“The West Surrey Cyclist” - January - March 2003
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Front cover - a new design for 2003
Inner front cover - West Surrey CTC District Association
Editorial front matter - as in previous issue
Riding Around - with the Editor
Overheard on a Ride
Cycling to the Salsa Beat - by Hilary Stephenson
Dieppe Raid 2002 - by Alan Holbrook
Get the Magazine Delivered for £3 a Year
From the (Former) President - by Les Houlton
DA Annual Report for 2002 - has its own page
Letters to the Editor
- the late Phil Hampton - by Marguerite Statham
- reply to Peter Clint’s “Rag, Tag and Bobtail” - by Bob McLeod
- gratitude for the Wooden Crank - by John Ostrom
A Helmet is a Must - by Peter Clint
Organisers - Please Take Note
Get the Magazine Delivered for £3 a Year
“Pedaleurs de Charme” - Swiss Rollers 2003 - latest news on this year’s DA holiday
Do We Really Need a Uniform? - by Marguerite Statham
Dates for Your Diary
Outer back cover - advertisement - Carradice
|PRESIDENT||Roy Banks||01344 842676|
|VICE-PRESIDENTS||George Alesbury, Harold Coleman, Chris Jeggo,
David Nightingale, Clive Richardson
|Geoff Smith (also fax)
|SUNDAY RIDERS||Tom Hargreaves||01483 851930|
|INTERMEDIATES||Trevor Strudwick||01483 730829|
|GUILDFORD AND GODALMING
|Peter Fennemore||01483 730829|
|WOKING WAYFARERS||David Nightingale||01483 725674|
|MIDWEEK WAYFARERS||Sybil Preston
IT IS always delightful for a cyclist to be visiting new places which turn out to be excellent for cycling when you expected something to the contrary.
So it was when I recently visited my brother in his new abode, El Dorado Hills, a bit to the east of Folsom, itself a bit to the east of Sacramento, California. It was autumn yet the Sierras were often shrouded in a heat haze. And the valley itself as we drove on the interstate from San Francisco was hot, dusty, bland, and without much sign of countryside greenery. Add to that the traffic volume and the prospect for local cycling was not promising.
Yet Graham’s recommendation to bring a bike over was as well founded as it was well meant. For this I bow in gratitude to one Jedediah Strong Smith (no relation), the County of Sacramento Department of Recreation, Parks and Open Space, and the uniquely named Sacramento Bike Hikers.
Just a mile or two from El Dorado Hills is Folsom Lake, which for our purposes is one end of the Jedediah Smith Memorial Bicycle Trail, named after the first explorer to reach California overland through the Sierra Nevada mountains.
It winds for 32 miles along the American River to Sacramento itself and the confluence with the Sacramento River at Old Sacramento. It offers as near perfect a 100km round trip on-road bike ride as can be imagined, perhaps not solitary enough for some, but choose your time carefully and you can commune with nature and history to your heart’s content, riding in near isolation.
Yet on the sides of this linear oasis you have the hustle of Californian towns, US Highway 50, and car-priority suburbia big time. How have they done it? The first bicycle trail, a cinder path, was built in 1896 by the Capital City Wheelmen, and here lies the key to what has become its success - vehicles were banned by the County Board of Supervisors.
What we have now, in the full route completed in 1985, is a sealed road, often wider than some of our country lanes, with a line down the middle to help separate cyclists coming and going, frequent reminders to stick to a 15mph speed limit, and cinder tracks on both shoulders to accommodate joggers and casual walkers. You want hills? - It even has a few of them, well short stretches anyway, enough for a quick blast.
Perfect, but there is more - at every mile there is a marker, often incorporating a “you are here” map. There is an ample number of emergency call boxes, likewise “rest rooms”, picnic areas with water points, and the very necessary and inevitable string of car-parks, invariably sited off the trail rather than astride it.
I will not dwell now on the natural, scenic, and historic atributes all around, leaving it only to say that the $3 back-pocket map and description of the trail has provided me with an excellent souvenir of the day I rode the whole lot and more in a 70 miles outing. Ask me sometime and I will show it to you.
The trail provides the fulcrum of many of the rides of the Sacramento Bike Hikers. I joined them on two outings during my stay and felt at home with like-minded folk. Thanks to joining and rejoining the trail on these rides, and tackling most of it also with my brother, I was fairly well orientated, more so than on the some of our rides into darkest Hampshire and Sussex.
Check out the Sacramento bunch at www.bikehikers.com. And check out me when I wear my colourful Bike Hikers top. Restrained it ain’t.
