FORMER Royals star Ady Williams was on hand to help launch the eighth annual On Your Bike charity cycle ride.
The BBC Radio Berkshire sports presenter visited pupils at Sonning Common Primary School to encourage the children and their families to sign up for the ride, which will take place next month.
Cyclists can choose to ride either six, 12 or 20 miles, setting off from the Grove Road school.
The proceeds will be split between the school, Sue Ryder and the Thames Valley and Chiltern Air Ambulance Trust.
Williams, who captained Reading and played for Wales, spoke to pupils at a special assembly to launch the event on Wednesday.
He showed them some of his most prized possessions — one of his 13 international caps and the shirt he wore when Reading played Bolton in the Football League Division One play-off final at Wembley in 1995. Williams scored but his side lost 4-3 after extra time.
Williams, 42, said: “I’m honoured to be here to talk about one of my passions, cycling.
“What better way to get active? It’s a sport that the whole family can participate in, whatever the age and whatever the level. It keeps you active, gets you out in the fresh air and keeps you very, very fit.
“I’ve been a big cycling fan for the last 15 to 20 years. The Tour de France — an unbelievable, gruelling race — inspired me to get on a bike.”
The children also heard from James Thompson, sales manager at AW Cycles in Henley Road, Caversham, who will be on hand to help riders at the event and is offering a free bike to the winner of a draw for participants who sign up before April 1.
He said: “We are really pleased to be here supporting On Your Bike again. It has been awesome watching the event grow over the years.
“I can’t believe how many people get involved. There is a real buzz around the event. It’s really great for the community.
“It’s so good to see so many young people embracing cycling. It’s a healthy, fun and constructive thing to do with the family.”
The event was started by Penny Snowden and is organised by a team of parents and representatives from Sonning Common Parish Council and Sonning Common Health Centre. Nikki Hampton, one of the organisers whose children Felix, eight, and Dexter, six, attend the school, said: “This launch event is all about encouraging the kids to sign up but we also want families to take part together.
“We like to emphasise that it’s a ride, not a race. People can take their time.”
On Your Bike has raised about £25,000 for local good causes.
Mrs Hampton said: “It has become part of the fabric of the village. We usually get about 700 people taking part, not just from Sonning Common but also Kidmore End, Peppard, Stoke Row and Reading.”
Pupil Brody Pledge, eight, has previously taken part in the six-mile ride and plans to sign up again this year.
He said: “It made me a bit tired but it was really fun. It’s a good idea because people can get more exercise.”
Headteacher Chris Hirst added: “There are so many good reasons for doing On Your Bike. It’s a massive community event and it’s great to have the school at the heart of the community.
“It’s a great way of keeping healthy and of making people aware that although it’s something fun and healthy, it’s also a way of helping some very good causes.
“We would like to say a big thank-you to Ady for coming along and AW Cycles for sponsoring the event.”
On Your Bike, which is supported by the Henley Standard, will take place from 10.30am on Saturday, April 27. It will include a supervised playground ride for younger children. A café will be open from 9.30am until 1.30pm in the school hall for breakfast, brunch or lunch.
Entry is £5 per person in advance or £7 per person on the day. Participants who enter before 9am on April 1 will have their names entered into the free draw.
Enter online at www.onyourbikesonningcommon.co.uk or call 01189 724487.