The Midland Cycle Club embraces life off the bike as much as it does on it.
To many of the 183 members, this is more than a riding club; it feels like their second family.
Located in the north-east suburb of Midland, Perth, the club is over 100 years old. In its more formative years the club represented the Midlands community of the time – a very working-class culture that looked at bike racing as a means of generating additional income to what was in most cases railway related work.
But things have changed, and the road and track club has moved with the pace.
Although its membership spans all ages and levels, these days the club is especially well regarded as a destination for young budding cyclists (of whom there are approx.100, making it West Australia’s club with the largest concentration of young cyclists). A Junior Cycling Certificate programme has been developed that requires kids riding the track to move through levels of skills, experience and performance.
Wednesday is now firmly established as a quality track program, with young tackers from eight years on the 5pm – 6pm shift, older more skilled riders on the 6pm – 7pm shift and the young guns and adults taking up the 7pm – 8pm slot.
Many of these youngsters are growing up with stars in their eyes – this is the original club of national heroes like Luke Durbridge and Cameron Meyer (both now riding for Orica-GreenEDGE) – and more recently Australian selected juniors Robert Power, Jai Hindley and Michael Storer.
The club’s kids want to emulate their heroes, and Midland Cycle Club is doing everything they can to support such ambitions. Their seven volunteer coaches are tiered in level, skill and knowledge, and the club is now looking to finance additional expertise and guidance for those showing the drive to take their cycling to another level. It’s a strategy the club believes will also help self-preservation – we all know sensational community or volunteer groups that fall when one or two of the strongest links move on.
Midland Racing has also recently been founded. Sponsored by Champion System, Cyclebox, Glen Parker Cycles and HO2max, this initiative provides a pathway from club environment to racing. Members must fulfil a criteria based on age, commitment to training and level of riding; it’s a way for the club to recognise and provide for those who work hard and train hard, and who are hungry for more riding opportunities. The club also hopes this team (which will debut at this year’s Tour of Margaret River) will ultimately provide young talent with a segue to development teams.
There’s plenty happening off the bike to keep kids engaged, including social activities arranged either by the club or by the kids getting together in their own time to ‘hang-out’. Australian cycling hero Anna Meares was recently in town, and made a tear-inducing appearance at the club when speaking with its female members. Heroes like Cameron Meyer have also been known to drop in on a Wednesday night for a turn on the boards, much to the delight of the kids (and some parents).
The club also gets behind any team members competing at ‘away’ races, with parents and coaches doubling as bus drivers, bike mechanics and whatever other roles need filling in order to get behind their riders and support them every step of the way.
But Midlands’ Cycling Club doesn’t aim to just nurture the elite nor simply the very young – on the contrary there is an incredible depth of talent, age and experience across all members; each of whom is connected through a love for riding.
In 2013 the club was named the Swan Shire, Blue Ribbon Club of the year for its involvement in community programs (such as the Active Girls Foundation) and working with disabled groups; a huge achievement for a volunteer club in a minority sport.
The club encourages new members by providing road and track bikes gratis for the first use (should a want-to-be-rider want to get a feel for things before committing to a bike sale). They makes a point of supporting several bike shops in the area – Glen Parker Cycles, Midland Cycles, BikeForce Midland and Guilford Cycles.
This is the kind of environment where two dads will come together to watch their respective children race, and both will walk away congratulating the other on an impressive ride. It’s no surprise therefore that the kids can’t get enough. Several have been known to cancel Friday night parties so they can wake up on Saturday morning with fresh legs for the ride ahead.
One member told me how his wife one day lamented that she hardly saw her husband or son anymore – they were now both always out on the bike.
“Always out on the bike, eating healthy, hanging with a great cross-section of kids from all around Perth versus the one school. Hanging around kids who just live and breathe the bike, versus smoke or take drugs or sit around in the mall,” he had responded.
“Not a bad trade-off”, he suggested grinning.