Matlock Cycling Club - supporting riders of all ages and abilities

Racing at Darley Moor

Racing at Darley Moor - Credit: Archant

Cycling can be enjoyed as a competitive sport at the highest level or as a sociable pastime for any age and ability. Catherine Roth talks to Richard Thoday, Chair of Matlock Cycling Club, to see how the club supports both amateur and professional cyclists in the Derbyshire Dales

Road racing at Darley Moor

Road racing at Darley Moor - Credit: Archant

With over 400 members, the Matlock Cycling Club is one of the largest in the country. It offers a year round programme of activities that includes sociable cycle rides through the Peak District’s scenic landscapes, competitive road racing, time trials, and all-weather off-roading and mountain biking. From young riders still learning with stabilisers, through to professional cyclists competing in international competitions, the Club caters for all ages and abilities.

Richard Thoday, Chair of Matlock Cycling Club, says, ‘More people are taking up cycling across the board. For some it’s the challenge and there are so many different challenges in cycling. Cycling also helps you make great friends with people and can take you to all sorts of places. From the very grass roots, it can take you right to the top end of sport if that’s where you want to go.’

Indeed, one of the Club’s former young riders, Annie Last, competed at the 2012 Olympic Games and, this year, became the first British woman in 20 years to win the UCI Mountain Bike Cross-Country World Cup. The Club has also produced previous mountain biking world champions as well as the first British rider to take part in the Race Across America event which sees cyclists pedal a gruelling 3,000 miles from the west to east coasts of America. Time trials offer riders the opportunity to race a set course against the clock. Cyclists meet at a planned starting point then set off minutes apart from each other, racing against themselves as they seek to improve their performance whilst comparing times with members from their own and other clubs.

Time trials, as well as competitive road racing, also take place on the closed circuit at Darley Moor, the velodrome at Derby Arena and the outdoor circuit in Nottingham, all of which provide traffic-free racing environments. Richard says, ‘Racing can be quite complicated and daunting if you don’t understand it. There are so many different elements to it. If you’re not part of a club then it could be off-putting. We try to help people through that.’

Richard Thoday taking part in The Smithfield Nocture, London

Richard Thoday taking part in The Smithfield Nocture, London - Credit: Archant

For those who do not seek the competitive challenge of the sport, there are social rides of varying abilities so people can choose whichever suits them best. However, these are not without their challenges. Richard says: ‘Traditional clubs organise weekend group rides. In the Peak District this is becoming quite difficult. Considering how busy the roads are, it is not a good idea to take large groups of riders out at the weekends.’ Instead the Club suggests a meeting place so cyclists can make their own way there. ‘Large training or social rides are difficult so we always try to find sensible ways of doing these without getting in the way.’

As the seasons change, so too do the cycling events. Cyclocross is predominantly a winter sport that involves racing cross-country across hills and dales. Richard says, ‘It’s not my cup of tea – it’s muddy, wet and cold! But it’s massively popular and the whole family can get involved.’

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There is also a regular programme of indoor ‘roller racing’ training – a treadmill for a bike, with cylindrical rollers creating a rolling road so riders can race against one another.

The Club has strong links with other cycling clubs and is keen to involve itself with various events. It has hosted the National Hill Climb Championship event four times, two of which were held in Matlock town centre. These events attracted top riders from all over the country.

Coaching session for young cyclists at Whitworth Park

Coaching session for young cyclists at Whitworth Park - Credit: Archant

Matlock Cycling Club offers its members the opportunity to visit different places and take up new challenges. Richard says: ‘When cycling on your own you can fall into a rut but joining a club can help you discover a lot more. We have a good spread of different types of cycling. Riders will try different things, get absorbed and carried away!’

This is true of Richard whose love of cycling started quite by accident. ‘I was very unhealthy and trying to get fit. I then acquired a bike through my job. I joined the Club in 1998 and began taking part in time trials. Since then I have met a lot of good friends, been to a lot of different places, and become a lot fitter!’

He has also pedalled back in time to become the Club’s only member to race a Penny Farthing. Richard says: ‘A Penny Farthing race takes place every 10 years in Knutsford. I had never ridden one before but heard about the mythical race and entered on a whim. Then I had to find one and learn how to ride it! It’s a lovely thing to do and puts a smile on people’s faces. I always end up meeting lots of interesting people.’ He now takes part in Penny Farthing races each year although you won’t see 200-year-old bicycles being ridden by Victorian looking gentlemen in top hats. Instead, men and women pedal modern day versions of the bicycle wearing lycra, sunglasses and helmets!

Despite its high membership, Matlock Cycling Club continues to invite new members to join. Richard says, ‘We are keen to welcome new members and for people to enjoy cycling in whatever form they want it to take. Joining the club does not mean our members have to follow a set menu but we can tailor it to what they want to achieve.’

A Youth Ride at Parsley Hay

A Youth Ride at Parsley Hay - Credit: Archant

Whether cycling is a gentle ride out or the beginning of a professional career, Matlock Cycling Club aims to help each and every one of its members fulfil their own ambitions.

For further details about Matlock Cycling Club visit