Competitive Cycling – from secret races to the Olympics

The Westcott Cycling Club outside the Prince of Wales, courtesy of Dorking Museum

The Westcott Cycling Club outside the Prince of Wales,
courtesy of Dorking Museum

By the 1890s cycling clubs were providing not just companionship for touring but also competition. Turn of the century Dorking could boast a number of clubs, amongst them: the Dorking Cycling Club, the Dorking Temperance CC, the Betchworth CC, the Dorking Working Mans CC, the Old Paulonians CC, and the Junior Conservative CC.

The Dorking Cycling Club, formed in May 1887 by a group of tradesmen, had over 100 members by 1900. Club runs were held twice weekly throughout the summer and members took part in early track and road races. The highlight of the sporting year was the athletic sports held from 1889 at Pixham Lane on August Bank Holiday Monday. Cycle races featured prominently with 1 mile and 3 mile events for bicycles and tricycles of different types.

The Old Paulonians' with decorated bicycles at George V's coronation procession through Dorking in 1911, courtesy of Dorking Museum

The Old Paulonians’ with decorated bicycles at
George V’s coronation procession through Dorking in 1911,
courtesy of Dorking Museum

The Old Paulonians’ Cycling Club was formed in 1900 by former pupils of St. Paul’s School. Unlike the Dorking CC it survived the First World War and became a very active competitive club. Summer time trials over 25, 30 and 50 miles were held on a Sunday morning with competitors setting off at 5am from the bandstand in South Street at 1 minute intervals. The early start enabled competitors to avoid both congestion on the roads and the local police: racing on the road was strictly illegal so the cyclists wore black to evade detection by watching officers. The club also took part in stop watch competitions and hill climbs up Box Hill, reaching the peak of its popularity in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

Box Hill Cycle map, Dorking Museum

Box Hill Cycle map, Dorking Museum

Dorking and the Olympics: The Second World War may have brought an end to the Old Paulonians’ activities, but Dorking and the surrounding hills have remained a popular cycling destination. The town boasts several cycling shops, including S C Fullers, which has traded for 115 years. So it is fitting that in 2012 the Olympic cycle route will bring cyclists to Dorking to complete a 15.5km (9.6 mile) circuit up the Zig Zag hill to the top of Box Hill. The Box Hill loop will be repeated several times, contributing significantly to the 240km (149 miles) distance for the men’s race and the 130km (80.78 miles) course for the women’s.

Useful Links

Dorking Museum Logo

? Dorking ? Dorking Museum
? Cycling as a social movement ? Lady Harberton and Women Cyclists
? Cycling for all ? Early Cycling in Dorking
? 19th Century Surrey ? Cycle Speedway

One thought on “Competitive Cycling – from secret races to the Olympics”

  1. Karen Large says:

    My father Alan Large, was born and lived in Dorking He was on the British National Track Team and was national champion in 1958 in team pursuit with the Norwood Parigon Cycling Team Do you have any more records of his local achievements.
    He emigrated shortly thereafter to Canada and was instrumental in creating the Ottawa Bicycle Club, various races and tours that still exist, trained officials nationally and locally,coached and officiated locally, nationally and internationally He was involved with the Olympics and World Championships in Montreal in the 1970’s. An amazing man and greatly missed as he passed away 9 years ago from the effects of small head injuries from his track riding days. He lived on Limeway Terrace until he left school, born Nov l, 1930.

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