Cycling: My Journey to the 10am Saturday Gentle Café Ride

Welcome to the club’s new blog page.

We hope this new blog will give members, both new and old, the chance to share their stories, views, experiences and advice on all matters related to cycling. It could be about entering your first road race or time trial, the planning and leading of a club ride, the organising of an event, a touring holiday, great local routes and coffee stops, or even something like a day at a velodrome. By sharing such stories we can hopefully inspire, encourage and inform members about other cycling disciplines and adventures they might not have tried or contemplated.

What better way to start than with this, posted by Andy Perry

Cycling: My Journey to the 10am Saturday Gentle Café Ride


“When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking” – Arthur Conan Doyle

Several years ago I had a very sporty boss who decided it would be a good idea to “encourage” his direct reports to take part in a Team Sprint Triathlon. Now for anyone that knows me it’s fairly obvious that I am not built for running and I have a swimming style more akin to a brick! I decided my best option was to volunteer for the “sit down sport”, after all, how hard could cycling 20k be? I, like most people, did that with no trouble in my youth. In my mind that wasn’t even that long ago, unfortunately my body had other ideas. Twenty years of doing nothing more energetic than reaching for the remote control had taken its toll. There was one other problem…I didn’t actually own a bike! So I borrowed my dad’s mountain bike and thought I could ride the easy 15 miles from Chipping Norton to Banbury; some two and half hours later I knew this wasn’t going to be easy. I vowed never to ride that bike again; if I was doing a road race, I would need a road bike. Now to convince the wife that buying a bike for one event wasn’t a waste of money. She kindly agreed, with the condition that I kept riding or it would be found buried in the garden next to me.

With five weeks to go until the event, my Raleigh Airlite 300 arrived and I started my “training”. I picked an easy route down to Horley, turning at the top of Hornton, riding back again and up to the Warwick road. Simple 12 miles with one hill at the end – EASY!

Downhill to Horley was easy and the deceptive rise to the cricket ground took its toll with me puffing like a broken steam train. I turned right in the village and started up the little rise. OH MY WORD!!! I sat on the wall at the top of my first mountain climb, not knowing if I was going to pass out or be very ill! Well, I sat there for a bit and then decided to push on and complete the circuit. I did this a number of times over the next few weeks in readiness for the event. I won’t bore you about the event itself on this occasion, but let’s just say, I didn’t trouble the timekeepers too much other than the amount of coffee they must have drunk to stay awake long enough to see me home. My teammate had extreme patience standing there waiting for me to finally come home for her to head off on the run. Event done.

This wasn’t enough to put me off cycling, and with the “condition” agreed with my wife, I occasionally went out when the weather was nice for a little ride. From this point on I was hooked and my affair with cycling really started.

“Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime. Teach a man to cycle and he will realize fishing is stupid and boring” – Desmond Tutu

After a winter spent building body fat to survive the harsh weather, spring arrived and off I went again on the bike. Err mm, what happened to the small amount of fitness I had built the autumn before! It slowly came back thankfully. Through the summer I spent as much time on the bike as possible and looked for as many ways to improve as I could. I Googled “cycling in Banbury” and found the Banbury Star club’s website and forum. Demonstrating how much of a newbie I was I started asking questions. With their expert advice such as “The best way to get better at riding up hills, is to ride up hills” I kept on going. Also at this time I started to see some adverts for a Go-Active ride that Banbury Star were hosting once a month on a Saturday morning. An introduction to cycling in groups at a slow and steady pace. I finally plucked up the courage to attend the last one of the year. I timed my arrival so I wasn’t too early; if there wasn’t anyone there, I may just ride past losing my nerve; I arrived at the cinema having come down the Broughton Road, unclipped my left foot, dropped down the curb, and started to lose my balance to the right. Panic set in and I couldn’t get my other foot out in time and dropped to the floor. My first impression with Banbury Star was cast; there I was lying on the floor with the bike on top of me trying to brazen it out. “Hi, I’m Andy” I squeaked from beneath my bike. Well, they helped me up and didn’t send me packing so off we went, just a small dribble of blood on my knee, and I loved it. As soon as I saw something posted up the next spring, I went along again and continued to enjoy myself.

A few of us decided that we didn’t need to wait for another month to come around and started to arrange our own meetings, same time, and same place. The 10am Saturday Gentle Café Ride ride was born.

Without the likes of Lee Buzzard, Kevin Zwolinski and Richard Brain for company and encouragement, I doubt I would have continued, but continue I did. We even picked up other regulars as we went along as word spread. The ride continued every Saturday, even over the winter, unless it was too dangerous to ride. Other riders still moan at me for not needing to wear gloves during the even the coldest of winters.

“To me, it doesn’t matter whether it’s raining or the sun is shining or whatever: as long as I’m riding a bike I know I’m the luckiest guy in the world” – Mark Cavendish. Now who can argue with that!

As there is nothing more demoralizing than watching a group of riders disappearing off down the road whilst you are working your buns off, we built the ethos of the Saturday ride;

“We would always ride at the speed of the slowest and never leave anyone behind”. These basic rules of the rides are still the cornerstone of the Saturday ride all these years later.

Occasionally Banbury Star would arrange a ride on a Saturday and “join in with us”, honestly we didn’t mind!

In November 2014 Nicky Xandora arranged a ride starting outside the new cycling shop, Broadribbs Cycles, and our new starting point was adopted. With free coffee available and somewhere to shelter in the colder weather before we set off, it’s proven a very popular meeting place. One day Luke will even manage to get me to have a pre-ride coffee!

Since those days we have gone from strength to strength with many new people coming along and trying cycling out and going on to join the club. The club even has a bike they loan out for people to try a road bike. Lots have moved on to the faster Sunday rides, with some even taking up racing as well. From three of us each week to a current record of twenty six we continue to grow and long may it continue.

With so many rides now over the years we have built a list of very good café stops and routes in the local area. We vary the location and route every week; approximately 25 miles with a pace around 12-14 mph, or as appropriate to the group.

Between Rob Christopher and me we now host the ride each week with one leading and one sweeping to ensuring that everyone is okay and gets home safely. We still haven’t managed to lose anyone!

“I think every cyclist must have the same kind of sickness, we enjoy the pain, we enjoy the never ending headwinds, we enjoy the adrenaline, we enjoy riding the hill slightly faster than the last time, we enjoy the coffee stop, and let’s not forget the cake!” – Andy Perry