County’s cycling reputation brings year-round boost for businesses

North Yorkshire’s growing reputation as a top cycling destination is bringing with it a year-round boost for independent businesses and community groups in the county.

Volunteers busy fixing bikes outside the community workshops in Thirsk

As organisations gear up for the arrival of the Tour de Yorkshire in May, some local businesses say they are investing in their business to meet increasing demand for cycling activities.

This year, the four-day men’s race will take place between Thursday, 2 May, and Sunday, 5 May, and two-day women’s race on Friday, 3 May, and Saturday, 4 May. Each of the routes passes through North Yorkshire at some point and the county will host three finish points.

It is hoped this year’s Tour will equal the success of last year’s race, when an estimated 2.6 million spectators lined the route over four days. The race was also broadcast in 190 countries worldwide. In addition, it also brought with it a hefty increase in local spending. Independent research commissioned by Welcome to Yorkshire estimated last year’s race boosted the Yorkshire economy by a staggering £98m.

North Yorkshire County Council is working with its partners and the organisers, Welcome to Yorkshire and Amaury Sports Organisation, in helping plan and deliver the event and is providing £190,000 of funding to support this year’s event, with a further £190,000 for 2020’s event.

One business owner says he has already seen such an increase in cyclists travelling to the area as a result of the Tour de Yorkshire that he is going ahead with a £1.3m expansion to his business.

Stuart Price runs the Dales Bike Centre near Reeth, in Swaledale, with his wife, Brenda. The centre offers a range of services for visiting cyclists, including bunk bed accommodation, bike repairs and a bike wash service. Stuart has just received planning permission to go ahead with a significant expansion to his business, more than trebling the capacity of his café from 23 covers to 70, adding an additional eight rooms of accommodation and extending his car park and bike hire provision.

“I wouldn’t be expanding without the Tour de Yorkshire,” he said. “There’s no way a little business like ours would be looking at a £1.3m expansion without the confidence in this market and seeing a huge increase in business over the last five years.”

He said North Yorkshire was very much on the map as a top cycling destination, with other major cycling events such as the Ard Rock Enduro in Swaledale – one of the biggest mountain bike events in the UK - which last year attracted in the region of 15,000 visitors – and the UCI Road World Championships visiting later this year. The nine-day championships take place in Yorkshire in September and are expected to be the UK’s biggest sporting event of 2019.

Stuart said: “The Tour de Yorkshire has been incredibly successful in keeping Yorkshire in the fore of people’s minds when they’re looking for a cycling holiday. The effect it has had on promoting Yorkshire as a cycling destination has been huge.

“They come here from all corners of the UK and abroad. Whether it’s people booking a mountain biking break, or road cycling, they want to come specifically to Yorkshire.”

Scott Caygill, of Arthur Caygill Cycles, on the Gallowfields Trading Estate in Richmond, said the race brought with it plenty of opportunity for local businesses.

The cycle business, which was set up by Scott’s father, Arthur, in 1983, sells and manufacturers bespoke bikes.

Scott said: “The Tour de Yorkshire brings with it such a huge global audience, as well as visitors into the town. You have to jump on it; put it on social media, advertise discounts or demonstrations and let people know you’re there.

“I have friends with businesses in the town who also see the benefits. The race brings footfall with it and they will spend money, whether it’s a pint, a piece of cake or jewellery.”

As well as providing a boost for business, there are signs that more residents are being inspired to get fit through cycling.

Neil Dunkley, owner of the independent bike shop Moonglu, based on Blossomgate in Ripon, launched a new British Cycling registered club, Moonglu Cycling Club, whose membership has grown from a few cycling buddies two years ago to 130 members today.

He said: “We never envisaged the amount of cyclists we now have in the club – it has grown to 130. We ride on a Thursday evening in summer with an average of 70 people.

“If the Tour de Yorkshire hadn’t started after the Grand Depart, I doubt the momentum would have kept going.  It’s made Yorkshire a cycling mecca for many people.”

Suzy Flintoff, enterprise and partnerships manager of the Thirsk-based charity, The Clock, said they intended to build on the interest generated in cycling to bring social benefits to the local community.

The charity is in the process of setting up bike workshops, teaching people how to maintain and fix their own bikes, or repair unwanted bicycles which have been donated to the charity’s community re-use store on Thirsk Market Place. The bikes will then be on sale at low cost at their shop.

Suzy said they were aiming to extend the workshops to schools, or students not in mainstream education who would benefit from learning the vocational skills involved. She said the repaired bicycles could also be donated to local residents without their own transport who were facing difficulties reaching work or training.

“There has been a real increase in interest in cycling since the Tour de Yorkshire first started. We really want to build on that interest and momentum to get more people involved in cycling,” she said.

“We’ll be making some of the bikes available at our shop at low cost which might otherwise have been scrapped. There’s an environmental benefit, but we’re also making cycling accessible to people no matter what financial restrictions they may have.

“We also want to offer to young people and young adults an activity where they can build their self-esteem, learn some new vocational skills and understand how to make money.”

North Yorkshire County Council leader Councillor Carl Les said: “Having such a major annual event as the Tour de Yorkshire returning to our county every year is giving many businesses the confidence they need to invest and expand. As well as advertising the most beautiful parts of our county to a global audience, the race brings with it thousands of visitors to our town centres, shops and attractions.

“In addition to the economic benefit, it is also inspiring people to get out on their bikes and improve their health and wellbeing.”

This story was published 22 February 2019