BBBC Cambridge Origins

As they move ever-closer to global domination, Adam Ryman, a founder member of Big Boys Bicycle Club, tells us what it’s like to recruit people in a new city.

Is there a greater feeling than the warm protection provided by a peloton full of arses in your face? If there is, then I don’t want to know about it.

In 2013 BBBC was formed by a group of friends who love bicycles. Bicycles are better with friends, and friends are better with bicycles. Fact. I have the privilege of being one of those friends, however, I do not share a geographical affinity with them. I have lived in Cambridge for each of the last four years, while BBBC has exploded like a sexy bike-filled water balloon bursting all over London.

To add to this, I used to be in a job which necessitated spending the majority of the week away from home. Sure, I would make dramatic cameos on rides, organised the odd thing and have needed pushing up hills in Mallorca (there are more bridges than hills in Cambridge) – but I could not participate in the regular cadence of BBBC life.

Cambridge is flat. Exhibit A.

A few months ago, though, I moved into a new job which meant that I get to live and work in Cambridge. Like a normal person. This presented a wonderful opportunity to preach the happiness of bikes to its citizens. BBBC has dope kit, an enviable Instagram presence and the charismatic charm of Peter Sagan meeting the Queen. How hard could it be?

From week one I started Wednesday laps, for which I was joined by Tom ‘El Presidente’ Owen in the pouring rain. Since then I have been flying the flag for Wednesdays in Cambridge, because if it doesn’t happen then it’s not a thing. I have attempted to lure other friends, colleagues, and the general public into the Wednesday lap night lifestyle to various degrees of success.

Sociable bunch, the BBBC. On the way to Cambridge on the annual club jaunt.

My first major opportunity to do this came a few weeks into my new job through a company organised ride. The options were 40 miles, 60 miles, 100 miles, or “fun”. I opted for the 60. In full BBBC rags, I navigated my way through every group like an evasive grey squirrel trying to make friends with its red-tailed counterparts. Plenty offered polite conversation, but did not seem to be on board with sharing their nuts. One-by-one they watched my branded bottom disappear into the distance in search of someone who will play with me. I got on the drops and worked my way up to what resulted in being the group that finished second on the day.

“Hi, I’m Adam” was uttered for the 59th time of the day, but with the same enthusiasm as the first, and I was in business. 60 miles came around and I was still with them, and also not finished. Not that I’m bitter but if you advertise 60 miles then I don’t expect to do sixty-fucking-eight. With the sprint won (via the wrong side of the cones), and it definitely not being a race, I ate a shit-ton of roasted pig and ice cream.

Red Hook Crit. Cambridge edition.

That experience taught me that there would be some recurring themes in adding more crew members to the good ship BBBC:

1) Explaining the name ‘Big Boys Bicycle Club’ to strangers is difficult. Especially to non-Boys.
2) People like our kit.
3) It’s not the watts you put out that matter, but the chats.
4) Handshakes are not appropriate on cycles.
5) Hugs, whilst impressive on bicycles, are not appropriate with lycra-clad strangers.
6) Ice cream is the lifeblood of cycling.

Other approaches which I have tried include walking up to other lycra-clad individuals for conversation and hanging around in the velo cafes of Cambridge and its environs long enough to imbibe as many as six coffees. While my loyalty cards are full of stamps, I must apologies to anyone who has encountered me at the end of one of these sextuple-espresso sessions. I doubt I made much sense.

There are opportunities to recruit everywhere. When the glass panel of my balcony smashed all over the street (in a non-cycling related incident) I even asked the kindly neighbour who helped me tidy up if he wanted to come for a ride. Always be closing.

Inevitably then, my Cambridge riding has mostly been limited to solo sensations, miscellaneous acquaintances and the work ride SKWAD. They unfortunately have a preference for riding on Tuesdays. Tuesdays! Who only rides Tuesdays? This utter nonsense hasn’t stopped the Wednesday rides, but has meant that numbers haven’t been as bountiful as they could be. We have had some large rides though, hitting a record in July.

This is where we came in, many arses. Nine arses to be exact. On a Tuesday.

Other than that minor detail this felt amazing and, although I doubt that any of the gang consider themselves a member of BBBC, I sense that they are primed like a trail of dominoes ready to topple.

The Cambridge Chapter of BBBC is born, however very much still in its adolescence. A club with the heritage, culture, and class of Big Boys cannot fail to make an impression on my city. It’s just a matter of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’.

Cambridge, if you’re listening and want a friend to cycle with, get in touch.

BBBC has chapters of ‘varying’ sizes in London, Cambridge, Cape Town and Sydney.

Somehow, someone always falls in this ford. Every. Single. Year.