Posts Tagged ‘club cycling’

Cycling clubs should be less popular, but they aren’t

January 25, 2013
The Dynamo club championships: racers and non-racers, united. And not arguing.

The Dynamo club championships: racers and non-racers, united. And not arguing.

You know me, reader. You know the sort of person I am. I’m an honest man, and I will always endeavour to give you the unvarnished truth. So I feel I can tell you that London Dynamo hasn’t been travelling a smooth road lately.

Behind the walled city of our members-only forum, a few ’Mos have loudly complained that the club has lost its focus. Dynamo finished a mere sixth in the Surrey League last year – please, hold back your tears – and some of our more experienced racers feel the club’s racing culture has been eroded as more sportive riders have flooded in.

Despite my fondness for a good old ding-dong, I’m not too bothered by this contretemps. A lot of our big Surrey League point-scorers stopped racing for the club because they moved out of London or had kids. But a healthy number of newer members are going to Hillingdon to try out racing at the Imperial Winter Series, and more riders will make the transition from sportives to road racing. You’ve just got to give it time.

Nevertheless, the issue of how to handle the club’s ever-expanding size is likely to provide animated discussion at this year’s AGM, which takes place tomorrow. Some disillusioned members might not come along to join in with the arguments because they have decided not to renew their memberships. But it is notable that many more haven’t already left. Veteran club cyclist Tim Hilton, in his charming, freewheeling cultural history One More Kilometre And We’re In The Showers, observed that any cycling club’s maximum number of members was usually around 100. “The history of British cycling tells us that defections will occur, or a formal split, if this number is exceeded.” London Dynamo reached Hilton’s benchmark within 12 months, and by the end of 2012 – its ninth year – there were 560 paid-up members.

And these days there isn’t an imperative to join a cycling club in the first place. With GPS devices, newcomers to the sport can easily discover and navigate training rides themselves. Personal trainers can provide you with a training plan, or you can filch knowledge from books, magazines and the internet to create your own. You could even learn the basics of roadcraft from YouTube.

In this context, London Dynamo and other large clubs should be the HMVs of the cycling world, lumbering beasts struggling to adapt to the digital age. But instead of facing extinction or decline, membership numbers in most large clubs I know of are rising or remain high. Strava’s virtual club runs haven’t made a dent in the popularity of our rides, and the Rapha Rendezvous app, which aimed to connect users looking for others to ride with them, quietly disappeared some time during the past year.

So why are cycling clubs doing so well? I think the fundamental reason is that cycling can be bloody miserable. Before reaching the sunlit uplands of peak fitness, you must endure scores of desultory, rain-soaked miles, so it helps if you can be among a large group of people offering each other moral support along the way. The other key reason is the randomness: you can turn up week after week for a club run and never know exactly who you’re going to meet. A big club like ours can be a new club, or at least a slightly different one, every time you turn up for a ride.

But you can’t have amity without enmity, which is why I value the sometimes vociferous debates that take place within Dynamo, and the wide differences between members’ participation in the sport. The club will never be just a load of stats and info on a screen; we’re a living entity, and arguments are a sign of life, however ugly.

The rules of The Rules

November 16, 2012

Against The Rules

1. To follow The Rules, you must resolutely ignore the obvious truth: it is not your duty to follow anyone’s arbitrary rules. If it were, you would never ride a bicycle in the first place. You would be a gym slave, or a couch potato, or a golf nut.

2. But if you want to be treated like a golfer, then you’ll fully embrace the second rule of The Rules: cycling is one big clubhouse and, as such, there must be a dress code, or chaos shall reign. Sock length, correct usage of caps and the positioning of eyewear – these things are the equivalent of designating which ties are acceptable in the bar area. And by obsessing over sartorial details, you’re attempting to obviate the most marvelous aspect of cyclists’ appearance: their inherent, proud, glorious daftness. What other pastime would allow you to routinely adopt the aesthetic of a superhero (Zabriskie), a mod (Wiggins), a human-sized sex toy (Cipo) or a tweedy fop, all without violent repercussions? Ridicule, to paraphrase a wiser man than myself, truly is nothing to be scared of in the realm of the bicycle.

3. Another man who is also much wiser than me recently opined: “Lists move in when love moves out.” And so it is with The Rules. For its adherents, the pure joy of riding has dissolved to such an extent that you need a rule to remind yourself of that long-forgotten pleasure (it’s entry number six, if you’re looking to somehow reclaim that feeling). You have become a librarian of the soul, observing an empty superstition that cultivating the correct tan lines or avoiding frame-mounted pumps will somehow make things better. It won’t. The magic is over. The romance has gone. But hey – there’s always golf, fellas!

4. If you need to go on the internet to learn the guidelines for courteous, safe cycling, then you don’t ride with a club. You are alone. Of all the rules of The Rules, this one is the most tragic.

5. Alpha males do not need to read a list telling them it is vitally important to own bicycles more expensive than their car, or that they’re a “badass” for riding in inclement weather. They do these sorts of things instinctively, because alpha males are creatures of action, biologically programmed to thump their chests. Of all the rules of The Rules, this is the most comedic: you will never be an alpha male, but you must try your absolute hardest to be a facsimile of one. Even though the real silverbacks are genetically predisposed to not give a toss about you.

6. Similarly, you may not be a sexist berk, but the rules of The Rules demand that you snigger at a story about Sean Kelly valuing his wife less than his car or his bike, even though he may not have said the words attributed to him in rule 11. Oh, and there’s beer. Apparently beer is a key component of your identity as a man. True, there is also an admirable rule advising men not to get all antsy if they are overtaken by a woman. But only two mentions of female cyclists among 91 entries? We’re back in the metaphorical clubhouse again!

7. “Hey,” the Ruleistas might say, “lighten up, dude! The Rules are funny!” A sensible response is to direct them to the photograph at the top of this post. Seriously, is anything in The Rules as funny as that guy breaking them? And if you can’t be funnier than the thing you’re mocking then, surely, you have failed.

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