Can you even imagine how exciting it is to launch a cycling club? Very. Except, as I related in Part 1, we created the club in Jan 2013, but it wasn't until 28 April 2013 that the appalling weather we had that winter relented and we finally found the confidence to take our show on the road. The weekend of the first ride I was not available to take part. No bother, we had Richard and Jordan lined up to lead a small group of new recruits.
The first club ride at Pizza Amore, Whetstone – Richard (second left), Richard (fifth from left), Andrew (far right)
The committee plan to recreate the ride on the actual date, which falls on a Friday, but if you’re free, below is the original route. You won’t find Pizza Amore any more, but there are still several other cafes in Whetstone to refuel at.
As you can see from this next photo of an early club ride, we still didn’t have any kit.
No kit, but getting fit – Jim Shaughnessey (soon-to-be committee member, fourth from left), Richard (second from right), Stephen Taylor (soon-to-be committee member, far right)
OK, not much branding in evidence here. However, we had a plan. Jordan worked up some designs with a designer pal and we had some options. I wish I had them, as the one most people wanted was all grey and black. Very safe and inoffensive. Not many clubs had any green in those days and Jordan managed to convince the rest of us to have something that popped a bit more. He called me in to look at swatches of material from Bioracer – our chosen supplier – at the Rouleur offices, where he was working. We were happy with the pale grey and graphite grey, but chose a light, brighter more zingy green.
Bioracer’s mock up of our club kit
We chose a very subtle and old school bib short design – just the club name in white on black. The idea was that most people have black bibs and we would blend. We didn’t want to cause members unnecessary costs, either. To that end we chose Bioracer products from the cheaper end of their enormous catalogue. We spent every penny we had from TfL on the biggest order of jerseys we could muster.
Meanwhile, we ran club rides starting from Whittington Park. And, ambitious inclusive club that we wanted to be, we also ran coffee and cake rides and began a youth programme. Coffee and cake rides recruited people who wanted to ride in a group, enjoy a social stop, but didn’t feel too sporty. We had a contact at Age UK, who sent us some cyclists. Most of these rides were led by the incredible Judith Paris. Judith ran a local social enterprise called Get More Bikes and upcycled old clothes into stylish urban cycling wear. I think we staged half a dozen of these. The sticking point was that nobody who did the coffee and cake rides joined the club. Shame.
The coffee and cake ride at Granary Square
At the other end of the age range, our youth programme was rolled out at Holloway Secondary School (now Beacon High) with Stefan Malinowski coaching. I knew Stefan from his cycle instructor work and that he was also a British Cycling qualified coach. It would take three attempts to get the youth programme up and running properly, Stefan coached each time.
Then the kit arrived!
OMG. Kit made by Bioracer. The pros wore Bioracer. Naturally, I tried it on that very second in the office.
The following week I managed to get the then leader of the council, Catherine West, and one of her team, to model our kit, so we could do some impactful comms.
Catherine West (centre) in an CC ladies jersey
As you can see, Catherine West - now MP for Hornsey and Wood Green - is sporting a different jersey to the one the chap to her right is wearing. We had a special ladies’ version. It was nipped in at the waist and only had two rear pockets. These may now collectors’ pieces, but the reduced cargo capacity and fit did not suit everyone and they were canned.
We also ordered kit for the youth programme. Here’s one of my sons (both of my boys became members) modelling the youth kit in our back garden.
Youth kit – note the offset (darker) pocket design
In order to get us to look like a club on the road the committee made some very strong decisions about kit. We’d increase the initial joining fee and give new members a club jersey. In effect, we earned no income until members renewed. We also agreed to only charge members what we paid Bioracer. Our kit should be affordable, stylish and an advert for our club.
Aside from Andrew Castiglione, Richard May and Jordan Gibbons, our early days committee included these marvellous people – Stephen Taylor, Jim Shaughnessey, Laura Perrett, Alison Alexander, Aidan Farrow, Luis Blanco, Rob Valdes, Rob Jones, Rob Culkeen (many Robs) and Chris Tsen. If I have left anyone out, please, please forgive me! Initially, the committee were our pool of ride leaders. Eventually, everyone got a job with a role, but to start with it was all hands to the pump.
Early committee agenda – you can see the ambition
I booked council meeting rooms for our committee meetings. They got livelier when we shifted to upstairs rooms in pubs, as you’d expect. We tried a couple, until The Canonbury offered their upstairs room for free. This worked a treat, because we could actually hear what each other were saying.
