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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)

Mar 2020 | Max S.

I was a member from 1975 onwards and am delighted to see that the club is back. It was the combination of Malcolm and the other Harold Wood Wheeler members that cemented my life long love of cycling. Memories: The clubhouse was open 7 days a week . Depending on the time of year the club would close at around 9pm when Malcolm would retire for the night. Cycle repairs, wheel building, parts cleaning, hanging out, meeting for rides, watching TV, all whilst drinking endless cups of tea and having jam and toast were the normal in the clubhouse. Sunday runs were always a popular part of membership. Rides to Harlow Mill ,where we could hire boats, and Eynsford in Kent were the most popular summer destinations. Getting to the Dartford tunnel was always a traffic challenged maze. Upon arrival we would await a van pulling the bike trailer to arrive and we would tie our bikes with ropes to the stanchions. The cost for this was a ridiculously cheap 5 pence each in 1979. Winter destinations were Coal House Fort and the North Weald Cafe (now closed) where we would have lunch before returning. During the summer weeks several of us rode the regular Tuesday E8 time trials. Thursday brought the occasional E 14 time trials and the HWW would hold an annual time trial on the E34. Longer ‘night rides’ were also an annual summer tradition. Riders would leave the club late on a Saturday evening for beach destinations such as Hastings or Clacton. Struggling to see and be seen by using Every Ready two cell front bicycle lights, we would arrive at around 2am, get a minimal amount of sleep in a beach front shelter and ride back the following morning. Adulthood distractions slowed my riding with the club in the 80’s and I moved to the US in 1989. I kept in loose contact with the club via my friendship with Philip Newton who upon the closing of the club gave me a Harold Wood Wheelers sign that Malc had cut out from a single piece of wood with a coping saw. Today, it remains on display in my bike garage (see pictures above). I returned to cycling fully in the late 90’s and remain a keen and active cyclist, averaging 6000 miles a year. I fully credit Malcolm and his passion for cycling for my own life long love of the sport. 

Dec 2020 | Ronald S.

Hi, I am so pleased to have come across this cycling site. Though my memory is a little poor these days I intend to share my recollections, as a member of the 50s/'60s, Malcolm was more than a club leader, on a few occasions, he spent Christmas day with me and my family he would take the membership on tour youth hosteling. I joined the club when I was about 12/13 years of age, my time with the club has always stayed with me Malcolm was a great influence on my life; I’m now 76 years old. I still treasure the engraved club trophies I have, did you know that club was named the ACME RC before it became Harold Wood Wheelers? The club’s emblem was a pair of wings and between the wings was a circle with ACME RC set in enamel. Throughout the year, if you won events, usually time trials, a silver cup would be engraved and awarded, and then would be held with the local police station for safekeeping until the following year.  You may be interested to know that Malcolm also included Boxing for the membership. This was a way of earning a little money to fund the parts needed to maintain your racing bike. Believe it or not, the deal was you could volunteer to box on the night and you would be matched as best as possible by Malcolm, who also was referee. If you inflicted a nose bleed, you earned 10 shillings and for a knockout, it would be a Pound. We also had interclub road races in the evenings on a small circuit around Navestock side, Brentwood. These were Great days. I still race time trial with Becontree Wheelers and compete in triathlons.

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

Thanks! Message sent.

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