'C' Division competitors head up Bent Street during the Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic on Saturday, 13th May, 2017.
'C' Division competitors head up Bent Street during the Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic on Saturday, 13th May, 2017. Debrah Novak

BIKE HYPE: Wheels in motion for festival future

AS THE Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic rolls off into the distance and over the Great Dividing Range, the dozens of volunteers who together created the inaugural Grafton Festival of the Bike can sit back, sip a cup of coffee and breathe a sigh of satisfaction.

While admittedly starting small in terms of the scope of the planned events, a positive energy has wafted from the cycling enthusiasts involved and greater visions for the future dreamt.

For much of the general population it may have all gone unnoticed, but the wheels could be in motion for something much bigger that could one day rival events such as the July Racing Carnival and Jacaranda Festival.

A $98,688 grant for the 'Bike Town' project, a muted suggestion for a penny farthing competition and groups indicating they will coincide charity rides with the festival will go a long way to stepping things up for next year.

Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis with Danny Loyden and Sammy Lovejoy of Cast Net productions on annoucnement of funding for Bike Town project in conjunction with Grafton Regional Gallery.
Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis with Danny Loyden and Sammy Lovejoy of Cast Net productions on annoucnement of funding for Bike Town project in conjunction with Grafton Regional Gallery. Adam Hourigan

Owner of Toast Espresso Mark Hackett's business is at the epicentre of activities including yesterday afternoon's official sign-on for competitors and this morning's race start.

"This new festival has brought a really positive vibe to the city," he said.

Meanwhile, there's no doubt it's taken reinvigoration from some fresh faces such as former Winter Olympic cross country skier David Hislop, whose energy since moving to the region with RMS two years ago has rubbed off on many around him.

"There's a real place for a bike in a country town like Grafton," the Grafton Cycle Club member told The Daily Examiner while taking in the hype in Prince St yesterday afternoon.

"We're creating something that makes people want to get involved.

"All the things were there, we've linked them together over beers at the pub. A bit of courtesy on the road can save lives.

"The goal was for no volunteers to get burned and everybody to have fun, get the road safety message out and connect the community."

"I think it's been brilliant."

Organisers have been thrilled by the response to the various events, including a screenings of MAMIL at the Saraton Theatre on Wednesday and Wheelmen of the Clarence at Pelican Playhouse on Thursday, and a 'Bike Bus' and Heritage Trail ride on Friday.

"We had 120 at the launch, and we were thinking we'd get under 100," Hislop said.

"Then we had 60 kids and a few new mums and dads do the bike bus. That's 50 cars off the road.

"Hats off to council who have put out a map with a heritage trail."