11 July 2017

Dear All

The frustrations of getting ever older are very upsetting – until you think about the only available alternative. On holiday last month I developed a very painful left knee and other aches and pains in the legs which had me stumbling round a number of French towns. (But Sue took pity on me and drove us round the extensive gardens at Vaux-le-Vicomte in an electric buggy – highly recommended.) Soon after I got home the knee and general leg pains began to go away – hurrah! Then, getting out of a taxi last a week or so ago I managed to get a horrible spasm in the back followed by a nasty painful ache which though now diminishing is still causing me problems.

The reason to burden you with my tale of woe is that since I had to cancel my ride (unnecessarily as it turned out – but you have to act on the best weather forecasts available) I have earmarked 20 August as a possible date on which to try to do it again. It’s still possible that this might happen – but since Julian has also volunteered his Chichester ride for that date I’ve put him down for it provisionally. Either way we’re OK for rides until the start of September (volunteers please!) and I hope that I will at least get out on a ride – and preferably lead one – before the end of the year.

Recent mailings have been followed by a number of ‘undelivered’ messages – presumably because the email addresses in question are no longer operative. If you do change yours please let me know so I can modify the mailing list and you can continue to receive newsletters.

I am forwarding to you separately news of next year’s Easter Meet. This is much earlier than usual so congratulations to the organisers is definitely in order.

At the Chester Meet earlier in the year there was considerable discussion about the future of the Easter Meet and especially whether it should be moved from Easter (where it’s been for the last 122 years – so the likelihood of change there seems a bit remote).

With both in mind I have chosen for my extract from the 1890s in this issue a piece that illustrates that controversy about the Meet has been more or less endemic from the start. True, in this instance it’s where rather than when that is puzzling Jim (of the Bradford Clarion – definitely not OUR Jim!) but it does make my point in a general way.



3 July 2017

Dear All

Before you settle down in front of the telly to watch the start of the 2017 Tour de France, please give a moment’s thought to the next few stages of Clarion’s ongoing tour.

We have an interesting looking ride scheduled for 9 July, led by Leon. After that, nothing! Any offers pleae, to Ian who is now back in the country (



14 June 2017

13 June 2017

Dear All

Ian is away so I’m standing in as newsletter editor.

It is still possible to sign up to the Dieppe trip (31 August – 5 September) as long as you do so very soon, and are prepared to commit yourself to it.

The first night will be in or near Dieppe. Then on to Forges les Eaux for three days exploring the area. The fifth night will be en route back to Dieppe.

If you’d like to know more or to bag a place, please email Angela ASAP.

Leon has drawn our attention to an article from a Sustrans newsletter about electric bikes. He suggested we include it in the newsletter. (See below).



How I became an e-bike convert – by Ross McGill, 10 May 2017


Ten years with Sustrans and a lifetime of cycling adventures hadn’t really prepared me for this: my first ride on an e-bike.

I’ve always been sceptical and a bit of a purist when it comes to e-bikes. I have to admit I thought they were cheating and unnecessary.

After all, with a good range of gears and route planning even a hilly city like Derry, in Northern Ireland, can be navigated by bike.

Times and waistlines change, however, and as part of a recent workplace project that Sustrans is delivering in the North West of Ireland I was finally given the chance to see if I could be converted.

My first e-bike experience

The machine in question was a German made Focus Aventura (actually classified as a ‘pedelec’, a low-powered e-bike where the rider’s pedalling is assisted by a small electric motor). It’s one of four e-bikes being used to encourage Derry City & Strabane District Council and Western Health and Social Care Trust staff to try their commute and local trips by two wheels.

My first impression of the e-bike was that it didn’t look like an e-bike, not the clunky, motor scooter kind that I had in my head anyway.

Apart from a narrow rectangle shaped 400v battery on the down tube there is little indication that it runs on anything more than your own steam. And unlike some e-bikes that have incorporated the motor in the rear hub, the Aventura’s motor is cleverly housed in the front chainset.

