Get pedalling to music festivals

Tuesday 1st June 2010 By James Styring in Oxford Mail

It was about time I cycled, I realised, rather than spending all my time writing and talking about it. Too often I’m asked what big rides I’ve done and I have to admit: I don’t cycle all that much. Sad but true.

That’s partly because I work at home and partly because I have to walk the dog any time I do a leisure ride. Don’t get me wrong, I do cycle everywhere that’s under 10 miles, but that isn’t a whole lot. The shops, the pub, a mate’s house, err… repeat.

Oxford Cycle Workshop is the antithesis of me. From the emails it sends to members, it clearly devotes time to long rides, short rides, fast rides, social rides, alleycats (treasure hunts), bike polo, fixing up your own bike – the list makes me feel positively lardy. So when I received the invitation to cycle on a Friday afternoon out to Wood Festival, 15 miles south of Oxford: “Dammit,” I thought, “Dammit! Yes, I can.”

And so the day came and the sun was shining brilliantly. I’d taken the afternoon off and spent an hour preparing for the ride in an ebullient mood. Miffed that I couldn’t find my Lycra shorts and wicking vest, I mustered all the tools I could carry and slipped them into a Camelbak with a ‘bladder’ full of water.

I arrived at OCW in Magdalen Road riding a flash carbon-fibre racing bike with clipless pedals. Instantly I felt like the jerk who’d turned up at a genteel cocktail party in outlandish fancy dress.

I was glad about that missing Lycra. Everyone waiting for the ride was – well – normal, with regular city bikes, open-toed shoes and panniers full of camping gear. One couple was even towing a trailer with a toddler in it.

I feared a plodding pootle but, in fact, the ride was awesome. We followed National Cycle Route 5 via Abingdon to Didcot and beyond, to Braziers Park.

There were a few stretches of fast-traffic roads, but mostly we followed cycle tracks and shady lanes. This is a ride anyone with an OS map or an iPhone could organise for themselves. I know I’ll be back for more.

The English countryside at this time of the year is jaw-droppingly beautiful. The nearer we got to Wood, the more picture-postcard perfect the landscape.

The two-hour ride took us three-and-a-half thanks to a few punctures and a broken spoke, and was all the better for this extension.

We arrived at Wood an hour before dark.

Immediately I wished I was staying for longer than one evening. The organisers are serious about getting festival-goers to avoid cars, and most gallantly award anyone who cycles to the festival a free pint. I claimed mine in a large tent labelled The Hippy Arms. The Cotswold Spring Lager was the best I’ve had all year.

As I reminisced on the way home, via Goring station (on the Oxford–London main line), three miles from Wood, I vowed I’d go to Wood for the full three days next year, though I will take advantage of the OCW courtesy van which carries cyclists’ baggage.

In the meantime, why not cycle to Wood’s sister festival, Truck, at Steventon in July?

Go on… you know you can!