Bicyclism began life as a conversation between producer Jenny Harris, photographer Casey Orr and writer/musician Boff Whalley about the great Leeds cyclist Beryl Burton. What started as an idea to create an exhibition (in conjunction with Leeds Museums) based on Burton’s legacy — and the cyclists in and around the Leeds cycling scene — was overtaken by confirmation of 2014’s Yorkshire Grand Depart and the realisation that we ought to be seizing the opportunity to delve into our city’s wider cultural, historical and sporting links with cycling.

The bicycle is a democratising form of transport that has changed little in the past 125 years; a pedal-powered, chain-driven frame balanced on two wheels, with the simple rule that ‘if you stop pedalling, you fall off’. The bicycle is democratic in the sense that it works across age, class, sex, race and status. By looking into this city’s links with bicycles and bicyclists, the Bicyclism team wanted to offer an alternative to the professional razzamatazz of the Tour de France and look instead at how wide this pedal-powered democracy reaches. 

For despite their love of Le Tour, they felt it important to invite people into a world before, and apart from, Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome. Into a northern English cityscape where the bicycle is for shopping, for getting to the University, for going on long Sunday rides with the local club, for delivering parcels, for taking kids to school, for time-trialling along Yorkshire’s straighter bypasses and for exploring the county… Leeds has a long and fascinating history of cycling, and much of it springs from the city’s access to the Yorkshire Dales. What better advertisement for a large city than to be able to escape its workaday bustle, quickly and easily, on two wheels?

Bicyclism is a broad sweep across the area’s cycling culture, and a desire to record it. An attempt to highlight the connections between all the city’s cyclists, who ride for a thousand different reasons. Essentially, Bicyclism is about a city and its people – on two wheels.

Vik, harehills, leeds