This week I have been speaking with Rob Bolton, chairman of the North Tyneside Riders cycling club

How long has the club been going?

North Tyneside Riders has been around for more than ten years, but the formal entity of North Tyneside Riders Cycling Club affiliated with British Cycling, was born in January 2014, which means we’ve just celebrated our fifth birthday. We began life in 2009 as an informal collective of local cyclists on a Facebook group created by our founder Chris Dixon.

Around the time we launched the formal cycling club in 2014, the Facebook group had about 300 members and the club itself had around 80 active members.

What were the aims of the club?

When Chris created the NTR Facebook group in 2009, he was looking to be more active, improve his health and to hook up with other cyclists for some company on his rides.

Over time the rides started to increase in distance and in ambition, but the overwhelming mantra was always that they needed to be fun and enjoyable.

In order to do this, the group realised they needed to have a broad appeal and be welcoming to many different types of cyclist.

This is something we’ve continued to strive for as the membership has grown. In five years our membership has grown to almost 500 members and our annual retention rate is around 80 per cent.

Do you cater for those who like recreational riding and those who are a bit more competitive?

We have a scheduled club road ride five nights a week, each pitched at a slightly different audience. We also have a group who ride on the waggonways and tracks. In winter we even have members who compete on static bikes at home via an online platform called Zwift.

Our cyclocross riders have been regular participants in the Cyclocross North East league and the NTR women in particular have done really well in competitions. We are affiliated with Cycling Time Trials (CTT) and take our turn in hosting local Time Trial events.

Several members also participate in these Time Trials, and once again our women did particularly well, with a female NTR duo being awarded second prize in the regional Best All Rounder 2018 category. On Sundays our group rides are very much focussed on the social aspect, and a cake stop is always built in.

Is the club equally attractive to women and young people as well as men?

Some of our longest serving women members are extremely capable riders who participate in regular club rides, lead rides themselves, compete in formal and informal competitions and they’re quite clear that they don’t need special treatment.

They’re an inspiration to so many other women and a few of them completely outperform some of our men. We feel that NTR women are very well integrated into every aspect of the club. We have an active NTR Juniors session most Saturday mornings with children as young as three receiving training from our own in-house coaching team.

Do you need to know your way around a bike?

We expect that most people are able to change their own inner tubes if they get a puncture, and that they attend all rides with the necessary spares to achieve that. Having said that, help is always on hand on club rides and lots of people enjoy diving in to assist.

Most of our members dabble in home bike maintenance, some more successfully than others - and when unforeseen problems arise, we frequently see requests for information and help posted on our group pages.

There’s always somebody who can provide a helpful answer and one or two of our members seem to have a spectacular number of bike repair tools available when needed.

What are the roads like where the club runs?

In the dark winter months, we don’t mind a bit of adverse weather but we tend to stick to well-lit roads that are regularly salted. Generally this means staying near the coast and we use the Tynemouth to Blyth route fairly frequently.

For the most part, the North Tyneside tarmac surfaces are quite reasonable but they do suffer in wintery conditions and new potholes appear rather frequently.

These can be rather dangerous to cyclists and we’re always grateful when they get filled. Further out in Northumberland, we regularly come across long sections of degraded road surfaces and these can be tricky.

As a club we are very aware that we are a highly recognisable presence on local roads and we know that we need to work well with drivers to keep things moving. We repeatedly remind our members that our safety depends on us showing exemplary behaviour whilst riding among traffic and we take an extremely dim view within the club if members behave disreputably.

We hope in time that drivers will appreciate that groups of NTR cyclists are going to be predictable, safe to pass if road conditions allow, and that we’ll abide by all the rules of the road. NTR will always stop at red lights and pedestrian crossings.

The Highway Code does allow us to ride two abreast quite legally, but we know this can annoy some drivers and we try to ride single file on busy sections. The local bus drivers are generally rather brilliant at managing the space around themselves and around us.

Describe a good ride in your area and what it involves?

In summer, our Guidepost loop is very popular. It’s a 27-mile loop that heads up the coast from Whitley Bay via Blyth and Bomersund to Stakeford, before turning inland towards Guidepost, then back to Tynemouth via Bedlington and Earsdon. There are some sections where the faster riders are able to zip along at 28 to 30 miles an hour.

The route has a couple of cheeky ascents at Furnace Bank and out of the Bedlington dip and a total of 1,000 ft of roadelevation over the full route. We offer the same route grouped into three different ability levels each week.

We do try to keep the individual groups small to improve group riding skills, and also to keep the peace with the motorists around us.

What do you think of the state of cycling at present?

Public interest in cycling increased massively after the 2012 London Olympics and it probably hasn’t peaked yet. Most of these new riders enjoy a challenge but their cycling is a hobby and most have no ambition to race or compete.

Many new clubs like ours, sprang up via social media platforms to cater to this popular demand.

Some have already folded, but the clubs that have been most successful have worked to satisfy the desire for a great social aspect alongside the cycling.

Some of the much older clubs with rich histories of racing and prominent achievements did struggle with the sudden appearance of these chirpy new clubs but it does feel like we’ve all made our peace with each other now, working together with putting on local events and recognising that we all offer something different.

For cyclists not confident on roads and who therefore use the national cycle network routes we need to acknowledge the amazing job done locally by Sustrans in encouraging local authorities to invest in cycle infrastructure that’s safe and well thought out.

One thing that’s currently lacking in the whole Tyneside region is a state of the art outdoor tarmac cycle track that would serve as a safe space for training drills and an exciting location to hold cycle races.

Currently the nearest racing track is at Middlesbrough and the evening races are often too early for working Tynesiders to get to. We understand that our friends at South Shields Velo Cycle Club are working with the authorities to save Gypsies Green velodrome and we wish them every success.

As a club we can’t wait until the Tyne Pedestrian and Cycle Tunnels reopen as it’ll significantly increase our route options from Tynemouth and help to dilute our presence on certain busy roads.

Where do you meet and how can people get in touch?

Our ride schedule is on our club website ( and our biggest club night is Tuesday, which offers a variety of ability options for adults. The throng meets at Tynemouth Priory at 6.40pm and we’d recommend that any new riders who aren’t experienced with group riding start with the Beginners And Improvers section first.

People are welcome to have three free trial rides with us before needing to decide to join or not. Single adult membership costs £15 a year.

Details and membership application forms are on our website.

Enquiries can be emailed to Mark ( or Rob (