SOME more memories from my Californian cruise.... I liked the two slogans of Bicycles Plus bike shop in Folsom: “Life’s short, enjoy the ride” and “Just bike it”. I admired also the natty socks worn by Bike Hiker Kevin - they depicted swimming sperm.
Thanks be to ace spinner Joe Perfecto for his two tours of Ol’ Sac’s English pubs and micro-breweries, and a big “Hi” to Bike Hikers Rich, Sherry and Dennis, Pat, Sharon, the lady from Alabama who just loves Tony Blair, and the wildly enthusiastic Russ.
BEFORE our summer was over, I took a Saturday afternoon ride around to Ash to call in on a family cycle day and environmental fair organised by a friend of mine. I had alerted our own Tom Hargreaves and sure enough he turned up with the DA’s new eye-catching exhibition stand with photos and thematic displays, most of which are the work of Tom himself.
I say without fear of contradiction that Tom has done a splendid all-embracing job on his display, also seen at Guildford and Woking town centre Bike Week events. All his own work, squire, and the perfect counter to the do-nothing or weary cynicism sadly too prevalent among some of our members.
In a message to me, my organiser friend Alan Hilliar wrote: “We have managed to create a new awareness and interest in cycling and environmental issues locally. I think we can build on this and develop something special in our community, which would be very exciting.”
Tom had three new CTC colour leaflets on the stand and I commend them to you. Cycle For Health and Cycle To Work are self-explanatory, and Cycle With CTC is a straightforward recruiting leaflet emphasising once again our club’s free £5 million third party insurance and Helpdesk with its free routesheets and technical advice. It is worthwhile reminding ourselves why we cycle and are members and these leaflets do the job well.
THIS one was heard at coffee...
One rider enquired: “Where are we off to?”
Another replied: “I don’t know”
And the first responded: “Oh, so you are coming as well then!”
Please keep your ears open for other quips and quotes - and be sure to let the Editor know.
IT was with a mild twinge of trepidation, but above all an overwhelming sense of excitement and adventure, that I entrusted my cherished bicycle to the care of an airline for the very first time last July. I was finally fulfilling my dream of cycling in Cuba, a country I have long admired for its determination to create a socialist society in the face of all attempts to thwart its efforts by the neighbouring US government. Arriving at Heathrow for the check-in, I initially indulged in a game of “spot-the-cyclists-for-Havana”, and sure enough I soon made the acquaintance of my fellow-travellers, trundling their bike boxes to the Iberia desk.
The previous two days had been quite frantic as I scoured every bike shop in Guildford for a new front mechanism. It was our own Phil Hamilton at Evans in Woking who finally came up trumps with a universal model, which functioned to perfection. Thanks, Phil, for helping me get up all those hills more easily! Thus I was able to leave with my bike in pristine condition. Fortunately it arrived in Havana undamaged, but strangely minus the quick-release front axle. Apparently it is not uncommon for front axles to disappear Houdini-like from sealed bike boxes, but I was able to obtain a replacement from Simon Bull, acknowledged guru of cycling in Cuba and our organiser and guide throughout the tour.
We spent the first day looking round Havana, a beautiful city with a rich cultural heritage, whilst our bikes were reassembled by Juanito, the Cuban bike mechanic who accompanied us and who is normally assigned to the Cuban national cycling team. By the second morning, though, I was chomping at the bit to be on my bike and exploring the villages and countryside through which our first day’s itinerary led. I can still vividly recall the bubbling elation as I set off that first morning. I was actually in Cuba on my own bike, pedalling past banana plantations, orange groves, swerving to avoid the odd stray chicken or family of pigs on the road and eventually climbing into a sub-tropical biosphere with all the lush vegetation and haunting sounds of a jungle!
The five-day tour allowed us to explore the area of Cuba west of Havana - the beautiful Vinales valley with its amazing mogotes, the tobacco-growing region around Pinar del Rio and the lush valleys around Soroa. We cycled on average 45 miles per day, which was very manageable despite temperatures of 30-35 degrees, high humidity levels and some pretty steep hills. On some sections of the route we were assisted by a strong tail wind. In addition, the thrill of the whole experience kept the adrenalin flowing through my veins, so that I was full of energy every morning, despite late night sessions in hotel bars, sipping rum and jigging to the salsa beat.
