We’ve been sent a message by Neil Dalgleish, organiser behind the wide-ranging and successful Tweedlove series of events. Except, this year, there have been no events at all and his statement – part matter-of-fact statement and part understandable rant – shows the fragility and frustration felt by all event organisers this year. His overriding message from event organisers everywhere is ‘Keep the faith, get (or keep) your entries in and we’ll be back’.
A message from TweedLove:
After what feels like a lot longer than six months of frustration and feeling fairly helpless, the relief was huge when we were recently granted permission to run an enduro at the end of October. Having spent many weeks deep-diving the Covid event guidelines and issues around the virus in order to create a new race in the Tweed Valley, the Glentress Monster enduro was born. But then it wasn’t – we had to cancel it yesterday – just two days before we were going to announce it and open for entries.
A new enduro event was always going to be vulnerable in our changing viral landscape, but this was a real glimmer of hope for us and a small feeling of winning, of saving the season somehow. The reality of bringing in some cash in a year of zero event income was also, er, significant. With event after event postponed or cancelled this year, the new sense of purpose, and being able to work for this race was like a revelation. We were excited, and thought the event plan was sound:
- One day event to reduce overnight stays
- Held at Glentress to reduce town visitors (the opposite of what we usually try to do)
- A big day of blind enduro racing on some of the classics
- Course, stages and forest split into zones to avoid bunching/groups
- New registration and Covid-unfriendly systems in place throughout
- Individual start times for every part/stage of the event to prevent queues
- Covid officer trained and qualified, all the new risk assessments etc done
- New protocols in place for trail digging and prep
- All Forestry and other guidelines and community comms in place
I could go on…
But at the weekend the Scottish government changed the rules with the result that the most riders we could have was effectively 140 – income is never going to meet expenditure at that level, especially with all the extra Covid gubbins we need. On top of that the local authority made it clear they weren’t keen on people travelling here from areas of the UK with additional restrictions – which is currently half of the country.
So we’re left with no choice and the race has been cancelled, just before we even announced it. More than likely that’s it for the year – 2020 will be a year with not a single TweedLove event, and not many others either.
The bike events sector, like the rest of the events industry, is in a bad way. Making a living from putting on bike races and events (particularly MTB ones) is a precarious business at the best of times, but as the end of furlough looms with no events looking possible for us this year, winter is indeed coming. It’s true that a lot of regional races are organised by individuals or smaller, more voluntary-based organisations and happily a lot of these guys have other income sources too, so may come out of it relatively unscathed. For slightly bigger outfits though, ones with staff, offices, storage and all the usual business overheads, the picture is getting bleaker, and our jobs not officially qualifying as ‘viable’.
Way back in lockdown v1, positive-thinking plans were hatched for how we could keep our heads above water through the winter and, mighty relieved, reach for the safe shores of next Spring – when everything will be back to normal (won’t it?). Putting funding packages together to keep the lights on and people in jobs (even part-time) generally involved using any business reserves, but also being able to bring in a little income from Covid-restricted events in 2020. Unfortunately, removing that last, modest piece of funding from a business’s jenga-tower survival plan may bring a lot of blocks tumbling for some organisations, with obvious redundancy implications.
But even if the tough times are now tougher, you can be sure that neither ourselves here at TweedLove or any other organisers we’ve spoken to have any intention of disappearing. We all want an early return to the buzz, excitement and memories that great bike events create.
TweedLove is 100% committed to delivering a full year of awesome bike events next year, so all we ask is for riders to keep the faith and keep your race places if you already have them. Encourage your pals to book early for next year’s races – good advance sales mean organisers will be able to save some marketing budget and can plan better – all those little things make a difference.
99% of bike event organisers are in it because we love the sport and of course we love riding ourselves. So it’s been great being able to do a lot more riding this year, but it doesn’t fill the hole left by not seeing hundreds of our bike pals stoked on the highs, lows, fears and friendships of our events.
Stick with us, we’ll see you next year. We don’t know if the events will be identical to what they’ve been in the past, but we do guarantee good times, fantastic trails and organisation which has been scrutinised to the max for your safety. In the meantime, we’ll see you on the trails.
Print+ membership cut-off timer for issue 134, due in early December. After this time new members will receive issue 135 as their first issue in early February 2021
If you like what we do - if you like our independence then the best way to support us is by joining us. Every penny of your membership goes back into Singletrack to pay the bills and the wages of the people who work here. No shareholders to pay, just the people who create the content you love to read and watch.