Free-wheeling from a lost age

I was delighted to see your article about Colin Smith, of Bridgnorth, who wants to start a new bike club for cyclists who only want to cycle at a slow, easy pace.

Colin Smith, 72, wants to start a new club for like-minded people who would like to take in the sights at a slower pace
Colin Smith, 72, wants to start a new club for like-minded people who would like to take in the sights at a slower pace

All power to his elbow. I can’t think of anything better, but he’s up against a problem that the whole country has faced in the last few years.

It started, I suspect, in 2012 when Team GB won a bucket-full of cycling medals at the Olympics, and cycle racing was instantly seen to be a prestigious success story.

The government loved it because it gave our country a high profile, commerce loved it because it helped them sell loads of stuff, and in a moment, easy-going, informal cycling was ‘done for’. Those gentle explorations of the countryside that had always been the bedrock of sociable touring groups disappeared almost overnight.

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They were replaced by a new sort of activity – people dashing about in the latest kit and doing what their cycle computers told them to do, with little or no interest in their surroundings whatever. ‘All the gear and no idea’? Mmmm ...

We still had the Cyclists’ Touring Club (CTC) as the nationwide champions of leisure cycling, but unfortunately they decided to change their name and abandon the ‘touring’ cachet, calling themselves by the more neutral name Cycling UK.

Their focus was lost, perhaps deliberately, but so was one hundred years of culture and commitment to a wonderful way of life.

That combination of factors signalled the end for companionable, relaxed group cycling in this country. Now, most clubs are comprised of committed sports riders wearing corporate uniforms.

You very rarely see a gathering of casually dressed cyclists just riding gently through the countryside, chatting at the roadside, or having a leisurely bite to eat in the village pub. That used to be a lot of fun, but fun seems to have been airbrushed from our lives, as well. Is it too late to recover?

Paul Wagner, Shrewsbury

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