Wink, 90, is still in the saddle

CYCLING enthusiast Wink Gardiner likes nothing more than a 30-mile outing on his trusty bike, stopping for lunch or tea en route.Nothing too unusual about that – except it's not the sort of activity you would associate with many 90 year olds!Since he first took to two wheels on a bike built from parts on a scrap heap, Wink has cycled tens of thousands of miles and shows no sign yet of putting his feet up and hanging up his saddle bag.

CYCLING enthusiast Wink Gardiner likes nothing more than a 30-mile outing on his trusty bike, stopping for lunch or tea en route.

Nothing too unusual about that – except it's not the sort of activity you would associate with many 90 year olds!

Since he first took to two wheels on a bike built from parts on a scrap heap, Wink has cycled tens of thousands of miles and shows no sign yet of putting his feet up and hanging up his saddle bag.

To mark his 90th birthday this week he has ridden from his home in Ipswich, to Needham Market to see friends and to Trimley St Martin for a birthday party with colleagues of the Suffolk District Association of the Cyclists' Touring Club.

Wink of Edward Close said: "I don't miss many days – I usually cycle somewhere, even if it's just in to town.

"It keeps me fit and I really look forward to going out. One of my birthday cards said 'I hope I am as fit as you at your age' but the person who sent it said they didn't think they were now!"

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Wink's lifelong love of cycling began as a young boy growing up in the Stoke area of Ipswich in the years after the first world war.

Youngsters in his street built a fixed-wheel bike from bits and pieces found on the local scrap heap.

He said: "It was red, white and blue. Nothing fitted on it but it worked and we all used to ride it.

"When I started work at Ransomes in the machine shop, I asked if I could buy it from the boy who had it and I paid 23 shillings."

At work on a lathe, he got chatting to the man on the machine next to him – Len Herbert, then secretary of the Ipswich Bicycle Club.

Wink, whose real name is Frederick said: "Len was brilliant. I knew him for 40 years and he taught me how to really appreciate cycling."

Wink took up touring and has seen most of Britain and other countries from the saddle of a touring bike.

But he also took up time trialling and racing. Trials were held on grasstracks and he could complete 100 mile events in five hours.

He said: "I was what they called a good middle marker – I won club events but not open events, though I did win some team medals in open events.

"A good time for 100 miles was four and a half hours. I remember some events being held in Colchester and we would set off at 4am to cycle there, do the time trial and then cycle down to Walton-on-the-Naze and spend the afternoon on the beach before cycling home."

He toured Germany in 1937 and 1938, finding the people friendly and welcoming although it was generally acknowledged war was coming. He married his wife Elsie in 1940 and they toured together on tandem and later with their son John in a side-car.

Wink said: "There is so much I love about cycling – the comradeship, the out of the way places you can get to so easily, the tea rooms, the way you can combine your sport with so many other hobbies, such as birdwatching or photography. You can do it from the cradle to the grave.

"In the early days, we were virtually the only traffic on the roads – you could cycle to London and back and hardly see any cars."

It's not just the riding Wink, a widower, enjoys. He has recently refurbished a bike and still advises CTC colleagues – who say he is an inspiration – on mechanical matters.

n Is Wink the oldest cyclist in Suffolk? Let us know if you know anyone older still riding regularly. Contact the Newsdesk on 01473 324788.

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