What a year it's been! Starting out with a few hardy riders in freezing Surrey way back in January, to trips all over the UK, Ride London and even heading over to Sardinia for some sunny winter miles; we could never have predicted we'd have so much fun. Below is our 2016 review - we hope we've included all of the best bits and people who made it so special, but if we've missed anything, or you want to tell us your highlight of 2016, please comment below. Mushy, specific thanks are saved for part 2 (you have been warned), but Emma and David would just like to personally thank all of you. Whether you've ridden with us, supported from the side lines or just generally encouraged us along the way. You're totally awesome and we couldn't and wouldn't do it without you!
You might think that starting a social cycling club in January would be a bad idea, but you'd be wrong! Our first ride on the 16th of Jan saw 12 cyclists (mostly friends we'd press ganged into coming along) join us for a quick spin around Surrey, followed by a trip to the pub. Starting as we meant to go on! Thanks Nicky, Will, Andrew and everyone else for giving us such a great start.
More rides throughout January saw people that we didn’t actually know starting to come along, which was nice. Exploring new routes in Windsor and Essex threw up some absolute beauties that we still ride today. We started to believe that this whole 'group ride thing' might actually work out. It was bloody cold though!!
More awesome group rides, including taking on Toys and Ide Hill for the first time. Both would feature heavily in our trips down to the South East as members battled up the famous climbs again and again, improving each time. Of course, we forgot about Brasted Hill on the way back - never forget about Brasted!
A Sunday ride up to Hertfordshire also allowed us to explore some beautiful country lanes and continue building our route database and knowledge. Locations of local pubs came in handy, as the ride was so cold it saw us diving into one for a brandy by the fire. Thanks for braving the weather with us Chris and John! Special mention to Katrina who also climbed Kilimanjaro in Feb - incredible achievement!
In March we introduced 'beginner' rides and saw a whole host of new riders join us for Richmond Park laps and short trips into Surrey. Many of these riders are still with us, and went on to smash 100s of miles over the summer, and even a couple of French Cols - yes we're looking at you Papiya!
We also partnered with Grand Tours Project in March; our first tour provider. Alain, Keith and the GTP team run some of the coolest trips in Europe, often attached to a World Tour events, so you can experience the highest cycling stage in the world! We've loved working with the guys throughout the year, especially riding with them in Sardinia (more of that later) and look forward to the same next year.
Hex Cycling Cafe opens - a fantastic cycling cafe in Shoreditch, and start point for our East and North rides (as well as our second office for the summer!). We love what Sam and the gang are doing to promote cycling (and great coffee) in the city. If you're East and want great coffee and bike chat, pop in and say hello.
Easter weekend saw us complete four group rides back to back, with plenty of people turning out for each one. Most memorable was a 90km spin out to Surrey to take on Whitedown. Huge kudos to Eve and Emma who not only kept up with a really strong group of guys, but blitzed Whitedown too. Oh, and this was the ride where a skinny bespectacled kid called Patrick road up behind us and said 'mind if I tag along?' A beautiful friendship was born!
Early April would see Emma and David clear off to Japan for the holiday of a lifetime. Two weeks in cherry blossom season was just unforgettable, and of course we got to experience some cycling over there too. Hiring bikes whenever possible (the inland mountains are beautiful) it all came to a climax in Tokyo, riding with the Rapha Club. A truly unforgettable experience - read the blog here.
April also saw the introduction of evening rides, a great chance to spin some extra miles during the week. We rode out into Surrey and Essex as often as we could, and thankfully lots of other people came along and joined us! Can't wait to do the same in 2017 too. amongst these evening rides was our 'climbing school' - where willing participants were dragged up to Swains Lane for hill reps. Seems like madness, but the collective improvement of the group was huge.
The end of April also saw us take a great group of around 20 riders up to the Peak District for some of the best cycling in the UK. Winnat's Pass, Mam Tor and many other awesome climbs were all completed, with plenty of beers and fine pub food consumed in celebration. A love affair with Derbyshire had begun!
We'd heard of this cool company called Queen of the Mountains a little while ago, but it wasn't until May that we managed to work together on something. Leading one of their Bike +Brunch events helped us to connect with a new group of awesome ladies, including Helena and Lottie, who would become regular riders going on to complete Ride London. Oh, and they also moved in together, which was amazing! Our relationship with QoM would blossom and grow and we would collaborate on some awesome rides throughout the year. Thanks for all your help this year Alicia and the QoM ladies, you're all amazing!
