Words: Chris Horton, Images: Instagram.com/soco.cyco
My lungs may be burning, my calves are aching and I’m seriously out of breath but there’s a huge smile on my face right now. I’ve spent the last 20 minutes cycling through Eastney towards Southsea seafront, past Southsea Common and up along Clarence Parade with a group calling themselves the South Coast Cycle Collective (or Soco-Cyco) and we’re heading to our last pub of the night. We chain up the collection of new and old racing bikes (one of which has been lent to me thi s evening) and head into Meat & Barrel ready for some more good beer and conversation.
Despite living in a city which is perfect for cycling – when was the last time you huffed and puffed up a hill in Southsea? Getting on two wheels hasn’t been something I’ve contemplated during my time by the sea, but tonight’s ride has been a real joy. The evening begins in Staggeringly Good’s taproom for a half before setting off to Eastney’s The Old House at Home. “It’s as easy as riding a bike”, I’m told as I begin to tentatively pedal whilst balancing on two wheels for the first time in nearly 20 years. A drinks stop and that aforementioned seafront ride later I’m ready to sit down with two members of the group, Alex Puttock and Michael Mackenzie, to talk all things bike.
Describing themselves as ‘a loose collection of coffee slurping, beer guzzling cycle enthusiasts’ the collective have been starting to take their shared passion for all things two wheeled more seriously over the last 12 months. “We’ve been doing this for years – going to bike events, enjoying a few drinks and we’d discussed for a long time about making it a little more formalised,” explains Alex before adding, “The Portsmouth area has a proud tradition of cycling with clubs such as Portsmouth North End and Fareham Wheelers, though Soco-Cyco see ourselves as bridging the gap between hobbiest and club racer”. “We want to welcome BMXers from the skate park, mountain bikers, road bike enthusiasts, the whole lot,” states Michael.
The group have been building up a steady social media presence over the last year, travelling across the country and into Europe, visiting various cycling events, whilst future plans include organising some official events locally – Alex’s father and Soco-Cyco member Ricky recently organised the Retro Ride on the Isle of Wight – as well as planning plenty more Southsea ‘bike socials’. Alex is eager to stress that the social aspect of the group is most important. “With us, it’s more about meeting like minded individuals then anything else”. “In a way”, muses Michael, “finding the right pub is just as important as the actual cycle route to get there”.