The Cuban roads offer ideal cycling conditions. Most roads have a good tarmac surface, but very little traffic. The other road-users were Cubans speeding along on sturdy Chinese and Russian bikes, with just the occasional heavily-laden bus or lorry passing by, belching out clouds of foul black exhaust. Every day’s programme included a special activity, such as a tour of a cigar factory, visit to a beach for a swim in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, or a relaxing soak in the sulphur baths of a spa town. On the final day we also visited a children’s hospital in Havana where we delivered a consignment of 4,000 asthma inhalers for which we had fund-raised prior to the visit. The most memorable activity for myself though was a visit to the cave where Che Guevara hid out during the Cuban missile crisis. The sheer dimensions of the cave created the same awesome atmosphere of a huge cathedral; but what moved me above all was the sight of the desk where Che had sat to write the books which had had such a major impact on the development of my own political beliefs as a student.
We stayed in some superb hotels and were supported by an excellent back-up team throughout the tour. This included Wenslaus, doctor to the Cuban national cycling team, whose medical skills were fortunately not required, but he did offer to visit us in our hotel rooms to administer leg massages at the end of each ride. This really added a whole new dimension to the concept of room service! My turn didn’t come until the final evening, and very pleasant it was too. I was especially chuffed at his evident admiration for the strong cycling muscles in my legs - the best in the whole group he assured me!
My abiding memory of Cuba, though, is the vitality and warmth of the Cuban people I met. From tiny children to octogenarians, they all exuded a tremendous zest for life. Fortunately I had learned a little Spanish before the trip and was therefore able to engage in some basic conversation with people I encountered en route. Most remarkable were people’s eyes - bright and alert, yet with a soulful depth.
If this article has whetted your appetite, then maybe you would like to join me on my next two rides in Cuba, shortly to be advertised as part of the CTC tour programme for 2003-4!
AT some unearthly hour on Saturday June 22nd I collected Bob McLeod and we drove to a village about eight miles from Newhaven, put the car to rest, and pedalled to the ferry to clock in at 0630. The West Surrey contingent was arriving in ones and twos - Bill and Marion Thompson, Roy and Peter Banks, and Christopher, a friend of mine who rides with the San Fairy Ann CC in Kent.
The crossing to Dieppe was by the superfast catamaran which completes the journey in two-and-a-half hours. There were 700 other participants on board.
Dieppe looked delightful and we were booked into the “tourist” hotel, not quite four-star but comfortable and with clean sheets. I did a 25 miles warm-up and returned for the Mayor’s reception in the Town Hall - endless speakers but terminated with generous amounts of cider and cakes.
Saturday evening for those who had booked it was banquet night, a truly gourmet feast. My memory of the event is a little hazy but the courses totalled 11, supplemented by unlimited wine.
To return to the serious stuff, Sunday was ride day and most of us chose the 80km “Route of the Three Valleys” - beautiful scenery and quiet roads, all smoothly surfaced and with all verges trimmed.
We had our cards stamped and returned to Dieppe for the inevitable prizegiving and yet more plastic cups filled with cider. There was a prize for the largest overseas group. A Midlands CTC DA won this but if there had been just a few more from West Surrey we could have returned with glory.
Another dinner venue that evening, with fewer courses and buy-your-own wine. But it was all good value.
Monday saw Peter, Bill and Marion leave for home along with most of the 700-plus. As we had five-day tickets we people of a certain age decided to explore the area further. For the Monday night we found accommodation via the tourist office at a Gite Rural. The British equivalent would be a farmhouse B and B. Mine host was very hospitable. He took us all in his car to an excellent restaurant some ten miles away. A telephone call was made at brandy/coffee time and he came back to collect us for the return journey.
Tuesday’s ride was a gentle trip through the hills and we stayed that night some 15 miles from Dieppe. On Wednesday we returned to Dieppe for some last-minute shopping, caught the 1200 supercat and were back in Newhaven by mid-afternoon.
For a short low-cost break it was ideal - good company, good food, good wine, good cycling - what more can a cyclist ask for?
If anyone is interested in joining a West Surrey party in 2003 just let me know on 01276 26954 and I will keep you advised.
I SELDOM write articles but Editor Geoff twisted my arm for a few lines at the end of my presidential term. So here goes with a few memories...
I joined the CTC in 1948, the same time as my wife. The discipline in those days was far better than it is now. The runs leader was in charge and anyone who rode past him was severely reprimanded. We were out all day on Sundays, with elevenses and pub lunch and took our own sandwiches. Tea was booked at 5pm in summer and 4.30pm in winter. Many times the tea place was at Petworth, Rake, or Shottermill, which meant arriving home in Woking in the evening, mostly using main roads.
We always stopped to see anything of interest. Some of us took photos. There was very little traffic so it was possible to ride two abreast most of the time and have a conversation. We also had far more lady members years ago.
The cycles were heavier, with steel rims and usually one gear, although some had three-speed hub gears. Clothing was plus-fours in winter, shorts in summer, and capes for rain. Whatever the weather, a good day out was guaranteed.
