Reminiscences

In recent months I have corresponded with a couple of people about our club and its members and it occurred to me that many of you would be interested in their memories of times past. So, with their consent I have minimally edited their emails into this webpage, and added a reminiscence of my own. There is clearly great scope for expanding this page, but that depends on you. Do you want more? On what topics? (People, rides, tours and holidays, social events, cycling events, bikes and bits ...?) Would you like to contribute? Over to you.

Graham Barnes

Graham rode with W. Surrey DA in the early 80's as schoolboy and young man, earning himself the nickname of 'The Flying Flea' by winning our hill-climb in 1981 and 1982. - Chris Jeggo

"I have been browsing the web and found myself looking back at my early days with West Surrey DA. By chance, I came across an article written by Paul Gillingham and Mark Waters back in March 2016 about 'A Cycling Legend', Russ Mantle. I used to ride with the club in the early eighties and Russ Mantle was already a legend back then. Amongst the cycling fraternity he was very highly regarded and always given a lot of respect by everyone.

"When I started, as a 13-year-old, I was lucky to ride with the great Bill Inder.........smoking a pipe whilst leading the Wayfarers on his Peugeot complete with panniers. I then progressed to the Intermediate section (led by Keith Parfitt) and later made the jump to the General section led by Russ Mantle. I remember the group being very disciplined in their riding; I certainly learnt a lot from them all.

"I later left the club and moved into racing, joining the Farnham Road Club, then the Farnborough and Camberley CC, and later the VC Meudon. I also spent 5 years living and racing in Flanders, Belgium. I took a break from cycling for a number of years and returned to it about 5 years ago........how different the sport is now.

"I ride off-road quite a bit on my mountain bike, which I find very enjoyable. I can remember the days when there was no such thing as a mountain bike. In fact, I had a friend with a bike shop in Knaphill who stocked some of the very first ones. We then took them out for a blast along the High Street and marvelled at their handling.........how things have changed.

"For a number of years I worked in a cycle shop in Mytchett called Frank Shaw's, on Saturdays for £5 per day! I can remember Frank saying to me that I could give all the club cyclists discount. So, I went through all the trade catalogues to find the price Frank paid and the minimum price we could sell the items for. What I hadn't allowed for was the VAT! So poor Frank's profits weren't quite as good as he had hoped.

"I bought my first pair of 'real' racing wheels from Graham Richardson back in 1982. These were Shimano Dura-Ace hubs on Mavic rims with chrome spokes with Clement silk tubular tyres glued to them. They were beautiful and cost my father £45, quite a lot of money then. I used to ride Roberts hand-built frames, one of which I still have in the loft in the garage. My track bike was built by Mike Mullett who I believe also built frames for the professional Raleigh team run by the great Peter Post of Holland."

Joe Perfecto's memories of Geoff Smith

 
Joe Perfecto
Joe Perfecto
The subject is Geoff Smith "senior", retired journalist, excellent editor of our magazine for 11 years and tour organiser, not to be confused with Geoff Smith "junior", train driver, fast rider, runs leader and demon hill-climber who moved to the far end of Hampshire a few years ago. (They were not related.) For information on Joe Perfecto see "The West Surrey Cyclist" for July - September 2003 (the last section of Geoff Smith's "Riding Around" and Joe Perfecto's article) and 2003 photos. - Chris Jeggo

"Back in mid-2003 I stayed with Geoff Smith and rode with you lads for a bit over a week. How I came to pay my short visit to Surrey was as a result of Geoff's visit to my home town of Sacramento, CA, on the US west coast. I learned somehow online that he was planning a September 2002 trip here to visit his brother, who lived in a nearby town, and Geoff was asking for info about local cycling club activity. I invited him to join some of my club's rides, which he did, and I also squired him and his brother around to a few local British pubs. He suggested that I come visit Woking and ride with you lot, which I did during the following early summer for just under two weeks, for which period I was Geoff's house guest.

"At the time Geoff was a Surrey county councillor, so I got to visit the council chambers and I think I even met him and one of his civil associates at the local Wetherspoon pub for a few proper pints.

"Geoff was an interesting character, quite fierce, robust and determined, especially for a chap of his modest frame. He seemed also very no-nonsense and could be quite brusque. The sense I got from some of the lads was that he was an endearing fellow in spite of his sometimes abrasive manner.

"In all, I probably had just a bit over two weeks of interaction with Geoff, but he made a lasting impression such that the news of his passing is a great blow. I am further saddened to learn that in his last months he was afflicted with leukemia.

