A cycling festival is a great way to vitalise interest in cycling and to help create a bit of a buzz about car-free lifestyles. Although it may sound intimidating to organise, the event can be tailored to be as big or as small as you are capable of achieving. On this page, I want to lay out ideas for organising a community led cycling festival in your local town or city so that you have a good pool of event ideas that you can select from.
A typical cycling festival is a one day event, on a Saturday or Sunday, and consists of a range of stalls, marquees, competitions, talks, and workshops, but can be as small as a few tables in a village hall and some films and talks on during the day. It can be held as a large one day event with the general public, or as a smaller one or two day event with a local primary school or community group.
Ideas for Cycling Festivals
You want a good logo for your event. The logo below is one I used for a cycling festival I organised some years ago, and you are welcome to use it. Click on the link to open up the file and then download it to your computer.
Stunt Bikes: stunt bikes are by far the most popular attraction at a cycling festival, and will really serve to draw the crowds in. If you’re lucky you might have a local BMX stunt team near you who will be prepared to do a show for free and who have their own staging. There are often local charities who work with disadvantaged or troubled teenagers by teaching them BMX stunt skills, and such groups are often happy to do a show for free as a way of providing the kids with valuable experience. Otherwise, if you type ‘uk stunt bmx groups’ or something similar into a search engine, you’ll find lots of commercial groups who will come and provide an amazing show.
Dr Bike: a local bike shop may be willing to provide free cycle maintenance on the day as a way of promoting their business and encouraging cyclists. Alternatively, you can put a shout out for people within your own community who can offer this service on the day. It’s a great way to encourage people who have old bikes that they no longer use to bring them along and get them fixed up, and back cycling again.
Adventure Cycling Talks: lots of people go on adventure cycling holidays and are happy to give talks to share their experience and the lessons learned. They could be outdoor professionals or local cycling enthusiasts. A range of talks on the day can help to create more of a buzz and bring in the outdoors and adventure enthusiasts (see, e.g. Kate Rawles).
Bicycle Powered Cinema: A bicycle powered cinema is always a hugely popular event and a nice way to structure the day with a variety of film showings, and also a way to engage directly with those attending through talks. You can either make your own by using the search query ‘how to make a bicycle powered cinema’ in a popular video platform such as YouTube, or you can hire bicycle powered cinemas from the many operators in the UK, such as Electric Pedals, Peachy Keen, or Outspoken. See the Film Nights page for ideas for film showings.
Bicycle Operated Smoothie Maker: A stall offering bicycle powered smoothies is also a very popular event. These can be offered for free or used to raise money, and you can either make your own bicycle powered smoothie as an attachment that fits onto your bike, or buy them ready made, or you’ll find organisations by searching online who will come to your event and run one.
Bicycle Powered Bubble Maker: similar to the bicycle powered cinema, except its plugged into a bubble maker. Kids love it!
Specialist Bikes: There are many groups who organise specialist and adapted bikes, such as tandems, recumbents, hand bicycles, or wheelchair bicycles, and who will come and do events at cycling festivals. Invite a specialist bike group along such as Pedal Power, We Are Cycling UK or Get Cycling. Create a space at your festival for people to try them out, and contact a range of local groups and charities to invite those with specialist needs to come and try them out on the day.
Tandem Rides: If you put a shout out you might find someone local who has a tandem. Offer tandem rides to festival goers, but especially to those who are visually impaired, and advertise your event to local charities before hand. It’s genuinely touching how those who have damaged eyesight and have never ridden a bike, or never thought they would ride a bike again, react when they’re in the saddle and cycling, assisted by another cyclist on the tandem.
Cargo Bikes: Find a cargo bike supplier and ask them to come to your festival for people to try out their bikes. It’s good business for them, and they also make for quite a spectacle.
Bicycle Jumble Sale (or a free giveaway): put a shout out within your community and to all local cycling groups for any old bicycle parts or bicycle related paraphernalia, or bicycles themselves. You’ll be amazed how many odds and ends you’ll get donated once people know it’s going to a good bicycle cause. You’ll likely get bicycles donated too. Set up a bicycle jumble sale at your festival, or just have a free stall. It’s amazing how popular this is, and great to see people without bicycles turn up and walk away with a perfectly good bike, for free!
Bicycle Tyre Belt Making: Go to your bike stores and ask them for their old bike tyres. Then set up a stall at you festival making belts from old bicycle tyres. It’s really easy to do, and really popular. I’ll eventually upload instructions but for now, get in touch with me and I’ll explain it. It really is very simple and they make great belts.
Bicycle Skills Games: hold a wide range of bicycle skills games and competitions for kids and adults to join in with. One idea is to get a mechanic to alter a bicycle so that when you turn the handle bar left, the bike goes to the right! The competition then is to see who could cycle the furthest in a straight line, or a prize if the individual can cycle more than 5 metres (no-one gets more than a metre or two). You can search the internet for other ideas (see e.g. the pdf 20 Cycling Games).
Bling Up Your Bike!: A fun craft workshop with kids and adults who get to decorate their bike in all sorts of creative and wonderful ways.
Cycle Training: groups like Bikeability offer cycle training and having some basic cycle training sessions at your event is a good way to encourage cycle safety and etiquette.
Cycle Rides: you can ask local shops and cycling groups if they’d like to offer cycle rides during your festival, or you can run them yourself. Alternatively, a good way to drum up publicity is to organise a weekly cycle ride in the 4 week run up to your festival event.
Mass Bike Ride: And what better way to launch your cycling festival than to have a mass bike ride the day before, or that morning, so that it finishes as the festival begins?
Other: other things you might want to consider are having a stall with leaflets promoting sustainable transport, such as local bus and train timetables, local cycle maps, leisure or special interest cycle maps (such as off road routes or forest trails), literature on climate change, air pollution, and other related issues around cars, and a range of leaflets on subjects such as active travel. Groups like Sustrans are often a good source of a wide range of leaflets, as are groups like British Cycling, and both may come to your festival with their own literature and run their own stall.
You may also want to tie in with other issues, and have e.g. the local fairtrade group run a fairtrade stall, or stalls from other related community groups. You can invite local food vendors along so that people can buy food, and make a cafe space available where people can sit and eat or have a cup of tea. Offering basic refreshments yourself on the day is a good way to recoup some money. Local cycling groups will also likely be keen to come and run a stall to promote their group, and may have ideas for events they can run.
Lastly, don’t forget things like a website for your festival, and a publicity plan. When it comes to a cycling festival, publicity is everything, so make sure this is a top priority and that a lot of effort goes into it. One good publicity idea is to gather some old, disused bicycles, paint them pink, and attach a sign to the frame on either side advertising your festival. Lock the bikes in prominent locations around your town where lots of people will see them, and also on the main road routes into and out of your area, so that they are visible to the motorists who you are trying to get to come to your festival and switch to cycling!