Robert Culkeen - our first membership secretary
Early club ride in (mostly) club kit – Laure Perrett (third from left), Alison Alexander (fourth from left)
Another early club ride in kit. From right: David Shannon, Stephen Taylor, Jim Shaughnessey. Richard May is far left. Front: Louisa Thomson
Always ahead of the curve, Jordan became notorious for including some rough sections on his routes. Gravel was but a twinkle in his eye and back then we called it a “Jordan Special” when we hit dirt.
A Jordan Special
That June, during Bike Week, the council was staging a Festival of Cycling in Finsbury Park. Oh-oh, we had an idea. Aside from having a stand to promote the club, why not close the internal road to traffic and run crit races? Why not? We only had 18 members at the time and we’d need 8 at least out on the course as marshals, a couple managing sign ups and motor bike outrider. We did a risk assessment with the British Cycling regional lead. He would be commissar and drive behind the racer in a car. My mate Nick Herman - not a club member, but a kind soul who had a motorbike volunteered. Nick rode at from front of the race the clear the way. Jordan christened this the North London Crits and knocked up a poster.
North London Crits publicity
We gained a set of prizes from the great and the good. We had a risk assessment, riders had entered. What could possibly go wrong?
Jordan at the sign on desk
The under-12s race
The under-12 race set off. I think they did two laps. Wow. CC Hackney, who had a strong youth programme had quite a few riders out. Next up was the under-14s, and here was when the world stopped turning for a moment. Not long after they set off I got a call – someone was down on the course and an ambulance had been called. It turned out it wasn’t a rider, it was a member of the public who – it seems had a skinful – and was larking about on the course and collided with a bollard. Whether they were dazed and flat out from imbibing or from bollard bashing, we’ll never know. Good first aiders that we were, the patient could not/should not be moved. They blocked the course and it took 90 minutes to get an ambulance, in which time the commissar called off the remaining races. Sigh. So near, so far.
Yours truly promoting the club, aided by Charlie the dog
Later that summer I was the only ICC rider at the first RideLondon 100. I freelanced from group to group and got round in under 5 hours. Inspired by flying the flag for the club and riding a closed roads event for the first time I had ridden at an average 20mph. I was flying.
Flying the club colours at the finish of the inaugural Ride London 100
And just like that it was Christmas. We had 99 members. I nudged Angie, my Mrs, and she became the 100th member. Now there were four ICC members in my house alone! (This might actually be a record). We had no money having spend everything on kit, but desperately wanted to celebrate. Richard kindly offered to host at his house, Alison baked. I’ll just leave a few (poor quality, sorry) images below, which speak for themselves.
When we started, we had one club ride a week. One group. Then we had a longer ride and a shorter ride. Then a faster and a slower ride. By early 2014, on Sundays we offered groups at three speeds, A, B and C groups, where A was the fastest. We now had two midweek evening club rides - Fixie Loop (Thurs) and North London Hills (Weds), plus two groups at Regent's Park on Saturday mornings - 8am fast and 7am faster. Tuesday mornings, hill repeats of Swain's Lane at 6.30am (for the love of god!). There was a Wednesday evenings chain gang on the Inner Circle at Regent's Park. And to try and grow our pool of ride leaders, I started running workshops on How to Plan and Lead a Club Ride. All this was happening within 10 months of our first club ride.
A year passed. We did a big group shot at Whittington Park. What a year. Jim ran our social media, Rob J designed all our publicity, Laura and Alison created the Intro Rides, Stephen and Chris led on leading rides, Richard chaired and created a group riding etiquette guide, Rob C had his hands full with 5-10 people joining each week. And I tried to keep everything working smoothly as club secretary and harness all this amazing cycling passion that was unleashed. I enlisted the help of David Kitchen - founder of the London Fixed-Gear Forum and developer of Microcosm, the software it now runs on, to help us set up our club forum. We had plans to run a 200km audax and a time trial in 2014.
Somehow or other we had a hit on our hands. Managing all this extraordinary growth would be a challenge. More of that in Part 3.
First anniversary group
Great to see photos from the early days! I have wondered why Finsbury Park isn't used more for cycling, and never realised a crit had been attempted there. Would be keen to see something like that again.
I'm curious, where are most of these people now? I only recognise a couple people from these photos, and I've been around a while.
It may be of interest to note that, of that first 100 David Mentioned, 8 are still members.
Big shout out to, in order of joining, to:
Aidan Farrow @aidan
Jim Shaughnessy @ShauNuff
Chris Tsen @ChrisTsen
Steve Knattress @SteveKn
Robert Valdes @RobV
Plus of course Richard May @RichardM David @Sir_Shannonball and me
Ali and Laura don't ride with us any more, Rob Jones moved to Kent, Jamie moved to Australia. Basically a decade of London, people leave, people go and do other things, but lots of them were extremely vital to building the club
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