AS cycling routes go, they have been unusual to say the least: tours of chips shops, tours of lunatic asylums and tours of, ahem, Sheffield space-time tunnels.
But perhaps nothing will compare to tomorrow’s ride.
For then some 60 Sheffield fun cyclists, known as the FridayNightRiders, are set to tour the city’s best Christmas decorations - while they themselves are decked out in festive lights, baubles and tinsel.
“We cycle a different route based on a different theme one Friday of every month,” says group founder Mick Nott. “And we always get lots of cheers and a few jeers - I suppose people don’t expect to see a procession of so many cyclists go past them on a weekend evening. So this month, as it’s Christmas, we thought we’d play up to that and wear decorations. We’re turning ourselves into a moving art installation.”
It may be an unusual idea but then FridayNightRide - motto: “we have nothing to lose but our chains” - is nothing if not an unusual concept.
Started by Mick in the summer of 2008, the gist is that bikers of all abilities meet up for free one Friday a month (the one nearest the full moon, bizarrely) and go for a themed urban ride, discovering unusual elements of their home town. There are pre-journey friendships made, in-journey talks given, and post-journey pints supped in a different pub each month.
And those themes? They have included everything from a J G Graves tour to an old tramways route; from rock and roll ride to last month’s Tour des Frites where the group took in several city chip shops stopping for a bag in each.
In July, there was a ‘bonkers ride’ where cyclists were guided round Sheffield’s former lunatic asylums and workhouses; while in March there was a ‘bounded infinity’ route during which the group covered 15 miles - all within the inner ring road.
“It felt a bit like space-time travel,” laughs Mick, himself a retired bike instructor of Pitsmoor. “We wanted to see how far we could travel within the ring road without repeating any streets, so we were going down these ginnels, disappearing into alleyways and popping out through archways, materialising in different streets which I never previously realised were connected to each other - it sort of felt like we were going through space tunnels at points. Someone said they’d lived here 20 years and had never known it so well.”
Put simply, every month is different. And they have been so since the first ride.
“I was living in London before I moved here in December 2007,” says Mick, a grandfather-of-one. “I’d been on something similar there where we biked along the circle line over ground. There was nothing like it when I moved up here so I thought ‘Well, I better start one himself’.”
He did just that and has seen numbers slowly grow from the 10 who turned up for the first Full Monty ride (“we took in all the external locations used in the film,” notes Mick, “but we kept our clothes on”) to the more than 60 cyclists who descended on Sheffield station in April for a railway ride.
“It was a lovely spring evening and we went to old railway stations,” says Mick.
“That’s been our most popular but we normally get about 40 a month.”
Now tomorrow will see the December ride set off from The Workstation, in Paternoster Row, city centre, at 6pm. To join the group, all you need to do is turn up with a bike.
“Everyone’s welcome,” says Mick. “It’s great fun.”
For more details see www.sfnr.org.uk