In its second year, the Reading Radsport Festival returns to the streets of West Reading and the steep slopes of Mount Penn. The two-day cycling festival features the West Reading Criterium on Saturday, August 4th, and the Mt Penn Hill climb on Sunday, August 5th.
The weekend festival in Reading aims to reconnect the city to its rich history in the sport of cycling. Bicycle racing in Reading dates back to the 1860s. Thanks to local bicycle manufacturing and weekly races held in City Park, the sport feels right at home in Berks County.
Mount Penn’s history in racing started with cars. It gained fame as a test track for Charles Duryea, who designed, built, and tested cars by driving them up the switchback lanes from City Park to the summit about 1,000 feet above in the early 1900s. Bicycle racing did not arrive on the slopes of Mount Penn until about 90 years later, in the early 1990s. Over the years, about half a dozen bicycle races have sent cyclists up the slopes of Duryea and Skyline Drive, including the US Junior National Championships, The Commerce Bank Triple Crown, and the Reading 120 Road Race.
But in the last ten years, bicycle racing really struggled in Pennsylvania. The iconic Philly race returned only to be canceled, then resurrected, and then finally canceled again. Over the last few years, the trend seemed to continue with big-time professional cycling events struggling and disappearing.
This is where Reading Radsport Festival is picking up. It is approaching the premise of a professional sporting event from a different perspective. The two-day cycling race benefits the Reading Recreation Commission by raising awareness of its mission, as well as drawing visitors to Reading from all over the Northeast. It’s attempting to build on Reading’s long history of cycling and sport to create something new that can be around for years to come.
Blog by Dan Chabanov