Stephen Coe, CTC board member for South West England casually asked me in December if I would be willing to be the guest at the Cycle Somerset annual dinner in January. He seemed awfully taken aback when I offered with enthusiasm.
Call me a bit of a sad case but I have been going to cycling club annual dinners since I was about eleven years old. Each year of my childhood my parents would get either excited or wound up like springs in early February because of the forthcoming club dinner, one of the social high spots of the year. Usually this involved one of them bringing home truckloads of trophies as well but what always struck my childish mind was how special and exotic it all seemed in a household where going to dinner wasn’t exactly common.
Then at some point when I felt bold enough I piped up and said “can I come to the club dinner” and to my amazement they said yes. No real idea when or where, just large numbers of adults having a good time talking bikes, races and riders. I felt wonderfully grown up but as I look back I sense that I was really part of the extended family of the Godric Cycling Club which I seemed to have known all my life.
I became a regular after that – hoping desperately that one day I might land one of the trophies as well. However I can confirm that my career in cycling has little to do with my speed on a bike and it took many years until I finally landed one – nearly 13 I think. However you could spot the future organiser and front man because it was at our club dinner that I did what I think must have been my first ever public speech in about 1978, aged about 17.
The guest of honour was cycling journalist Mick Gambling, well known on theUKcycling scene at the time, and I had to propose the vote of thanks. I don’t even remember how my jokes went the applause was addictive and I knew this was something I could do, somewhere I felt at home.
Since I became CTC Director in 1998 I have done many more dinners and had the pleasure of being Master of Ceremonies for the CTC National Dinner for the last few years. A lot of the speakers on the circuit charge, I guess it’s because it is an extension of their day job – the TV commentators, journalists and former riders. I guess I’m lucky that the day job pays, I can’t imagine having to turn people down who can’t pay, we are all family aren’t we?
And what of Cycle Somerset?
A lovely bunch who made us feel really at home in the Italian restaurant at the Somerset County Cricket Ground inTaunton. No trophies to present, this really is a friendly touring club who feature rides for riders of all abilities. The racing is left to the other clubs in the area, Cycle Somerset was formed to fill the gap.
One thing I have also noticed is that all the really vibrant clubs I have been to recently have started a ladies only section, there’s a real case for dedicated rides. Most of us would like to think we can keep the inner bloke in check when on a ride, but the evidence suggests otherwise, dedicated women’s rides are definitely a coming trend in group riding.
On Sunday after the dinner I was also invited to help launch the Taunton Bike Clubwhich caters for young riders of all ages and abilities. They are going to have multiple launches – this one was the touring launch and featured a Sunday ride to a café. Look like the next generation is in safe hands inTaunton, especially with pied piper Jonathon Sladden at the helm.
Thanks to CS for the invite, it was great to get another fix of cycling company. I have no idea if this tradition carries on outside theUK, I’ll have to use visits home to get a fix. However it will be quite a while before I can deliver an after dinner turn in French or Flemish.