The story of the 1948 Olympic cycling at Herne Hill Stadium

(Now velodrome)

By Walter Happy

Intro : Herne Hill has recently been "rescued" from an effective death by decay, followed by becoming a housing estate. A 15-year lease has been obtained, the track itself repaired wonderfully well and economically by TARMAC and progress is being made with stand, outbuildings, storage and refreshment facilities. Wally has made the HHV a major focus of his life, running fundraising bike jumbles, speeches, presentations and ear-bashing anyone who would listen.

The Velodrome's strapline "Britain's only remaining 1948 Olympic venue" is not entirely valid. Football was played at White Hart lane and Upton Park and a few other stadia, still standing but somewhat abandoned. Insert the word final or finals before 1948 and you have got it. The football final was at "old" Wembley (now gone). It's everyone's hope that its recovery and renewed usage makes it all a good news story in these times of austerity. The London Olympic games was called the austerity games!!!

Over to Wally: In August 1948 the Olympic Games were to be held in London. My club was a Private Members Section of the organisation charged with running the Cycling. This meant restoring Herne Hill Track after WW2 misuse by HMForces. (as you can see from the photo (right) there was a lot to do)

[Left : Aircraft spotting at Herne Hill during wartime. Right : "This is the wrong sort of grass roots track"]
At 15 years of age my second hand bike was used to deliver newspapers in Knightsbridge in order to buy a new one. I rode it with the Social Section of the 725 strong (in 1947) SW London Section, National Cyclists Union and Sorian Road club (the racing offshoot).

Tickets were too expensive but I watched the training for nothing. During one session John Millman of Canada did a startling 11.2 secs. ride for the last 220 yds. Jackie Heid of the USA saw him do it and said "Gee is that a Claud Butler. Can I have a try?" Amazingly he got on Millmans new Claud Butler and did an 11.2 as well! The NCU had 4 other Sections around London alone, all of similar size and a nationwide Club/Touring organisation with its own hostelries that rivalled the Cyclists Touring Club. It owned it's own HQ at 35 Doughty Street London EC1 which had just 8 paid staff.

The vast majority of the members had more interest in riding a bike than racing on one. Really the Olympic Games was only of passing interest to them. The HQ was mortgaged to help finance the games and the running dispute with the BLRC over road racing couldn't have helped.

However there was fierce competition for a team place from amongst the minority who were racing cyclists from all over the country. They were poorly nourished as wartime rationing was still in place and they were issued coupons for increased rations three months before the Games. The training week for the Track Team was going to be at Uxbridge but W J Mills Editor of ‘The Bicycle’ weekly magazine offered his private home as training HQ.

National Cycling Union letter :- “Congratulations the entire track team is to be housed at 58 Half Moon Lane, Herne Hill SE24 tel: BRI1668 instead of the Olympic Camp at Uxbridge. Single beds for all, 4 in one large room and 2 in each remaining room, arrange yourselves”. “The Union will be responsible for the costs of your stay. Bring any unused items from the food parcels donated by the dominions”

Tom Godwin’s mother had to cook and Mr Godwin Snr. stayed as well! (he was said to be an inspirational coach). There was a shortage of kit but Dunlop supplied them with tubular tyres and they were warned to return them after the games or risk being declared Professional!!! Of course they had to be Amateur, although one wondered at the composition of other countries teams when some riding were either full time 'students' or 'military men'

Nearer the event came the following missives :-

14th June - NCU letter - “By now you should have received your coupons for extra Olympic rations. When the official team is selected only they will get extra rations.

1st July- NCU letter- “Final track team riders and reserves, will need leave of absence from work from 25th July to 11th August. For the Olympics.

So they had to scheme their own time off. Squad member Jim Love, who was an apprentice, had some problems with only days to go......

14th July. His employer finally replied to the 4th request by a representitive of Lord Burleigh’s. “We are arranging for him to have his holiday extended, so that he may be present for this event”…….( Lord Burleigh was the chairman of the Olympic committee )

When reporting to their training HQ they were asked to bring any unused items from the food parcels that had been sent by the Dominions.

[ Goodies / corporate treats / perks etc & bonus rations - extra to meagre "normal" rations ]

At least three London riders were disappointed not to be selected for the final team. Jim Love was only 19 and had only been cycling for three years. He had performed well in more than 22 races and was chosen in the first trial race for the team pursuit.

Johnnie Dennis had misfortune of a different kind as can be seen in the photo (right below). As a half of a tandem team, his partner Ivor Cox missed out also. Nevertheless the NCU ran the wonderful cycling, and such a successful team that every member won a medal.

[ Jim Love was hopeful : Johnnie's hopes crash with a broken collar bone in Abertillery]

1947 Amateur World Sprint Champion Reg Harris won a silver in the sprint and another silver in the tandem sprint. Reg had been conscripted into the 10 Hussars as a tank driver and spent 1942 and 1943 fighting in the Western Desert until he was burned and concussed when his tank was hit. He spent 1944 in Military Hospitals before being medically discharged! He said he'd actually never felt better! He declined to move into the training HQ provided in Half Moon Lane Herne Hill and was dropped from the team. But soon re-instated when the manager changed. The physiological effect this had on him cannot be gauged but suffice to say he was beaten by a young unknown Italian who had to be carried to and from the line on his bike!!! In the tandem sprint he earned the greatest applause of his career when he kept his machine upright when the front tyre burst when at speed in the semi-final. He saved his own and his partner Alan Bannister's bacon by sheer guts, going on to a silver medal in the final.

