Posts Tagged ‘London Dynamo’

A rare sighting of a 1974 Cinelli Speciale Corsa in the wild

March 30, 2014

1974 Cinelli Speciale Corsa profile

Fellow Dynamo Jonathon Stacey was in Richmond Park on Saturday morning proudly showing off a vintage bicycle he has restored to its former glory. My chum Martin Garratt was one of many Parkriders at the Roehampton Gate cafe who were taken by Jonathan’s glistening beauty, and he asked me to take a few snaps to show his brother because he didn’t have his phone on him. Obviously there are many more people who would like to drool over these images, so I thought I may as well stick ’em on here.

1974 Cinelli Speciale Corsa rear mech

I didn’t know Jonathon and I asked him very little about his pride and joy, so I can’t give you a terrific amount of detail about it. But I do know that it has a Campagnolo Nuovo Record groupset, the pedals are made by Christophe (which later became the Zefal brand) and the frame was originally yellow. Oh, and the whole thing cost him £4,000. Enjoy!

1974 Cinelli Speciale Corsa badge

1974 Cinelli Speciale Corsa chainring

1974 Cinelli Speciale Corsa pedal

1974 Cinelli Speciale Corsa rear brake

1974 Cinelli Speciale Corsa shifters

1974 Cinelli Speciale Corsa seattube badge

1974 Cinelli Speciale Corsa top tube

The history of London Dynamo in pictures

July 26, 2013

Rapha-clad Guy Andrews with Dynamo co-founder Paul Callinan (centre) and former club captain Nick Peacock, Mallorca 2006

Rapha-clad Guy Andrews with fellow Dynamo founder Paul Callinan (centre) and former club captain Nick Peacock, Mallorca 2006


London Dynamo’s social secretary Nigel Smith recently asked me to write an account of the club’s brief history for a short book he’s putting together as part of our forthcoming tenth anniversary celebrations. I declined because I would struggle to accurately chronicle all the events that have taken place since I stopped writing the newsletter five years ago. But I told him I’d provide a link to issues 100 and 200 of DYNAMITE!, which together comprise a reasonably humorous synopsis of Dynamo’s first half-decade and could be reproduced in his members-only tome. Nigel also wanted to have a look at some old Dynamo-related photos in my possession which he could consider for inclusion. So instead of emailing all that stuff over to him, I thought I’d stick it on here instead. Behold the contents of my virtual musty shoebox!

WHO: Paul Harknett
WHERE: Tour de Langkawi
PHOTOGRAPHER: An excited local

paul harknett langkawi 07
A world exclusive for The DYNAMITE! Files: this is the only photograph on the interweb (try a Google image search if you don’t believe me) where you can see the face our elusive leader Paul Harknett. The image captures Lord Harknett’s brief moment of fame at the Tour of Langkawi’s opening stage in 2007, where many confused Malaysians lingering around the finish thought he was a professional cyclist (bald head, compact physique, blue jersey, getting on a bit – yeah, it’s probably Levi Leipheimer). As the real pros disappeared into their team buses, Paul was only too happy to pose for a number of photos and conduct an interview for a Japanese TV station. What a gent!

WHO: Phil Cavell
WHERE: GPM10 Etape training camp
PHOTOGRAPHER: Unknown

phil cavell gpm10 etape training 05
In 2005, when his Covent Garden bike boutique was the club’s main sponsor, Cyclefit guru Phil Cavell ventured up a few French mountains armed only with a bicycle, a sense of self-belief and a substandard level of fitness. I don’t know which mountain he was on when this photo was taken, and judging by his face, neither does he. Cycling is truly a cruel mistress, and a love of her charms can make a happy man very old.

