From Sprowston Heritage Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search


Introduction to article by Mick Gambling. Mick who is now 80, offered to write a short article for Sprowston Heritage, originally destined for “Bev’s Blog”. Bev Woolner (Vice Chairman-Sprowston Heritage) however realised it was truly a record in its own right so we are publishing it in full. Despite advancing years Mick still rides, although not in competitions but still takes a keen interest knowing he and his wife’s cycling exploits offer inspiration to up and coming riders.

Sprowston Wheelers

A personal memoir, remembering a local cycling club, (66 years ago) by Mick Gambling (Sprowstonian). There is a cycling boom now but just after the 2nd World War, there was an even bigger one. Cars were very expensive, production low and petrol rationed. Along the coastline, the explosive mines clearance was completed by 1949, and thousands of cyclists invaded the beaches. They rode bikes ranging from rusty utility heavyweights, to proper racing machines with derailleur gears. Every Sunday the Acle Straight was clogged with a continuous convoy of excited youngsters and their elders, anticipating the first sight of sand and sea. The 20 miles return to Norwich was a tired and wobbly retreat, completed with exhaustion, satisfaction and exaggeration, in equal parts. Gleaming new "racers" appeared in the cycle rack at school and I was invited by their proud owners to join them for a ride to Hemsby. At the Blofield Globe rendezvous was a girl, Cynthia Cary, awaiting school friends Gwenda Davis and Maureen Marris. They still keep in touch. Gwenda recalls "There were no special cycling clothes then. I borrowed my brother's trousers until he found out and wanted them back. Then he was upset by gritty chain oil on the right leg. “Yes, a long wait for the invention of lycra”. We had a splendid day, enjoying the sun and swimming, then riding home, about 20 of us.

They were Sprowston Wheelers, who did not care that I hailed from Drayton Road.

My Dad bought me a second-hand Dayton Roadmaster, with very thin tubing. Our weekly jaunts were extended, led by Dave Oxbury, because he was the only rider with a map and camera. We managed Blakeney and down the coast road to Hemsby, linking with our other members, half of whom were female. Later, we escorted them home, completing a round trip of 100 miles. I thought Poppy Langley was lovely but was too shy to say so. Expect it is too late now. Also, we played table tennis at St. Cuthbert's Church Hall on Saturday evenings and Dave applied for entry into the Norwich Leagues, playing in a barn, behind the Denmark pub. Team regulars, all Sprowston cyclists, were Dave, Terry Eames, Mick Barnes, Brian Burgess, Freddie Page and me.

After a couple of years, I concentrated on cycle racing, my place inherited by Bob Taylor, a boxer. He now runs the team. Still has a good backhand and a powerful right hook! Needing a race-affiliated club in 1953, we joined the East Anglian CC, in Norwich, which had kindred spirits to ourselves on club runs. With a well-planned tea place, a ride could absorb 12 hours. Youth Hostel weekends and touring holidays were popular, still with a nucleus of the original Sprowston club. Meanwhile, Cynthia went on to represent Great Britain, road racing at international level. Now, when we meet, our memories are of good company and hilarious incidents, with recollections of the various characters.

Laughter and physical fitness, certainly.

Several of us old Sprowston Wheelers cycled to a Reepham café this summer and someone mentioned the demise of my early-days Dayton bike. In a 1954 race, riding with Freddie as my partner, the thin seat pillar broke and I sustained severe gashes inside both thighs. Wearing shorts in the café, there was a temptation to display the still-vivid scars, with a flourish. An elderly lady had to be revived by her friend. Recently, I met a rider from the old days. "Mick," he said, "they were the best years of my life." His wife was nearby and gave him a fierce look, which meant big trouble when he got home. The Sprowston Wheelers was a good springboard for the lifetime ahead. Perhaps this article will ring memory bells with some readers, from the golden era of cycling, even if they did not actually ride. © Mick Gambling - September 2015.