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Are you pro or anti-cycling club? Hear the case for and against them in the latest episode of the Podcast

VC Walcot stalwart Nick Rearden goes head to head with unclubbable founding father Tony Farrelly

The latest episode of the Podcast is now live, and the main feature today is one that we are sure will provoke a lot of discussion one way or another as we debate the pros  and cons of joining a cycling club – and we also have some more cycling confessions from the team for your entertainment (and possible shock).


Cycling clubs – the case for and against

As you may know, when was founded back in 2008, one of the ideas behind it was to become a kind of virtual cycling club (hence choosing to register the site in a territory with the .cc domain) for people who were unable to join an actual real-world cycling club for whatever reason, including those who simply didn’t want to, and give them a community where they could come together to talk about all things bike.

> 8 reasons to join a cycling club and how to find the right one for you

The discussion, chaired while sitting firmly atop a fence by Podcast host George Hill, pits founding father Tony Farrelly, who isn’t the biggest fan of cycling clubs, against Nick Rearden, once upon a time tech editor here and now working for Raleigh, and who has belonged to clubs since he was a teenager and later became one of the earliest members of Velo Club Walcot once he moved to Bath.

Indeed Nick credits a club with giving him his start in riding cycling, as he explains: “My parents wouldn’t let me have a bike. It so happened that the local cycling club, which was the Thanet Road Club down in the far end of Kent held their winter club gym sessions in my school gym and I saw a sign and was sort of intrigued and went out with them.”

“I wouldn't have made much progress if it wasn’t for the welcoming arm of some of the older members of the club because I was pretty hopeless. And the wind blows very hard along that flat bit of Kent.”

Talking of one of his earliest rides, he said: “We did 20 old miles into the middle of Kent and then turned round. And the headwind homewards basically killed me – basically, I virtually got pushed home by the chairman and another older member, and they basically just nurtured me and encouraged me.

“And I kept riding, and I started racing, and it was just the loveliest possible experience that you could wish for. You know, I made friends. There were loads of young people of my own sort of age in that club and obviously I’ve kept an eye on the Thanet Road Club.”

After a spell in London, Nick now lives in Bath, and still sees the value in belonging to a cycling club, although he says that what he needs from one “has changed over the years” – it’s no longer about   sharing lifts to races and getting advice from club stalwarts.

“You know, when I moved down to Bath, I had absolutely no idea where anything was and over the 20 odd years I’ve lived here, I’ve now become one of the old hands and people kind of look to me to know the routes,” he said.

“But the thing is, even now I will still go out riding with someone who’s either is older than me, or who has a better memory, because I don’t tend to remember routes very well … you know, only 10 or 15 miles away from Bath.”

And through that, he says, you do learn new routes “because of riding with other people – otherwise you just ride the same blooming roads on your own the whole time!”

Putting the case against clubs, Tony admits his views on the subject have mellowed over the years, and that in some ways his dislike of them is due to clichés that nowadays are perhaps a bit outmoded.

Those include his vision of “pinch-faced roadies” who at “six o’clock on a Wednesday night or half past sparrow fart on a Saturday and then then dropping you after a mile for 30 miles or more and then coming back, repeat for six weeks. If you were still there, they'd bring the club and they tell you about all the things that were wrong with your bikes, you kit.”

He acknowledges that part of his dislike of clubs lies in his route into cycling – bike commuting (still his favourite form of cycling) in London at a time when it was mountain biking, and not riding on the road, that was the “fashionable” thing at the time.

“Doing the job I do, it’s quite sociable, it’s got its own in-built competitiveness, I don’t have that urge on the bike to sort of compete, especially as especially if I'm most likely going to lose, and I like going out on my own.

“I genuinely like going out with other people, but my default setting would be to go out for a bike ride on my own.”

Tony admits he fellows Velo Club Walcot on Instagram and mostly “they look like an inclusive, fun bunch,” and has even thought, “I’d go out with them but they all go out this like Saturday morning, eight o’clock … I’m in bed.”

The discussion that follows sees some coming together on the issue … Tony pointing out that members could actually race in kit available via the club, Nick pointing out that different clubs have a different focus and that it’s a case of finding one that best suits you.

Discussion of certain clubs in London, however, sees a lot of common ground between the pair, as well as George, who recalls a ride with a certain “very pushy one” where “I was dropped after five or six miles deliberately and then they didn’t give me the route” meaning he had to ask people whether they’d seen the group come through.

That leads on to talk of what might be termed the “more exclusive” clubs, with Tony saying: “There are clubs that are really unpopular with other clubs and even with people who aren’t in clubs but know who they are – and London seems to have its fair share of them, doesn’t it?”

“I think what’s possibly the conclusion here is that cyclists really just represent the human race,” says Nick.

“If it’s 10 per cent of the London population have f got some kind of inclination to ride a bike, and 2 per cent of them are the sort of people who have got an inclination to join a cycling club, that’s a hell of a lot of people in the London area, whereas in little old Bath, it’s a much smaller number.

“It’s inevitable that you’re gonna see the types represented very differently, and I think you’d only have to go to Richmond Park on a Sunday to see all kinds of people.

“I’ve certainly seen on forums people complaining about certain groups riding around Richmond Park in a certain way – the truth is what it really means is that they've got really sharp kit, they going really fast, they've got a very strong sort of ethos for riding really fast and in a very kind of elite way on very expensive bikes and I suppose it's going to piss people other off.”

Cycling confessions …

In past episodes, we’ve been featuring cycling related confessions from members of the team, and we have three for your in this episode, one from Tony, the others from two of us who have been here almost as long – yours truly, and’s Official Grumpy Northener, John Stevenson.