WHO: Stuart Spies and Guy Powdrill
WHERE: Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub, Fleet Street
PHOTOGRAPHER: Me

stuart spies guy powdrill cheshire cheese

Taken at the Christmas social pre-dinner drinks in 2005, this classic image remains the most succinct expression of the two chums’ contrasting characters. Guysie on the right, so focussed yet slightly confused. Stu, probably slightly confused and certainly unfocused. Also, by scribbling two words on this image, I have introduced an exciting new angle on a well-worn “which is better?” debate.
stuart spies guy powdrill cheshire cheese campag shimano

WHO: David Streule cycling up some steps
WHERE: Mallorca
PHOTOGRAPHER: Paul Harknett (I think)

mallorca06_0504_davidssteps

Poor Streuley. Arriving at Palma airport for the Dynamo training camp in April 2006, the former mountain biker discovered all his luggage and his bike had gone missing somewhere between Heathrow and Mallorca. But did he let that get him down? Of course not – and here’s the proof, as the baby-faced wonderman delights in showing off his superior bike-handling skills during a rest day coffee stop.

WHO: Guy Andrews
WHERE: Mallorca 2006 training camp time trial
PHOTOGRAPHER: Unknown

mallorca06_0504_timetrial_guya

To a casual onlooker, it may seem like Rouleur’s head honcho, seasoned time trialist and Dynamo co-founder Guy Andrews wasn’t taking this prestigious event entirely seriously.

WHO: Jenny Lloyd-Jones stuck between Stuart Spies and Dave Gardner
WHERE: Christmas social
PHOTOGRAPHER: Me

jenny lloyd jones dave gardner stu spies xmas social

A frankly terrible photo from a compositional perspective, and I apologise to Stu for cutting off half his face. Although, come to think of it, he could have been photobombing – in which case, Stu, you bloody idiot, you’ve spoilt a perfectly good snap of the 2006 Christmas social. Anyway, Stupot isn’t the most important element of this scene, and it was only a few months ago that the person in the background pointed this out to me. Look behind ‘Pinky’ Gardner’s left shoulder and you will see none other than Richard Simmonds – Jenny’s future husband, who she met later that evening. Awwww!

WHO: Russell Short and Martin Garratt
WHERE: Richmond Park
PHOTOGRAPHER: Me

russell short and martin garrett riding

It’s always a unique joy to see Dynamo’s lankiest rider side-by-side with the appropriately-named Mr Short. Despite seeing this scene many times during the past decade, I only thought to take a photo a few weeks ago as we enjoyed a leisurely post-Parkride lap together.

WHO: Someone or other
WHERE: Eastway
PHOTOGRAPHER: John Mullineaux, ukcyclesport.com

sideburns eastway

Seven years before Bradley Wiggins sported a pair of sideburns during his victorious Tour de France, a trailblazing Dynamo showed off a magnificent pair of chops at the legendary Lea Valley circuit. I wonder whatever became of him.

Who is Chris Campbell?

July 19, 2013

Two green Ridley Excaliburs

Sunday was a big day. It was the third and final Richmond Park time trial of the year. My result (28min 50sec, 18th out of 31 in the Men Road category, 56th out of 92 overall) was always going to be of little consequence to me. I was only interested in achieving one goal, fulfilling a unique aspect of what is surely my destiny: this, I knew, was the moment when I, Chris Campbell, would finally meet… Chris Campbell.

The other Chris Campbell has been unwittingly shadowing this Chris Campbell for years. Chris Campbell and Chris Campbell were both Dynamos. For two years in succession, Chris Campbell signed up for the London Dynamo club championships but failed to show, leaving Chris Campbell – me – to ride as the only Chris Campbell in the race. Chris Campbell has also caused momentary confusion in Sigma Sport when I have had to point out on a number of occasions that no, that is not my address, and Pearson Performance briefly thought Chris Campbell’s bike belonged to me when we both had our machines serviced there at roughly the same time. And yet we have never met.

I arrived at 25 minutes to six eagerly hoping Chris Campbell, who is now a member of Kingston Wheelers, would appear in the low-level mist that had covered Richmond Park. I was 17th off at 6:08; the Wheelers’ Chris Campbell would leave the starting line three minutes later. I made a mental note to wait for him at the finish.

Unfortunately I was so knackered by the end I forgot to look out for Chris Campbell. No matter: at the Dynamo social on Thursday, my clubmate Robin Osborne revealed, to my great surprise, that he once knew Chris Campbell. Short and stocky, apparently. Rode a Serotta a few years ago. Zipp wheels.

