I tell people that I’ve done more cycling outside the club than in it. This is true, but as a member of Sotonia I’ve had more fun than at any time in my cycling career.

Cycling life started at the age of 10 when my brother joined the Kingsgate and Venta Road Club. My father ferried the time trial team to events in his black Ford Prefect, and every Saturday night during the summer the house reeked of Elleman’s Athletic Rub, the human horse liniment. At the crack of dawn they would leave for the race, transporting the bikes on a roof rack with them upturned and secured with toe straps fastened round the handlebars and saddle – three bikes on top, three riders in the car, and so no room for me.

The day the Kingsgate ran their open event was my chance. Dad boiled kettles of water using two Primus stoves and served tea and cakes at the foot of St Catherine’s Hill on the old Winchester by-pass – I was his helper. It seems as if nothing has changed except dad is no longer with me and the Primus stoves have long gone!

At 13, I road my first time trial on the Colden Common to Bishops Waltham course at the instigation of Eddie Woodford, a founder member of Sotonia CC – 10 miles in a time of 32:08 on a pre-war Hercules bike with a fixed wheel. I continued using this bike for about a year until a young man with red hair persuaded me it was time to try gears. My beloved 1948 lugless Claud Butler arrived, the frame purchased by Bill (the redhead) from his postman for 10/- and the second-hand components donated by various club members. I rode by first 25 on the P18, Winchester to Basingstoke and back!

Penny in Antelope colours on the Isle of Man

In 1964 I joined the Antelope CC, one of the founder clubs of Sotonia. That year a group of us, including Eddie who was now a member of the Antelope, raced on the Isle of Man, travelling to Liverpool in an old Commer van with the bikes and Eddie’s trike strapped to its roof in the time honoured way – a dreadful journey in torrential rain.

The years passed with periods off and on the bike – I bought a Peugeot tandem to enable my son Peter to ride with me. We travelled far on that thing – on and off road – in Britain and abroad, often with Barbara Braithwaite and Chalky White. When Peter stopped riding, I continued on my new TJ Quick, the Claude Butler’s frame having broken under the weight of child and shopping!

On the Conquering Hero pass – with Chalky White and Barbara Braithwaite

More years passed and a call from Bill (the redhead) got me training for a visit to the Black Forest in Germany. At this point I joined Sotonia CC as a second-claim member and was organising turbo training sessions at the clubroom at Valley Park; Ian Stewart was the Club Secretary and Julian Gee the Chairman. This was 2009, when Ian was diagnosed with a heart condition and was forced to resign as Secretary. I was asked if I would stand as General Secretary at the AGM, I agreed and became a first-claim member of the Club. It has been great fun since then – Wednesday rides with the Wobblers; the occasional time trial, both solo and on a tandem; the odd weekend hostel trip; helping riders in 12- and 24-hour races (and the occasional 100-miler); organising reliability rides; and, of course, brewing tea and serving cakes!!

Penny Cossburn