The Rye & District Wheelers have featured in so many issues of “Rye’s Own” over the past 50 years. Mike Ashdown, who still rides with the Club today, was featured in that very first issue, winning the Wheelers 25 Mile Championship for the second year running. These days you are more likely to see him or his brother Jon, out on a club run with Steve Blattman than racing it out in time trials or on the track where he made such a name for himself and the Wheelers in the 1960’s.
Out with the Wheelers
By Steve Blattman
I had always cycled to work from Rye to Dungeness during summer months where I worked for 37 years but when I retired in 2014 I wondered how I would find the enthusiasm to just go out a cycling for leisure.
I continued to cycle mainly around Rye and sometimes to Tenterden or New Romney to pop down and see friends but I didn’t always feel the motivation to get out on the bike.
Things changed! I met Derek Bayton at a Rye Festival event in Rye and he mentioned to me the Rye Wheelers did a Friday ride for ‘slower’ riders and why don’t I come along. I dithered and wondered what I was letting myself in for, they’re bound to be too fast, I wont be able to keep up! But after many conversations with my wife about going out with a proper cycling club, she finally said in exasperation “well, if you don’t go you will never know will you?”
I duly turned up at North Salts on my trusty hybrid bike meeting the rest of the cyclists about 10 including Jim Hollands. As there was a mixed bunch of road bikes and hybrids, and some ladies, I felt more comfortable and it didn’t seem to be how I imagined.
We set off with Derek leading the ride, we cycled to Appledore Bridge to meet any other Kent based cyclists who would want to join the ride. We meandered across Romney Marsh at a leisurely pace to the Oasis Cafe, I wasn’t expecting a break for food but it was a chance to get to know the other cyclists and a good brekky!
Well, that was a year ago and since then my fitness levels have improved (I’m working on the weight!) and I now go out with the Tuesday Wheelers – a faster group. I don’t think I’ll ever achieve the performance of the serious riders but clocking up an average of 70 miles a week keeps the heart going, keeps me fit and most of all it’s fun!
I’ve been to France twice with the club, a rather gruelling a randonnźe in Adres in May – 100k of very challenging hills, well for me anyway but the host French club looked after us with beer and baguettes at the end of the ride.
The second trip started at 04:30 catching an early ferry to Calais followed by 50 mile ride through Graveline and towards Ardres stopping for a typical French 4 course meal on the way round.
With winter coming on, we still go out but there is always an eye on the weather. No one is keen to cycle on dark winter days but with a few encouraging phone calls, we’re out again in the cold urged on a stop for cup of hot tea and some grub!
First Published in “Rye’s Own” November 2015
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