Walkers Cycling Club celebrated its 10th anniversary on Sunday by doing what it does best – going for a long bike ride then toasting the occasion with coffee and cake.
Walkers Cycling Club marked the special date with a sportive ride in which two groups of riders took separate routes to Largs.
Coffee and birthday cake came after the sportive when returning riders gathered at the club’s bike shop base in Kilmaurs.
Thirty members took part in the anniversary cycle which, this year, replaced the club’s traditional Spring Classic ride.
Members had been given the opportunity of choosing a starting point and suggesting a central meet-up point for lunch. After much debate on social media, two suitable routes to Largs were identified, one approaching the seaside town from the north and other from the south. Nardini’s was singled out as the ideal food venue for a large party.
Each route though had its challenges along the way.
One of the two groups went on a 66-mile trip through Lugton, Howwood and Kilmacolm, climbing 500ft in 1.5 miles up from Greenock to Loch Thom.
The other group went on a shorter 55-mile trip, making for Stevenston on paths and quiet roads then cycling up the Dalry Moor road on a long slog of a climb that rises 800ft over eight miles.
Both journeys did, of course, offer great sight-seeing opportunities as well as fast, thrilling downhill stretches – the Brisbane Glen drop to Largs from the north and the moor road descent to Fairlie on the south.
Although never particularly wet, the riders had to contend with strong gusts along their chosen routes, which made for a colder and harder ride than expected.
After lunch they made the return journey to Kilmaurs to join other members past and present for the cake and coffee celebration.
Walkers Cycling Club was formed in 2006 when John Walker and a handful of fellow cyclists came together to consolidate their regular rides and establish themselves as a group registered with Scottish Cycling.
At that time the fledgling club was mainly involved in mountain biking but diversified a few years later when John Walker suggested a change of plan – a road ride!
It was a good move and one that coincided with a new era for cycle racing in Britain when Sir Chris Hoy hit the headlines and lottery funding promised big things in the Olympics and Tour de France.
Walkers now has more than 100 members participating in anything from track racing to cyclocross racing as well as the more mainstream road and off road disciplines.
In recent years the club has won praise for organising a day of cyclocross racing at Irvine beach park round about Christmas. The event attracts hundreds of riders from all over Scotland and culminated last year in gaining National Championship status.
The club also hosts and organises an early-season pursuit race from Fenwick and the Kilmarnock Criterium series of circuit races in September.
Chairman Fraser Bell said: “We are a small club but we feel we punch well above our weight. We pride ourselves on having something for riders in pretty much all disciplines and for all levels of ability.
“A lot of what we do has been the result of great ideas coming through from the members. We’re always keen to listen to suggestions on how we can take the club and the sport forward.”
John Walker, now an honorary club member, recalled the first meeting in April 2006 when a dozen people gathered in a Kilmarnock church to discuss the project.
He said: “Other local clubs were concentrating on road racing and there were very few people involved.
“We realised that more and more riders were getting into mountain biking but there was no club or body to represent them locally.
“The new club also had the benefit of the shop in Kilmaurs as a focal point and a meeting place.”
Within a few years, the new Walkers Cycling Club had a membership of 180.
Midweek rides restart
Walkers CC have re-introduced midweek cycle rides requiring varied levels of ability.
The rides take place on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights.
The Tuesday night session is aimed at fast, capable riders with the Thursday night outing reserved for newcomers and members wanting a leisure cycle. The Wednesday night ride fits in somewhere between the pace and distance of the other two.
Also on a Thursday, the club are offering speed-building sessions on the Marine Drive circuit in Irvine.
The starting point for this is at the layby nearest the Magnum while the regular Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday rides start from the shop in Kilmaurs.
Seven members showed for the latest speed test last Thursday at the 3.5 mile circular course on the Beach Park road at Irvine.
The group decided to set a steady-paced first lap to get a feel for the session, taking turns on the front before moving towards the back and enjoying a welcome break from the wind.
The group then ramped the speed up on the second lap and each rider managed a spell on the front. At an average pace on this lap of 20mph a couple of riders started to drift off the back.
As the ride passed half way the group was down to five riders, the speed was up to 22mph and the breathing was getting heavier as hearts started pounding.
The final 3.5 mile lap saw four riders chain the lap, with speeds of up to 28mph. All four were working as one and finished strongly.
Jim Goldie, who is running the speed sessions, says he has been encouraged that 13 club members have taken part over the last two weeks.
He added: “Any rider who can maintain 18mph in a group can sign up. This is great way to master the skills needed to ride in a group, while taking a turn on the front and moving through the group of riders.
Last Wednesday night’s medium-paced ride had seven members out on the Galston route. The group headed to Moscow and down the road past Loudoun Academy before climbing again and making for the A76. The return route to Kilmaurs went via Earlston, Gatehead and Crosshouse.
Just over 30 miles were travelled on a windy night.