Having accidentally found an old cycle racing photo of me and then posting it on my Facebook Page yesterday I thought I might try and follow it up and find some other old photos to make a blog post out of it with a bit of my cycling history. After a rummage around in jumble that is my the loft I found a few.
First things first. I need to display my qualifications to speak on all matters cycling, my ‘Cycling Proficiency Certificate’. I earned this at the ripe old age of thirteen, I had to pass it to be allowed to cycle the ‘just over a mile’ from home. The ‘just over’ bit is important because you had to live at least a mile away to be allowed to cycle to school.
I cycled all through my childhood and once I was at secondary school I started doing a paper round by bike every morning before school. This was to earn enough money to buy myself a proper racing bike instead of the roadster I was using then. I cycled the mile or so into Rickmansworth and collected my ’round’ of papers, all marked with house number on them but it wasn’t long before I knew exactly which paper went in which letter box. That was seven days a week and apart from two weeks holiday a year with parents the only days in the year I didn’t deliver was on Good Friday and Christmas Day. When I was a little older I occasionally went to Moor Park Golf Course on a Saturday morning after my paper round and report to the Caddy Master in his hut outside the mansion. We would all sit around outside waiting to be picked by golfers needing a caddy, just to carry their bags, not for golfing expertise. Who got picked was in the hands of the Caddy Master. If you did get picked it was a good earner, the going rate was a minimum of ten shillings a round (50pence in todays money). That was as much as I earned for seven days of paper rounds.
Eventually I had enough to buy my pride and joy, a Viking Severn Valley, but not until I had started work as an apprentice electrician earning the princely sum of £1 14s 9d (£1.75 in todays money but worth much more then) did I have enough to buy the bike.
The man running the cycle shop was Pat Webb, the son of the founder of the Watford Roads Cycling Club, Harry Webb. (Not the Harry Webb that became known as Cliff Richard though). Anyway I digress, Pat suggested I might be interested in joining the club and the rest is history.
I started off in Junior road races and time trials at sixteen years old. The first road race I rode was in the Chiltern Hills, finishing at the top of Bellow Ridge, I finished sixth from a field of 50, much to my and everybody else’s surprise. I continued as a junior until I was eighteen and then I automatically became a third category rider, that was in 1961. Here are some pictures that were all taken in 1961, the Watford colours don’t show up very well in black and white as they were a black shirt with red, yellow and green bands around the chest and not made of lycra/spandex either, there were either wool or cotton.
These were at the Hampden Road race in 1961 :-
This was another Road Race, not sure which but it was just entering Aldbury village in the Chiltern Hills unless I am very much mistaken.
This is another picture of me finishing one of the evening 10 mile time trials. I obviously wasn’t going as fast as the photographer expected as I only just got into the picture..
The next picture was a few years later as by then I was a first category amateur rider having progressed from third to second and then to first in successive years. You progressed through the ranks by getting placed in races and in those days I think you had to have six places in the top six in one year. So this picture has to be in 1964 or later, only fifty one years ago !!! Probably a lot of my readers were not born then.. :)
I was now riding a Youngs of Lewisham frame. My Viking frame gave up the ghost when I was training sometime between the previous and this picture. The frame cracked just before the start of the season so I had to hurriedly get a new frame and rebuild the bike with the old parts. The frame and all the components now sit in my garage waiting for a promised respray and rebuild, but don’t hold your breath, its been years.
It was at the Grove Circuit Race near Wantage on an old airfield. The race was for 1st category and Independent riders. In those days there was no professional racing in England, to do that you had to go abroad like Brian Robinson did and later Tommy Simpson and Barry Hoban.
Amateurs were not allowed to take prize money, the rewards had to be in goods or vouchers. (which later got sold to shops for cash.. :-) ) The independent category was for first cat riders who were semi professional and were allowed to accept prize money and some even had a retainer for teams such as Viking, Holdsworth, Condor (who are still around today) and Raleigh.
In the picture I am in the centre and to my right is a Condor rider who I probably knew at the time but I can’t recall now. I found this timeline of their history.. if you click on it you will get the full size version. It says at the time of my picture they were Condor-Mackeson
I don’t have great photographic record of my sporting past, it was before the days of digital photography and not an abundance of camera either. The photos I have were all taken by somebody else (obviously !!) and passed on to me.
But that was all a very long time ago, my cycle racing career started around 1958 which to save you working it out was 57 years ago.. !! I have probably actually been cycling for 67 years from the age of 5, still going at it though.. I’ll get it right one day.
I hope this post wasn’t too long, I will have to do another post one day, or a series of posts perhaps about the non racing side of cycling history before I forget !!!