[ The Sprint final : note one person "holding" both riders (austerity indeed) ]

[ World Champion Reg Harris being headed by young Italian Mario Ghella. ]

As amateurs that had to earn money as and where they could; that is how we came to lose a certain gold medal in the Tandem Sprint. Ivor Cox and Johnnie Dennis were way ahead of the opposition. They had gone to race at Abertillery track in Wales, where they could sell the prizes the won back to the organiser. John broke his collar bone in a crash there (picture above). Such a pity because I'd seen him win an Olympic selection road race in Battersea Park riding a single freewheel of 84" on a track bike with two brakes. Like reserve Lew Pond, John was on occasion able to beat the great Reg Harris in a sprint match.

Track Captain Tommy Godwin won a bronze in the Team Pursuit and another bronze in the 1000 metres TT. The pursuit team had to more or less learn to ride this event.

[Tommy Godwin trying not to lead out his semi-final opponent]

[ Tommy Godwin in Olympic flow in 1948 & still going in 2012 : Same bike!!! ]

[Silver-winning team pursuit - T.Godwin, W.Waters, D.Ricketts and A.Geldard]

[ Remaining three - Tommy Godwin, Wilfred Walter and Alan Geldard]

[Team photo at the training HQ]
[ Wilf Walters, E.Fellows, Jim Love, Alan Geldard,Tommy Godwin (skipper), G.Waters, Lew Pond & David Ricketts]

P.S Within 2 weeks Alan Geldard was sacked for taking time off work!

What a great bunch they were and still are?

[ Wally ("possible" for 1952 Olympics) leading out at Herne Hill in 1953 ]
The above article has been put together from notes and edited from a Powerpoint presentation (in his own words). A few extra photos have been added.

Wally's acknowledgements
Interview with John Dennis & Jim Love
Reg Harris OBE Autobiography & Obituary ‘The Times’’ 23.6.92
‘It wasn’t that easy’-The Tom Godwin story
Jim Hendry M.B.E Archivist British Cycling
Paul West former racing sec British Cycling
‘Herne Hill Stadium to Herne Hill Velodrome’ A History from 1891 to 2007. by John Watts
David Happy (48) & Helen Happy (16) for help with presentation
Various sources for Photographs

[ the Olympic bikepark ]

Walter "Wally" Happy

The 1948 London

Hopefully featuring something you
haven't read already.

Researched by Stuart Collins

[ Photo above : José Beyaert celebrates Olympic 1948 road race victory ]

Inspired by Wally's article above I delved into some of the dark corners the internet and various books to learn more of the nearly-forgotten "austerity games" and other Olympics stories.

Bed and breakfast

The bed part was quite clear-cut. Any participants had to stay in Barracks, and the likes, and asked to bring the food with them. The generously provided accommodation alluded to by Wally (above) consisted of camp beds. Any modern high achieving cyclist could possibly try out such a bed to see if it enhances their performance. However, resultant sexual abstinence might blur the analysis!

The 1948 Olympic road race

The road Race was held in Windsor Great Park and they won silver as second Team. with Bob Maitland 6th, Gordon Thomas 8th and Ian Scott 16th. The race was won by José Beyaert. (read about him in the next article)

[1948 olympic road race. Much on gravel, it was raining and windy, tight bends. Apart from that - good going]

[ Last lap : Entering the Castle grounds on last 7 mile circuit. Beyaert is taking off ]

"Better collect our medals"

A fairly recent oddity has cropped up regarding the 1948 cycling. The road race team medals were calculated by accumulating of the best three finishers of that country. The belgium team escaped the general chaos at Great Windsor Park and were shipped off by double-decker bus back to their barracks - next day they were back home.
In 2009 9th placed Eugene van Roosbroek read that some other Belgians had lost all their medals in a housefire and had successfully claimed official replacements. This encouraged him make enquiries and for the first time realised that they had won. Unfortunately Leon De Lathouwer had just died and Lode Wouters was very ill and unable to attend the presentation in June 2010.

Each to his own!!

Contrasting Post-Olympic fortunes and lifestyles
Tommy Goodwin - 1948 double bronze medal-winner and
José Beyaert - 1948 road race Gold medal-winner

Tommy Goodwin - 1948 double bronze medal-winner

  • Born to English parents in Connecticut, USA, 1920
  • Moved to UK at age 11
  • Got a job as an electrician at BSA in 1936. (reserved occupation - no call-up)
  • Racing breakthrough in the 1944 national championship, won the five-mile.
  • He repeated this success in 1945 and also the 25-mile title.
  • He won the BSA Gold Column (his employers) five-mile at Herne Hill
  • Followed this with other regular wins.
  • Lived in terraced house with outside loo
  • With Reg Harris and others helped make cycling a post-war "new dawn".
  • In 1949 he won the national 4000 metres event.
  • Won two bronze medals in the 1948 Olympics, team pursuit and individual 1K time trial
  • 3rd in the 1,000m at the 1950 British Empire Games
  • 1950 - 1986 ran a cycle shop in Silver Street in the Kings Heath district of Birmingham
  • Godwin managed the British cycling team at the 1964 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo,
  • Had triple heart bypass c2000
  • He is president of Solihull Cycling Club
  • Marital details - 64 years. His wife died in 2011.
  • Marital conduct - Fine but co-habited with his bikes.
  • Main "sin" - talking about cycling all the time
  • Unlikely to say "I've had a dull life!"

