the NCF shambles?

One, John Carrington Beard should now devote his time to marketing the BA and cycling, instead of fussing round with a show that got only 10 000 paying visitors. Yes, you read that right, ten thousand. (Although a figure as low as 8000 has also been bandied about from a reputable source).

The BA/CTC are saying there was anywhere from 18-22 000 people there but thats an extrapolated estimate ie there there 1700 camp site pitches so multiply that by a factor of four etc etc. This may wash with the Millennium Commission they need to be given participation figures to justify the cash that was put in but if were to go forward as an industry we need to know the truth, not hide behind best guesses decided by a clique which needs to massage the figures to save face.

Two, the CTC and the BA and the BCF and other bodies have now opened a channel of communication and despite blame for this weekend being passed from pillar to post, it should be remembered that jaw-jaw is much preferable to war war.

Three, the BA will now know that to put on a show that generates interest from lucrative customers and not the penny-pinching, knobbly-knees, matching-woollen-jerseys-on-a -tandem-with-a-dog-in-a-basket-on-the-back brigade needs big budget advertising. And not house ads in cycle titles and hoping that local radio will bring in the crowds. Without successful national PR you can kiss goodbye to your show budget cos people aint gonna come (and why did all the signs to the show say CTC York Rally; and not National Cycling Festival?)

Four, er thats it but if you can think of some more please post them to the bulletin board.


At the end of the show, all the organisers were sitting around the table with glum faces, chewing the fat and trying to agree on an estimated visitor total. I popped my head round the corner, apolosgised for butting in and asked the simple question how many paying visitors. The initial answer was we dont know. I knew this wasnt true because the ticket counters had told me the first count had been done, so I pressed ahead. Sombody who shall remain nameless then said (snidely?) its easy for me because I just run a dot.com and press a button at the end of the day, the implication being I was a professional knocker who knows nothing about the hard work that goes on behind the scenes.

Er, try this on for size. For two years my company did the organising, marketing and PR for a northern bike show that a, made a tasty profit and b, got 5000 visitors. It was a tasty contract, I got £10 000 for doing it in year two. The PR was totally outside the box: we got David Bellamy on a float bike on the Tyne on the BBC One oClock and Six oclock news, as well as big photo spreads in nearly all national newspapers. Could the BA produce a similar press cuttings file?

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