Big Boys Bicycle Club was a glorious mistake, a strange beast that ought never to have lived, yet wound up flourishing in the harsh and fiercely competitive eco-system of London cycling clubs. What made them so special? They set out to be a cycling club full of people you might actually want to hang out with, not just ride with.
No tedious club runs on the same route every single week since 1963. No minimum speed requirements. No unfriendly, unsmiling pacelines boshing round London’s parks, silent but for the sinister thrum of too-expensive wheels.
No dickheads, basically.
"I knew about Milltag even before we founded the club.” says Tom Owen, president of BBBC. “I’d lusted after the original DOPE jersey they designed, not even knowing the Mapei link – I had no idea about pro-cycling pre-2011, other than that Pantani rode for Mercatone-Uno. I just thought it was a fierce kit.
“After one terrible misstep when we naively bought some custom cycling kit from a company that specialised in branded stationery, we decided to put all future kit production in the hands of some people who actually knew what they were doing. Since then we’ve had two ‘editions’ of full kit, some one-off caps and arm warmers, plus a set of jerseys that we donated to our Sierra Leonean sister club, Lunsar Cycling Team. Every time we take delivery of a new bit of Milltag kit, we’re overjoyed with the result.
“Aesthetically, we try to make each kit bolder than the last, and the chaps at Milltag HQ are always available to give advice, or steer us away from a particular creative precipice. We’re not really a racing club, so we don’t get too het up about aero sleeves and having the best possible fabrics for racing rainy Cat 4 criteriums, but it never fails to raise a smile when some other cyclist rides up alongside us and compliments the kit.”
BBBC don’t just get compliments though, they actually get recruits through having nice threads. Charlie Marshall has been with BBBC for about a year.
“Back in the heady days of the late nineties I was a mountain biker. I prided myself on wearing baggy clothes, a full-face helmet and flying down any mountain/hill/path at speeds branded dangerous, insane and suicidal (almost exclusively by my mother). Riding uphill was a superfluous activity undertaken by cross country riders (weirdos) and roadies (lycra clad perverts). One day, after too many crashes (mostly on my head), a stolen bike and the typically teenage twin excuses of girls and beer, the riding stopped. Skip forward 10+ years and I found myself stood in the local branch of a national bike chain, cycle to work voucher in hand collecting my new shiny road bike. Having destroyed my knees running and in a bid to stop the onset of an early-thirties beer gut, I found myself somewhere 18-year-old me would never have believed possible.
“I began riding to work daily, regardless of weather, then making the occasional trip round Richmond Park at the weekend, then further afield into Surrey and beyond, falling in love with cycling all over again. One day, waiting for the lights into Battersea Park, I see a kit unlike any other I had seen before. Black, white, pink, yellow, ‘BIG’ plastered up the arms and an unmistakeable BBBC across the back(side). Upon reaching work I hesitantly googled ‘Big Boys Bicycle Club’, not sure work’s extensive content blocks would be too happy with the results. I was immediately met with a fun, bright website and not the usual crap I’d come to expect from other London cycle clubs. This seemed to be a group of guys and girls who liked riding their bikes, for fun, with each other. There were pictures of people actually smiling!”
Find out more about BBBC at bigboysbicycle.club. They currently have chapters in London and Cambridge, with a third planned to launch in Manchester later this year.