If you look at the back of our kit you’ll see four large asterisks. What do they mean? And, whilst we’re on it, why does our kit look like it was designed by a child?
In our beginning was PistonHeads. Originally a sports car forum, it grew to become one of the largest general interest discussion sites in the UK. You might say the Dads’ equivalent of Mumsnet. One of the many sub-groups it spawned was the Pedal Powered cycling forum. Every now and then a PP contributor would volunteer to organise an activity, and some of the other members would join in. We did a few things over the years, usually with the same core of people taking part. One of them was the first Revolve24, in 2015. To save spamming the forum that time a phone chat was created, in which we could discuss logistics, pit strategy and Countdown mathematicians.
There were nine of us at Revolve. Ali, Dickie, Edd, Gruffy, James, Justin, Laurence, Pablo and Tony. Most already knew each other from previous events, the others everyone quickly got to know. We all expected the phone chat would die down after the event, but it didn’t. We kept on talking rubbish, as if we were old mates down the pub. And like mates down the pub we called a few others to join us. Martin, Pembo and Russ, all veterans of earlier Pedal Powered events, were too polite to say no.
The phone chat became a virtual club to us. As time went on a few felt ready to try racing, time trialling or hill climbing. Disciplines for which entrants need to be members of a proper club, one affiliated to the governing federation. Those of us whose local clubs’ activities amounted to little more than riding the same lanes every Sunday morning saw the opportunity to create a new type of club, a club that does many varied things, a club not bound by location.
We didn’t want to use the PistonHeads name for our independent club. It’s now a brand owned by a large publishing company and, even if we obtained permission, British Cycling would have charged us the higher affiliation fees of a trade team. But we appropriated the initials, PH, and appended UK, in recognition of the nationwide spread of our membership. Officially we were to be PH UK, but amongst ourselves the space was usually dropped. Just took too long to type.
Our founding members include professional designer Gruffy, and he came up with the first PH UK kit. It had the name written discreetly on the front but the larger letters on the rear pocket were replaced by asterisks, to save the blushes of any parents whose children tried to read it out loud in front of the vicar. All that remained was to apply for affiliation with the national cycling federations.
Rather selfishly though, our secretary Pablo then went and got himself smashed up by a hit and run driver whilst riding into work and, incredibly, put being hospitalised and learning to walk again ahead of paperwork. You just can’t get the staff. In the time his rehab took the space between the H and the U somehow got forgotten, and the BC application subsequently went in as PHUK. Which triggered their automated naughty word alarm. At that point our card was marked. The pussy was out of the sack, and inserting the space now wasn’t going to let us slip him back in. Any alternative name we put forward now was going to be manually vetted.
We came up with a shortlist, and held a track elimination race style voting session. Each lap we voted on which name to remove until we were down to the final three, then it was a one lap sprint to the finish. Cranks won with a lunge to the line. Apart from being fundamental to bicycles, the dictionary defines cranks as “eccentrics, especially ones who are obsessed by a particular subject”. BC approved the name, and the phukers became crankers.
Discussion turned to whether to keep the existing kit design, with Cranks written in place of PHUK, or whether the need to re-order afforded the opportunity to have a completely new design. Gruffy was given as many conflicting briefs as there were club members, and was anyway already flat out, dividing his time between getting married, doing rather well at ultra-racing, and meeting deadlines on design work that actually paid.
Meanwhile we had another Rad am Ring coming up, with guest riders who didn’t have club kit. We all wanted to go looking the part, even if most of us couldn’t race for toffee, and that meant matching kit. If we’d re-run the old design just for the guests there wouldn’t have been enough value to meet order minimums, and there’d have been a surcharge. The answer was to have a special kit for Rad. Some of us made a stab at coming up with something but our efforts were terrible, rejected by all except their respective creators. Except one, drawn by Martin’s son Tristan, as a five-year-old back when we were still PH UK. It was bold, and it was different. Like the way we see the club. We changed the name on the front but kept the stars on the back. They’d become part of us, irrespective of what we were allowed to call ourselves.
We still can’t agree on what our final kit should be like. So, for now at least, we’re sticking with the Harlequin. Maybe we’ll change it next year. But, if and when we do, expect to still see four stars on the back.