2018 – My first year as a FLampion.
The two most common questions I get asked as a FLampion are – what is a FLampion, and how did you get in to doing the role?
The first I can only take an educated guess at, but I assume it’s a concatenation of the acronym FLAB and the word ‘Champion’ so a FLAB Champion. Our role is to help to promote cycling in our local area by arranging social rides for all comers under the FLAB banner.
The second question is easier to answer - Having been a FLAB customer for a few months I visited their stand at the NEC Cycle Show in September 2017 to get some more kit and got in to a conversation with a couple of people on the stand who I later learned were the Founder Richard Bye, and the Community Project Manager, Adrienne Horne, where the subject of the FLampion role was mentioned. This piqued my interest, and after a little thought I decided to throw my hat in to the ring for one of the roles. Fast forward to January 2018 and I was both excited and nervous to receive an email from FLAB HQ congratulating me on my appointment as the FLampion for Berkshire for 2018.
I ran my first ride in early February and following advice from more seasoned FLampions picked a route I was very familiar with and apprehensively waited to see if anyone actually turned up – I needn’t have worried though as there were twelve of us on that first ride many of which have become regular riders throughout the year.
With Berkshire being a relatively small county it’s been easy to move the start point around a bit to give people the chance of having a ride near to their home, and also provides different roads and scenery for people to ride on – we used five different starting point on the rides throughout the year and more than fifteen different routes on the twenty eight rides we organised. More start points and different routes are currently being researched for 2019.
One target I set myself (and failed to reach) was to ride with ten different FLAB groups throughout the year but I over-estimated how many local groups there would be to me with there not being any in many of the neighbouring counties, but I did manage to ride with the Wiltshire group, and the Cheshire group once each but the Hampshire group have been like a second group for me. With their FLampion being only about twelve miles from me just across the border I have ridden with them a number of times, and there are many riders who are members of both groups and will often attend one ride with a group on Saturday and the other group on a Sunday.
We have also had a couple of ‘special occasion’ rides – the first was a Berkshire meets Hampshire ride where both groups did their own rides out to a café stop on the county border where we met for the three C’s (Coffee, Cake, & Chat). And the second was our Christmas Fancy dress ride where we were joined by Hampshire FLampion James Morrison in his best Santa outfit to complement my Rudolph antlers!
Looking back at the start of 2018 when I began my journey as a FLampion I didn’t really know what to expect in terms of how many people I would get on my rides, what routes people would want and how fast they would want to ride, but overall all of those concerns disappeared very quickly and we managed to build our small group from a handful of members to a Facebook group of over eighty, and I have had to make the tough decision to limit the number of riders to twelve people for everyones enjoyment and safety and many rides are full up.
FLAB prides itself in being an ‘all-inclusive’ cycling brand and this has been reflected in the diversity of our riders with the youngest being only thirteen up to a lady in her seventies and we even have what we believe to be the FLAB communities first ‘hand cyclist’ in Nerys who uses a custom built recumbent tricycle to cycle using her arms, and, as we found out on our first ride together is surprisingly fast!
I started this post with a question and will end with the third question I’m frequently asked about being a FLampion– Why do I do it? This can best be summed up in an example of how the group have evolved in to a community. When FLAB had an end of season sale in the Autumn of 2018, one of the group members co-ordinated orders for a few people so that they could all share the postage costs and then organised the distribution of each persons order between them. It’s this sense of community that drives my desire to be a FLampion and give something back to a sport / pastime that’s given me so much over the almost forty years I’ve been riding.
2018 was brilliant, let’s hope 2019 can be even better!
If you’re in the Berkshire area, (or just visiting from other parts of the country) check out our Facebook page at www.bit.ly/flab_berkshirewhere you can get the latest information on rides and routes etc.