José Beyaert - 1948 road race Gold medal-winner

  • Born in Lens, Northern France.
  • Parents moved to Pantin district of Paris.
  • Performed alms trafficking during war using a bicycle.
  • Had many "heavy" criminal friends.
  • Enjoyed street-fighting (yet he wasn't big)
  • The mayor of Pantin reluctantly allowed him to come to London.
  • Won the gold medal road race at the 1948 Olympics.
  • Competed twice in the Tour de France - with Coppi, Bartali et al.
  • Masterminded a rider's strike in the Tour De France.
  • Also did athletics, boxing and gymnastics.
  • Went to Bolivia to open a cycling track in Bogotà in 1952.
  • Didn't come back for 49 years. Whilst there he :-
  • Rode, and won, the tour of Bolivia.
  • Befriended drugs barons, racketeers and contract killers
  • Coached the Bolivian Cycling team.
  • Did cycling commentary.
  • Ran various nefarious businesses.
  • Had a restaurant and hair-dressers.
  • Managed (dubiously legal) logging of balsa wood.
  • Diamond trading, emeralds etc..
  • Smuggler of anything smuggleable.
  • "Involved" with hired assassinations.
  • Returned to France to avoid threat of death in 2001. (as had happened to two other famous cyclists)
  • Died in 2005 aged 79.
  • Marital details - 64 years. His wife died in 2011.
  • Marital conduct - anyone's guess.
  • Died in 2005 aged 79.
  • Main "sin" - where would one start?
  • Unlikely to say "I've had a dull life!"

Book about Tommy Godwin : "It Wasn't That Easy: The Tommy Godwin Story"
by Tommy Godwin: John Pinkerton Memorial Publishing Fund: ISBN9780955211553

Book about José Beyaert : "Olympic Gangster"
by Matt Rendell: Mainstream :ISBN9781845963989

My enthusiasm for this research (for which I blame Wally Happy) caused me to purchase both books. For the record, I have not read either or used the material in them, preferring to search all over the place. I have even used my boyhood French!
Both books have had excellent reviews and can claim a wide appeal - even to non-cyclists.
Therefor I must get down and read them!!!

P.S. Just in case you didn't know (I expect you do) there is another GREAT Tommy Godwin. 'tother one holds a record which nobody will take (or even likely want to), that is of cycling 75000+ miles in a calendar year. Here he is ....

He might be saying "Is a bit parky today, I think I'll cut it down to 190 miles today" : Credit BBC PHOTO
Good article about Tommy Godwin No. 2
What would you do if you've finished riding for a whole year? If you were Tommy Godwin you would make it a round 100000 miles by riding through another winter. Amazingly it didn't knobble him - he continues to race well as a the professional his challenge had caused him to be. He did have to learn how to walk again.

Hero Harry Hill

Harry Hill was of the golden era of DIY cycling fame. He was born in Padiham, Lancs on May 1916. He never knew his dad ,who died whilst serving in Africa, and was brought up by his mum in Sheffield.
From 13 he was mad keen on cycling and displayed early promise and quiet determination. He achieved some remarkable things in his time. He won a bronze medal in the Berlin Olympics of 1936. It was in the 4000m team pursuit and his team mates were Ernest Johnson, Charles King & Ernie Mills. He was only 20 years old. The team had only one gathering at Herne Hill. Harry knew none of them. That was remarkable enough.
He saved up to get back from London by train but was obliged to ride from Sheffield to London to meet up with the train to transport them to Berlin on the very same bike as he was to use on the track at Berlin. He was given / loaned better wheels for the racing. No doubt in celebrationery mood he had bought a special jersey with Olympic 5 rings motif, and this had taken most of his train fare. Nothing for it, he thought, I'll just ride back. Lacking food he bonked near Nottingham and circummed to a generous lorry driver's offer of a lift home. Harry told him "I've won an Olympic medal". "Well done mate" was the under whelming response, but he obligingly dropped Harry at his door.

His next deed was to attack the World Hour record, with the financial assistance of Cycling magazine, on the Vigorelli, Milan track. He failed narrowly* but became the first Britain to do more than 25 miles in an hour. In June 1938 he was the first to do 25 miles inside an hour in England (59:58)

At 60, and by now a dad of five, he rode coast to coast across the North America continent. Into his 60's he was still getting under an hour for 25 miles

At 80 he did what to many was his most amazing feat. On the Manchester Velodrome he was loaned a new lightweight track machine and did 23½ miles in one hour. That meant that he had been only 6 laps short of his halcyon-days performance of 59 years previous.

His beautiful philosophy is illustrated by the following quote from the Evening Standard of 23 March 2005 in anticipation of attending a sporting centenery in London. "When I look back on my life, I can see the most wonderful things," says Harry. "All the countries I've seen, the people I've met . . . now even the Queen in London. Mind, I won't be cycling down there this time." He died of pneumonia in 2009 at age 92, passing on the "baton" of being the oldest Olympic medal winner. He would have been proud, and so should he have been.

