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‘Cool’ Has a New Definition: Cycling in Royal Air Force Jerseys

By Adam Marsal

Recently, there was an article featuring gay cycling club in our magazine. As we want to keep zooming in on all the special fragments that make up the vast cycling world, we’re going to focus on a different kind of a club today: The Royal Air Force Cycling Association. You can only hardly find a cycling club with a name as cool as that.

After a quick online research, we’ve found out that the British air force not only aims at third world dictators and insurgents but also at the wellbeing and fitness of their own members. Despite being opened for the RAF personnel only, the association represent one of the largest cycling clubs in the UK with the membership exceeding 350 riders.

For anyone thinking that cycling is a second-class activity to guiding smart missiles or delivering food to people in need, there are facts affirming the position of cycling in the force. Five years ago, 39-year-old RAF avionics engineer Justyn Cannon, based at the Ministry of Defense in Bristol, broke the military world record. At the Newport Velodrome, he managed to cover 47.220 km in a one-hour period.

The official statement on the website states that each member proudly wears characteristic red, white and blue jersey regardless of which cycling discipline they choose. So, no matter whether you fly with Typhoons, take care of loading precious ordnance or just manage flying saucepans in the RAF kitchen, you’re encouraged to join your mates in different categories including cyclocross, road cycling/time trial, track cycling, mountain biking, downhill, expedition cycling, and even BMX. The association not only ties together RAF members interested in cycling but also arranges rides, races, and sporty holidays.

Riders pose in front of a Hurricane at Biggin Hill ahead of the RAF Ride of Remembrance Cycle Challenge which is raising money for Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund. © Profimedia, Alamy

Track cycling sessions are available within the year to attract newcomers to the sport. Anyone interested has the opportunity to learn and participate in velodrome cycling on one of the modern track bikes present in the fleet. The same could be said about any kind of cycling you can imagine. Sgt Matt Haywood of the Royal Air Force BMX Race Team, for example, is performing well in collecting points for the British Championships qualification right now.

Had we been born in the UK, RAF would undoubtedly be a preferable force for us and not only because of the Spitfire legacy.