From simple beginnings in 1993, the Annual Burgess Hill Bike Ride has grown to be a town tradition, attracting hundreds of riders and raising thousands of pounds for local charities.
The Bike Ride was the brainchild of the late Malcolm Stephens who was, at the time, a Burgess Hill Town Councillor and member of the Summer Festival Committee. Malcolm, a keen cyclist, had taken part in the annual London to Brighton cycle ride several times and suggested a fun cycle ride as part of the Summer Festival.
The cost was initially £2 to enter, there was a single 25 mile route and all sponsorship was to go to the charity Barnardos. Starting from the new Post Office Sorting Office on the industrial estate, free T-shirts from the Post Office were given to the first 50 entrants. Richard Holkman, UK Paralympic Silver Medallist opened the proceedings.
By the end of the 1990’s the Bike Ride had become an annual event organised by Burgess Hill District Lions Club and Burgess Hill Round Table. There were now two routes of 20 and 40 miles. Free T-shirts to all pre entries, sponsored first by Schering Health Care and later by Modelzone, became a regular feature. As the event grew, the starting point moved first to the Market Place car park and then to its present location at Burgess Hill Academy (formerly Oakmeeds Community College).
Since 2014, it has been organised jointly by Burgess Hill District Lions Club and Burgess Hill & District Rotary, who each receive 25% of the money raised with the remaining 50% going to the designated charity. Over the years this has included Barnardos, Knowles Tooth Centre, Chailey Heritage, Sussex Heart Charity, Sussex Cancer Fund, Kent Surrey & Sussex Air Ambulance and, for many years, St Peter & St James Hospice.
In this special anniversary year, the designated charity is again St Peter & St James Hospice and the event takes place on Sunday 4 June.
Today the event has three routes, a 10 mile route having been introduced. The T-shirts have become a tradition and are still provided to all pre entries. In 2016, a man took part with his 11 year old son – the same age the father had been the first time he took part with HIS dad.
An army of about 80 volunteers work at registration and as marshals, sign erectors, sweeps, route planners, envelope stuffers, deliverers, bike doctors, barrier erectors, etc. ensuring that between 500-600 riders, many of whom have participated for years (and have the t-shirts to prove it), have a safe and enjoyable day out.
Over the 25 years, the ride has raised getting on for £200,000 for charitable causes – and is still going strong!