Saddling up with racing brothers

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Maybe it’s the Bradley Wiggins effect, but cycling seems to be enjoying a bit of a heyday.

More and more people are taking to two wheels, inspired by the Tour de France winner and our Olympic champions.

The knock-on effects can be seen at Out of the Saddle cycling club at Thurcroft.

Started two years ago by professional racing brothers Dean and Russ Downing and their friend John Smith, it began with five members. Now it has more than 40.

John, 36, of The Crescent, Thurcroft, is club secretary.

He grew up with the Downings, who were accidentially instrumental in getting him on a bike.

John said: “We were playing football in the local gymnasium one night at a youth club evening and I hit my knee on a concrete wall and it broke.”

“The doctors suggested that I should try cycling as a way of building the strength back up in my leg.”

“Russ and I hadn’t been getting on that well at the time, but my dad took me to their dad Kenny’s shop in Thurcroft to get me a bike and he said I should go out with Dean and Russ.”

“The friendship was rekindled and we’ve been friends ever since.”

John, who works as a salesman for an electrical panel manufacturer in Rotherham, admits that he was never as determined about cycling as the brothers.

“I wasn’t as strict or dedicated as they are. When I got to about 18 or 19 I started going out to pubs and clubs and didn’t carry on with the bike.”

“Then about seven years ago I was 13st and feeling rubbish so I took it up again.”

Now a lean ten-and-a-half-stone and feeling healthier, John competes in races.

But Out of the Saddle isn’t just about training up racers.

“We have social rides for the whole family, such as going to Clumber Park for a picnic. Anyone can join, our youngest is five years old.”

“We don’t believe in pushing young kids either, going long distances can tire them out and put them off.”

Just as important is the club’s annual charity night, which has so far raised £30,000 for good causes and is acclaimed as the third biggest cycling event in the country.

Last year’s speaker was Olympic champ Ed Clancy. This year’s event will be on 2nd November at Hellaby Hall Hotel.

Dean, 37, said: “The club came out of us holding the charity night. We wanted to encourage cycling at club level and we go along when we can to talk about team tactics for racing and offer advice.”

Russ, who has just been competing in the Tour of Poland, said: “Most of the lads work and have families and have got two or three hours to spare on a weekend or Wednesday night to go out on their bikes.”

“We support it whenever we can and will ride with them on a warm-up.”

For more information about joining the club, or for tickets to the charity night, go to