I waited to see a Wheeler matching that description, to no avail. I asked a couple of Wheelers if they knew Chris Campbell; they didn’t. I was beginning to feel like the protagonist in a Nabokovian meta-prank, hunting for a double who it appeared may not actually exist.

I told former Dynamo Rich Simmonds about my predicament before he accepted his prize for joint first place overall. To my astonishment, it turned out he too knew Chris Campbell… except Rich remembered Chris Campbell as tall and thin, which is what I look like. Was Chris Campbell the physical double of Chris Campbell? Or were there now not two, but three Chris Campbells? After all, I was only assuming Chris Campbell joined Kingston Wheelers after leaving Dynamo; the Wheelers’ Chris Campbell could be a different Chris Campbell altogether. In which case, the three of us could form a club – the Chris Campbell Cycling Club. Or CCCC.

Then I looked at the finishing sheet. It seems the Chris Campbell who is now a Kingston Wheeler may well be the former Dynamo Chris Campbell. For, like the one-time ’Mo, the Wheelers’ Chris Campbell had also not turned up. The only double I got to see was another green Ridley Excalibur.

Curse you, Chris Campbell. Curse you.

What you can learn on a wet Saturday in Richmond Park

June 28, 2013

Last Saturday’s Parkride was a wet one. Consequently, noticeably fewer people than usual turned up. I was in the third group, which was slower than a typical fourth-group ride. But we did have the benefit of clearer roads than usual.

At Dynamo’s AGM in 2011, the club decided to run the Parkride at 8:30am during the summer. Almost as many people voted for an 8am start time – I think there was only around half-a-dozen fewer votes in a room of around 70 people. I was the only person to vote for keeping the time at 9am year-round.

The wet conditions at the last Parkride are the reason why I think it is unnecessary to get out of bed 30 minutes or an hour earlier. It doesn’t matter if you start the Parkride at 8am, 8:30 or nine; the level of traffic in Richmond Park is determined largely by weather conditions. When the sun is out, lots of drivers head to the park. If it rains, drivers stay in bed.

Unfortunately, so do most of the Parkride regulars. Which could be why so many of them don’t realise the weather controls traffic levels.

Look! I’m in a book! (sort of)

April 26, 2013

During the past few weeks, I have set aside my disinterest in all things coffee-related so that I can, in my own small way, aid the delivery of something useful to the caffeinista community. That thing is a book which encourages you – yes, YOU (or maybe not you. We barely know each other. And what do I know anyway?) – to quit your nine-to-five and turn your dream project into a reality, using a table in any Wi-Fi-enabled coffee shop as your new workspace.

out of office cover

Out of Office is written by my friend and yours (if you happen to be an original member of London Dynamo), mister Chris Ward.

out of office chris ward in london dynamo jersey

Chris asked me to help him knock his words into shape, and he has kindly thanked me on page 188 of his compact, 198-page tome…

out of office special thanks

…which, as book publishing high points go, is almost as exciting as the time my patience was graciously acknowledged in the credits of the 2007 Rouleur annual.

rouleur annual 2007 credits

This isn’t all about me, though. Well, it is, because this is my blog. But let’s focus on the other Chris for a second. I’m not terrifically keen on the possibility that cafés could be overrun with wannabe entrepreneurs, or the clunky portmanteau ‘coffice’, but Chris has some insightful things to say about social media, the use of technology and implementing ideas. He’s the fella who brought Friends Reunited to the masses and he’s worked on Red Nose Day, which means he knows what he’s talking about. So even if you don’t walk out of your job and straight into whatever trendy coffee shop everyone is banging on about these days, armed with only a laptop and a dream, you’ll still find something of interest in Chris’s book as long as you have an inquisitive mind.

Out of Office fits in the pocket of your cycling jersey and costs a tenner. It will be on sale in coffee shops and some other outlets, which are listed here. I’m going to read it again. With a tea.

