We take to the lanes with South Wales’s most affable outfit, the Ogmore Valley Wheelers based in Bridgend
- Words: Sean Lacey / Photos: Jesse Wild
From: Bridgend, South Wales
Members: 80 plus
Meets: Sundays at 9am at Physiques, Brackla, club run, three groups; Tuesday at 9:45am at the B&Q roundabout, Waterton; mid-week social, Tuesday 7pm, Western Ave, Bridgend Ind Estate; Thursday 7pm St Bride’s Major, Club 10 TT (summer months only).
Website: www.ogmorevalleywheelers.com | Twitter: @ovwcycling
In a change to their normal three-group format, just for today one big group rolls through Bridgend before heading west out onto quieter roads with a very industrial heritage and indeed backdrop, with Port Talbot steelworks — one of the largest in the world — dominating the skyline but not the conversation.
These riders obviously get on well together as the banter starts from the off, making us feel welcome on this bright morning — something the group assure us is not the norm for this part of the
world at this time of year.
The riders chat happily, giving the overall impression that the camaraderie and social aspects are a big draw.
Club chairman Steven Madeley is keen to point out the ethos of the club and its origins: “We started back in the 1930s as a group of mates who wanted to meet up in their spare time and we try and keep that spirit of friends riding together today,” he says.
As well as the social side, even having their own clubhouse which is a rarity these days, there is a strong racing background and the club actively takes part and organises events in the local time trial scene.
The route soon leaves the industry behind and the scenery changes dramatically as we pick up the coast road with stunning sea views; the weather is being kind but the ocean puts on a spectacular display as it crashes up against the rocks on the run in to the first cafe stop in Porthcawl.
With hot coffee in hand we speak to tandem stoker and club social secretary Keith Barrett. Blind from birth, Keith has been riding since the early 1980s: “When I started it was sporadic as I had to cajole people into piloting for me, but since I moved to the area and joined the club I have never had a shortage of people willing to ride with me.
“Family and club-mates take turns and I can get out as much as I want now. I also like to race in time trials, even managing third at the National Para TT Championships a couple of years back.”
To help out and give something back to the community for all the support he receives, Barrett runs the club’s social scene, a job he thoroughly enjoys.
We hit the road again, through some spectacular scenery, enjoying the very best of South Wales. We’re told that in the summer the stronger groups tend to head north into the mountains, taking in the famous climbs of the area including Black Mountain and the Tumble.
It’s a flatter affair today though, taking into account the single group outing, with regular stops to bring it back together when it splits. Of the female members out today, three have a special bond — Tracey Jenkins is here with her twin daughters, 17-year-old Hannah and Sarah, whose birthdays it is today too.
Tracey tells us: “I’ve been riding just over a year, Sarah joined in the autumn and we ride together in the Amblers group most weeks. Sarah has ridden for longer and is part of the Welsh Triathlon Development Academy, joining Ogmore to improve her bike and racing skills.”
The shared love of cycling is great to see, and the commitment that’s led them to spend their birthday out on their bikes is admirable.
The second stop is brief, with the Cafe Velo wholly reserved for the club, but most manage to squeeze in something tasty — we opted for traditional bara brith.
The run back to Bridgend should have been straightforward, but an unforeseen event in Cowbridge tops the ride off in a festive manner, when we accidentally end up on a closed street as part of the town’s Christmas parade — the locals look a bit nonplussed as to what a cycling club has to do with Santa and his elves, but it concludes a memorable ride with a great bunch of riders.
The club was founded in 1931 when seven local lads gathered at Watts Ironmongers Store in the village of Ogmore Vale. This shop also ran a cycle hire business, charging one penny for a half-day hire. Rides began at Dom’s Ice Cream Shop until the outbreak of World War Two, and during hostilities they met at the Fox and Hounds in the high street. During the war many members became dispatch riders for the Civil Defence and Home Guard.
At the end of the war, club runs again met at Dom’s Ice Cream Shop, with up to 30 bicycles lined up for the ride (including four tandems, two with sidecars). Rides usually headed down to the Vale of Glamorgan where there is a huge choice of routes. If heading west towards Swansea and the Mumbles, the club would use the Briton ferry to cross the River Neath.
By 1950 the club decided to invest in their own clubroom and after organising many raffles and dances, a deposit was paid on the Philadelphia Chapel on Cemetery Road. This remained the HQ for about 20 years until the location seemed wrong to attract new members, as all the new housing was being built in the Bridgend area eight miles away.
The old clubroom was sold and since that time they have remained in the Bridgend area. The current location at Coity has seen an increase in membership to an all-time high of around 80 members.
- Welsh 10-mile team TT record in May 1989 — Carl Roach, Scott Morgan and Stuart Evans.
- Won the World Team Roller Record challenge in 1980s at the Porthcawl Pavilion and acknowledged by the Guinness Book of Records (12 hours by six-man team relay).
- Louise Jones began with Ogmore Valley Wheelers, later becoming four-time British sprint champion and winning the Commonwealth Games Sprint gold medal in Auckland 1990. She also represented GB at the World Championships in 1988.
- Former club member Wendy Everson became four-time British sprint champion.
- As a junior Carl Roach rode in the Welsh team in the Junior Tour of Ireland. He also won 30 open time trials in his short career.
- Arthur Hopkin won the club’s BAR TT trophy on 16 occasions; he has also held all the club’s time trial and point-to-point records.
Ogmore Valley Wheelers
After the early industrial views of Port Talbot steelworks, the first sighting of the picturesque coast and crashing seas are spectacular as you ride the coast road into Porthcawl.
Passing through Ewenny brings you alongside the River Ogmore, with tantalising glimpses of the sea ahead and the impressive ruins of Ogmore Castle.
3 East of Llantwit Major
Leaving the second cafe stop at Llantwit Major, the route heads inland into the lush green farming land. Narrow lanes with little traffic allow time to appreciate the peace and rolling views.
The Broomwagon is a bike-friendly cafe which does breakfast, lunch, coffee and fantastic homemade cakes, as well as supplying locks, pumps and tools. Cafe Velo is run by a keen cyclist and serves great coffee and homemade cakes. It also provide locks, spare tubes and a pump for those in need. The Broomwagon Cafe, 11 New Road, Station Close, Porthcawl, CF36 5DL; Cafe Velo, 3 Church Street, Llantwit Major, CF61 1SB. www.cafevelo.info