Central London CTC – the first ten years



Camden/Central London logo


The logo used by the club, firstly as "Camden Section", and later as "Central London", throughout the eighties and nineties.


Rough stuff in the Pennines


"1980's Easter trip started early to search out rough stuff in the Pennines ... "


Peter Cave and Malcolm Green


Peter Cave and Malcolm Green.

Part 1: 1978 – 1981

The following account of the club's first ten years was originally written by John Aizlewood in October 1988 for a booklet published to commemorate the tenth anniversary.

In April 1978 I answered a small item in Cycletouring, and descended the iron staircase to the dingy basement of Holy Trinity Church in Holborn to hear John Franklin speak on cycle planning in London. He seemed to make a lot of sense so I signed up. After the meeting a rather small highly persuasive American Lady pressed a scruffy piece of paper into my hand which announced the formation of a new cycling club the previous day. The idea of using trains to get out of London seemed a good one as well; in one evening I had been hooked twice.

The first runs list sat on the mantelpiece for a few weeks until a free Sunday coincided with a ride from Bishops Stortford. Although the scheduled runs leader didn't turn up, everyone seemed friendly, and riding in a group was a pleasant new experience. John Franklin's ride to Wantage was much harder in the rain, and never made it beyond West Isley, but a Strauss led ride to Rochester was much more relaxed and took in castles, cathedrals, and culture. Photographs in the album show us enjoying rough stuff in the Chilterns on a ride led by Graham Watson, and by now I could be regarded as a regular.

Those involved from the start included Hew Homber, a large Rhodesian and our first Treasurer, who left to continue globetrotting; Jim Bedding, who developed the technique of hiding in hedges to get the best photographs of the section; and the Turners - a family large enough to form a section within a section. As the year progressed Ben Garland, Jo Wright, Dave Everitt, and Peter Cave all developed as leaders in their own right.

The style of early runs was generally much less organised than today, and a policy of recruiting new members through listings magazines and adverts in bike shops led to a high proportion of inexperienced riders and newcomers. There was a strong interest in visits to castles, stately homes, preserved railways, and windmills. Spring began with the first youth hostel weekend to Hastings, and John Franklin led an Easter tour to North Wales which started a tradition of adventurous rough stuff, Jim distinguishing himself by falling off in a ford. In the first full year there were 46 Sunday rides with an average attendance of 12.4 and 11 Saturday rides: Jim and Peter fought out the best attendance trophy to a draw. The Christmas reunion held at a Greek restaurant in Camden enjoyed a varied menu.

1980 saw the section confident enough to take an interest in DA activities, and Graham Watson took over as Editor of the Pedaller, the then DA magazine. A three line whip ensured good turnouts for DA events and a handsome winning margin for the Chapman Trophy, Michael Turner gaining the first gold badge in the section. It was whilst leading my first ride for the section that I was talked into entering the 140 mile standard ride, so that by the end of the year I was the proud owner of a bronze badge. During a debate into time allowed at the end of the 100km ride, it was pointed out to the finish marshal that the disputed riders had enough votes on the DA committee to prove their point!

That year's Easter trip started early to search out rough stuff in the Pennines (Cycletouring Dec 1980) and Lake District, and began a tradition of hard pre extensions. A special publicity effort for the sections second anniversary brought out 88 riders (still a record) for a delightful potter from Speakers Corner to Greenwich through the old warehouses and docks on the South side of the river.

We joined in the London to Brighton ride before it became the massive organised event of today. A Kent hostelling weekend the previous December resulted in our first foreign trip - a day's outing to Calais, and we won the trophy for the second largest foreign club at the Boulogne randonnee that September. August bank holiday in Dorset and Somerset suffered excellent weather, hills and scrumpy, the latter being particularly enjoyed by Malcolm Green whom we had just acquired from the Edgware section. In one unfortunate incident Dave Everitt emerged unscathed from underneath the wheels of a Landrover trailer, but not his Dawes Galaxy which needed new forks and a front wheel: Dave still doesn't like horse boxes. A bicycle logo badge made a modest profit.

The Strauss Autumn "tea at leader's" had now become an annual event, and Christmas 1980 started another tradition - the Christmas/ New Year tour. Malcolm Green wrote in the Peddler, "Beware of tall Australians offering hostel trips, especially at a time when one could be in the warm, tucking into mince pies and Christmas pudding instead." Mark Thornton's annual endurance tests in the snow and ice have made the expression "mince pies" a section byword for suffering, but every year the prospect of spending Christmas with the relatives ensured a good turnout!

1981 was a good year for the section and our secretary Pat and husband Mike who gained well deserved gold and silver badges respectively. John Franklin's usual kamikaze Easter tour was in the Welsh borders, and was met on Easter Sunday by Pat's more sedate B&B group; but all riders received a special section badge. A joint meal at Ludlow ended in a night ride for the hard riders to Wheathill hostel. Repairs during the tour included Ben's freewheel, the leader's gears, and Ron's front fork which broke whilst rough stuffing and was patched up temporarily with Elastoplast. The Home Counties Rally at Lamberhurst proved too cold and wet for the campers, who found compensation in the local cider and unoffical opening hours.

Our third anniversary ride started with 27 at Regent's Park in rain which forced an impromptu coffee stop at Roger Cline's in Camden, and ended in sunshine with an alfresco tea at the Turner's in Harrow: the photographs show a proud line-up of the now famous yellow Camden T shirts. The night ride to see sunrise at Stonehenge on the longest day found only Druids and a pop festival, and a group of exhausted riders spent the afternoon on top of Silbury Hill. One little girl who reached the summit ahead of her parents was heard to shout "Hey mummy there's a lot of dead bodies up here"; they must have been reassured to find that it was only the exhausted section snoring peacefully in the sun. A request in the scavenger hunt for a "12 inch length of hair" led to one unfortunate lady (Kate) wishing that she hadn't joined the section that day. 13 Camden riders finished the 140 mile and 15 the Hilly resulting in an easy win for the Chapman trophy. Mark distinguished himself by wrecking his derailleur before the hilly and riding the course in one gear. John Franklins "Cycling in and around London" was published following intensive research by the section, DA committee, and other London DA's. The August bank holiday trip to Lincolnshire included water carrying at Woodys Top, and a game of beach football from which I still bear the scars, Helen proving particularly strong in defence.

The Boulogne randonnee became the occasion for an unseemly scramble for members in order to be the largest foreign club, and by kidnapping Sophie Welcomme's French relatives we drew level with Weybridge Wheelers at around 33 each; what a pity that the accommodation, in a cross between Butlins and Chateau Colditz, and the weather were so awful. Motions at the AGM showed a strong interest in the running of the club nationally, and made the important decision to close the section's clubroom. This had run since 1978 but was now considered too much of a duplication of effort with the Central London clubroom. When that ceased in 1986 it was action by the section committee that found accommodation and restarted the meetings - a tribute to the section's origins.

The 1981 Christmas dinner was held at the Dutch Pancake house in Holborn, and instituted the now infamous "Velocipede" award. This commemorates a ride led by Dave and Graham in 1980 that managed just three miles before lunch (well it was raining). One of the snails presented on that occasion has been mounted magnificently on a model bicycle and is now presented each year to the leader of the worst ride. Over the years it has resided on the mantelpieces of most of the prominent members of the section, but so far this is an "honour" I have yet to deserve!

part two »

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