As with others the war took away the peak of his career. He had been progressing towards the "unbeatable" tag in Britain and, logically, could have impacted on the European/world stage. Throughout, he was a good car mechanic but a devilishly good cyclist.

Acknowledgement to great interview "Cycling's grand old man makes it to the palace" By Ian Chadband, Evening Standard, 23 March 2005.

Good link to Harry Hill info.

[Harry Hill - as a junior ¤ Harry Hill in 1937 ¤ Harry Hill in 1977 ]

With the advance of technology, search engines, blogs, wikiwhasiname etc. Harry sadly seems to be relatively very hard to find. His racing career was little documented and very few photos are in evidence (though the three shown below are rather special). Internet-wise his few entries are buried, well and truly. He is "out-hit" by the bald, big-collared burper of the same name (but should be Matthew Hall). Also there is Harry Hall (whose bikes Harry Hill rode quite a bit) who excelled as a frame builder and soigneur. (he was to him that Tom Simpson uttered his last words on the Ventoux). Then there is the cycling Hills of the Padiham area - Adam, Billy, Hill Special frames etc, who were no relation. And I refuse to mention Benny, US major Harry Hill, big band man Harry Hill ........

Britain's "secret" preparation for the 1948 games

Britains cyclist were favoured by being invited over to South Africa. There they had better diets (escaping from Rations) and good weather (southern Hemisphere summer). The best of the South African riders were pitched against the British team many times over a five week visit. They toured far and wide including Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and many large cities. They had what were called matches against local cycling teams affiliated to the whites-only South African Amateur Athletic and Cycling Association (SAAA&CA). The British dominated and got better and better. The finale was a "test match" against an all (white) South African International team in Durban. The British team thrashed the home opposition, setting many records on the way. The hosts were so cowed that they only selected one cyclist for their Olympic team in London later in the year. Perhaps they weren't know how good the British team were - and maybe the English team weren't so aware either. Reg Harris refused to go - an anti-establishment decision that surprised nobody.

[ Left to right Scott, Lew Pond and Alan Ricketts - Alan Bannister (Harris Tandem partner) ]

[Mass start of ¼ mile race ]

[ Photo-call of both teams ]

[ British clean sweep at "International" at Kimberley ]

[Chaotic finish. Look closely towards the right]
[Photos from Arthur Carr collection, thanks to Geoff Waters and Classic Lightweights].
Link to far more extensive article in Classic Lightweights
[loaded in a new window - please return for many more articles on this site]

Olympic scandals (1) Toni Merkens

Merkens was a fairly good rider and the became the Aryan pin-up boy of German cycling. He was a not given to modesty. He always rode a specially made swan-neck shaped bar-stem which became known as the "Merkens". He registered a British Open victory in 1934 and was 4th in the 1934 World Champs. He won the amateur World Sprint Championships in 1935. He had been German champion in 1934-35, and also won sprint titles in 1934-35 in London and at the Grand Prix de Paris. His speciality was the 1000m sprint though he did quite a few exhibition-type races of differing styles and distances, as demanded by the glitzy professional game.
By the 1936 Olympics in Berlin there was talk of him being professional already and specifically being paid to win a gold medal (at that stage world domination was vital, but at that stage via sport). He certainly went for it and got to the final where he was set against the Dutchman Arie van Vliet. On the last bend of the first leg van Vleit was overtaking Merkens with great ease when the latter responded by "going up" and barging the Dutchman off - "Taking out" in modern parlance.
[ Toni Merkens riding to the world sprint title in 1935 : Olympic final, Merkens (left) and van Vliet. ]

Long protests followed but Merkens escaped disqualification from either the leg or the contest. Worse still he was declared winner of leg 1, not even a re-run! Van Vleit was harrased into a quick resumption and leg 2 was predictable. Merkens led out but veered left and right. The Dutchman had a good idea of the "script" and' the ruthless demeanour of Merkens. He returned home bruised, with no broken bones and with a silver medal. Protests about the race continued and it became a true international incident, even in those dark times with other issues in evidence. Eventually Merkens was "fined" 100 marks after an official protest by the Dutch . But his "victory" was allowed to stand. He then "officially" turned professional.
Toni Merkens was killed on the Russian front in 1942 a day before his 32nd birthday.

