In only five years Marlow Riders has reached a membership of 250 members, which seemed a good point to look back at our history and how we have grown so quickly.
The club has grown from a small start. The initial impetus was in 2010 when Jonathan Smith invited a group of friends to cycle to Paris to celebrate his birthday. After the trip, having bought bikes and enjoyed the training so much, a small group decided to carry on riding together. At first there were only a handful of riders each week but that grew rapidly. Many of the group were former runners so we formed Marlow Riders as a sub-section of Marlow Striders running club and then in early 2012 we became a stand-alone cycling club. Since then we have continued to grow, as have our weekly rides. We now get 80-90 riders most Saturdays.
Very early on we settled on the club ethos of ‘cycling for all’. While this is an almost impossible aspiration to meet, we strive to honour the spirit of this, for instance by organising groups and arranging support for a wide variety of cyclists. We now have five categories of rides, each of which may split into two or more groups. Our slowest group, the Lions, is aimed at novices and people returning to cycling. We ensure that this group has an experienced leader to provide guidance and encouragement for less confident riders.
Our main rides on Saturday take place all year, with coffee stops planned so that the whole club can meet at the same place. We also have evening rides on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the summer months and members can arrange less formal rides using Facebook – for instance on Sunday mornings. During the winter we organise a weekly spinning class.
One of the major activities of the club is the annual Red Kite Ride sportive. This has become a popular event and regularly sells out in advance. We are grateful for all the members who help out on the day or beforehand, as it is the support and enthusiasm of the helpers that make it such a special event.
In our first four years the Red Kite Ride has raised over £20,000 for charity. In recent years the charities we have supported have been focussed on our Cycling for All ethos. In 2014 and 2015 we supported Cyclists Fighting Cancer, a charity that provides adapted bikes to children recovering from cancer to provide them with some mobility and independence. This year we are supporting the local Wheels for All centre in Bisham, who organise cycling activities for those people with disabilities or additional needs. They use a range of custom built bikes, trikes and tandems to cater for different needs. The Red Kite Ride is run by a strong team, and in the next few months we will be looking for additional members who can extend and support this team.
In the last few years we have run various trips for all catetories of riders. Some groups have gone to cycle the climbs in the Alps, Pyranees and Pycos. We also ran a two day trip for all groups to Ypres where the quicker riders took in the climbs of the Tour of Flanders and we all visited the Menin Gate and the Tyne Cot Cemetery. Other recent trips include Bridge to Bridge from Bristol to Marlow and Coast to Coast along Hadrians Wall.
We also have run various one-day rides, including our annual Apostles Way / Bridge to Bridge from London to Marlow along the Thames path. We also ‘celebrated’ the locations of the Great Train Robbery and this year will visit the Isle of Wight
Each April we run an organised trip to Mallorca where riders of all speeds can cycle on some great roads in warmer spring weather. As well as improving fitness ahead of the summer, this is a great way to get to know other members of the club.
Off the bike we run various social events. These include our annual BBQ, the OF Award Night and our monthly ‘social cycling’ at a local hostelry (which will restart after the summer). Unlike many cycling clubs we are lucky to have a permanent base at Marlow Sports Club which we can use for events or just as a place to meet after a ride.
We have developed a range of communications with members and other interested people. Initially we had an email distribution list, and this has grown to a weekly mailing to over 450 people. We have a club web site and our members-only Facebook pages have helped communication grow between members. The Social site has photos and general discussion of cycling related matters, while our Events site is used to organise rides, trips to sportives and other events.
Running such a large club would not be possible without the help from members who volunteer to take on tasks. We are particularly grateful to our ride leaders each weekend, and also the team who keep things running behind the scenes.
Looking forward, it is hard to see where the growth or interest in Marlow Riders will stop. It seems clear that we are doing many things ‘right’, but we are always looking to improve and to expand the range of things we do. If you have suggestions, or can help with any of the roles, please let us know.
Finally, we would like to thank everyone who has been involved with Marlow Riders over the last few years, including members, former members and those who have taken a passing interest in us. This is your club and it has been your enthusiasm and involvement that have helped us grow into the club we are today.