L-R: Mick Bevis, Laurie Richards, Ray Andrews | Early 60s

Memories of the original Harold Wood Wheelers

by Trevor Jefferyes

The original Harold Wood Wheelers was started in the mid 1940s by Malcolm Defrates. He moved to the area, buying a house in Gubbins Lane. He was a keen cyclist and soon had many friends and people join his club. In the 60s he had a club room built at the bottom of his garden. This included a seating area, small kitchen, workshop area, and bike storage area. Over the years, club members took part in local races, time trials, Youth Hostel touring trips and club rides. The Club had a good mix of senior and junior members. Most of the juniors using the club room as a stop off point before and after school to talk about all things cycling and more. The Club room was always open from about 7.30am to 6pm, 7 days a week. So it was always a great place to drop into for some bike maintenance and a cup of tea. The main club rides were on a Sunday,  with a senior ride and a junior ride going out on different routes. Juniors were encouraged  to map read so they could venture further afield and to lead rides for themselves (I still like a good ordnance survey map). The membership numbers fluctuated over the years as cycling’s popularity went in and out of fashion. Cycling was seen as a minority sport back then. We were perceived as being a bit weird for cycling at the weekends and not playing football. I joined the club in 1984 just because a friend of mine wanted to join and didn't want to go on his own. But I loved it and soon persuaded my parents to buy me a road bike, as my flat handlebar bike just didn’t cut the mustard. By the late 80s I was racing with the club and thoroughly  enjoyed it. I learnt how to fully strip and rebuild bikes and how to build wheels, all courtesy of Malcolm’s years of experience. Unfortunately Malcolm was starting to suffer from ill  health from around 1990. So he started to wind the club down as it was becoming too much for him to manage. Most of the senior members went to other clubs and the juniors also began to move on. The Club eventually closed in 1993, with just myself and one senior member being the last to leave. It certainly was the end of an era. One which holds great memories.

Feb 2019 | Bill C.

I was a junior member of the club in the mid seventies. I can remember Malcom fixing old black and white Tv. Went on a youth hostel trip with him but ended up crashing in Kent and ended up in hospital. Malcom kept a diary of everyone attending. And there was a training graph on the wall with everyone's mileage. Our favourite club ride was to Coalhouse Fort. I’m still into cycling and ride for Colchester Rovers. Done quite a few time trials for the club. We used to do a training ride in the evening. Malcom called it the triangle. The route was A127 to Halfway House. Then left towards Brentwood then down Warley Hill. 

Jun 2019 | Christopher S.

I joined the club some time in 74/75 after being bought a Dawes 5 speed racing bike! I'd always been a keen cyclist having a few off road bikes beforehand, but this was my first road bike. I was introduced to the club by a Royal Liberty school friend, Philip, and very soon became friends with a lot of the club members. I enjoyed Sunday runs and eventually towards the last year of my time at the club became junior runs captain. Coal House Fort was always a favourite run, or sometimes Southend if we were feeling stronger! Time Trials were fun, the A128 from the Halfway House to Orsett Cock Roundabout and back, 10 miles. I think my pb was around 30mins. We used to have a mileage league table where Malcom used to keep a log all of our mileage. Fond memories of using the rollers indoors, I still wonder what would've happened if you came off at high speed in the club room! I eventually progressed up to a Carlton frame and bought quick release wheels with tubs! Malc really knew his way around fixing bikes and the skills he passed to me have been really useful over the years. I went youth hosteling a couple of times, led by Malc we went to Brighton and Hastings. I eventually left the club around 78 when work had started for me and bought a motorbike. I still own a bike, but I'm back to off road now, don't fancy mixing with the cars and lorries any more! Good to hear the club is going well!

Jul 2019 | Laurie R.

Back in the earlier 60s my brother Frank and me joined the club along with 2 other sets of brothers, Geoff and Mick Bevis, and John and Ray Andrews. I started aged 13 and my brother was 16.  The brothers were of similar ages. We raced on all the local time trial courses: the E3, E1, E8, and E14; and rode local road races through the later 60s. Club runs were every Sunday during the winter months. 

(Laurie, Mick and Ray feature in the photos above)

If you have memories of the original Harold Wood Wheelers please get in touch.  We'd love to hear from you.