The Pickwick Bicycle
The Pickwick Bicycle Club was formed on the 22nd June, 1870, when six cycling
enthusiasts met at the Downs Hotel, Hackney Downs, East London, and decided to form themselves
into a bicycle club. As the formation coincided with the death of Charles Dickens the name
"Pickwick" was chosen in honour of the novelist. From that time onwards the Pickwick Bicycle
Club has an unbroken history as an active cycling organisation and in the worthwhile task of
spreading fellowship and conviviality.
The Pickwick Bicycle Club is not only the oldest cycling club extant in the world but
it is also the oldest Dickensian Association.
Its present-day activities, whilst still maintaining its cycling traditions, provides the
opportunity for setting aside the day-today worries, and meeting in an atmosphere of
conviviality and good fellowship.
Downs Hotel, Hackney Downs, East London
Six cycling enthusiasts
met here on 22nd June, 1870
and formed the Pickwick Bicycle Club
It is probable that the Pickwick Bicycle Club, as an organisation, is unique in the world.
There are many clubs that are supported by the leisure and sporting interests of their members or by the
numerous literary associations, but a combination of both such interests is a different matter. I know of none
similar to ours.
Membership is considered a privilege and does impose certain obligations. High amongst these are good
manners and good fellowship. The essence of the Club is that it is private and publicity is neither sought nor
welcomed. Other than in the early years (when all members would have been familiar with the work of Charles
Dickens and would have known the Pickwick Papers in detail) the emphasis has been on cycling, rather than
reading. The early records detail weekly runs over much of the Home Counties, but it is a regrettable fact that
since the Second World War, interest in this respect has diminished, so that now only a handful of members
enjoy the occasional spin. Similarly, it is unfortunate that interest in the books of Charles Dickens has
lessened. His stories are still widely used throughout the world in film and television, but gone are the days
when he had as many readers as did the daily papers.
This does not prevent the club from trying, in as many ways as it can, to encourage his traditions. A
Dickensian atmosphere is maintained at its meetings and members are expected to know the qualities and deeds of
their sobriquet. It has been possible to extract the names of over two hundred characters to provide a
sobriquet for each of those invited to join.
The Club values and tries to preserve the traditions of the past. Members gather twice a year, without
any strong desire to put the world to rights, and there seems no reason to believe they should not continue to
do so long into the future.
Ken Barker (The Shepherd) Past President