Olympic scandals (2) The death-knell of Olympic tandem racing

Recent experience has shown that Olympic cycling events are subject to whim and alteration (hence Chris Hoy and Jason Kenny are now fighting for one place, though being 1st and 2nd in world rankings, and others can't do what they are world champion at).
No tandem racing has appeared since the Munich Olympic games of 1972, so what went wrong??
The answer is pretty near everything! The final of the tandem was between Russia and the Democratic Republic of Germany. The political ill feeling was rife. There was a gathering suspicion of extensive drug-use by the GDR - and of course cycling had its own issues with performance enhancements. (Tom Simpson had died 5 years before). Concerns were realised with two other bronze medals in 1972 not being awarded - and the 4th placed not getting a medal either, because they hadn't been tested.
I have not managed to find any reports (apart from drugs-related ones) so I will have to rely on hazy memories (not due to drugs!). The finalist teams in stearer / stoker order were
URS : Vladimir Semenets and Igor Tselovalnikov
GDR : Hans-Jürgen Geschke and Werner Otto
On the first leg the absolute favourites Russian duo came down the banking and virtually took out the Germans. There were many issues and rows. The first issue was blame. The URS just had to be culpable but it didn't prevent them arguing the toss. One East German was injured and the team requested a substitute. The German's bike had to be worked on, the Russians accused them of playing for time. After much angst the first leg was voided (or was it?).
It was quite some time before they rode again. This ended with both teams decked due to tactics borrowed from the Graeco-Roman wrestling. Another rider was injured. After the kerfuffle the finish was tight and the Russians narrowly took it. A delayed and amazing decision was made that deemed the score to be 1-1 and for the "last" leg to be run next day (to allow a cooling-off period?). Maybe they had allowed the first leg to stand?
Overnight there were diplomatic-level arguments but the German two (bandaged) riders appeared at the appointed time. They were asking for a walkover due to the absence of Soviets, who duly turned up. A row about the draw ensued and again the substitute issue was raised. At last the race got away. There was much boring, pinching and punching as well as a few "bumper-car" moves. A wheel-wobble by the Germans allowed the Russians to escape but only eventually to win by the smallest of margins.
One of the Germans had sustained a broken arm on the day before. The debate continued and I could imagine the row spreading to the Berlin wall days later. If so, it might have meant, for once, the wall serving a good purpose. The offial view was that tandem racing "didn't have the interest".

Those Olympic war-rations in full

They didn't ever make you full!
(news for some, a reminder for some older readers)
What our cyclists had to survive on - and train and race.

Plus their "special rations" amounting to a 50%, or so, increase.
See Wally's article above

Russell Mockridge

"The greatest Australian All-rounder of all time"

The word "forgotten" would fit into the above sentence. These articles have all been on the theme of the 1948 Olympics in London. That is where the Russell Mockridge story really started, though it would have escaped notice as the then 20-year old made no impact. When someone does track and road, distances from 1K to 300k, plus 6-day races and excels at all, he merits the title above. Only French legend Patrick Sercu has ranged so much but it is probable that his road work was to add fortune to his fame.
  • 1928  Born Melbourne. Public school educated. In an early race asked permission to overtake someone!
  • 1948  Olympics, London. Finished the road race but chances ruined by 2 punctures (the riders had to fix their own punctures on the road-side). In the Team Pursuit his team were eliminated in round 2.
  • 1949  Retired for a while when he felt a calling from the Church.
  • 1950  In Auckland Empire Games where he took Gold in both the 1K sprint and the 1K time trial, and a Silver in the 4000 metre individual pursuit.
  • 1951  Won many domestic races, road and track. His comeback was The World Sprint Championship, another calling. He lost to Italy's World Champion Enzo Sacchi.
  • 1952;  An epic year. Won 5 events in the Austalian Championships.
    Entered the prestigious Amateur Paris Grand Prix, beat Saachi won the event. Next day he took on the professionals and beat them all - including pro-champ Reg Harris. He, no doubt, and others were so hacked off with this affrontery that Amateurs were banned from the future events. Olympics, Helsinki. There was no plan to have a tandem team. However the English team donated them an old "iron", all in bits, during the London stopover. Russell and his co-opted partner Lionel Cox put the machine together. Mockridge had ridden a tandem but never raced one. Cox had never even been on one. They had a quick spin and then they were into the first round of the competition. They won it and, amazingly, went on the win gold. just a couple of hours later Mockridge won the IK Time Trial. 2 debut golds in one afternoon!! How rare and special is that?

    Quote :-"Blokes who’ve trained on tandems for years wouldn’t have done what we did, but we gave it a go. We had one kick and a ride, and we jelled".

  • 1953  After seeing off an agreement to remain an amateur for one year after the Olympics, he turned pro and was racing the next day. He did many 6 day races, road races, famous "matches" and track events of all kinds. Beat Reg Harris 2 times more.
  • 1954  Apart from odd European forays Russell dominated Australian cycling
  • 1955  Russell tackled Europe. He completed the Tour de France in 64th place despite having had a nasty crash whilst training for this. There were only 69 finishers out of 150 starters in a race covering just under 4500Km.. He was riding for the Luxemburg Nationl team as a non-dom extra. Charly Gaul was a team mate. He won the Tour de Vaucluse (including Mont Ventoux), the Paris-Roubaix (41st place), Tour of the Midi Libre, Dauphine-Libere, Paris-Tours and the World Championships in Italy. He returned home battered but unbowed.
  • 1956  Mostly Australian-based. Won the 260 km Melbourne to Warrnambool road race in the record time of 5 h 47 m 5 s. This time stood as a record for nearly 25 years. The average speed was not far short of 28mph. The race is nicknamed the "warrny", not to be confused with little-known, hair-restored cricket spin bowler. It has been 300K in length and is claimed to be the second oldest road race in the world.

    [ Olympics 1952 victors ¤ Time trialing ¤ Tour de France 1955 ¤ Book cover ]
  • 1957  Mockridge's domination of Australian cycling caused the organisers of the Sun Tour to make it a handicap race. It didn't stop him - his sprint was unravelled and he won by a second.
  • 1958  Killed by a bus, 2km into the Tour of Gippsland race. He was 30 year old.
He was known as the Gelong flyer, was nearly 6" tall, over 12 stone (76Kg) and had to wear glasses due to chronic short-sightedness.
Up to now no monument has been erected to celebrate his life and achievements. I can't imagine he would have wanted one, but just the same .....