The bike has four settings that provide increasing levels of assistance to your pedalling: Eco, tour, sport and turbo which very quickly became my favourite setting).  The bike also has an eight speed Shimano derailleur gear set that you use just like a conventional bike.

Once I selected the appropriate assistance setting and gear I was off.

Gently pedalling up Lawrence Hill at a top speed of 12mph whilst still on the saddle is a very satisfying experience.

As I glided to a stop, not even slightly out of breath, I thought wow! Now, this changes things.

Shipquay Street, Lawrence Hill, Chapel Road and Creggan Road are notoriously steep streets in the city that are usually avoided by all but the diehard cyclists with a wide range of gears. On my Focus the hill didn’t exist anymore and that was only the start of the enjoyment.

Getting a boost up hills was an obvious one but the more I cycled around town the more I realised many other, no less welcomed benefits.

At roundabouts and junctions, statistically the most risky areas for cyclists, I was given smooth, quick starts to get me through them safely. Along the quay I breezed by two club cyclists on racing bikes struggling against the headwind, the dreaded “horizontal hills” (to their credit I did need to use ‘turbo’ to overtake them).

The final benefit I experienced was just how much your distance and range can be extended. Returning back to base less than 30 mins later, I realised I had cycled around half the city at an average speed of 11 mph and never broke a sweat.

Are e-bikes the perfect solution?

Well, of course there is no such thing as a perfect solution.

Starting at around £750, for most people the cost of e-bikes is unaffordable compared to conventional bikes. The battery on the model I rode needs to be taken off and charged from a mains connection. Also, the additional weight makes e-bikes more difficult to transport (although some models feature a walk assist mode for when you are pushing the bike).

However, as costs come down and battery life and recharge times improve e-bikes could start to become more viable and attractive option.

It’s been coined the “e-mobility” revolution, with the attention tending to be on e-cars and buses, but the highest selling electric vehicles on the planet are actually e-bikes with an estimated 35 million e-bikes sold in 2016.

In many Western European countries e-bike sales have been steadily rising. This year, e-bikes are expected to out sell conventional bikes for the first time in Germany and the Netherlands.

I can also see their attraction from those returning to cycling or the elderly and less abled in society who may find it difficult to hop onto a conventional bike. Many European cities are also turning to e-cargo bikes to help move goods more efficiently in increasingly crowded urban areas.

With more and more kilometres of greenways being planned for in Derry and the North West, particularly the cross-border greenways to Buncrana, Muff and between Strabane and Lifford, e-bikes could offer a viable alternative to the car especially for journeys longer than 10km. And what a fantastic offer for the region we would have if Derry introduced the island’s first public e-bike share scheme.

So yes, you could say I’m a convert. I’ll always own and use a conventional bike for as one fellow cyclist told me “Lawrence Hill is the difference between what I wear now and elasticated trousers.”

However, for those of us who are also serious about the bicycle as a mode of transport, e-bikes aren’t cheating, they’re just a more sensible way to move about.


1 June 2017

31 May 2017

Dear All

A bit late so just a short newsletter this time. As you’ll see all our ride slots are now filled until the end of July.

Last Sunday was very frustrating. As I predicted might be the case in my cancellation message the way it turned out we could have had our ride on the Cuckoo Trail and Pevensey Levels without any weather problems.

But I suspect that if we had gone ahead with it we would have been worried about the predicted ‘torrential downpours’ throughout the day – wondering whether, in spite of the clear sky, something of that sort was suddenly going to materialise. And the thunder and lightning did arrive eventually – though long after we would have been safely home.

We all know that weather forecasting is not an exact science when it comes to predicting precisely when storms are going to arrive but at the end of the day you have to act on the best advice available.

I’m going to be away for both of the June rides so Roger will be looking after the newsletters. So from now on please send ride details, ride reports and anything else you want in the newsletter to Roger as well as to me.  I will be preparing the newsletters in advance as much as possible so if you can send me anything before the middle of next week I will incorporate it before sending on the ‘templates’ to Roger



22 May 2017

Dear All

We sometimes have had difficulty finding people to take on rides in the winter months – understandably – but usually come the Spring it’s been more a matter of saying ‘sorry, but X has already taken that date. Would you be able to do it on Y?’