If you were lucky enough get out of work on a random Wednesday in May (or if you didn't have a 'real' job like us) then you could go to Regents Park and spin some laps with sprinting legend Mario Cipollini. Turns out quite a few London cyclists don't have 'proper' jobs; there were hundreds of us. David & Andrew got to spin laps with the big man (and he is really big) and even got to chat with him a little. N.B. Great sprinter, not a great conversationalist!
Bank Holiday weekend would again be an awesome weekend of cycling as we took a big group of guys and girls up Box Hill. Regulars Papiya, Eve, Helena and Lottie showed new boys Steve and Santi how to climb hills. Thankfully they continued to ride with us and have become absolutely essential to the club. And you too Patrick!
Bank Holiday Monday also allowed us to test out our London 2 Cambridge route on members and friends. Our confident "don't worry guys, we've got a great route" comment looked pretty stupid as we trampled through hedge rows and deer carcass just outside London. Wisely we decided to take the cyclocross section out of the route for the next few trips up to Cambridge, but Oli and Ella will not let us forget about it!
It was in June that we got to properly meet Ben and the West London Cycling crew (now called Not In The Peloton) as he lead a ride out to Windsor for us. Ben's local knowledge meant that the route was perfect, and helped many of our newer members to ride over 100km for the first time. Thanks Ben, although we're not sure if we're so thankful for your next contribution...
The One! This is where it notches up a level or two. in mid-June a team of 8 riders eventually set off (thanks Papiya!) on a ludicrous route that took in 13 surrey Hills in one go. Devised by Ben, and with the help of UKCycleChat, we were all able to complete the course, although our legs certainly didn't thank us for it. Rumour has it there was a KOM competition going on, and spectators on the day have Nick Boyle as winning. The result, however, has been referred to the race commissars on account of mechanical doping (it's definitely mechanical doping to ride a cyclocross bike on a hills race!) A legend (beast?) was born, thanks to all who took part (Nick, Ali, Chris, Ben, Papiya, Eve and Emily). We clearly haven't learnt from this event, as evidenced in The One V2 (more in part two) and the upcoming 'The Complete Kent' in March
Our roving reporters Katrina & Giles (massive thanks guys) were in Southward and Norwich(ish) for the Women’s Tour of Britain. Meeting some of the pro ladies and getting awesome shots of the race was a huge help. The race was a fantastic event, given the TV coverage it deserves and hopefully it will continue in the same direction next year.
From the sublime to the ridiculous, we move onto the now infamous Queen of the Mountains Giro Cafe Launch Party. Or rather 'Floodgate'! We met at Richmond Park in sunshine to ride down to Giro for the launch of our good friends QoM kit. As we left the cafe, a little light rain began to fall. No problem, a little rain never hurt anyone. By the time we'd left the park, light rain had turned to torrential rain. By the time we'd reached Esher we were practically swimming and had to get off and wade the last 500 metres to the cafe. We've never seen a flash flood like it, and it made for hilarious scenes when we turned up at the cafe soaking wet to be greeted by gorgeous QoM ladies in their fine kit! Thanks for coming Patrick, Adi, Helena, Laura & Papiya (and for being crazy too)!
Mid-June saw our first London 2 Brighton group ride, with 15 amazing riders joining us to ride down to the seaside for fish and chips. Starting off in Richmond, we followed the BHF route (with a few improvements and a stop at Tulley's Farm Cafe) all the way to the coast. This of course included and trip over 'the wall' that is Ditchling Beacon; a famous climb that everyone should summit once! All 15 of our amazing group made it up the hill, and then sped down into the town for well deserved chips (and beer). The first of many! Thanks to Andrew for helping to lead this one.
At the end of June a small breakaway (David, Steve and Louisa) took on the wiggle Chilterns Classic sportive - 82 miles of beautiful lanes and rolling hills finishing up with a massive dominoes order in a craft beer pub (as you do). It was a great day, not even dampened by the severe downpour at the midway point. It did allow us to take the below photo however. No one in the photo is a Dirty Wknd member it has to be said - mainly because we're all rule number 5 cyclists!
June also saw the ramping up of Ride London training, with countless members joining us on Surrey rides to practise parts of the route and some of the tougher climbs. We're sure these training rides really helped with everyone's overall performance on the day, so thanks to Mason, Steve, Patrick and Oli for leading some of them.
So that's January to June of our 2016 review; no doubt we've missed out loads of important events and achievements, please help us out by commenting below (or tweeting us). Please also check in on our Twitter and/or Facebook pages in the next few days for Part 2, July to December - including Ride London, Sardinia & our Rider of the Year Award!