Lionel Cox also had a notable career and remained ever busy with coaching youngsters and speaking about the 1952 Olympics (everyone in the Melbourne area must have known every word of his inspirational story). It emerged that Mockridge and Cox swapped the solo events they did in 1952. Cox got the Silver in the 1K Scratch Sprint on the same afternoon as the Tandem final, Being beaten by only a ½ wheel by World Champion Enzo Sacchi. Lionel won many amateur titles up to 1962. In 2010, he passed away at a young age of 80.

Have you spotted the Hetchins frame in one of the pictures on his page???

Stuart Collins - "Webmaster"

My Time trial

Or "Devil takes the hindmost"

By Stuart Collins

I started cycling as a form of transport and also an escape. I lived in Halifax and even at the age of eight I went for rides of up to 30 miles though, even then, the roads were busy and quite dangerous. I would just say to my mother "I'm off for a ride". "Back for tea!!!", she replied.

In my teens my body changed from being a lanky string bean to a fair copy of my solid, muscular dad. It was then only a question of time before I felt able to take on the rigours and demands of time trialing and make my debut. That was when I was 64.

I entered the Brighton Mitre 2009 25 mile time trial. One of the sub-classes of this event was tin-can, ie Sturmey 3 / 4 speed or other hub gear@. On the night before I could have stayed at my sons' student house in Brighton but instead opted for the "romantic" option of camping at Devils Dyke. I was planning to visit a building marked PH on my map, and set up my tent nearby. Devil's Dyke, like nearby Ditchling beacon , sits atop of the South Downs, with northerly views over the terrain the race was to cover. Wasn't it John Constable who said "it's not a bad view from here"? #

It was very dark and hazy up there so I could not verify Constable's opinion. I investigated the PH. It was now an old folks home. It might have been a takeover. Alternately, I imagined that maybe one night all the clientele of the pub were allowed to stay beyond "Time" and given a bed. The the signs were changed. I guess I should have had something more recent than the "1976 revision" of the OS Landranger map.

It was quite cool and it became mistier. The mist became drizzle, the drizzle became downpour, the tent became wet and I became very wet. And the wind became force 7. At first light I broke camp and set off. It was 4 degrees C. I had to go north and descend off the downs. The path was eroded bare chalk, steep and extremely greasy. I was wearing Look cleated shoes and got no sort of grip. Riding was impossible. Eventually I got down to a road at Fulking. I was probably uttering something similar all the way down. The event centre was stated to be at Steyning, some 8 miles away. Upon arrival, someone was locking the centre. I managed to dump my sodden camping gear and learned that the start was 4 miles away because of a bridge closure. I had 20 minutes to get to the start. I seamlessly got into time trialing mode, just to get there. Eventually I espied a young lycra-clad and "cleated up" lady and an official-looking senior person holding her, in balance, by the saddle. I pulled up and waited. After a while I made enquiries and learned that they were not part of the race. Dad was just giving instructions and pep-talk prior to his daughter's training spin. In the distance I could make out a red car, an "eggs for sale" sign and two very damp stewards. After the briefest of polite conversations I was "off" (last and 1 minute 40 seconds late).

The wind had eased to force 6 but the rain was now describable as deluge. My "no mudguard" strategy ensured that a constant spray of water kept me cool. The undulating part 1 of the course made me examine the possibility of a gear-change. Nothing happened - stuck in a 96 inch gear. The second part was a charmless stretch of the A34 (London to Brighton). Traffic spray helped with keeping me mud-free. I thanked each driver. On part 3 of the 12.5 mile circuit I found shelter to eat the muesli I hadn't been able to have for breakfast (spot Muesli storage facility in the photo). Familiarity with an "eggs for sale" sign registered with me. The start! Only one lap to do, no more than an hour!
I had a brief exchange with the finish couple who seemed relieved do be able to pack away. They pointed out a shortcut so that I had only 6 miles to do (against the wind, but this had declined to force 5)

Many of the prizes I would not have won had already been presented. I did catch the iconic John Woodburn giving some of his lifestyle secrets away - young as you feel, training hard, drinking beer. (I tick one of those boxes). No mention of eating beforehand. I was plied with cakes, tea, coffee and great friendliness. I had no dry clothes to change into so I left (last again, "please push the door to firmly") to ride 15 miles to Brighton.

I got the results a week later. I had recorded 2 hrs. 1 min. 5 secs. (last and "started 1 minute 40 seconds late"). I had failed to break the sacred barrier of under 2 hours for 25 miles. Worse, I was miffed at being nearly an hour after the 74-year-old John Woodburn

I had hoped that there was no dope testing - I would been deemed positive! After three year hiatus I might make a comeback. You read it here first (but please don't alert Cycling Weekly)

# No.
Constable said Devils Dyke was "the grandest view in the world"
@ Visit the Tin Can Ten website - all about annual Hub Gear Time Trial races. It can be located on the links page, from the menu.

