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ImageSally Haywill, cycling supremo from STA Bikes, tells how people of all ages, shapes and sizes cycled from Hackney to watch the start of the Tour de France ....
On Saturday 7th July 2007 - or as some people called it "o-seven-o-seven-o-seven" - a huge group of people of all ages and cycling abilities set off from the STA Bikes Saturday Family Club in Hackney to watch the time trials stage of the Tour de France right in the centre of London.

The ride was the culmination of nearly three months of hard work by families who had attended the Club.  Come rain or shine - usually rain during that summer - they had come along every Saurday morning to the Sir Thomas Abney Primary School.   Anyone who wanted to have a go - including complete beginners - could turn up and learn how to ride.

Together STA Bikes and The Learning Trust had organised the ride, with the London Cycling Campaign promising everyone a free ticket to the VIP viewing area in Hyde Park as a special reward.   And at exactly the same time, other riders were setting off from all over London for the once-in-a-lifetime chance to see the fun of the Tour de France - England! 

"Hackney is still just as mad about cycling as it was in those thrilling days when bicycles were a brand new invention, and The Pickwick Bicycle Club started here all those years ago.    So of course there were loads of people pedalling from Hackney down to Hyde Park  - seventy on our Family Club,  whilst another group of one hundred riders was being led there by the Hackney Cycling Campaign, starting off together on their bikes from Hackney Town Hall.    Amazingly, it was a perfect, sunny day for us all, with a light breeze and fluffy white clouds gently sailing overhead.

On the STA Bikes ride we were a completely mixed bunch - ex-racing cyclists, bicycling commuters, occasional leisure cyclists.  But, best of all, some of us had only just learned to ride a bike!    There was even a baby in a bike seat, a toddler in another, several pre-teens and teenagers.  There were boys, girls, adults, whole families - plus a team of brilliant cycle trainers.  Gary and Suzie, young adults with learning difficulties, cycled with us every inch of the way to Hyde Park and back. 

The rule was that the whole group went at the rate of the slowest rider, so nobody felt under pressure.  There were Dr. Bike sessions before we set out, to get everyone at the ready.   The streets took on such a friendly and interesting feel as we ambled along: people cheered us as we went past, with the cycle trainers herding us like sheep dogs looking after their precious flock.   It was such an inspiring sight to watch a tiny girl on her bike pedalling her way along, in between the giant grown up bicycles around her.  

And when we got to Hyde Park to watch the racing cyclists who were setting off for the Tour de France next day it was our turn to cheer.  And  after a day of picnics and games and joining in the fun at the park, forty of our group set off to ride all the way gently back to Stoke Newington.  What a fantastic achievement it was!   Everybody in our lovely group was supporting each other, willing the whole group to get all the way there, and all the way back: we were proud as punch of ourselves, our families - and our bikes.  What a team we were on that day:  I bet we will never forget it, and it will become a part of our family histories!".

You can read about how Sally was inspired to start STA Bikes - named after Sir Thomas Abney - and why he was once the most important person in the whole of London in      Issue 8    And if you look at www.stabikes.org.uk you can find out loads more about STA Bikes.   And the website for the Hackney Cycling Campaign tells you all about them - www.hackney-cyclists.org.uk - why not pay a visit to them there?
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