after yesterday’s hillclimb, belle mentioned something i had completely forgotten. 2 years ago i sent off an entry for the burrington climb, but didn’t realise you had to be in a club to ride open events. i was keen to avoid being in a cycling club. i think i saw myself as some sort of lone wolf, determined to carry on riding in glorious solipsism. it was only because the organiser, steve downs, gave me a ring, and then invited me to join the club – fast-tracking my membership so i could join that week (!) – that i got a ride. i turned up on fixed, heavy wheels, over dressed, and managed an 8.01, taking the club trophy. i then committed to the club – after all there was silverware, and got to know the people. over the past two years i have learnt the following things about cycling clubs:
1. they are fantastically anachronistic groups of people, but curiously modern at the same time. amending the rules and regulations of a cycling club takes greater organisational skills than i can muster, and yet clubmen and women will openly sneer at a vaguely dated time trial machine.
2. cycling clubs are an interwoven part of the post-industrial working class fabric of british society. they grew out of the working class leisure movement in the late 19th century, affording their members the chance of literal escape of a weekend from the debilitating repetition of the factories. BSCC emerged from the Wills Tobacco Group.
3. there is something familial, close and endearingly loyal about the relationships in, and even across, cycling clubs. club members look out for one another, it’s a camaraderie forged on cold, wet winter club runs, when greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his spare inner tube for his friends.
4. they teach you everything you need ever know about cycling.
looking back on that period 2 years ago, i realise how wrong i was. joining Bristol South was one of the best things i could have done.