British cycling success at the 2012 Olympics was a “perfect wave” for launching the Islington Cycling Club (ICC) the following year, says club secretary David Shannon.
A cold winter meant that the inaugural club run was delayed until April 2013, but it was clear from the moment the Olympic torch was extinguished that there was demand in the borough.
Following the first outing, Mr Shannon says the club had “100 members within nine months. After 18 months, we had over 300.”
Mr Shannon believes cycling is the ideal form of exercise. “If cycling was a pill, it would be held up as a miracle cure,” he says, and explains that although many people are keen to get involved with cycling, actually getting started can be a daunting prospect.
However, the cycling club operates a “no-drop policy,” intended to make life easier for inexperienced riders. No matter the speed of the rides, the group waits for every member at the top of hills and at junctions.
“The whole remit of a club has changed nowadays,” Mr Shannon says. “It’s no longer about training for races.”
The slowest rides average about 12mph and can cover up to 40 miles in a morning. Though many cyclists these days are kitted out with panniers, sat-navs and fluorescent lycra jodhpurs, all you need to ride with the ICC is a bike and a safety helmet.
In the summer months, the club runs up to eight different rides a week. These can include a dedicated women’s ride – 18 per cent of ICC members are female, double the percentage at many other clubs.
Although many of the club’s trips venture north towards the countryside, Shannon believes that Islington has done a lot to foster safer cycling. “We are lucky because Islington is a 20mph borough. Nevertheless, I can see how cycling in London traffic is intimidating,” he says.
Addressing the often-fraught relationship between motorists and cyclists in the capital, Shannon says he believes the best policy for cyclists is simply to turn the other cheek, and not get upset with drivers.
“Why would you pour petrol onto a flame?” he asks. “That is someone behind the wheel of heavy machinery.”
On a lighter note, Shannon stresses the importance of the club’s social side. “We have drinks in a local pub every month, a summer and Christmas party. And the eating of cake is important too,” he says.
The club has been on a cycling tour of Majorca, and regularly sets off on outings across the UK.
The ICC is in the process of twinning with an Italian club, Centinaro Lese, which Shannon hopes will pave the way for future trips to Tuscany.