Is This Sheffield | Biking In The City of Steel

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Over the past few years Sheffield seems to have been getting more than its fair share of attention in the mountain bike sphere. There’s a lot going off at the moment, so there is a lot to report on and we have a very solid base on which to build, so perhaps it’s not really that surprising? The Sheffield scene is riding a wave of its own making. But where did this momentum come from, what’s making it happen now and where’s it all going? Hopefully I’ll be able to answer some of these questions.

I’m born, bred and buttered in Sheffield but my parents are immigrants to the area. They were captivated by the place enough to stay here for 40 odd years and it’s had the same effect on me. I’ve been riding and running mates races in Sheffield for several years now and got involved with the fledgling ‘This Is Sheffield’ last year. We’ve gone from strength to strength ever since and appear to be making an impact. We’ve helped to bring together those that can and do, and tried to promote all the good work. So here’s a snapshot of the past, present and future of the Steel City.

From Dirt Issue 118 – December 2011

Words by Nick Hamilton. Photos by Grant Robinson.

Down south, Sheffield is often perceived as a grotty, polluted, industrial city where the men make steel and the woman are scared. If that’s you, please keep believing it, don’t read on and stay down there. But I’ll share some facts which might dispel the Full Monty myth and help explain the prevalence of bikes round here. Sheffield is the fifth largest city in the UK with a population in excess of half a million people, but is also the greenest city in England. We have more trees per capita than anywhere else, some two million of the air cleaning flora. Like Rome, Sheffield is nestled within seven hills; this topography has been both critical and detrimental to its development and of course provides a perfect playground for mountain bikes. It sprawls through the valleys, which makes it difficult to get a good view of the whole city and equally as difficult to get around. Living here feels like being in a very big village and is often described that way. This is partly due to all the villages it has incorporated as it’s grown.

Seven hills mean we have five rivers and it’s from the river Sheaf that Sheffield takes its name. These rivers were crucial to the burgeoning industries of Sheffield supplying power through waterwheels to thousands of grinding wheels. In combination with the abundance of iron ore and coal the steel industry flourished and gave us a very strong industrial heritage marked particularly by innovations in the steel industry. Steel City! The cutlery industry has always been synonymous and quality tableware should always bear the Sheffield marque. Steel production and other related heavy industries made Sheff a very polluted and filthy place to live, with Sheffield ‘pea soupers’ common. A bit like London on a good day.>>

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