A 19th century cycling club is set to relaunch in the 21st century. Balham Cycling Club, formed in 1897 but closed in 1985, will ride again under the same badge and colours in 2017. Recently affiliated to British Cycling, plans are being drawn up – with an eye on a well-rounded anniversary – for ‘The Balham’ to ride out in the red, white and black next year.
The BCC Blog Editor spoke to Paul Darby about his efforts to raise once again the famous South London club.
BCC Blog: What made you decide to relaunch the club?
A misty-eyed appreciation for the local history and an urge to get back on a bike. Back in 2015 I found a photograph in a battered old suitcase of my Great Uncle Harry in his cycling garb. The badge stitched into his jersey and the pin badge on his jacket both said Balham Cycling Club. I started to look into the old club and found a fascinating story which includes a cycling manufacturing icon in Claud Butler, a legendary race in The Balham Rough Stuff and a town’s cycling heritage that actually goes back to 1878.
It’s also been a while since I’ve been on a bike. It’s time to get back in the saddle and thought it would be an interesting way of making sure I do it.
BCC Blog: What’s your ambition for the club?
A new cycling club founded on a love of the sport, keeping fit, friendship and having some fun. And pubs and cafés. Lots of pubs and cafés.
BCC Blog: Have you ever run a cycling club?
BCC Blog: Do you actually live in Balham?
Well the family did from 1887-1935, but no. Each generation has moved out one fare zone – Clapham, Balham, Tooting, Carshalton. It’s my family duty to make it to Cheam before I snuff it. As for my Balham credentials, I crawl to work through the station on a Southern train every weekday and I have some fond memories of soul and comedy nights in The Bedford in the 80s and 90s.
BCC Blog: You’re currently 0 for 2. Do you actually cycle?
Yes. Although mainly MTB single-track / downhill to be honest. And that has stopped following the retirement of a number of MTB cycling friends.
BCC Blog: So just to be clear, you’ve never run a cycling club or ridden in one, you are a mountain biker, you don’t have enough cyclist friends to join to make this viable and you don’t live in Balham?
PD: Yes that’s correct. But I do have a print of the club badge, a local history based blog and a Twitter account with 230 followers – although that’s largely made up of companies trying to flog me stuff.
BCC Blog: What a shambles. In the most unlikely event that someone might want to take this forward with you, how should they get in touch?
PD: Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
BCC Blog: You’ll be lucky.
BCC: Finally, why are you pretending to interview yourself when quite clearly you have ‘written’ all this.
PD: Not sure really. I’ll get mi coat.