The rise of Yaxley Riders cycling group.
It was a standard Saturday evening when the ping of an email
drew me off the sofa and over to the large desktop pc in my living room.
It was the end of January 2010 and things were very
different in the Warrener household.
I was living with my wife-to-be in the smallest two up, two
down house that Yaxley could muster. Cycle training in that particular winter comprised
a massive logistical piece of skill in getting the turbo in from the shed
before hooking my bike to it in the pokiest corner of the kitchen.
I was a fully-fledged committee member of the local cycling
club Fenland Clarion, despite the organisation being based on the other side of
the city of Peterborough, in Helpston. There were as many miles in the car as
on the bike in participating in my hobby, but there seemed no alternative…
The email was from a former training partner and school
friend, Steve Milne. He had drifted away from cycling but was getting back
involved. We discussed the local club scene, including which one he should join
for racing and “wasn’t it still annoying that there was nothing on the southern
side of town for riders?”
The correspondence went on for a few weeks and once Steve
was up and running with a bike and some kit we went out on a weekend, chatting,
riding and enjoying ourselves.
What was clear in our minds was that we needed something in Yaxley, something to
engage the existing riders into getting on their bikes. We wanted them to go training
from the village, rather than having to trek across town to meet up with
We settle initially on a Tuesday night ride (I can’t
remember why that day was chosen), and set off from the top of Holme Road. The
ride was only 17 miles and at a social pace. It was the perfect way to take
advantage of the spring evenings and extra day light.
We went down the length of Holme Road before turning right
at the Admiral Wells. We headed west to the A1 and down towards Sawtry.
We then took the left into Cooks Lane, a road which was much
more rideable back in the day, and across towards the railway line cutting back
to Conington church. It was a straight road back past the Peterborough Airfield
and retracing our steps back to the village.
We did the ride again the next week with two more people
joining. A 100% increase on the first ride! The Yaxley Gazette backed us by
posting an article advertising the rides, support we still have from Justine to
We set up a website and Twitter feed before ordering the
very limited edition first set of jerseys.
They were white with blue sleeves and had the group web
address on the front and back. We sold a few, mainly to people who had been
born and raised in the village but had moved out. They went to places like
Holland and the Channel Islands.
The group was started to grow and develop further. The
Tuesday evening ride was getting to double figures and we started to go out on
Sundays. The meeting point was moved from Holme Road to the white bench at the
Church Street/Broadway junction.
There were a couple of reasons for this. Firstly there was a
bit more space up on the grass there, secondly we were getting a number of
people joining us from outside of the village and this was a spot everyone
could find without knowing the layout of Yaxley.
The final, and yet most subtle bit of marketing was that it
made the rides more visible. People were gathered in anticipation of having
some fun whilst others were trapped in their cars at the traffic lights. It
worked brilliantly and the group started to grow massively.
More people started to get involved once Steve launched the
groups Facebook page. There was lots of discussion and debate about rides and
kit. We quickly hit triple figures in terms of number sof followers and it was
clear that the idea of an informal set up had worked and that it appealed to
We did have a mission strategy in that we wanted to help
develop riders for the clubs. We didn’t want to work against them or replace
them. It’s true to say that both Steve and I took a bit of stick from our
respective clubs at the time and throughout the life of Yaxley Riders. We were
not popular as we were different. There were plenty of times during that period
where we discussed closing the group down.
Yaxley Riders used the internet to communicate more
effectively than the established clubs had ever done and we were not charging a
membership or expecting commitment. We just wanted people to ride with us!
Rob Bernard, Paul Griffin, Alex Ashcroft and Gary Gwynn
joined us to form the first admin committee bringing even more structure to the
group and a real strategy for developing the sport locally.
Our regular ride calendar developed over the next year or so
with the Tuesday ride tradition being maintained. It evolved into the “Hare and
Hounds”. Weekends were now being catered for and more and more people wanted to
be part of what was happening.
Over 100 riders joined the first Reliability Ride from the
Sunny Café at the start of 2014. It was a proud moment for Steve and me to set
that ride off.
