What started out as a jaunt around the Yorkshire Dales has become an annual bonding exercise for a Hull-based cycling group. Phil Booth reports.
It is almost 20 years since the wheels began to turn.
Born as a bit of a jaunt, a trip round the Yorkshire Dales to mark National Bike Week, it has grown to become an annual highlight, an exercise in bonding which has become a way of life for a burgeoning club from Hull.
Even the devastating death of one of their own could not put the brakes on what members of this exclusive club jovially call Binge Biking.
Their numbers have grown to almost 50 and from the humble beginnings of that inaugural trip to Leyburn, they now regularly head across Europe.
“In 1997, to mark National Bike Week a group of friends and colleagues from Hull set about creating a new sport to be enjoyed by all,” says one of the organisers, Tony Kirby.
“It was hoped that the sport would have no barriers regardless of age, skill, or obsession with Lycra. We never intended to create an Olympic sport but something that could bring together exercise, the great outdoors, ale and a bit of male bonding.”
On the back of this in June 1997, Binge Biking was born. “It’s a sport designed for serious drinkers with a cycling problem. With 20 tours over 20 years, the participants have grown, the routes and terrain has certainly changed, but the laughs have remained constant throughout.”
He says the rules are simple. “Pick a three to four day tour with a route of between 30 to 75 miles each day, have a hearty breakfast and set off – making sure at least one of you can read a map.
“You must have had at least three beverages by lunchtime and you should never pass an open pub – unless an important footy game or beauty contest is about to start,” he says, jokingly.
Initially they did a “Yorkshire Dales circular” route from Leyburn, then went from Boston to Hull via Lincoln, and then their ambition started to really take off.
Over the years they have now done ten UK mainland tours, Ireland, Isle of Man and eight European adventures. So far 46 different riders of all ages have taken part, with an average of 13 riders and more recently 20 on each tour.
More than 3,000 miles have been covered. Eleven riders have taken part in more than ten tours, and two have toured every year.
Three years ago came the group’s darkest hour when a great friend and keen scooter rider, Richard Cousins, lost his fight against cancer at the age of 49.
Riders from scooter clubs as far away as Whitby and Hull gathered in Driffield to pay tribute at his funeral, and a procession of around 50 scooters from across Yorkshire followed the hearse to All Saints’ Parish Church.
During his illness, Richard had received help from Macmillan Cancer Support. “Cuzzy was the ultimate kitty holder and battled through two tours whilst suffering with the illness,” says Tony.
“In 2012 he did a 100-mile coast to coast challenge with us in a day to raise funding for Macmillan Cancer Support.”
Richard was a keen Hull City fan, a passion shared by many of the group. On their latest tour they went to Belgium and France, visiting Dunkirk and Ypres. They visited the war grave of Douglas Morgan, a Hull City footballer who made 52 appearances for the club as a left back between 1913 and 1915, and who was killed in the First World War.
Born in 1890, in Inverkeithing in Fife, he joined the army as a gunner in the Royal Garrison Artillery but was killed by a shell on New Year’s Day in 1916.
He is buried in Vlamertinghe Military Cemetery near Ypres and some of the cyclists who are Hull City supporters placed an emblem of the club next to his grave.
“It was a very sombre moment for us, and we had some time for reflection,” says Tony.