It may still turn out like that this year. But at the moment what we need especially is an offer for 11 June.

As promised (threatened?) I’ve written a piece about the beginnings of our club. Like Topsy it kept growing and growing so I’ve relegated it to what’s usually been our ‘history’ slot after the details of the next ride and Angela’s report of the last one.

Much more succinct is the message I received a while back from John:

It takes two to tandem
It certainly does. I have one hanging from my workshop ceiling. It’s collecting lots of dust and hasn’t been used for years. Anyone fancy a spin? It’s a beautiful machine, hand built by Richmond Cycles and light. I used it quite a lot years ago. If you like speed, push the pedals and away it would go. Who needs an electric bike when you can have a partner.
 I would suggest a test ride at some point along the prom.  If that satisfies a suitable ride with the Clarion could follow. 


Sorry about the spacing of the last line, John. Don’t know what went wrong.


News and Easter Meet report

3 May 2017

Dear All
I know Jim has some ideas for rides, but apart from Dave’s ‘next ride’ I haven’t been overwhelmed with offers – so I’ve put myself down for 28 May. But I’m not going to be available for either of the June ones – so suggestions for them are very very welcome.

The Easter Meet
As promised last time, here’s a brief-ish report on the Easter Meet at Chester. Bob wasn’t able to make it so Brighton and Hove (or ‘Benson and Hedges’ as Ian Clarke insists on calling us – I’m planning to get him at playtime) was represented only by myself and Sue. We made it the beginning of a little holiday – enjoying walking round the world famous Rows and the city wall in Chester and taking a little river trip on the Dee. We followed this by a drive through Wales taking in some of the very best bits – Snowdonia, the Brecon Beacons and the Gower Peninsula. In my own defence I have to add that I have – admittedly in the now distant past starting with an Eagle Club – remember the comic? – tour of mid-Wales in the early 1950s -done a fair bit of cycling in the principality. But you won’t want to hear any more about this.

The annual conference took up the whole of Saturday morning. Only 20 of us attended.Votes depend on the number of members who’ve paid their subs by 1 April. At 34 we are almost exactly in the middle in this regard. Sections cover a huge spectrum in terms of membership from 4 (Heanor) to 225 (North Cheshire).

3rd Party Insurance
The most rather disturbing thing that the national secretary reported is that there has been a lower than expected take-up of the new insurance offer. There is now possibility that the new Clarion scheme will have to be wound up next year since at the moment it is costing the club a significant amount of money because of the low take up.

Of course, many of those who race – and most other sections do go in for this – are already covered and many others – like me for instance – rely on Cycling UK (former CTC) membership.

I’ve written about this several times before in this newsletter, urging everyone to make sure that they have 3rd party cover. Anne’s experience of not having it a few years ago was – to put it mildly – not a very happy one. (And quite an expensive one).

The scenario that worries me most is the one where on one of our rides I crash into someone else and damage their machine. In the old days this might have been less of a worry but nowadays when bikes often cost thousands rather than hundreds of pounds it could be very expensive.

Actually, there is nothing to worry about in this instance since I’ve had 3rd party cover since I joined the CTC in 1954. I’ve never had to use it, by the way. But if I did accidentally damage your bike on a ride I could be quite honest and straightforward about it since my insurance would cover the damage – however much it was. But suppose I was someone without 3rd party cover. There’d be a strong temptation to try and contest the cause of the accident claiming ‘it wasn’t really my fault.’ No one would be happy about having their bike damaged. But one can easily imagine the additional bad feeling that a would be generated in such a scenario – which I don’t think is a totally unrealistic one. Hardly ‘Fellowship is Life”!

Vacancies for Assistant Secretary and Membership Secretary
Much praise was given at the conference to our London friends Alec and Alan who had been carrying out these roles with great distinction. But they have both resigned and no one was able to come forward at Chester to replace them. I suggested that one of the reasons it is so difficult to find people to take on national positions is that few people have a clear idea of exactly what sort of commitment they are being asked to take on. My proposal that detailed job descriptions be circulated was agreed. Bob, by the way, was re-elected as Standing Orders secretary.