Cycling has always been a way of life for me. I have never owned a car and apart from five years war service in the RAF always cycled to work until retirement at 65. For several years I was commuting 20 miles a day.
Now, having celebrated my 80th birthday, I can look back on many happy miles with the Club, with great friendships forged.
Unlike many sports, cycling can be carried on into old age - so here’s to the future!
Editor’s note: I loved the bit about plus-fours in winter. George Alesbury enlivened the annual general meeting in November with his memories of bygone sartorial elegance. During the debate about club colours and a new club shirt he suggested that the DA was never as well turned out as in 1947, when members were told to go to Burton’s or the Fifty Shilling Tailors and buy knickerbockers, jackets and ties for wear on club runs.
“This had the obvious merit of us being welcomed into pubs,” he recalled.
I would just like to add a few words about the late Phil Hampton.
One Wednesday the Mid-week Wayfarers had a ‘train assisted’ ride to Brockenhurst and I had agreed to lead an ‘off road’ ride.
We all gathered in Brockenhurst railway station yard and Carol and I were the only two wanting to go off road. Phil Hampton was undecided. Carol and I had already agreed that we would start the day with coffee in the nearby tea shop and we thought that this would persuade Phil to go with the road riders. Phil decided to come with us.
After coffee we set off down some tracks and Carol and I soon discovered that Phil was a mine of information on flora and fauna. We came across a lady stalking round a group of bushes and she explained that she was looking for a rare breed of butterfly. We stopped to join in the search after she had described it to us and it wasn’t long before Phil found it. He and the lady were so excited. She had traveled almost as far as us just to see the butterfly.
To me it was a day I shall never forget as it was so interesting and enjoyable and a great pleasure to be out with such a knowledgeable person.
Marguerite A. Statham
I do not often feel strongly enough to put “pen to paper” but Peter Clint has triggered it.
To refer to the cyclists of the West Surrey D.A as a “rabble” is too much. If he means that we wear a variety of brightly coloured jerseys, sport an array of hats and helmets, ride a wide range of bicycles, some of a very dubious age and myriad containers strapped to our racks, I will forgive him.
However, to have us all dressed alike is for me too Teutonic. It also reminds me of being forced to wear school uniform. I am not racist, nor anti-German, I even have a few German friends and acquaintances. I voted for the Common Market and I am even prepared to give up the Pound. But this is a step too far!!!
I am “proud” to ride with a group of varied characters each with his own idiosyncrasy - after all I am one. I can recall that when I joined the group Harold, our president, told me I was joining a club made up of splendid and varied individuals. The jersey provides expression for that. I also use it to reflect my mood.
The other problem I have is what to do with my garish tops (I hope this whole suggestion of Peter’s is not just a fiendish plot to get rid of them).
My wife has just looked over my shoulder and called me an old fart. So it looks as though I will be buying a jersey after all.
From a usually unreliable source I have learnt that I have been awarded, in absentia, the prestigious wooden thingy for the most egregious act of cycle mismanagement during the year and for my contribution to the art of sub-aqueous pedalling. Words cannot adequately express my gratitude to members for confiding to my care this sacred icon and for the recognition of my outstanding lack of skill. My bicycle and I enjoy a cautious relationship of mutual suspicion and distrust. To quote Doctor Johnson “’tis like a dog that walketh on its hinder legs - it is not well done but one wonders that it is done at all”. I pledge myself during the coming year to leave no crank unturned in the pursuit of imperfection in all its many guises.
I remain, Sir
As you may know, I recently came off my bike a few weeks ago. The accident occurred on a quiet, well surfaced road with no traffic and in good weather conditions. All my own fault, a split second of inattention to where I was going.
Result, a broken collar bone, two fingers broken in my hand and two cracked ribs!
This was, however, nothing like as bad as it could have been had I not been wearing my good quality Specialised hard helmet purchased only a few weeks earlier, for the back of the helmet was crushed in the fall, which occurred at about eighteen miles an hour.
The fact is that had I not been wearing my helmet, I would almost certainly have been much more seriously injured. As the doctors pointed out, a severe bang to the back of the head can prove lethal, and in this case would certainly have had me concussed and more importantly could have involved brain damage.
As it was, my head hit the deck with no more force than dropping gently on to a feather pillow , the helmet absorbing all the impact.
In the past I have often worn a soft hat when conditions appeared quiet. Never again. Thank goodness I was fully protected this time, for I shall be riding with you all once more very shortly, thanks to the excellent engineering of my Specialised crash helmet.
This goes to show there is never a safe moment to discard the hard hat.
