Photos by Andy Jones
From: Frodsham, Cheshire
Meets: There are five club rides a week, with Saturday’s ride at 8:30am outside Twelve50 bike shop in Frodsham for a 60-mile out and back to the Wizard Tearoom in Alderley Edge.
Sunday Club runs happen throughout the year, but in the summer are split in to A and B rides, with details posted on the club website.
In the summer months Tuesday’s 7pm hilly spin and Thursday’s 6:30pm hard hilly also both start from outside the shop. Wednesday’s 7pm ride starts at Moughland Lane lights, with an additional 7:15pm pick-up at Aston Fields Road.
The winter timetable sees Tuesday’s and Thursday’s rides become a 7pm fast-paced chaingang, meeting at the junction of Stuart Road, Manor Park Avenue and Warrington Road, and Wednesday’s 7pm ride turn into a social 25-miler.
All smiles for the wheelers
“You could have at least cleaned your bikes guys,” jests Frodsham Wheeler chairman, Chris Hanson-Jones, as we ride side by side at the back of 40 or so members all on immaculate bikes, gleaming in the sunshine.
I’ve already noticed the club’s shiniest member, John McKenna, who’s riding a rare limited-edition Bianchi, in Frodsham colours, teamed with a matching orange POC helmet and pair of Giro shoes.
I pull up alongside for a chat, and admiring his souplesse, tanned legs and classy kit, assume he’s been riding all his life, so I’m genuinely lost for words when McKenna tells me that Frodsham Wheelers is the first club he’s even ridden for.
“I could ride a bike,” he laughs, “but I was a wagon driver for 45 years — I swapped 18 wheels for two. I’d never really done much sport before, but I had a heart attack a few years ago, and then major heart surgery and it woke me up.
A great turn out for the usual Sunday run
“I wanted to get fit and my surgeon suggested bike riding. Never in a million years did I dream I’d be in Lycra, leading two club runs a week, and riding 50 miles a day. I wished I’d taken it up years ago and not waited until my seventies.
“I took my grandson out for a ride once and we ended up riding to North Wales and back, it was 100 miles. He was practically on the floor by the time we got back.”
Thankfully, we’ve managed to avoid the hills of North Wales, which lie just to the west of Frodsham. “It’s always the Wizard on a Saturday,” Daniel Emmett, club president, tells me, which turns out to be a flat out and back ride into West Cheshire with just one big climb.
Frodsham flash by in full force
“We thought about riding somewhere different today but we put it to a members’ vote and everyone agreed that it had to be the Wizard as it’s the club’s signature ride. After last year’s incident, it’s become even more intrinsic to us,” Emmett continues.
The incident Emmett refers to is that of Matthew Kimpton Smith who suffered a huge heart attack on this run. He survived, according to hospital consultants, purely due to the lifesaving skills of fellow club-member Roy Forster.
Roy Forster: “I bought a road bike to get fit after a mountain bike injury. It was just as the club started, so I joined and haven’t looked back.”
“I work with the emergency services as part of my job, so the training just kicked in but since this happened we have decided to roll out first-aid training for all members,” says Forster modestly. “It’s such a shame Matthew couldn’t make it today to talk to you — it’s amazing that he is back riding and racing just one year on.”
Martin Geer, who joined Frodsham Wheelers three years ago, and is now a newly qualified run leader, is the mastermind behind the first-aid training courses.
“I spent 25 years in the fire service,” says Geer, “so designed a cyclist-orientated course for anyone who wants to come along, including the local community.”
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“That’s what I really love about the club,” Jan Gray tells me, “it’s such an asset to the community and really encourages everyone to get on a bike and give it a go. I joined a couple of months ago and have already seen progression.
“I’ve even signed up for my first sportive — a very hilly one in Scotland. I’m worried about the climbing, but I feel able to tackle it thanks to the support I’ve had. I’m so glad I joined.”
Daniel Emmett: “We’re all part of the wider Frodsham community, and every year we vote on what charity to support.”
Frodsham Wheelers was technically established in 2010, initially as just a group of mates who were returning to the sport after a long racing and riding hiatus. The club soon gained the sponsorship of local Frodsham bike shop Twelve50, where the unique club colours hail from.
Since 2012 the club has been officially affiliated with British Cycling, Cycling Time Trials and Liverpool Time Trials Cycling Association and has steadily attracted new riders.
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The club also promoted its first club 10-mile time trial, and now as well as a fortnightly ‘10’ from May to September, the club also holds a club 10TT handicap and hill-climb, as well as an annual open hilly ‘22’ at Broxton (D22/1), which this year had 100 riders enter, including Chris Boardman’s son.
Martin Geer: “I was cajoled into joining by my hairdresser. I popped into Twelve50 and joined there and then!”
In 2016 the club’s elected committee sat for the first time. Membership now stands at just over 70 riders, and has 10 DRB checked run leaders.
Under the encouragement of more experienced riders, many newcomers have gone from couch to racing in a matter of months, but the club puts a big emphasis fun, socialbility and individual progression.
So as well as racing, Frodsham Wheelers regularly organise velodrome nights, youth hostelling weekends, an annual epic ‘Dawn ‘till Dusk’ 220 miler and trips to Flanders and Roubaix to ride the sportive events and watch the pro races, as well as club jaunts to Italy and the Alps.
Cerys Hanson-Jones: “My grandad used to take me riding, then my dad and I rode a tandem, now I ride out with the club every Sunday.”
Last year’s ‘Dawn ‘til Dusk’ 220 mile ride, with over 10,000 feet of climbing, raised £2,500 for local charity Frodsham Rainbow Club
Second claim member Paul Whittall was a prolific time trial winner back in the 90s, claiming the 22-mile Birkenhead North End Hilly TT course record in 47.08. As a Level 3 qualified ABCC coach, Whittall now offers Frodsham Wheelers members free training advice and support.
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Alan Clark won the Liverpool Time Trials Cycling Association BAR in 1998, with Chris Hanson-Jones runner up in 1999.
Club member and ex-firefighter Martin Geer is volunteering his time to organise and run cycling-orientated first-aid courses, open to both members and non-members.
A post-prandial peruse of the route plan
Frodsham Wheelers club run Ride highlights
The market town of Frodsham, lined with picturesque thatched houses and shops, is well worth a visit. Be sure to take in the wrought Iron Swing Bridge over the River Weaver.
2 Higher Whitley
Surrounded by quiet lanes, the former marl pit, horse pond, and old farmhouse beyond form the centre of this quaint village. Ease off the gas to take in the quintessentially British scenery.
3 Artists Lane
At a mile long, and a five per cent average gradient, Artists Lane seems benign enough on paper, but on the bike it’s a tough climb. You’re justly rewarded with a cracking tearoom at the top.
Set in the beautiful National Trust land in Nether Alderley, the historic Wizard Tearoom is a busy and welcoming cafe — a favourite with walkers and cyclists alike. Service is swift and there is plenty of seating. Wizard Tearoom, Macclesfield Rd, Alderley Edge SK10 4UB