The value of terrible ideas

March 15, 2013

I have many terrible ideas. Whenever I think of a terrible idea, I write it down in my notebook. The DYNAMITE! Notebook Of Terrible Ideas.

the notebook

The words that slide haphazardly out of my pen at odd hours of the night are usually notes for things to post on here, but I never get round to writing them up because I find them far too dull. Some of my scribbles concern non-writing projects, and invariably they go nowhere – so you’ll be surprised as I was to discover that the fruits of one such mind doodle is actually going to be implemented, and it will affect a few hundred people. Yes, really!

The idea I had is a way of reducing the number of members in London Dynamo without being a total douche about it. Last year numbers peaked at a record of 563, and that figure could head further north as the Cult of Wiggo continues to attract more converts. Maintaining decent, safe standards of riding with so many members, particularly newbies, would be hard. Conversely, Dynamo has always experienced difficulty attracting enough volunteers to help out at races, which every club must do to avoid being blackballed by race organisers.

So how do we keep membership numbers at a manageable level and ensure we have enough ’Mos to marshall? The new approach, as outlined in Dynamo’s latest newsletter, explains how:

When we are hosting a race or event, and we find ourselves short of volunteers, the committee will randomly pick names from the membership list and request help.

Should the member be unable to assist, he/she will be at the top of the list for the next event where we require help.

This would be repeated three times, and should the member be unable to proffer an acceptable excuse, they will be unable to renew their membership.

By making this clear to all renewing members (in 2014) and to new joiners from now on, we hope to retain and attract the right calibre of people to London Dynamo. And frankly, deter those with less generous tendencies – which may of course have an effect on membership numbers. We will be carefully monitoring the effects through the year.

And that, essentially, is the idea I scribbled down nine months ago and subsequently shaped into a proposal to show the committee. I wanted us to avoid actively excluding people, which would be a bit ‘golf club’ and against the inclusive spirit on which Dynamo was founded almost a decade ago, so I thought of introducing an element of obligation which might deter the sort of person who simply wants to ride in a Dynamo jersey without having any real involvement in the club. It also seems obvious that pricing hasn’t worked – the club used to offer a £10 reduction in membership fees if you marshalled, so most people simply bought themselves out of the deal by paying the extra tenner – and a recent short-lived scheme to offer small prizes for marshalling also had no effect. I think in both instances there was an incorrect assumption that the club was giving something of value, but it is fairer to say that what members actually value is membership in itself – the rides, the racing, the forum, the networks of friends and cyclists. Make this the reward, create this virtuous circle, and you should have a willing pool of helpers.

That’s the theory, anyway. Regardless of what happens, though, I will at least have proved to myself that by having lots of terrible ideas, you eventually come up with a pretty decent and usable one.

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.

Off for a bit

December 25, 2012

I’m off to do nothing in particular except eat lots of food and lark around with Jen. I’m grateful to everyone who has visited this blog over the past year, so have a good one, and I’ll see you back here in the New Year. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a brief account of what will probably be my last long ride of 2012: the London Dynamo Christmas jaunt, which took place last Thursday.

About two dozen of us met at Dish café in Hampton Court. We split into groups of eight and rode to Windsor and back. The sky was dark for most of the journey and it was raining constantly. A couple of ’Mos were dressed head-to-toe in commuter-type waterproofs. One brave chap wore shorts. All of us got soaked through. Thankfully, I had the foresight to drop off a bag at my chum Paul Callinan’s house prior to setting off for Dish, so I was able to get changed into dry clothes before heading to The Albert pub on Kingston Hill for post-ride canapés and drinks. The picture below, which I took at the pub, appears to show a well-oiled Nigel Smith (he’s furthest away, by the TV) and Paul Harknett comparing the size of something. Perhaps it was the length of time they had each spent on the Dynamo committee.

Nigel Smith and Paul Harknett at The Albert

The Christmas ride, which is an annual fixture in the Dynamo calendar, is my favourite club event. No one really does it because they need the training; if you come, it’s for the sheer pleasure of riding your bike and being with like-minded people. It’s club riding in its purest and most essential form, and that’s why I’ll be back next Christmas for more.