Stuart Collins - "Webmaster"

‘Cycle Jumbles’

(A Clarion call)

Surprisingly not every cyclist has visited a cycle jumble. They should, simply because they are a ‘reet good do’ where you meet loads of friendly folk with whom you share a common interest. You also usually leave far happier than when you arrived and always far poorer than when you arrived; which goes to prove that money doesn’t necessarily bring happiness. In the case of cycle jumbles money usually brings you a load of rusty junk which you like to call a bargain, your wife or partner may choose to use several more accurately descriptive phrases!!!!

So what, for the uninitiated, is a cycle jumble? It’s a very different animal than the new phenomenon: the dreaded car boot sale, which now regularly block the lanes of our Sunday Club runs. A cycle jumble is far more civilised: it’s a cross between the traditional Boy Scout or Church hall jumble sale and the modern computer fair. Cycle jumbles, like computer fairs, specialise: but in rust rather than state of the art technology. Like the Church Hall jumble sales of old they are always full of bargains. The bargains will range from the new to the old, to the very, very old. You will find all sorts of bits and bobs: the unusual (which you buy before enquiring what it is) to the very rusty (which you foolishly convince yourself it well clean up like new). No cyclist worth his trouser clips (yes! there will be some for sale for less than a pound) can resist a bargain. Cycle jumbles are the place to be whether you are a shopper, a commuter, a tourer, a roadman or woman or a velodrome superstar ~ there will be a wide range of parts and kit to suit you.

So how do cycle jumbles work? And why are they such good fun? The organiser, usually a cycling club hire a church, village or school hall equipped with tables and chairs. They then notify any potential stall-holders and the general public by placing an advertisement in Cycling Weekly aka The Comic. Local papers and local radio stations will usually give the event free publicity in their ‘What’s On’ slot. There is also an excellent cycle jumble website run by Stuart Collins (see but hopefully, you are on this site) Tables will then be rented to stall-holders, the usual rate is between £4 and £10. The public are then often charged a nominal entry fee which is rarely more than £1. It is also a good idea to have refreshments available as this helps to keep the crowds fed and happy thereby encouraging a longer stay at the event.

The stall-holder’s objective is to get rid of as much of his cycle related old junk as possible for as much money as possible thus ensuring an early retirement to the Seychelles. There is little evidence that this ever actually happens, the more usual scenario is that: any profit made is immediately spent on buy more old junk, which results in your returning home with a van containing twice as much junk than you set out with and a far, far emptier pocket. Any unlikely profit is more than offset by the garage bill for the broken rear spring due to your over-loading of the van with new to you old junk.

The general public having paid their admission, children are usually admitted free and can sometimes even be exchanged for a frame or a pair of wheels. CAUTION: Stall-holders new to the game should be warned that it has been known for unscrupulous parents to leave a troublesome child as a deposit on a desirable frame thereby ensuring the parent of at least three hours of child-free rummaging. The public’s objective differs from that of the stall holder as they are looking for the best possible piece of equipment for the smallest amount of money. There will always be plenty of bargains especially for those who arrive early. You will find exceptionally good deals on cycle clothing, helmets and shoes; tyres and inner tubes will be much cheaper than in the shops (please don’t neglect your local independent cycle dealer ~ they have the expertise you may need someday). If you are into old bicycles then you will have found your heaven: badges, transfers, rare frames with rare configurations, saddles that will be comfortable in another forty years of touring, bells, toe clips, tourist maps of countries which no longer exist, brake levers for ordinaries are all to be found; the fun is in the searching.

Tips for buyers:
(1) Remember CASH is the only God, stallholders are honest, respectable people and would have nothing to do with banks.
(2) Always haggle, it's what you are meant to do, it's what makes jumble fun. So stop thinking like a shopper in Harrods, think more the bazaar in Marrakech.
(3) Try to make multiple purchases. It strengthens your bargaining power. Even the hardest stall-holder will knock a few pence off if you buy 500 inner tubes.
(4) Accept that the minute after you have bought the bargain of a lifetime you will see it cheaper on another stall.
(5) Always buy something that you don’t need; will never use or have no idea what it is, that gives you a reason for going to another jumble.
Happy hunting.

Yours fraternally,

Charles Jepson J.P. (Secretary: National Clarion Cycling Club 1895)

How I came
to cycling

(very brief)

By Stuart Collins

Like most lads in the 60s I rode everywhere. It was long before parent-ferrying in a 4 by 4 became endemic, (and since I mentioned them, a 4 by 4 once meant a Land Rover for carrying dead sheep or was the result of Noah being generous with his allocations).

My first "real" bike was a Freddie Grubb, resplendent in its dull sewerage-brown livery. It had a crack in the down-tube, near the headset. However, it got me to school. Mechanical failures gave me some variation of excuse for lateness. Real excuses like 'tyre punctured by 6" nail' didn't impress. Made-up excuses like errand-doing for old ladies or rescuing cats sometimes got me off additions to the "3 lates and detention" policy. In any event the bike enabled me to attend the detentions as the school bus had departed. I hired the Freddie out to German exchange student and warned him of the defect. He understood "keep an eye on it". However, whilst coming down a 1 in 7 hill the machines' essential triangulation lost its integrity. Negotiations at his hospital bedside resulted in my kindly waiving the hire charge. I have been told that a broken collarbone (or Schlüsselbein in his case) is a cyclist's badge of honour. Perhaps not for central Europeans. Worst was, I never got back the remains of Freddie. So it was back to my other bike. The engineering of that reflected more of BSA's gun making heritage than of a lightweight cycles. The blue gloss painted frame served only to deter thieves.

