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In 1974, cycling in Reading was at a low ebb. Few bikes were to be seen around the town, there was no council cycling policy, no cycle lanes or facilities, and few cycle shops. For keen cyclists there were two clubs: the Reading Wheelers, and the Bon Amis CC. There was no local Cyclists Touring Club (CTC). Reading Wheelers was a long-established club which had some gaps in its lifetime. Membership was small. The Bon Amis was formed early in the war by those members of Reading clubs who remained in Reading. Those pre-war clubs never reformed after 1945.
As an ex-Bon Amis member I saw the 1974 situation from that club's perspective. We were down to six or seven at the clubroom and riding in the inter-club time trials with the Reading Wheelers. Generally they had even fewer competitors. It was becoming depressing. In the Bon Amis we had already introduced "coffee runs" in addition to the all-day clubruns in a sucessful attempt to boost the number of members taking an active part in the club's activities. Eventually the idea of combining the two clubs emerged.
On 14 August 1974 the first joint meeting of the clubs took place with Stan Higson, Dave Steel and Robin Jenkins representing the Wheelers, and Ralph Raw, Mike O'Rourke and I from the Bon Amis. Some of us are still club members! There was a second meeting on 4th September at which agreement was reached: the clubs would amalgamate. The racing vests would be the Wheelers' colours of light blue, dark blue, and yellow. They had just received a substantial amount of clothing! Since then the design rotated through 90°, and reverted to the original with a little modification. Now we have a complete change - a look for the twenty first century.
The new club, Reading Cycling Club continued to promote two long standing events: the Bon Amis Open 50, and the Reading Wheelers cyclo-cross. This was ratified by the Bon Amis AGM on 30th September and by the Wheelers at their AGM. There was a joint dinner and prize presentation at the Old Mill, Aldermaston, on 14th November. The inaugural meeting of the Reading Cycling Club took place on 9th December. The club existed! The first clubrun was to Henley on Sunday 15th December and many of us still have the group photograph.
On the racing side, time trials were the all consuming passion of Clive Pugh, who took places in National Championships and third in the BBAR. Robin Jackson was winner of the first CTC National 25 mile championship. Other riders like Eddie Napper, Ken Maunder, Tony Allsop, Stuart Byde, Bill Gilham, Martin Druce, Leon Gipson, Geoff Taylor, Jon Airey, Rod MacFadyen, and Gill Clapton took (and some still take) prominent places in local events and championships.
Road Racing has not been great: with Richard Woodgate having the longest career with many placings, and Stuart Byde who rode the Archer International Grand Prix at Beaconsfield. Our most succesful track rider was Gordon Wooldridge who represented Great Brittain in the Junior World Championships in the USA in 1978. It has always surprised me that we have had so few track riders when Reading is one of the few towns in the country with a track.
On the social side, we kept the clubroom on Silver Street going until the move to Palmer Park Sports Stadium in December 2000. On the road, coffee runs continue each Sunday. Although once very popular, all-day runs are a rare event. There has been a long standing controversy about the pace of clubruns, with many experiments to split those who are out for a social ride from those who are training. Since Reading CC was formed there have been many changes. Now there are few social riders, and many more sporting types.
Cycling in our club is an athletic activity which is obviously the choice of our active membership. In the future it seems likely that the local CTC will recruit most of the social and touring riders. Top racers will ride for clubs which can offer team and financial support. So where does that leave Reading CC? Probably where it has always been: as a firm base for the middle ground. Cycling is changing in line with social factors, traffic congestion, and so on. We have to move with it. One thing is certain: we will have to work hard to ensure the future well being of the club, but I am certain that we will.