The Cyclists Touring Club (CTC) is one of the fundamental particles in the Standard Model of the cycling universe. It was founded in 1878 (as the Bicycle Touring Club) by Stanley Cotterell who lived in Harrogate at the time and thereby established that rather bijou spa town as one of the holy places of British cycling. It’s not for nothing that, 136 years later, the Grand Départ of the 2014 Tour de France was in nearby Leeds - with the first stage ending in the very centre of down town Harrogate. If Harrogate had been a bigger place it would quite naturally have hosted both the start and finish of that stage.
In the first 100 years after its founding the CTC was the slightly more middle-class home of ‘well balanced good sense’ in the slightly too hysterical, slightly too competitive, slightly more working-class world of British cycling. It provided a welcoming home for both the introverted well-meaning fanatic (beard and pipe to the fore) and the more sociable sort who loved a drum-up, unclipping their Primus stove from its brazed-on Primus stove clip at the first opportunity - rain, snow, hail or shine. I never had a brazed on Primus stove clip on any of my frames - but there were many who did not consider a 531 touring frame to be complete without one.
You may sneer, but I have to say that every cup of tea was always welcome - and that also went for the genuinely friendly, but intrusively motherly, clucking of the middle aged women who masterminded these stops. Mysteriously, these CTC women shape-shifted from cuddly earth mother one moment, to relentlessly efficient cycling cyborg the next, without missing a beat. The tea was great - but getting dropped by them on the next hill stung a little.
Weekly club runs were surprisingly (uncomfortably?) fast - but ostentatiously uncompetitive. Bikes and components were surprisingly (uncomfortably?) high-end, but demonstrably not quite the very latest thing. And the typical racing-man-corrosive-competitive-chit-chat about who had just spent exactly how much on exactly what ludicrous latest gizmo was handled in a much more subtle way. Bombastic aggression was frowned upon - there are better disguised forms of put-down that prove much more effective.
With the end of the 1980s the last memories of the British industrial class system faded away and cycling, and even cycle racing became an aspirational middle class sport - the new golf. In this new world, the CTC has grown its membership many times over - but somehow struggled to find its cultural place. Sure, there is still a need for ‘well balanced good sense’ - modern cycling is replete with testosterone fueled racing boys shouting at you to get out of their way as, arrogantly riding three abreast, they blast past. But, in real life, these cycling-thugs-of-today are 45 year old lawyers with their children in private school - more John Cleese than Ronnie Barker - and certainly not Ronnie Corbett (who knows his place). Demonstrating this crisis of identity the CTC has rebranded itself as ‘Cycling UK’.
The house magazine of the CTC has had a number of names - the ‘Monthly Circular’, the ‘Monthly Circular and Official Gazette’, the ‘Monthly Circular and Official Record’, the ‘CTC Gazette’, ‘Cycletouring’ and now ‘Cycle’. You can change the name as many times as you like, but you can’t change the, slightly dull, slightly worthy, tone of ‘well balanced good sense’.