In this week’s edition of our 60 Second Interview series, we put our questions to Charles Oxtoby, the Owner and Founder of Yorkshire Velo Tours.
Yorkshire Velo Tours rides are designed for keen cyclists of all abilities who want to challenge themselves on some of the best roads and climbs in Europe as well as enjoying the beautiful Yorkshire scenery. We were kindly hosted by Charles earlier in the year for one of Yorkshire Velo Tours’ Saturday rides in wonderful Yorkshire countryside – you can find the full review here.
Charles, what originally sparked your interest in cycling?
A walk by Ullswater in the Lake District with a friend of mine who said if you have a mountain bike, you can ride over these hills. I got one a week later and it was a revelation. After mtbing for a few years, I took to the road when the foot and mouth ban came in and have stayed on tarmac ever since.
What is your favourite route at the moment? What do you particularly like about it?
All of my favourite routes blend the elements of amazing scenery, challenging and rewarding climbs, a great cafe stop and good mates! I particularly love a 2-hour or so circular route from Ilkley. It heads up the Wharfe Valley, nearly to Appletreewick, before taking in the awesome climb up Skyeholme heading to Pateley Bridge: the view to your right is just awesome! You are then treated to a 4-mile high-speed descent, usually with a tailwind to Blubberhouses, before the last pull up Askwith Moor for the plummet back to Ilkley and a coffee and panettone at the wonderful Stazione cafe.
Route details are available here:
If you could go for a bike ride with anyone at all, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
I think Brian Robinson (English road bicycle racer of the 1950s and early 1960s.) He was the first Briton to finish the Tour de France and the first to win a Tour stage in his heyday. I did have a chat with him earlier this year about riding the hills in Yorkshire and it would have been awesome to actually go out with him and see how it was done!
What is the best thing about being involved in the cycling industry in 2016?
I’m pretty new to the industry, but it seems to be developing fast all the time. The thing I have loved most is making connections and meeting new people who are involved in cycling at all different levels, from bloggers to new businesses trying new ideas, through to enthusiasts arranging charity events.
How has cycling in Yorkshire changed from when you were a lad, to post-le Tour and how the county has consolidated on that success?
An incredible change! When I first stared cycling 20 years ago, I seemed to know just about everyone I passed out on the road. Cycling was a minority pastime. Nowadays, there are so many cyclists, it feels like I hardly know anyone! I still can hardly believe that the Tour de France came to Yorkshire and travelled some of the same roads we ride day in day out. I did expect that after the hiatus of the Tour in 2014 interest would subside, but it seems to be quite the reverse – the roads at the weekend heading up Wharfedale are packed with cyclists. Cycling clubs have flourished in recent years – for example, the Ilkley Cycle Club started in 2011 and now has 1,200 members, almost 10% of the town’s population. Cycling is well and truly here to stay!
What do you enjoy most about running Yorkshire Velo Tours?
The best thing is definitely meeting new people and taking them out cycling. The reaction from those who have never cycled in Yorkshire is always a treat to behold, people love it! I love hearing about people’s own experience with cycling, some of the stories you hear are amazing. Cycling means so many different things to different people, yet creates a common bond.
Have you had any particularly memorable moments with visitors cycling in Yorkshire for the first time?
Many! On our cobbled ride back in May, the riders were more than a little intimidated by the sight of the infamous Shibden Wall in the distance .. ‘how on earth can you cycle up that?!!’ Every single rider managed to make it up without stopping, the sense of achievement at the top was amazing!
I also had a reporter from the Evening Standard visit, he couldn’t believe how beautiful the Wharfe Valley looked on a chilly February day.
What has been your cycling highlight of 2016 so far?
Drinking cherry vodka on top of Greenhow Hill at zero degrees temperature and horizontal snow falling, waiting for the Tour de Yorkshire riders to cruise past!
And finally: what’s in store for Yorkshire Velo Tours? What can we expect to see from you in the coming year?
We are really excited for 2017 and are planning lots of new things including point to point tours, new challenge rides, a ‘route store’ and corporate cycle days. We are also going to offer more options for those fairly new to cycling or who may feel intimidated by some of the terrain … cycling in Yorkshire is for all to enjoy!