For those that do, take note and beware.
AT THE time of writing there are six vacancies remaining for this holiday, which will take in two regions, Lake Constance (Bodensee) in the north-east and the Engadine alpine valley. As in our 2001 tour, the attractions will be plenty for walkers and for those who wish to limit their cycling.
We will travel with our bikes by luxury coach, spending the first and final nights in France, then five nights in Buriet/Thal in the north-eastern corner of Switzerland near the borders with Austria and Germany. Liechtenstein is close by so it is possible to cycle in four countries in one day. The lovely undulating countryside with quaint villages, lush meadows and cool forests has all the ingredients for leisurely or challenging rides, and there are numerous excursions by train, lake boat or on foot.
The destination for four nights in Engadine is the village of Lavin at 1,432 metres, a high alpine valley in the Romansh-speaking part of Switzerland. There is a chance there to go on one of Europe’s most spectacular railway journeys, taking the Bernina Express from a world of glaciers to Mediterranean-type climate and countryside far down in the valley - with adhesion traction only.
The coach will be available throughout the holiday and all breakfasts and dinners will be provided at the hotels, specially chosen by our Swiss club rider Rico Signore, who will be our guide. Undoubtedly we will have some wine tastings and special social activities.
The price is £800 and booking forms are available from Geoff Smith (details on page three).
Last year I moved to Dorset after many years of riding with the West Surrey DA. During those years the question of DA jerseys came up. A small group of us decided on the present jersey as it is in the DA colours and is easily visible. The prototype was made with a yellow waist band and cuffs but changed to green before the jerseys were available to all the DA members as a certain un-named person wanted a dark colour to “wipe his nose on”. We had jerseys with long sleeves or short sleeves and track tops with a full-length zip. They were never mass-produced as only a small percentage of the members wanted a uniform.
I now belong to the West Dorset Section of the Wessex DA and ride with three different groups. The Saturday Wanderers, the Wednesday Wanderers and the Blackmore Vale Group. At lunch on a Saturday there could be up to 25 members, on a Wednesday 30 plus and the others around 12. All members are extremely happy and enjoy their cycling and are wearing what they feel most comfortable in. There is hardly a DA sweat-shirt among them, but what does it matter? A group is not judged on what it wears but by its enjoyment level in the cafes and pubs and its behavior on the road.
A ‘uniform’ is too formal-looking. It gives me the image of a group in formation with heads down. I now prefer a group that has time to talk and look around and appears to be cycling in a more casual manner although the group discipline is still there!
I should hate to be told to buy a DA jersey at £30. I am very proud of all the T-shirts that I have been given, or bought for a few pounds, from the charity rides I have done. I could have at least 6 of them and 3 sweat-shirts instead of my one DA jersey.
However, I am still the proud owner of a short-sleeved West Surrey DA jersey. I have also worn a long-sleeved version, with yellow cuffs, and a track top. Keep the DA colours, re-design the jersey if necessary but don’t make the purchase of one appear to be compulsory as it doesn’t make for happier cycling.
WEDNESDAY JANUARY 1ST - New Year’s Day morning rendezvous, Seale Craft Centre (all welcome, opening especially for us). Wayfarers’ group ride to Seale leaves from Woking Post Office at 9.45am.
END FEBRUARY - Round region ride for CTC 125th birthday, West Surrey DA leg (organiser Anne Tanner, 01276 474553)
SUNDAY MARCH 23: Stonehenge 200km, Danebury 150km. Organiser Mark Waters, 01483 414307.
SUNDAY APRIL 27th - 50 miles Reliability Ride (organiser Phil Hamilton 01483 772008)
SUNDAY MAY 18th - Scorathon treasure hunt from Bramley Village Hall (organiser Keith Chesterton, 01483 563392)
SATURDAY JUNE 21st - West Surrey DA 75th birthday event and party based at Seale Craft Centre (three 25km rides - do as many as you wish)
SATURDAY JUNE 28th to WEDNESDAY JULY 9th - Swiss Rollers tour of Switzerland (organiser Geoff Smith 01483 769051)
JUNE - Dieppe Raid (Details from Alan Holbrook, 01276 26954)
SUNDAY AUGUST 17th - Tour of the Hills, Tour of the Greensand Hills (organiser Tom Hargreaves, 01483 851930)
SEPTEMBER - Make-A-Wish charity ride, Camberley to Portsmouth (details Bill Thompson 01276 25191)
SEPTEMBER - Woking Hospice charity ride (details Bryon Alden 01483 763297)
SEPTEMBER 28th - Tricyclathon
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Web page by Chris Jeggo. Last revised: 12 October 2009.