Dave Holden, who sadly died last week, was a founding member and the first chairman of Cleveland Wheelers. As a tribute to him we’ve taken the opportunity to reproduce an article that he wrote for the Spokesman magazine on the club’s 50th anniversary in 2008.
Fifty years ago cycling politics was in crisis. The National Cyclists Union, the governing body for road racing (often called “mass start” in those days) sensibly insisted that events should be held on closed roads.
However, apart from a few prestige events like the Isle of Man, and locally the Richmond Road Race, ‘mass start’ events usually meant riders getting dizzy racing round and round a trading estate until the officials ran out of fingers and toes to count the laps; then there was a problem keeping count of all those who’d been lapped on such a short circuit. This type of racing was a minority but growing interest at the time and the rival British League of Racing Cyclists was formed to run events which mixed riders up with traffic. The NCU promptly excommunicated the BLRC and its members. Meanwhile the RTTC had dropped its requirement for all black attire it but still required the first rider be pushed off well before the lark had staggered out of its nest. And track racing! That was something we just read about.
Eventually, in 1959, they kissed and made up and the BCF came into existence. The other major cycling body at the time was the Cyclists Touring Club. Cycle touring was popular and arguably the CTC was the largest organised body of cyclists. Many cyclists started riding with the CTC before catching the racing bug. It was such a group of cyclists, members of the Redcar Section of the CTC, who started to dabble with racing and joined a variety of clubs in order to participate in competitive events who eventually got together and founded the Cleveland Wheelers.
We were reluctant to break away from the Redcar Section which was a great outfit to ride with. There were the regular Sunday club runs, plenty of hostel weekends, a full range of tourist trials and a weekly clubroom at Saltburn. Unfortunately though tensions started to develop, for instance we had trained for racing and that fed through to the pace of the club runs which started to fragment and a consensus grew that it would be better to separate. Hence the 1958 meeting at Mrs. Thompson’s tea room in Castleton where the Cleveland Wheelers was born.
I found myself being nominated as chairman, and thinking that, apart from keeping the committee meetings and the AGM in order, not too much work would be involved I accepted. How wrong I was. Frank Lindstrom, sadly no longer with us, was elected secretary, largely because he owned a typewriter, but what an organising genius he turned out to be. The consensus view of the inaugural meeting was for the club to continue pretty much as before and to affiliate to whatever bodies were necessary to enable members to participate in any cycling discipline under the Cleveland Wheelers banner. It was a period when, probably due to the political turmoil, new specialist clubs were popping up like mushrooms and rotting down just as fast.
The Cleveland Wheelers was to be different; it would facilitate all forms of cycling – and it was going to last.
As a first step towards longevity we decided we needed a proper constitution and Frank and I dug up half a dozen specimens of club constitutions ranging from the CTC to one from a Working Men’s Club and cherry picked and amended the best relevant bits to present to the committee. Bill Beattie was by then in business as a cycle dealer and Frank and I, who both shopped with him, approached him to become a patron. He was pleased to accept and was a generous sponsor, ever ready to donate a prize or trophy. So Bill was on board almost from the very beginning and in 1961 he was elected president.
The next step was to decide on a programme of events. First there were club events and we started modestly with a weekly series of 10’s on a course between Marske and Lackenby. The idea of a Christmas morning 10 proved very popular and was timed to finish as the pub opened. Later came the organisation of open events and the rest, as they say, is history. We introduced a club BAR competition and to preserve the above ideals also introduced the Tourist Trophy competition running our own version of the CTC events which ranged in distance from a “Rough Stuff” up to a 250 in 24. I had been the organiser of the CTC’s 250 and carried it on. It started at Kirkleatham with an entry of six to twelve. The first stage took us to Corbridge where we had booked supper at a CTC pub. From there we rode up the Tyne valley and on through Carlisle to Bothel for a 3 am stop to eat our packed scran by some convenient benches on the village green. Then on through Keswick to Kendal to tackle the punishing climb across to Sedburgh where breakfast was booked at another CTC pub. Next came the long drag up to Garsdale Head before an easy run down through Wensleydale to our lunch stop at Leyburn.
Afterwards – the last leg. Until now we had worked together but once through Northallerton with 230 miles in our legs, and with roast beef and Yorkshire pudding sloshing round with jam roly poly and custard in our bellies we started watching each other; then on approaching the first col of the Ellerbeck Alps all hell broke loose and the peloton fractured never to reform. This event though, was the only one which had a 100% success rate; without the luxury of a support car the prospect of a lonely plod back from somewhere like Ambleside was a powerful incentive to keep going.
Time trialling fifty years ago involved climbing out of bed in the early hours to ride to the event; there were no cars littering the start in those days. Most local events were held on the Stokesley courses and on entering the deserted High Street an unfamiliar rider would be guided to the race headquarters at the back of Mac & Larry’s by the aroma of Ellimans Athletic Rub wafting down the road as riders anointed their legs against the chill morning air. On arrival we rebuilt our bikes, removing lamps, mudguards and saddle bags and fitting our racing wheels before trundling out to the start at Bense Bridge. There was no need for a warm up spin before we got going.
Fifty years ago the Sunday club run was a fundamental part of club life and one advantage of such early morning starts was that we would often all be finished in time to link up with it. Sometimes this was taken to extremes for instance I can recall finishing a 50 at Stokesley and becoming one of a group doing bit & bit up Swaledale to meet the club at Tan Hill for lunch.
The committee recognised the importance of attracting new members and when circumstances compelled me to retire from competition I started a junior section which flourished and on some Sundays I was shepherding upwards of twenty 11-13 year olds round the countryside as a preliminary to them joining the proper club runs and having a go at the 10’s.
Now when I help out with League 2000 I sometimes reflect how the wheel has turned a full circle. The constitution was amended to make a place for a junior representative on the committee and one who came through from being a junior representative was Mike Binks, who remained a prominent and influential member right up to the time of his tragic and untimely death.
The Spokesman may be twenty years old, but in 1960 the ‘Cleveland Wheelers Newsletter” came into being. The club bought a hand duplicating machine and Frank & I were part of the editorial team. Frank cut the stencils on his typewriter, our kitchen table got covered with old newspapers while we inked the drum and cranked out the copies. our finger ends would be stained black for about a week afterwards. On a recent rummage through the loft I have unearthed issues 2 -7.
While I am proud of being part of the team which built the Wheelers from scratch the club has been fortunate in that, as the members of the founding committee faded from officialdom, we were replaced by other enthusiasts such as the present day “3 B’s” and their wives. Stalwarts who have not been content with simply piloting the club through changing times but have continually driven it forward. It is to all those as well as ‘The Club’ I’ll be raising my glass to on October 19th.
Finally a couple of short extracts from early newsletters :-
ARE YOU STILL A MEMBER?
The club financial year is from October 1st to September 30th. Members have until December 31st to renew their subscriptions. If you have not renewed yours YOU ARE NO LONGER A MEMBER. The rates are :-
- 7/6 per Senior member.
- 5/- per Junior over 16
- 3/6 per Junior under 16
(from Newsletter no. 2, Feb 1961)
CLUB’S FIRST OPEN WIN
June 18 was the Racing Section’s Red Letter Day. Our 25 mile specialist, Dave Marquis, scored his first open win with a time of 1-1-18 on the Catterick course. On a far from easy day he had a 2 second margin over the scratch man J.T. Sykes of Huddersfield Wheelers. A very strong north west wind made the going difficult especially on the last four miles.
(from newsletter no.5, Sep 1961)