I’ve often heard it described as the lifeblood of any cycling club. I used to be somewhat sceptical of this claim but I am now forced to admit that this belief was wrong. For many years the club didn’t really have a regular club run, though various attempts were made to establish one and there were regular runs in the distant past. I, and I suspect many others, did most of their rides solo or with one or two other riders. This would be hard to believe now when 30-40 riders turning up at 10 am each Sunday in Ayton is a fairly regular sight. In fact only around five years ago I remember a couple of club runs that consisted of just myself and John Kelly Senior, we nearly threw in the towel.
Credit must go though to Phil Meadows for starting off what has now become the modern Wheelers Club Run, which has been going consistently for probably around seven years now. Phil took it on for about a year until we were left to our own devices for a short while. I decided to take up the reins, sort of, by sending out emails of encouragement as we struggled on, determined to keep it going. For the first 2-3 years we rarely managed more than about 8 or 9, the stalwarts being myself, John Kelly, Dave Kirton, Mick Rennison, John Price, Stewart, Harry and Charlie Tanfield (I think they were about 12 and 14 then) and Steve Ward who has now departed to the hills of Wales. Occasionally we were joined by other Wheelers, but the most riders I can recall turning up for a club run in those days was about 14 for a very cold New Year ride out to Northallerton.
Routes were decided or negotiated by those who turned up, ride guides didn’t exist and all key signs or crests of rises were sprinted for by those who fancied it. We often wondered what a big turnout would be like? Then it sort of happened, and scarily quickly. First the numbers started to grow a little. Ian Jones joined us, so did Dave Williams, Vince Kelly, we bumped into another Kelly en route to Cod Beck, rather confusingly another John Kelly, later to be named Junior by Dave K. A useful acquisition as it turns out because Vince managed to break his wrist coming off descending Scarth Nick and John, who’s a Physio, ably took charge of the situation and ordered him to get off the bike and arrange to get picked up. John Carr, Graeme Tate, Steve Tilly and Mick Storey also started to come out.
Also around this time I decided to theme a club run – the Big Club Run Challenge we called it I think – to generate further interest, it went up Street, Caper Hill, the Chimney and Blakey Bank and the numbers swelled further: Tim Swales, Mark ‘Mad Dog’ Jenkins, Nick Smith, Ellis Hutchinson, Ryan Murray, Dallas Newton, Andy Wills and Lee O’Leary to name a few.
Then Wiggins won the Tour and all of a sudden we had what seemed like a peleton out every week! Soon we had two groups out and I was forced to come up with ever more hideously fiendish routes to put people off, like the Tour de 33%. But it didn’t work! The numbers held, grew even, and now we have three groups. Incredible really.
It’s not by chance I think that the growth of the club run has coincided with the changes that have happened within the club. All the new ideas for events, the kit changes, the social outings have started off as ideas thrown about while chatting as we ride along or while loitering in the cafe afterwards. Plots have been hatched, race tactics discussed, friendships formed, marathon rides planned and bike parts sold. The club run as I now realise allows the blood of the club to flow through the veins of the riders, without it the club somehow just doesn’t work properly.
So a lot has changed in a relatively short space of time. But not everything. Bryan Bevis still turns up to see us all off and then there’s Mick Rennison and his legendary bike maintenance. On one of the first runs we did Mick asked if we could stop somewhere near Upleatham as he was having a problem with his rear mudguard. Thinking he was going to make some sort of precision adjustment I took my gloves off and unwrapped a cereal bar thinking I’d have a few minutes to savour its balsa wood like charms. Before I knew it though we were moving again as Mick simply ripped the mudguard off and threw it in a hedge. He then proceeded to ride round for the next four years with just a front mudguard and his ‘Genuine Innovations’ seatpack that seemingly hung by a thread yet never came off, it swung like a pendulum almost hypnotically before he finally replaced it earlier this year. I was sad to see it go.
A couple of months ago he was struggling to change gear as he toiled up an incline near Commondale. He was using the rather unconventional method of pulling at his gear cable where it lay exposed near the downtube. Despite the best efforts of those of us that were out we couldn’t free off a rather sorry looking rear mech and he had to make do with just a couple of gears. He’s also had cassettes work themselves loose, cranks fall off, chains snap, pedal bearings fail and many other mechanical mishaps. Yet somehow he always gets to the end of the ride, as do most people. And that, after all, is the whole point of the club run; to get everyone round, hopefully in one piece, to enjoy it and return again and again.