A social ride in memory of David Booth

A few weeks ago I got some of the saddest news I have ever received. David Booth - who rode with us for many years,  who I rode with midweek every week for quite some time, and who a few of us had been to Sweden with a couple of times to do the Vätternrudern, had taken his own life.  He had been struggling for much of his life with mental health issues and we never knew.   It shook me, as well as shaking many of us who had ridden with him and counted him as a friend.

He had not been riding his bike for a while, but a year ago today he turned up at the clocktower, to ride with us on a more gentle ride to Fernygrove cafe.  We had a big turn out that time and the weather was great.  At the end of this year's Mental Health Awareness week, Dave Dyer organised for us to run a repeat of the ride this week - taking it easy and encouraging some who maybe wouldn't normally come out to ride.

Not everyone wanted to take it easy, so about half the group met a bit earlier and went off to ride further and faster - arranging to meet the rest of us at the cafe.  Meanwhile a group of 15 - some members who had not been out for months (if not years!), and some partners of club members - met at Braywick to do the pre-planned 26 miles to the coffee shop. 

The weather was pretty much perfect - it wasn't sunny, but it was bright and mild and there was no wind. We stayed together as a group, chatting as we cycled to Twyford, Hurst and Dinton Pastures. We caught up with the Binfield 10km runners as we headed back eastwards towards Winkfield (a few of them asking if they could borrow our bikes!) and arrived at the cafe a couple of hours later having averaged around 13.5mph.  So, it was a bit slower than usual but we had a chance to sit up, enjoy the scenery, chat to people we sometimes are too busy panting up hills to talk to and remember why we ride our bikes.

There were nine riders in the "faster" group, and to ensure that we got to the cafe in time an old "traditional" ride was decided upon. This seemed appropriate in the circumstances, but there was a problem, it was longer than was ideal. The solution to this, and to make sure we met up with the other group in time, was to ride faster!

The group headed out to Twyford at a good pace, that needed to be pulled back a bit, to ensure we all kept together. Who was responsible for this early pace was still a "discussion point" at the end of the ride! It was then on to Sonning Eye, and the climb of Dunsden. After a quick gel we headed to Henley and then towards Pisshill. A good hard pace was set on the climb, with the group only splitting on the final section. A quick regroup at the top, and an agreement that if we pushed the pace we would make the cafe on time, meant that we headed down to Nettlebed, Sonning Common and back to Dunsden Green at a good speed. Sonning Eye was quickly negotiated as was Twyford and the traditional sprint to the wine shop, although that bit did get a bit "hairy". Then back past Bird Hills, up Hawthorn Hill to the turning for the cafe at an average speed of over 20mph.      

And with perfect timing (well done Dave and Mike!) we met at the coffee shop, where David Booth's wife was waiting to meet us.  It's a really hard time for her and her two sons, and she talked about it still not feeling real.  It was lovely that she felt she could come out and meet about 25 slightly sweaty lycra clad people for a coffee, and it was great to have the two groups of riders together - we dont often all get to be in one place.

It wasn't a sad occasion - it was a celebration of David and his cycling - and a chance to remember him...he could be grumpy,  and really was not a fan of the hills, but he was strong on the flats and the descents and he always looked out for those he rode with.  He was generous and thoughtful, and will be missed.  

I think we may do that again next year...

Thanks to Dave D for organising, to Mike for leading the faster group and getting them to the cafe on time, and to all of you who came out and who make this such a great club to be a part of.  And David B, we miss you xx