dawdling doctorsBack in the mists of time there was a mountain bike club called “The Flying Doctors”. The name suggested speed, a connection with Bicycle Doctor shop and the possibility of going flying over the bars. The “club” was anarchy in action; there was an absolute minimum of organization, no hierarchy as such, no committee or officers, just a list of rides and a commitment to providing transport to the parts of the country where we went riding. The only rule that the club had was that the first person to get to a gate held it open till the last rider had gone through, which meant that the fast people didn’t leave the others behind and that gateways became the social nexus of the rides. (In addition to the pub for lunch). . I used to recce the routes with a friend called Keith, with the result that we two were out on our bikes every other week, either recce-ing routes or leading them.


Keith’s wife, a mountain biking widow, suggested something similar for “ordinary” people. Thus the “Dawdling Doctors” (also known as the “Meandering Medics”) came into existence. The format was similar except that there was no need to provide transport as it was already there in the form of bicycles. There was a “leader”, usually myself, armed with a fairly encyclopaedic knowledge of the lanes and pubs of Cheshire and a basic tool kit. At first we just used to meet at Chorlton Water Park at 10.30 on a Sunday morning once a month and go somewhere. We would do about 30 miles and there would be a pub lunch. Every so often, we would stop and let the people at the back catch up, and stand around and gas. It was a bit like a moving party; you would find yourself riding along with one or two people, and then after one of the stops, you would be chatting with someone else. The pace was un-hurried, almost nobody wore lycra or helmets and it was a lot of fun.


After the first year, we had a core of 15 to 30 riders, and it became appropriate to say where the rides were going, which pub it would be and roughly how far we would ride, so the annual ride list came into being. And so it went on for about ten years. The core group changed a bit, some left, some joined but it was at the time one of the biggest cycling groups in the Manchester area. Most other rides, were either much smaller or much sportier or both.

Come the day I wanted to stop being the leader and organizer of the group, the “membership” convened in a pub and we ceased to be connected to Bicycle Doctor and an informal group of long term DD riders took over the organization of the group. The name “The Chorlton Wanderers” was eventually chosen as the one that best expressed the original aims of the group. The leading was shared out, and some aspects of leadership were tightened up a bit to take account of possible emergencies. (In twenty years or so, I think there have only been three crashes, including two broken bones and one scratches and bruises). The rides start at 10.00 a.m. now, and all the usual rules apply:- we still wait for the folks at the back, we still go for lunch at a pub and we still have a lot of fun.

Rob Raikes