1923. It delivered the first Le Mans 24 hour race and the first Yankees v Red Sox game at the Yankee Stadium. It was a vintage year in many ways. A Frenchman, Henri Pélissier won the Tour de France and, of course, Swindon Wheelers became a cycling club.
We can’t be sure of the exact date, so we’ll have to make a club birthday between us (especially as we approach the centenary). But we do know that the first AGM was held on 28th January 1925 at the Rolleston Arms Hotel in Commercial Road. And you can still go there today to catch a local band and enjoy a pint.
Weather reports for that year suggest a mild, almost spring-like January. With the motivation that those fresh sunny days bring in a new year, a core of 26 members attended that first AGM and elected the club’s first president, Dr Gordon Young. Subs were 25p a year and club colours were, shall we say, bold: black with narrow golden horizontal stripes.
The gold effect did the job. By 1926 the club had swollen to 82 members. The Wheelers handbook from that year shares detail of multiple events and trophies won, along with regular social rides (even braving Blowing Stone at least once!).
And since those early years, the Wheelers have served many cyclists in its North Wiltshire home. Mind you, it has to be said, some set their sights far further afield than the county borders. Introducing, Den White (photographed below).
Den is just one of the club’s legends. In 1956 he rode 484.64 miles to take the 24 hour record. That’s not far off being able to cycle to the start line of the Tour of Flanders from London and back in time for an evening’s supper!
Not to be beaten, Den went on to better his record in the 1958 National Championships with a distance of 486.75 miles. Forget your carbon frames, too. Those rides were on 72 inch fixies. Many pros would struggle to match such an achievement today, even with their many aides.
In 1955, the club held a 50 mile time-trial which featured as the National Championship. The winner was multiple BBAR (British Best All-Rounder) victor, Vic Gibbons. Vic was a member of the then Brentwood Cycling Club and later, the Essex Roads Cycling Club.
The history is special. And there have been many more riders of note over the years. Paul Jeffries, for instance, still holds the club records for the 25 (55.17), 30 (1.10.03), 50 (1.53.23) and 100 mile (4.14.13) events. In his 50 mile record-breaking ride in 1974, Paul beat the likes of Beryl Burton and Alf Engers – two of the best at that time. Meanwhile, he’s photographed (see gallery below) during his 100 mile record-breaking ride later that same year. Paul’s 10 mile record of 21.53 was only recently beaten by Matt Boulton, who recorded a time of 21.52 in May 2019 and has since lowered the club record to 19.30 in the Newbury Velo Open in May 2021.
The current club President and life-long supporter of the Wheelers, Clive Alexander, is also photographed below receiving the Club Champion Trophy from Martyn Roach in 1968.
Last but by no means least, take note of the Wheelers team bus in the gallery. Guess the year, make and model! Those of you who’ve ventured out on one of the many club excursions of late will know the ‘fun bus’ lives on. It may not be the original, but it’s testament to the current club members that the Wheelers are still crisscrossing the map, both at home and abroad.