Put around 50 mature men together with one common interest- singing, and you will quickly discover, that with patience and expert tuition, they can sing in four parts and sound good. It doesn’t mean that they have anything in common other than 1) singing and 2) that most are well past their athletic prime. Many alliances form- some tight cliques, some loose groupings where the ‘membership’ ebbs and flows. Just a few I could put names and faces to are :-
Caravanners, sun-tanners , ex pats and gym rats,
Heavy drinkers ,heavy thinkers, trumpet players, sooth-sayers,
Organic bakers, micky takers, runners and joggers, gardeners and loggers
Teachers and preachers, straight talkers, fell walkers
Writers, right wingers, folk singers, old swingers
Dropouts and artists, sculptors, conductors
Ballroom prancers, Morris dancers, computer geeks and techno freaks
Lawyers, accountants , political wets, the hunting, shooting and fishing sets …
…and many more. What a rich tapestry! But one of the longest established, enduring and fastest growing groups is the mountain bikers.
In 1996, I re-discovered the pleasures of biking after a gap of a mere 25 years. The exhilaration and freedom of a minor road, an empty track, the rush of wind in the hair (now a distant memory), a hard climb – fantastic. When I joined New Mill MVC, the fit types were heavily into Sunday morning running and it was only gradually that a biking gang developed. Pioneers were David Haigh (who knows every minor road and track within a 10 mile radius of Totties), Rod Gooch, John Senior, Ian? and Eric Gowling, soon joined by Geoff Gill, Ibbo, Ged Faricy, Paul Morgan, Graham Evans as they grew fearful of future replacement knee joints. Steve ‘Mr Cool’ Flynn and Rob (not quite a choir member but very close!) are recent additions. Steve gave us a new dimension in bike fashion awareness. We now wear expensive Rapha merino wool vests, wind-resistant Roubaix winter trousers, Sealskinz socks, fast wicking summer shirts with three back pockets, buffs and padded lycra shorts. In the technical department we have front suspension, grooved saddles and we use clip-in SPD pedals complete with cleats. One recidivist, who shall be nameless, insists on using a comical 1960s cape to ward of the rain while the rest of us wear high-tech breathable reflective jackets.
A focus for the biking year is the September MTB Challenge, run by the Holmfirth Scouts over a very testing (i.e sadistic) course, raising money for charities including Sight Savers, NSPCC and Childrens’ Homes in India, generously supported by the choir. Our regular jaunts are on Sunday mornings. Rain, sleet or shine- we usually meet at my house and set the world to rights over a’ nice cup of tea’ before doing a ride of 15-20 miles.
We have enjoyed some staggeringly good boys-biking-breaks: coasts and castles from Inverleithen to Berwick and down the Northumberland coast; Hartington in God’s Own County, Derbyshire; two Coast to Coast jaunts (Whitehaven – Newcastle and Morecambe – Bridlington).
Whilst we have different riding standards, we never compete. The faster ones wait for the laggards. Some maintain their bikes properly, some leave a bit to be desired and anyone can have a puncture.
A bike has many parts, and so does a choir. When all the parts work together it is just brilliant!