IN the latest of my profiles of the region’s cycling clubs I speak with Paul Garstang of Hartlepool Cycling Club. Email matt.westcott@nne.co.uk if you want to see your club featured

The Northern Echo:

Hartlepool Cycling Club Racing Secretary Phil Wright back in the day

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Why and when was the club formed?

On our club badge we claim 1888, making us 130 years old next year. There are press references mentioning a meeting of the Hartlepool Bicycle Club in 1881 and the Cyclists’ Lifeboat Fund, to which we believe we have ties in 1887.

We have no record of why the club was formed, but the last quarter of the 19th century was when bicycles evolved from instruments of near torture to a safe and efficient mode of transport and also when they started to become available to the working class. We think that Hartlepool Cycling Club was a response to the corresponding growth of cycling as a leisure activity.

When do you meet and where?

We meet socially in The Causeway pub in Hartlepool at 7pm on the first Monday of each month. Some of our retired members also meet occasionally for an afternoon coffee in the Lock Gates on the Marina.

On Wednesday evenings during the summer, we meet at 6.30 pm outside the Tall Ships pub for a ride of approximately 25 miles. Throughout the year, we join with cyclists from other local clubs in Saturday and Sunday morning rides from Sappers Corner on the outskirts of Hartlepool. These leave at 9.30am and tend to split into two rides - one of 60-70 miles at 18 mph-plus and a shorter, slower one. There will be a café stop during the second half of the ride.

What type of riders does your club appeal to?

We have members ranging from age 15 to 85, but the majority are between 35 and 60. Some have been cyclists for many years, but an increasing number have given up other sports either because of age or the difficulties of committing to a team. A large minority of our members participate in time trials, some being competitive at regional level but most just competing against themselves, age-related time standards or their club mates.

For this person cycling is attractive for health due to its low impact, from a commitment point of view because you don’t let anyone down if you’re unavailable, and because it’s informal enough to combine exercise and conversation.

How much does it cost?

Membership is £10 per annum. We recommend, but don’t insist, that our members join British Cycling, particularly so that they qualify for the associated insurance benefits.

For those wishing to compete, we offer free entry to the four time trials that we organise annually, plus subsidised entry to all other open events. We encourage our members to wear club colours as often as possible and, to this end, offer high quality, recently redesigned and upgraded kit at subsidised prices.

We have an active social side through our club nights and social media, particularly Strava, which gets members communicating and cycling together. For next season we’re planning a supported 100-mile ride in February and a cycling trip to the Alps in June.

What are the aims of the club?

We aim to bring together enthusiastic cyclists of varying abilities, and offer them the option, if they want it, to compete without pressure. We believe there are a lot of people who regularly cycle alone as a leisure and fitness activity who could make their cycling more productive, rewarding and fun through club membership.

We’d particularly like to bring more women and younger people into the club.

How can people get in touch?

Our website is www.hartlepool-cycleclub.org . This is currently being overhauled and the new/improved version should be in place by November. We are on Facebook @HartlepoolCyclingClub and Strava: Hartlepool Cycling Club

Any queries, including membership, can be addressed to paulgarstang62@gmail.com or Phil Wright on jagryk@aol.com