"During my Surrey visit I had occasion to attend a garden party for four at the home of a fellow whom I believe was called Capt. Bill (Bill Thompson - CRJ). This fellow's hobby was restoring vintage bikes, and his garage was full of them. As I recall, Geoff informed me not long after my UK trip that the Captain's wife (Marion - CRJ) had fallen ill (I suspected cancer, but Geoff did not elaborate) and asked me to send good wishes, which I did via post not long after.

"One time I had occasion to send Geoff an E-mail, which I opened with "Sire." His reply began with "Dear knave." It's neither here nor there, I suppose, but it just came to mind.

"Anyway, about my arrival.... Geoff collected me at the Heathrow Departures area since it was easier to park there. As we made our way to the car we observed a police officer with an assault rifle, which Geoff thought disgraceful; he thoroughly rubbished the idea of coppers with massive guns. Once in the vehicle he suggested we go thence to the post office to see if the "wobblers" had yet left on their scheduled ride. Some were there, and Geoff chatted with them briefly, after which he and I stopped at Julian Close to get a few bikes. I rode his red Trek since mine would need unpacking and reassembly. We did a good while later meet you lot at a garden center, I imagine, the exact location of which was unclear to Geoff, so I think we did a bit of meandering through the hills and dales of God's Country getting there.

"I do recall the mention of that first day that appeared in the magazine. Geoff made some comment to the effect that I had great jet lag and was disoriented. This rather irked me as it was patently untrue; I was neither tired nor confused. I do remember him favouring exercise as a foil to jet lag. I imagine the ride didn't hurt, although as I mentioned, I felt no deleterious effect upon my arrival anyway, and this despite the fact that I did not sleep during my 6,000 miles and 10-odd hours of flying. Geoff took quite a bit of licence, especially for a fellow of his size and weight.

"I do remember the Wetherspoons, and of course frequented the one in Chertsey Road; God knows they're all over the UK. During one visit to the Woking site, Geoff and an associate from the Borough Council joined me. When they arrived, Geoff took notice of a Guinness I had in front of me and asked if it was from the cold tap, which it was. Being a staunch CAMRA supporter, he lamented the travesty of mechanically chilled ale. He then said he'd never had anything from the cold tap and asked if he could sample it. Upon doing so, he said it was actually quite decent."

Chris Jeggo's first CTC ride

I moved to Surrey from the north in April 1974 and joined the CTC and West Surrey DA (District Association) a couple of months later. So why did I do that, and what was it like?

I got my first bike when I was 10, and went for occasional bike rides throughout my school days, exploring the countryside of Shropshire and Staffordshire. I did not find time for this at university though, but still used a bike to get around the city. I next lived in Hull for nearly three years, towards the end of which I fettled the bike and started to explore the nearby wolds of the East Riding. After moving south, the urge to explore a completely new area had me out every Sunday on solo rides of gradually increasing length. This was good, but it would be even better with companions.

Enquiries led me to the Farnborough and Camberley Cycling Club, but their main activity was racing. "You want the CTC," said the secretary. "Russ Mantle's the man. Give him a ring". So I did, because I knew a bit about the CTC. My father was a life member, and although he had not ridden since the war, the "CTC Gazette" used to land on the doormat every month. I did not exactly read it but I had flipped through it to drool over the advertisements for bikes a 1950s-60s schoolboy could not afford.

And so it came to pass that one fine Sunday in June I turned up at 'The Fox' at Rickford a bit before 9 to join a club run led by Russ. My bike was the one I had had since halfway through my student days, having bought it from an older student on his graduation. He had bought it new and looked after it so it was in reasonable condition, but no thoroughbred. A 5-speed Raleigh badged as a Sun, its only alloy components were handlebar, stem and Weinmann brakes. It was heavy, with tyres designed for durability rather than speed. I arrived before Russ, first meeting three friends from Guildford, fit teenage lads who were not impressed. "You've got no toe-clips". That was my welcome to the CTC!

We set off when Russ arrived just on 9, for elevenses at Hindhead. One of the lads, J, went up in top gear, while I struggled in bottom gear some way behind. Russ kept us together. I cannot remember the route, just that lunch was at the Butser Hill Little Chef on the A3. It is no longer there; it used to be near the top, of course. J had remained in top gear. After lunch, inevitably, there was more downhill than up, but only just. Still, it was a nice day and the Hampshire lanes were lovely. At 5 o'clock precisely we arrived at a café in Tongham for tea, J still being in top gear. I don't know why, his gears did work. Perhaps it was a challenge to his mates; he was a strong rider.

Thank goodness I had only five level miles to ride home. I staggered through the door and flopped into the first armchair after 85 hilly miles with companions who were much better equipped and in much better condition than I. But, importantly, I had found out that there was also a Wayfarers Section whose rides were distinctly slower and shorter. So I rode with them for the next couple of months, but that's another story.


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