Can we sign two petitions? Yes we can

November 9, 2012

“The bucks stop somewhere around here, Hillary!” I imagine this is what Obama might be saying if this was actually Richmond Park.

As a British person, you may have felt left out as you watched our American chums preparing to choose their president. And now they’ve made the right choice, perhaps you’re wondering how, in your own small British way, you too can make a difference. Well, fear not! For I have found a couple of petitions with which you can express your idealism, good nature and sound judgment.

The first petition aims to increase cycling access in Richmond Park by excluding motor vehicles from the seven-mile loop on Sundays. The giddy dream is that the proposal will be debated in parliament if it gets enough signatures.

At first, I thought the concept isn’t a bad idea. Cyclists who don’t yet feel confident riding among cars would get their own mini-Sky Ride every weekend. Then I posted a link to the petition on the London Dynamo forum, and now I think it’s a great idea. Because, perversely, it seems my cycling club – one of the largest in the country – is not keen on this particular plan to promote bike riding. And if there is one defining hallmark of a great idea it is the mood of fearfulness with which it is greeted.

You can’t read the thread I started unless you’re a member, so I will try give a fair précis of the objections and provide my counter-arguments. The main fear is that with lots of beginners and children pootling along at 10mph, more serious cyclists such as myself wouldn’t be able to use the park for training rides on Sundays. Well, I’m fine with that. Dynamo’s group ride in the park is on Saturdays; everyone heads for the hills of Surrey on Sunday. Under this proposal, less experienced riders would get to enjoy the park for one day a week, ’Mos and other club cyclists would get the other six, and maybe at some point a few of those beginners would gain the confidence to ride with us. We all win!

Another objection is that it fixes a non-existent problem: you can still use the park early in the morning when there is almost no traffic. I would suggest the almost total absence of pootlers at that time of the morning shows this is a lousy option that has, in effect, already been rejected. If I had kids, I wouldn’t relish waking the family up at the crack of dawn and getting to the park to ride for a measly hour or less before the cars showed up. The other alternative is sticking to cycling on the straight strip of car-free tarmac bisecting the loop, which is an excellent plan if you want to be bored out of your mind. You’ll never get more people cycling if you make the activity seem unappealing.

Some Dynamo members appear to be thinking of other people’s concerns. What about the residents surrounding the park? Surely they won’t like golfers parking on their doorstep to use the park’s course, and they’ll be miffed at the increase in traffic on the roads in their neighbourhood. Also, if fewer people visit the park, then there will be an economic impact on the cafes within its grounds. But then there is no guarantee any of these eventualities will occur. Sunday golfers may have a round on Saturday instead. Roads surrounding the park do not become insurmountably clogged when it is closed for deer culling. The custom of hungry cyclists in cafes could replace that of motorists.

There was one alternative suggestion to car-free Sundays: a congestion charge, levied in the park throughout the week. I suppose this ambitious plan could reduce the traffic, although it can’t weed out the worst drivers, which is what really puts people off riding. So it’s only a partial solution.

Basically, it comes down to this: I would like less confident riders to experience of the same simple pleasures I have enjoyed in the park over the years – things like the big, long descent or the nonplussed deer watching you on the small climb to Richmond Gate. So if you think this a reasonable and commendable aim, then please add your name to the list.

The second petition I signed aims to reinstate Danny Baker’s weekday afternoon radio show on BBC London 94.9. You’ve probably heard what happened to the Candyman after coverage of his magnificently funny and defiant two-hour swansong last Thursday made just about every news outlet you care to mention, including the front page of The Times.

And yes, regular dwellers of this blog will have already noticed me gabbing on and on about how much pleasure Danny’s show has provided. Nestled amid the phone-in topics and chats with his co-hosts Baylen, Amy and the inimitable David Kuo was a central idea: that the kinks, quirks and fleeting moments of oddness in popular culture and people’s everyday existence are what gives these things life. So if you value originality and good humour – which, of course, you must surely do – then sign now. If you do, I promise to stop gibbering on about how much I love Danny Baker. You can’t say fairer than that.