By now we had an online store selling our new black orange
and lime kit, a jersey designed by Gary and made possible by Steve and Dave
Clow who did the first and only group logo. The chain ring with our name and
website address is now really recognisable and was added to the website and
We were still unpopular to some and had endured a bit of
public criticism at a celebration of Peterborough cycling hosted by Rapha.
Those misunderstandings of our purpose and mission seem to have died down
sufficiently to the extent that people accept Yaxley Riders place in the local
The objective hasn’t changed. We want to get people involved
and interested in the sport. If they want to develop and race, then there are
established clubs with a much better infrastructure to accommodate those needs
than us. We want to help people get the basics of the sport and the most
possible enjoyment they can from the time they have to devote to it.
However, enough on the negative publicity we have created
though. It’s more important to focus on the successes as there have been many.
We have a healthy social scene with regular pub evenings and
meals. The regular ride calendar has now been expanded to include a beginners
ride, Thursday training, a Saturday join up with local shop Greenwheel cycles
and the Sunday Spinner.
Many of the rides now prove so popular that we can’t use the
bench as a departure point! The Sunny Café in the Broadway shopping centre has
become the focal point with coffee, cake and fry ups adding to the cultural
appearance of the club.
Our tours are rapidly gaining legendary status. We have
ridden to the Women’s Tour twice and the Tour de France, both from the village.
The Tour de France had a reception with coffee and
croissants back in the village, concluding with a big screen transmission of
the last kilometres of the stage.
The weekend trips away have proved really popular with the
Tour of Britain having been taken in from the roadside.
This year has seen the group celebrate its fifth birthday.
I think it’s fair to say that Steve and I never saw that
coming back in 2010. We wanted some company for rides. After that came the
opportunity to represent our home village, hence our continued focused on
branding and pushing the team kit.
We are proud to be from Yaxley and wanted to show people
that civic pride.
As the fifth anniversary dawned I launched what was supposed
to be a limited edition single production run of commemorative jerseys.
I had toyed with the design for days and days. Our chosen supplier
was Godfrey Sports and there was a reason for that. They are a UK based company
with a UK production facility in Nottingham. Their values and ethos of getting
high quality kit out there for people to enjoy their riding was exactly what we
Their CEO Tom Godfrey and I traded drawings on a pretty
regular basis (you should see some of the ones we rejected!!) before hitting on
the block layout we have.
The colours were no accident and nor was the design. It had
the white on it to reflect the first kit we had done, the black to reflect the
previous look and orange which is a consistent colour in a lot of the sports
teams in Yaxley. We wanted to represent the village and keep that theme. It was
important to be part of the sporting community that existed.
Lots has been said about the colours and the kit but a lot
of thought and consideration went in to the minutest points of detail. The
thickness of the bands, the size of the lettering, everything was researched.
The final tweak we made was the addition of the riders name
or nickname down the sides. Yes we took the idea from Team Sky who were doing
it in the pro cycling peloton, but there was a purpose behind it.
The group was growing so rapidly that we were struggling to
keep pace with all of the new riders to know their names!
Almost 100 kits have been sold which is well beyond my
wildest dreams when I first shared some ideas on Instagram back in late 2014.
We are keeping this kit into 2016 and despite riding in my club St Ives kit in
the Tour of Cambridgeshire last summer, it was a really emotional moment seeing
people in the YR kit at that event.
So in a rather concise nutshell, that is how we have got to where
currently sit as a group. I have immense pride in being one of the two founder
members of Yaxley Riders. Not a day goes by where the group doesn’t cross my
mind in one way or another.
It’s well documented that with a young family and time
pressure, I don’t partake in group activities as often nowadays. But that is
also a sign of my faith in the people running it. They are doing a great job. The
new team comprises Andrew Edwards, Richard Nightingale, Helen Harris and Nick
The other thing I take great pride in is that the group
means so much to so many people and in so many different ways. It’s true to say
that Yaxley Riders has made a positive difference to lives and that is
something way beyond the original remit.
I have been wanting to document the history of the group for
a long time now and the end of our anniversary year seemed the most appropriate
time for a real look back and reflective appraisal of what has been achieved.
It only remains for me to say, here’s to the next five