Martin Procter was out on a Saturday ride recently when one of his club-mates decided, for reasons best known to himself, to reach down and remove a leaf annoyingly flicking and clicking away in his front wheel. The consequences involved fingers in the aforementioned wheel, a somersault, the Yorkshire air ambulance and fractured cervical vertebrae.
Where you or I might take to social media to relay the incident, Martin headed to his studio, as he does after every club ride, and illustrated the day’s drama into his diary in cartoon form, beautifully and humorously.
And how was the unfortunate victim depicted? A version of Edward Munch’s The Scream, swaddled and open-mouthed, helicopter circling above; a picture of pain with a side order of comedy. The title – “Hand in Spokes” – a nod to The Smiths, perhaps.
Procter is a lifelong cyclist and former member of Leeds-based Yorkshire Road Club who runs a graphic design company. Every ride starting from Harrogate with the rapidly expanding Cappuccino Cycling Club goes into the tiny journal in extraordinary detail.
“I disciplined myself to do it after every single ride,” he says. “The first year, there are some blanks that I have not got round to filling in, intending to go back, but not getting round to it, because I’m doing three rides a week. So now I make sure I do each journal entry before the next ride.”
It is some undertaking. The final page of his 2013 book reads: 5,048 miles with the club, 6,712 in total. That’s 124 club runs on seven different machines. “I have started acquiring bikes that I used to ride and race in my youth: a Rotrax and a Dave Moulton custom. I also bought a Fuso, which is Moulton’s brand when he moved to the States. Plus a titanium winter bike and couple of carbons…”
The cover from issue one of Rouleur, sold on eBay for £127, makes an appearance in miniature form in Procter’s 2011 journal. “I had mixed feelings about selling it, to be honest,” he says, sheepishly.
What is striking about the journals, apart from the wicked sense of humour, is the ability to find something witty to say on every occasion. There must be times when he walks into his studio lacking inspiration, surely? “The style has changed slightly down the years, but I have never run out of things to illustrate, whether it be something to do with the route, or nature – two rides I was flown into by a bat, twice in the same week…
“Or it might be that I bought a saddle that week. Some rides are more memorable that others. So sometimes, rather than illustrating the obvious, you take another angle. I’ve done more on potholes than anything else.”
Another frequent subject is club riding etiquette, with no quarter given to those stepping out of line. “Lack of group awareness rankles” is the title of one fabulous put-down. Pretty harsh stuff.
“I thought I was being nice!” he says, with a broad grin.
Those of us who have ridden for decades take for granted the unwritten rules of the chaingang or club run, but newcomers to the sport need to listen and learn, for the safety of all. The CCC crew pride themselves on being a friendly bunch – a pleasing number of their weeknight rides seem to end in pub gardens. But turn up in winter without mudguards and you will be unceremoniously pointed to the back of the bunch, and rightly so. Do first-timers pay attention to the more experienced club riders’ advice?
“You get some who don’t like being told not to belt off up a hill, or whatever. It’s not strictly disciplinarian, but if you are going to ride as a group, which is the best way, and you get people bombing off or riding three abreast, it’s a shambles.
“So they are told in no uncertain terms. More often than not, they are happy with that, because they are learning a new skill: riding a road bike. And there is etiquette to that.”
And there is etiquette to being a pub landlord, as depicted in one of Procter’s finest post-ride pub visit illustrations. Beers on tap include “Bitter” and “Twisted”; the host, clutching a pint, asks: “Want spit in it?”
This charming man might want to reconsider his chosen profession. “He was the most miserable git you ever met. It takes quite a lot for a cycling club to ban a pub,” says Procter.
And with that, he is off to get some work done before deciding which of his (now) eight bikes to take out on tonight’s chaingang as he piles on more miles in the saddle, wondering what subject matter might raise its head today – bats or brake blocks, punctures or potholes? One thing is for sure: the CCC’s know which pub they won’t be visiting for a swift pint…
Martin Procter is a regular columnist for Rouleur magazine