Lance falling

October 11, 2012

Nine years ago, Jen and I went to a bar on the Haymarket, had a few drinks, met some fellow cycling fans and watched Lance Armstrong fall off his bike. The famous tumble on the road to Luz Ardiden caused by a spectator’s musette caught in Armstrong’s handlebars had taken place earlier that day, although we hadn’t turned up with the intention of watching the yellow jersey and Iban Mayo have a whoops-a-daisy. We didn’t even know it had happened – both of us had been at work, Twitter hadn’t been invented yet, and mainstream news outlets didn’t give a toss. The reason why we went to watch a big screen at a West End watering hole had something to do with engaging in what was a unique experience for us in 2003: being in a room with other bicyclepeople who liked watching bicycle races. Because we knew very few people who did.

The shindig at the Sports Café was organised by Phil Cavell and Julian Wall of Bikepark in Covent Garden, which later evolved into Cyclefit, the business which is more or less responsible for bicycle fitting becoming a standard part of the bike-buying process. Paul Callinan, who had chatted to me at the Hillingdon circuit when I tentatively started racing, was among those attending. A few months later, after Bikepark stepped down from organising its two popular weekend group rides, Paul and a couple of friends would seize the momentum by reviving a name that Jules had coined in the mid-nineties for the early incarnation of his shop’s team – and so it came to pass that the all-new London Dynamo, which started life as a discussion in Paul’s kitchen, became a phenomenon that swiftly (and inadvertently) grew to be bigger than every long-established club in the south-east. Also propping up the bar on that July evening was Nick Peacock (he later sold me his Merlin frame after he became Dynamo’s second club captain, although I think we didn’t get round to speaking to each other that night) and triathlete-turned-demon-time-trialist Martin Williamson, one of many kindly ’Mos who gave me a lift to races during my first season as a non-car-owning fourth cat. But that night we were all more or less strangers to each other.

So there we all were, the many and varied chums of Bikepark, watching Armstrong fall off, get back up, wallop his groin into his top tube as he came out of his pedal and then solo away to victory. Chapeau! Except no one exclaimed “Chapeau!” or “Hat!” because it hadn’t occurred to any of us yet that pretension or irony had a place in cycling. The mood was more of muted amazement rather than the whooping, roaring enthusiasm you now get at Look Mum No Hands! during an eventful moment of a big race. This was fascination before it evolved into fandom. And we all know the aspects of Armstrong’s story that fascinated us: beating cancer and then beating everyone, a singular character with a single ball. Personally, I loved watching his movements on the bike, swaggering when he was out of the saddle, and the robotic, propulsive, high cadence when he was seated – a contained, measured ferocity. Yet most of the conversations that night weren’t about Armstrong or pro cycling, but about our own, more modest, adventures: where we had been riding, where we planned to ride or race, each of us glimpsing the others’ characters and experience (invariably much greater than mine) by learning about their cycling history.

And when Dynamo began, I still didn’t know who my riding chums actually were. They each had a name, a bike and stories about their riding, all of which helped to identify the less vocal members who dwelt beneath the ubiquitous mask of helmet and sunglasses, but the life they lived beyond our weekly 50-mile training loop across the Surrey Hills was a distant vista. Before setting out one Sunday, Paul muttered wearily to me about having practically no sleep because he had been on call all night. Ah-ha, I thought – a doctor! It took a while for me to discover that he actually worked in IT for a bank, and being on call involved piping zeroes and ones to the Far East in the early hours of the morning. But at least I knew his name – I can still recall the delight at discovering “Nicholas Peacock” on the finishing list of Dynamo’s inaugural Beginners’ Series race, because the surname was part of a long-standing in-joke between myself and Jen. (And as it’s a slightly bizarre gag which isn’t aimed at Nick, it’s probably best Jen and I keep it to ourselves…)

Dynamos were Dynanonymous to each other – but the one name everyone knew, whether they had a rich history of riding or had just started out, was Lance Armstrong. There was a unique combination of factors that led to Dynamo confounding a British Cycling official’s prediction to Paul that we would probably attract a total of around two dozen members: as the only club to have a regular ride in the cycling mecca of Richmond Park, we were conspicuous; we welcomed all-comers; we were, and still are, a friendly bunch; and, in a major departure from the aesthetic of the time, our jersey didn’t comprise a clumsy mélange of fonts and colours or resemble something an estate agent might hammer onto a stick. But I think the main reason why Dynamo grew so rapidly was due to a pool of new, unaffiliated riders who had recently taken up the sport after an English-speaking athlete had caught their attention by repeatedly winning the Tour de France. Armstrong was the key that unlocked the entrance to a previously clandestine world – and if he could get on a bike after what he had been through, then why couldn’t you?