So, keep listening to find out which one of us was something of a trailblazer in using a pair of Look road pedals in a mountain bike race (rumours that this heresy prompted the company to subsequently develop MTB-specific clipless pedals in retaliation remain unconfirmed), who hasn’t got the hang of a spoke key, and which one of us shudders at the thought of tackling a hill, let alone the Alps or Pyrenees.

Also, please let us know YOUR cycling confessions – what do you need to get off your chest about your own riding? Which skills haven’t you mastered? Which rookie mistakes have you made? Have you nearly crashed into someone famous? All sins will be absolved (though we may have a giggle along the way).

The Podcast is available on Apple PodcastsSpotify and Amazon Music, and if you have an Alexa you can just tell it to play the Podcast. It's also embedded further up the page, so you can just press play.

Since launching the Podcast, plenty of our best segments have been inspired by feedback or suggestions from listeners, so your comments are always welcome! If there's a guest you want us to line up or subject you'd like discussed, feel free to message us at podcast [at] 

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

Add new comment


Flintshire Boy | 2 years ago
1 like


'they could come together to talk about all things bike.'


If only it had stayed that way, instead of becoming a politicised web-site.


Rendel Harris replied to Flintshire Boy | 2 years ago
Flintshire Boy wrote:

If only it had stayed that way, instead of becoming a politicised web-site.

I agree, if you and your now quit/banned fellow ubertroll and a few others didn't keep deliberately trying to needle and provoke by shoehorning your rightist beliefs into every discussion the atmosphere would certainly be much improved.

NOtotheEU replied to Flintshire Boy | 2 years ago

I only signed up recently to post some comments on the NMOTD videos and I've been shocked how so many of the comments sections turn into really nasty slanging matches.

I'm pretty sure the thorn waiting to puncture our tyre or the driver who's going to injure or kill us some day doesn't care if we're gay/straight, black/white, rich/poor or wherever we think we are on the imaginary left to right political spectrum that the media and politicians want to keep us trapped in.

Simon E replied to Flintshire Boy | 2 years ago
Flintshire Boy wrote:

'they could come together to talk about all things bike.'


If only it had stayed that way, instead of becoming a politicised web-site.


Other cycling websites are available.

If you don't like politicising the site then maybe stick to making non-political comments.

It always seems that stirrers / trolls persist in their activities rather trying to find one where they have more in common with the other contributors. Why does that happen? I I have no desire to repeatedly troll people on, say, or an F1 forum and then whine that they react negatively.

biker phil wrote:

I have been a member of two cycling clubs. My experience in both was that they were very regimented in the way the club was run, very clique, and both clubs had too many rules

That doesn't make clubs in general a bad thing. Every club is different and I don't know of any clubs that are like the ones you describe.

biker phil wrote:

spending all your Saturday evening standing on a windy corner in the arse end of bum fucked nowhere when you should have been out for a meal with friends.

Why didn't you say that you were busy? Lots of people seem to be unavailable when asked to help at an event. Trying to get a few people to wear a hi-viz vest for a couple of hours 2 or 3 times in a whole year is the worst part of organising. And there are so many people who expect events to be put on for them but don't want to have to put themselves out once in a while.

On the podcast chat about morning club rides, I don't see why it's a big deal - you either get up and go on the ride or you do something else (sleep in, watch telly, do some DIY or whatever). I'm a keen member of my club but other commitments, particularly when my kids were small, meant that I couldn't justify being out for several hours on a Sunday morning so I nearly always ride solo. It seemed like a lot of noise about something quite inconsequential.

SlowOldSteve | 2 years ago

Lovely to hear about the Thanet RC,  I have just rejoined them after a 22 year gap, but unfortunately due to covid have not ridden with them yet. I too have fond memories of club runs and races with a great bunch of riders. My club history started in 1970 with CC Bexley,  then Gemini BC. Again great times and friendships and a life time addiction to all sorts of cycling and racing. Ultimately,  as long as you enjoy riding your bike it matters not if solo or with clubmates. 

Safe peddling!

Rik Mayals unde... | 2 years ago

I have been a member of two cycling clubs. My experience in both was that they were very regimented in the way the club was run, very clique, and both clubs had too many rules, one being that you had to take your turn marshalling events put on, which could involve spending all your Saturday evening standing on a windy corner in the arse end of bum fucked nowhere when you should have been out for a meal with friends. One committee member was a real bully and it was his way or the highway. Came away from clubs in 2004 and have never missed them.

John Stevenson | 2 years ago

"they all go out this like Saturday morning, eight o’clock … I’m in bed."

And there it is.

Everyone who works here knows the boss is not a morning person, in the same way that the Sahara Desert is not a verdant English garden. The rest of it is just excuses.  1

The trick is just to find a club that's a cultural and attitudinal fit. 

I was a very early member of VC Walcot and in those days Sunday rides started at 9:30 because Pete the founder would have been out clubbing the night before and that was the absolute earliest he could get moving.

Probably still too early for Tony.

eburtthebike | 2 years ago

Can't be bothered to read all that, but from scanning it, the discussion seems to be about racing clubs, very different from the clubs I belong to, which are focussed on day rides exploring the local countryside, weekends away, longer trips, cycle touring and tea, coffee and cake.

KDee replied to eburtthebike | 2 years ago

I stopped reading after the first barrage of typo's.

mdavidford replied to KDee | 2 years ago
KDee wrote:


OK - I give up - was this deliberate or not?

KDee replied to mdavidford | 2 years ago
1 like

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