Joining a cycling club is pretty much the best thing any aspiring cyclist can do. It’s essentially a family of geeky, friendly men and women, from all walks of life, united by an unfeasibly passionate love of all things bike-related. within the club the different factions sit comfortably and come the club run, everyone rides together and to be honest, it’s one of life’s more enlightening and awesome spectacles. and i love the sound of 30 riders clipping into pedals before riding off. it’s fantastic.
i’m a member of Bristol South Cycling Club; the city is blessed with quite a few clubs, all with healthy reputations and a long and chequered history. Severn CC occupy the north of the city, but the two clubs share many resources, mix it up on club runs, ride inter-club events and so on, recognise each other on the road. it’s all healthy and lovely a little bit nauseating, in a sort of ‘get a room’ way. Bristol South CC is one of the oldest clubs in the country, formed in 1893. My hillclimb trophy is from 1923; which is a little bit terrifying.
When i lived in London i used to ride with the Dulwich Paragon; a stalwart of the south-east scene. They were friendy and all-encompassing; their club run was a thing of wonder; and after two or three goes became painfully slow – however – this is what it was about, welcoming riders, celebrating cycling, developing the sport at grass roots level. there were always other friendly groups riding from cafe st germain on crystal palace parade who would welcome you along with open arms. The club also invest a lot of time and energy in events at Herne Hill (the only 1948 olympic venue still in use, and a place of pilgrimage) and run a series of road events. they have their share of serious quick riders as well. all in all a good bunch. i liked the idea behind rollapaluza cc when they started as a road club; lovely people too.
then there was the London Dynamo. some colleagues and I used to talk about them in hushed tones. they were seen as the darth vader and imperial guards of the road scene; taciturn, obnoxious, silent, arrogant, and as likely to run you down as let you jump on their chaingang. this was hearsay. however, on any encounter in richmond park or regent’s park, they were the only cyclists to never nod or wave – and whilst the nod or the wave in cycling is almost a blog post in itself, and not indicative of a sense of evil/harmony per se; most cyclists see it as a matter of etiquette. i wave and i nod, and it doesn’t matter what i’m riding. frequently i find the more pornographic the bike, the less likely the rider is to wave back; and i presume, i stereotype even – that is simply because they consider me a lesser cyclist. the truth is i would probably kick their fat ass all the way up the hill, ride them off the wheel and leave them crying in frustration. that’s on my winter bike, with full mudguards, 25mm tyres, bag full of schoolbooks, bricks even. and that’s especially true if the blinged up non-waver is riding in a vest; this symbolises triathleticism and is likely to mean that the slightest incline causes a sense of crushing despair.
but i digress. (is it perfume from a dress?) (and i stereotype too, apologies to hardcore triathletes)
so yes, the dynamo; the forces of darkness. the most london of cyling clubs. they are the gang at the beginning of the warriors that kill cyrus, then blame it on the warriors; the warriors are the paragon, the gentlemen and gentleladies, the bastions of decency. there are no prizes for impassiveness; and this is the one that used to get me the most: richmond park is not their personal fiefdom; it is a land of wild deer and ring-necked parakeets, of leisure cyclists and daytrippers.
all of which points towards a reputation issue, and they would do well to clean it up; because even if half of the hearsay is a quarter accurate, then there is a tension between the idealistic purity of cycling that so many people hold to, and the bleakly self-aggrandising form of the sport being propagated by mechanistic and sinister chaingangs.