So the blue train of the US Postal Service team unwittingly begat a blue, black and orange locomotive – although it is there that the parallels, like two diesels thundering towards each other, must screech to a halt. I can dimly remember a line in Procycling magazine claiming that Armstrong-related catchphrases such as “No chain! No chain!” and “How d’you like them apples?” had become de rigueur on club runs – and oh, how I cringed, because from my experience of Dynamo, amateur cycling didn’t take hero worship or wish fulfillment to those extremes. Talking about Armstrong, or pro cycling generally, was an excuse for men (sadly, there were only men in those days) to indulge in the necessary human act of gossiping, sharing our awe about feats that had amazed us, trading information, often as a means of trying to work out who would do what the next time around. Would Jan Ullrich ever win another Tour? Could winning the Dauphiné prove to be a poison chalice for the Texan? And, inevitably, along came the only question that never went away: do you think Lance is clean?

Fast forward a few years, and half a dozen ’Mos are sitting on one of the benches outside the Roehampton Gate café in Richmond Park after the Parkride. I’m one of them; two others are also long-standing members (although they’re not the Dynamos I mentioned earlier). Armstrong has decided not to contest the US Anti-Doping Agency’s case against him, and the consensus around the table is that, as a result, no one will truly know if the man stripped of his seven Tour wins ever cheated. Most think the case should never have been pursued because it happened a long time ago, everyone was at it, and USADA doesn’t have any authority in the matter anyway. One Dynamo calls USADA boss Travis Tygart “Travis Dickface”.

Well, Mr Dickface does have the authority, and USADA’s 200-page report released yesterday, featuring damning testimony from every American Tour rider who rode for USPS and Discovery, may convince the doubting Dynamos I listened to that morning. Perhaps I should have pointed them in the direction of the truth: there were some professional cyclists who asked Tygart to sit in as an observer when they were questioned as part of the original federal investigation into USPS – so USADA had to pursue the allegations, because this is what they are funded to do. Anything less would have been corrupt.

But I didn’t say anything. And I’m pleased I kept my trap shut, because the opinions I heard that morning were not those of diehard fans desperately clutching at straws; they were an expression of disconnection from a complicated story that has been twisting and turning for years. True, a few of my cycling chums have followed the slow, inexorable exposure of the EPO years, but they tend to be the minority whose interest in pro cycling began prior to Armstrong’s appearance. I get the impression that most of the cyclists I know have simply not followed the diffuse trail of whispers and nose-tapping which has been played out mostly on fan sites and forums. They’re not angry or disappointed about Armstrong’s fall from grace, because they’ve not been exposed to much of those areas of the internet where anger and disappointment reigns. Threads on our own forum these days about tyre choice, groupsets or any other quotidian aspect of bike riding dwarf those about Armstrong, while the full-throated, joyful cheers we’ve given to Wiggins, Cavendish and other home-grown heroes are more passionate, more engaged than the interest anyone had showed for the Texan. One reason for that enthusiasm is that the likes of Wiggo and Cav are British, and their Olympic exploits were performed on roads we’ve all ridden. Another reason, of course, is that the performances have become more believable.

So let’s remember the Tour de France 1999-2005 in this way: lots of people took loads of drugs and did some amazing things, and we all had a good time witnessing them. But like the big screen looming over our conversations that night at the Sports Café, Armstrong’s adventures have proved to be just the background noise to our own experiences on bicycles. It’s not about the bike rider who brought us together – if, indeed, it ever was.

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