The Velo was basically started and propped up by Sandy Berry and Tom Robertson in 1979, but I may not be totally right about all the facts. Sandy and Tom were an unlikely pairing. Tom took up cycling aged 60 and Sandy was in his 30s and a local bike shop owner and hell raiser. Tom was aged 65 when I joined, Sandy 36. But the Velo was successful in getting young riders to come through the ranks. I was quite surprised to learn that a number of my class mates at Grove Academy in Dundee had also been in the Velo. I’m not sure how I didn’t notice; I guess I just wasn’t interested in being in a club and filtered all this irrelevant information out. In fact if Jonathan Carter hadn’t insisted that we try the Velo just a couple of times then I’d never have bothered. “If we don’t like it then we’ll go back to riding by ourselves”, he said. I can’t imagine my life without this suggestion of Jonathan’s.
Initially we were recommended to go out with the Duke of Edinburgh brigade. These were mostly more serious kids I knew from school and old Tom Robertson looked after them. They weren’t really cyclists but they had to do cycling as part of the Duke of Edinburgh scheme. I’d started the scheme myself a year or so later but had quickly chucked it when it looked like it required a certain level of commitment and may involve voluntary work in old-folks’ homes.
The Velo met at the gates of Claypotts Castle in Broughty Ferry. There used to be a roundabout there and just beyond it you were already out of town. Now there is a giant traffic light puzzle and it’s busy beyond belief.
So Jonathan and I and the Dukes headed on out one evening up the hill to Kellas. I remember trying to ride away from these guys up the hill only to be overtaken by the racing section lead by Sandy Berry (or SB as he was called). SB told us to stick together. It was then I noticed that these guys didn’t have water bottles. That was an SB thing. Train yourself to need less water. I don’t think that kind of approach is legal nowadays.
What ended my spell with the Duke of Edinburghs was Kenneth Patterson skidding his bike around on purpose in front of me, at high speed (I still appreciate his skill) and me slamming on my front brake and hurtling over the bars, totally winding myself. The saddle was scratched up, but a saddle cover fixed that. Patterson was a fool and I suddenly was committed to becoming a real racer, leaving these fakes behind. Joining SB and his waterless superior racers was the life for me.