Motions from the National Committee
Most of these concerned racing or were uncontentious – such as the proposal to continue the already agreed winding up of the ‘Central’ section by transferring existing members to the category of ‘private members’.

The one on which we did have some discussion at the AGM was the proposed new rule 3.6 which was to say that ‘only members who have paid an annual subscription to the National Clarion Cycling Club may describe themselves as a “Clarion Cycling Club” or use the National Clarion logos and trademarks.’

I think it’s true to say that we were not opposed to this in principle but had some concerns about whether it was enforceable without quickly running through our c £27,000 reserves in legal fees. It became evident that the situation is – isn’t it always? –complicated. There are 3 existing sections that allow people to opt out of national membership. This goes back to fears that some had about the direction the Clarion seemed to be going in the early part of this century. They are to be allowed to continue as in the past on the understanding that efforts will be make to persuade people to fall in line with the rest of the Club.

But what triggered this motion was apparently the activities of a group calling itself the ‘Glasgow Clarion’ which had nothing to do with the Clarion proper. Ian Clarke also explained that the intention was to make sure that new sections confirmed to the new rule. In any case there’s no intention to engage in expensive litigation. Our AGM had instructed us to ‘listen to the arguments and vote accordingly’ so Sue and I duly conferred and supported the motion – which was then passed.

I don’t think there is much else I need report – except that the 2018 Easter Meet will be at Southend – organised by the London Section. Southend may not be such an obviously attractive venue as Chester – but from our point of view it is a lot nearer – so maybe we will have a larger contingent next year.

The Annual Dinner
The guest speaker – actually he preferred to simply answer people’s questions – was Barry Hoban, famous before the age of Wiggins, Froome and Cavendish for winning many top races including no less than 8 stages of the Tour de France. His contribution was interesting and entertaining and went down very well with the assembled Clarionettes (a great deal more of them than turned up the day before for the conference!).


26 April 2017

Dear All

Just back less than an hour ago. This newsletter is overdue – but the ride details for 30 April were included in the last edition. I’m too busy to do a full newsletter but will include a brief report on the Easter Meet in the post 30 April one.

By which time – who knows – we may have offers for the May rides – or at least the first one on 14 May.

Masses of emails as usual when you’ve been away and not reading them – so if you contacted me while I was away – and in my defence I did warn everyone I’d be away from 12th April till today or tomorrow – it may take me a while to get round to replying. So just a couple of messages from Joyce – one you’ve had already and a new one a reminder about the next ride on 30 April and a report on last Sunday’s expedition.


Mayoral Charities Bike Ride
Sunday 23 April from 9.00 to 15.00.

The ride will start at Hove Lawns and cover some 50 miles (but one can do a part of it). The ride starts at Hove Lawns and covers Lewes – Ditchling – Woods Mill (lunch) Bramber – Shoreham.

£20 registration fee which goes to charity

Leon and Joyce will be doing it – but not all 50 miles. More information can be had from Suzi or Sarah on 01273 664 936.

Also contact Joyce or Leon for info on their route. Joyce is at and Leon at

The Dieppe Raid

Some Clarion members might be interested in the Dieppe Raid (a somewhat confusing title) – it is a cycling “get together” which takes place in Dieppe and began in commemoration of the original Canadian Raid in support of the allies in 1942. It takes place 24 – 25 June and brings together cyclists from all over the country, including many from Dieppe. Rides are organised at different levels and other events such as walks etc., are available for those who don’t cycle . There is also a dinner on the Sunday evening.

Some Clarion members are signed up already: – Joyce, Leon, Terri and David Jezeph and Bob Harber. It would be good to see some other Clarion members, it is usually a very pleasant weekend. Info and signing up can be found by googling Annual Cycling Weekend in Dieppe , or Cycle Tour in Dieppe.