A look back in Time with Life Member John Parfitt


We thought it would be a change to catch up with someone who can go quite some way back into the club history, and tell us what the club, and cycling, was like before the recent boom. Life Member John, has kindly agreed to be interviewed, and tell us about his experiences.


Q. Can you tell us about how you got into cycling?

A. My cycling life falls into 3 fairly equal parts.  The first was in my home near Southampton, the 2nd in Maidenhead when I moved to a new job, and finally about 25 years in Holland where I worked latterly.

I started riding when I was 14 years of age in 1948, with the local section of the CTC, at a time when young men were still completing their 2 years of national service, being compulsorily 'called up' on reaching 18 years of age.  I considered myself lucky when it became my turn 4 years later as I was declared unfit for 'call up' due mainly to my profession or a possible slip up in the selection system!  

Cycling politics at that time was in a mess in the Club world.

In 1956 I left my job as a draughtsman with the Ordnance Survey Southampton, and joined a commercial company (part of the Fairey Aviation Company) based at White Waltham airfield.    Shortly after my arrival in Maidenhead, where I was based, I made contact with a few cycling clubmen who I had already met so I quickly settled in...cycling had always been a close brotherhood.

There came a pause in my cycling then in 1984 If I recall correctly as wife Anne and I moved to Copenhagen for a year and then on to The Netherlands for 30 years where I rode with 2 local clubs. However as I aged towards the end of these Dutch years I was finding it difficult to keep up with the other younger members when out on runs.  At this point we took the decision with enthusiasm from our 3 adult 'children' and grandchildren to return to the UK to live.  We decided on Wiltshire to be equal distance from our 3 families.

Club life in Holland was very like in England although there was more emphasis on touring. The last club with which I rode was divided into 3 sections, low, medium and fast groups.  We all gathered at the club room to start a run more or less together, then riding by different routes arranged  to all converge at an agreed cafe, the total size of the group totalled usually about 15 but was affected greatly by the weather.

One run I rode, with the first Club I joined numbered 50 riders!  


Q What were the early days of MDCC like?

A. The Club, in those days named The Maidenhead Cycling & Athletic Club, was not particularly vigorous but took part in the local racing scene.   After a short time I was asked if I could try to set up a club runs programme to develop something of a social side.   The first months attracted a few new members, with occasional support from some of the older ones.  Club runs were continued, and I have always held the view that the health of a club can be judged by its social activities which take place, rather than the success of a few of its racing members.

The runs were advertised weekly, the one rule always observed was the start at The Railway Station clocktower at 9a.m., sometimes sticking to a pre-set programme but sometimes choosing a destination to suit the circumstances of the day.   The rides headed to a known cafe for a mid-morning stop and then on to a stop for lunch before returning home by the end of the afternoon.   The number of members on these runs varied considerably from 2 to 8 or so.  Club membership was always a bit of a mystery because although club runs and attendance at the clubroom was poor there were usually sufficient old members who had given up riding but were prepared to help when races were organised on behalf of the West London C.A. or the Border C.A..

In fact the lowest number I recall on a Maidenhead club run was 2! NIGEL CORY and I religiously turned up at the clocktower every Sunday to decide which direction to take, and we set off accordingly. In those days there was a TV cartoon programme which was mad enough for our sense of humour, called NOGGIN THE NOG.  At about 2p.m. during our club run if there were just the 2 of us, the cry NOGGIN would go up and we 2 cyclists would return to Maidenhead. burning the roads to arrive home in time for the latest episode! Without NOGGIN these days how does anyone know the time to head back to base?!


Q. Were the bikes you rode very different to todays?

The bikes we rode in those long-ago days were basically similar to those of today.  Frame shape has changed but most of the difference we note nowadays is in materials used and small changes which added together produce equipment which makes a machine easier to propel than older ones.


Q. What is your most memorable ride?

There is not much hesitation when I'm asked for my most memorable ride or more correctly I should say, rides. In 1955 just before I came to Maidenhead I rode The Quaker Oats Amateur Circuit of Britain.   The race took place over 9 stages using the hardest roads the organisers could find!  The distance totalled nearly 1100 miles and although I didn't win any prizes I still look upon the event with great satisfaction. 

The other memorable run was a Rondouse called The Elfstedentocht over about 200 miles and which attracted more than2000 riders! 


Q. Do you have fond memories of the club?

My favourite memories of the Maidenhead Club are being part of its activities and the comradeship as well as the benefits which I got from cycling such as good health and fitness.

During my delving into the origins of the Maidenhead club it slowly occurred to me that the original club must have been one of the earliest in Britain so today's members may like to consider the wonderful history which they have inherited.


I would like to thank Anne, John's wife, who was instrumental in formulating this interview and keeps in regular touch with the club. I am sure we all wish Anne and John a happy, safe Christmas and New Year.