After 6 months of riding with The Four Musketeers, of which I am one of them now, it looks like the relationship is a longer term thing rather than a ‘one-ride-stand’ kind of experience, and therefore, the subject deserves writing about. So here goes…….in 1974, there was a swashbuckling film released called The Four Musketeers, and which was a sequel to the successful 1973 film called (logically), The Three Musketeers. I guess the simplest way to create a sequel to a successful film was to just add another Musketeer and keep the swashbuckling drama and excitement going a bit longer so that the cinemas stayed busy. This is exactly how our cycling Musketeers evolved as well. First there were three of them, and then I joined in, on a single invitation obviously, and after the first ride went well, I joined/was permitted to join, other rides, and we became four.

The Four Musketeers are all boys, which means they’re really grown up men with families, jobs, mountain bikes etc, and have the desire to do (boy-ish) stuff on mountain bikes. They’re only ‘all boys’ because there aren’t any girls/women (so far) that have joined up for the riding. If a girl/woman or two do join, then it will either challenge the current name, which would then go to The Five or Six Musketeers, or alternatively, a full rebranding would take place. Anyway, this hasn’t happened yet, even though all Four Musketeers are of a very inclusive nature.

Just like that first 1973 film, there were just the Three original Musketeers who had been riding together for sometime, always on mountain bikes, and always at a time that fits in with their family and work commitments. This means that rides are usually ‘very’ first thing in the morning or ‘very’ last thing at night. These three original Musketeers have been talking about some sort of mountain biking road trip for as long as they’ve been riding together, and it still hasn’t happened! It’s like it’s their collective search for the Holy Grail of epic rides, but as yet, they haven’t actually got around to achieving it, beyond talking about it. This approach is reflected in their general ride planning as well. Ride initiation and co-ordination doesn’t sit with one person. There is no Musketeer leader. Rides are proposed when either; there hasn’t been one for some time or because one of them has some free time. It’s a bit like trying to align planets, because the other two then have to confirm or not, if the proposal fits with their lives. If it does, the group ride is on. If it doesn’t, either one goes out on his own or nobody goes out at all. I guess this is usual for cycling groups like this one.

The Three Musketeers didn’t have riding kit designed and printed up to announce their group to the world. There is no brand, and there isn’t anything from riding kit to bikes that is the same. Each of them determine their own ride dress sense and bike of choice, which is usually a full suspension 29er, or alternatively, if that bike is broken or being serviced, out come the good old hard-tail bikes from the back of the shed. All three of the original Musketeers work in the cyber security sector, so nobody discusses work as it’s obviously top secret. This leads conversation to every other topic, which is usually at the top of a climb when a breather is needed or food and drink is required. Impressively, they will stop on the trail during their rides to pick up any other rubbish that other cyclists/walkers have sadly/annoyingly left behind.

Their bikes are all driven to the ride start point in either an estate car or a family saloon, which means that some sort of dis-assembly and assembly of bikes is required at each end of the ride. The average height of these original Musketeers is over 6 foot (1.82 metres), and fitness levels across the Three Musketeers varies. Some are good at pedalling uphill and some are good at riding downhill, and all are competent riders. One of the three has an ebike and the other two don’t. Yet. Together, they fit their stereotype looks. One is Italian and dark haired/bearded. One is Scottish and red haired/bearded and the other is English, fair haired and unbearded. The age demographics range between 37 and 49 and with an average age of 43-ish. They have common and different interests outside of mountain biking and share a great sense of humour, often about each other as well as other humour targets outside of the three of them. None of the three have a formal cycling budget, but they do collectively search for the best ‘value deal’. They are careful with their cash. Usually, when one of them is going to buy something, the others will consider a purchase so that they all buy what they need from the one proven seller, and save on the postage. It’s an approach that seems to work for them, and makes financial sense.

I joined in to become the fourth Musketeer about 6 months ago, and have brought the average height down a bit, and increased the average age a bit. Also, since I joined, we’ve had night-time rides and very early morning rides. As I hadn’t done much riding off-road at night and in the dark, I was loaned a set of lights for my initiation, and also given a recommendation to buy some lights of my own, which I did of course (see link at bottom for the night ride post). One of the post-ride activities that has developed in the last 6 months whilst driving home is the ‘stop-for-a-capuccino-&-bacon-roll’. This is a cafe stop on the way home. Nothing special about that really. However, this theme developed a bit more when some bright-spark-Musketeer suggested making the coffee and the bacon sandwich in the car park post-ride. This obviously requires some co-ordination and planning of all of the equipment and ingredients from the cooker to the caramelised onion chutney. To date, its been easier to co-ordinate this post-ride banquet than it has to get everyone there for the ride in the first place. But hey! When it works, it all works, and crucially, it all doesn’t have to be perfect to be amazing.

The Four Musketeers during their first ride of 2023. Can you connect the rider in this photo with his bike in the feature photo?

The four Musketeers are representative of 1000s of similar, small, and informal groups in all cycling disciplines, and which form part of our global, social cycling culture. Whilst not all of the Musketeers are on ebikes yet, I reckon it is only a matter of time before rides are selected as either digital or analogue for all. It would be nice to have the choice. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that this group even takes a ride out on road bikes🤔. I also predict that at some point in the near future, all four may enter the same cycling race or event together (more planet aligning required here😬). Anyway, just like a music band with a newly arrived member, the dynamics tend to change a bit with new influences, opinions and approaches. The skill-sets in the band develop further as everyone starts to work together slightly differently. The Four Musketeers are creating that first album together, and remember, some of the greatest music bands made it with their first, iconic album.

More Musketeer posts to follow………possibly.

Link to the night-time ride

All photos courtesy of the Author