Leeds City Council has made it a priority to improve Leeds’ air quality. Amongst the measures being introduced is encouragement for people to use cycling as their alternative mode of transport. ‘What?’ you might ask ‘Breathe in yet more pollution?’
In fact, we’re told cyclists are less exposed to air pollution than people sitting in vehicles – and cycling is excellent cardio-vascular exercise which avoids strain on the hips, knees and ankles – so our visit to Ribble Cycles in Leeds was a rather timely one. Gemma Bridge tells us all about it:
Ribble Cycles has a 120-year history of building premium British bikes. It continues to build impressive, custom made bikes, and prides itself on being one of the leading British direct-to-consumer bike brands. Ribble has predominantly been an online brand, but after appointing Andy Smallwood as CEO in 2017, the brand expanded. This expansion included the launch of a number of destination showrooms across the UK. Leeds was one of the most recent additions.
I was lucky enough to go to the launch event for the newly opened Ribble Cycles pop-up shop in Leeds Trinity. I spoke to Andy about his vision for Ribble Cycles and why he chose Leeds as the latest in the line of pop up locations.
As soon as I walked into the airy pop-up shop, I was amazed by the beauty of the bikes on show in the store – the range of colours, sleek designs and styles. Andy explained having a pop-up store enables Ribble to showcase their bikes so that people can see and feel them all, and since all are customisable in colour, design and size, every customer can make their bike their own. His vision is to encourage people of all abilities to get out on a bike, and thanks to Ribble’s range of customisable bikes, he thought that over the coming years, his vision could become a reality. He explained that in addition to flexible financing plans to help people get their hands on a bike, a number of cycle events will be held in Leeds, to help get people out and about.
In addition to providing bikes for the masses, Andy explained that he is also proud to be heading a brand that provides world class bikes for pro athletes. Talk soon turned to Ribble’s new range of electric bikes which, to the untrained eye, look just like a standard bike. Gone are the days of having a big battery pack! One of Ribble’s most impressive feats in this range is the development of the world’s lightest electric bike, allowing riders to look and feel like they are on a top of the range road bike, and one that can give a little bit of a hand on long rides and uphills.
After a bit of networking and sampling of the fab food on offer, all eyes turned to the front, where a panel was sitting, ready to give us the lowdown on Ribble and all that it has to offer. The panel, which included Brian Robinson (a former road racer of the 1950s and early 1960s who was the first Briton to finish the Tour de France and the first to win a Tour stage), Shaun Yates (a former professional cyclist of the 1980’s and ex manager of professional cycling teams including Team Sky), Jamie Burrow (previous winner of the U23 world cup, and current head of Product for Ribble), and Tom Timothy (Team Principal for Team Ribble), was hosted by Guy Kestivin, a professional bike tester.
The panel discussion, which lasted over an hour, saw the panellists discuss the benefits of cycling for health and enjoyment. They agreed that the rise in popularity of cycling over recent years can only be a good thing. All panellists agreed that cycling is an accessible sport that everyone can enjoy, and so it can only continue growing in popularity. For those who are less fit, or less able to cycle, electric bikes offer a great alternative. Shaun, who had to stop racing because of a recurring health condition, explained that the Ribble electric bike had allowed him to get back on the road, and for that he is really grateful. It allows him to enjoy cycling with friends without worrying about holding them up. Brian, who has not yet tried an electric bike, was given one by Ribble so that he can also get out and feel the wind in his hair.
When the mic was passed to Jamie, it gave the panel an opportunity to talk about the latest developments taking place at Ribble. He described the custom-made bike process which was a real highlight for customers, and the challenges of creating the range of electric bikes. He was proud of their sleek design and similarity to standard bikes, helping to overcome the stigma of riding an electric aided bike.
Up next was Tom, providing the audience with the opportunity to hear about Team Ribble. The team, which is driven by the collective desire to succeed, is improving rapidly, with a number of strong riders. Recently, the team has been diversifying into a range of bike events, most recently getting involved with e-events such as Swift. This, PlayStation like event which sees riders compete internationally from the comfort of their homes, is becoming really popular. Platforms like this also offer amateur riders with a more immersive riding experience if they are not able to get out on the road, or if they want a hard but safe ride.
The panel also provided a great opportunity to hear stories of training and racing. Brian explained that when he was training, bikes offered the best form of transport for many. He told the audience that when growing up, his dad would take him on a 25-mile ride to visit family. Shaun gave us a taste for his training days when he told us about his 10-hour training ride during a camp, which he fuelled solely with pain-aux-chocolates. Both riders explained that life as a pro-cyclist had been tough and involved sacrifices for their families, but that it had been a great experience that allowed them to travel the world and push themselves to their limits.
I thoroughly enjoyed the event, and hearing about all that Ribble has planned for the future. If you are thinking about getting a bike, be it a road, mountain, hybrid or electric version, then why not try before you buy? Ribble will be at The Brownlee Centre between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. on 27 and 28 July, to give people a chance to test ride a range of bikes on the traffic-free track.
For more information on how Leeds City Council is working to improving Leeds air quality, visit here.
All photographs provided by umpf
Gemma, a PhD student at Leeds Beckett University, has been writing for over 6 years, and loves to share what’s going on in and around Leeds. She is also an international athlete, artist and creator of Leeds Food Guide. You can find her on Instagram at: @GLB_racewalk, @GLB_creations or @LeedsFoodGuide