A diminutive monk-like teacher called Mr. Searle was a regular cyclist. On the first day of the summer holiday I bumped into him on the cross-channel ferry to Boulogne. His bike was festooned with bags and I ventured to ask where he was going. "Czechoslovakia." "When are you returning?" "The day before school goes back." All his married life he had apparently just taken off as soon as possible, lemming-like, to foreign climes. He was so quiet I wondered if anyone missed him. Bonkers idea, I thought, but .......??????

At age 18 I decided to try similar (The previous years' holiday at Butlins hadn't provided much excitement). The day before leaving I rode up and down to East Kent Cycles in Dover to get the bike checked. I was told that the owner John Herrick administered help and acerbic wit in equal measures. "Where are you going on this?" he enquired again, as he looked at my 4 speed BSA (close ratio, with only two gears working). "The Pyrennees". " I wouldn't go down to Dover bloody Docks on this!" was his response before disappearing out the back. I had more than enough time to cast him as a curmudgeonly old devil (and unprintably worse) before he returned, wheeling out an immaculate 10 speed Cinnelli. "This is what you want!" "Yes, but I don't have any money." "Pay me when you get back - at least you might get back!"

The "payment" became helping out on Saturdays. He taught me wheel building. I became assistant Colin. He refused to get my name right. Helping him provided me with much amusement, chastisement and knowledge. The price was that he tended to size up arrivals at his shop and pass certain ones onto me. These were either known awkward so-and-sos or they looked like they might be. One day a father came in with a pink bicycle and florid-faced, angry daughter. He asked John to have a look at the bike. He did indeed have a look at it, including through his monocle; long and hard and from all angles. "You got this from Halfords!" "Yes." "Then I suggest you take it back there". Child not molified!

Woe betide any remarks about the weight of a bike, or part of, from anyone who was even slightly portly. Unsolicited weight-saving advice was willingly offered!! (always the same repost containing the same expletive)

One day I was spotted adjusting a brake block with a pair of pliers. "Colin, you're like a pig with a musket". Since then, I search for the "right" tool to use, almost as if he was looking over my shoulder. 45 years on I have never been able to look at a pair of pliers without smiling and remembering.

Stuart Collins - "Webmaster"

Walter Greaves

The one-armed cycling phenomena

By Stuart Collins

Walter William Greaves was born in 1907 near Bradford. At the age of 14 his arm got so damaged in an accident that it had to be amputated just below the elbow. The nature of the accident is shrouded in mystery. One version has it that he was leaping from his drunken father's car, regarding this as a safer bet than staying put. A more prosaic, and less likely, version was that it was caused by dangling his arm out of a train window. Perhaps because of his father's excesses, Walter turned teetotal. From 20 years old he became a vegetarian. Reputedly he tried to get most people he met to enroll with the communist party. He was a fearsome debater, albeit in the Margaret Thatcher / Brian Clough mould - he was always right! These characteristics had an impact on his employability as an engineer. The force and direction of his political leanings may not have helped.

In 1936 he decided to attempt the World Endurance record i.e. riding the most miles in a (calendar) year. This record might be regarded as the preserve of mad dogs and Englishman. In fact it was held by neither, but by an Australian called Ossie Nicholson. The contrast between Ossie and Walter could not have been starker. The former was professional, had a manager and a back-up team with vehicle, several bikes and a masseur. Much of his record was done on a track and enjoyed in the fine climate of Australia. On the other hand Walter did many of his miles in the Pennines and in much worse weather than usual, even for that part of the country.

Walter had been promised a Coventry Cycles Three Spires machine by Ron Kitchen (indeed, the one). However it wasn't delivered until 5 days into the year. His bike was not a lightweight and had mudguards, carrier, saddlebag (full of food) and lights. The brakes were activated from one lever. The 3-speed derailleur gear was operated by a customized twist-grip device. Some time into his ride he had a special adaptation made to cup his stump.

Where he slept involved pot-luck. However, increasing interest generated by Cycling magazine ensured offers were forthcoming. From the start the weather was terrible, with much snow and ice. He fell off repeatedly because of this. Early on, he was tracked by the local paper. In Leeds, he fittingly demonstrated his aptitude for calamity - the art of falling off. The incident involved being unsighted by emissions from a steam-powered vehicle and coming to grief on the tram tracks. After 2 months of arctic weather he had got his overall average up to 120 miles a day. The severe cold gave way to gales and rain. Even the summer was mostly wet. He came second best to a car in July and so was hospitalized for 2 weeks.

On September 8th he surpassed the British Record. Ron Kitchen aranged for Walter to be on show, literally, at the British Bike Show in Olympia from 10th to 15th of November (see poster below). I wonder how he faired. Given his nature, and having done 130-odd miles to get there that day, I cannot imagine him being a paragon of patience and tact at all times. I'd expect him to have been rather like a dancing bear (see later)

The November weather was characterized by being "mostly foggy" ie smoggy. No problem there then! He broke the world record on December 13th whilst again in London. He had by now captured the public's imagination. On a stage he publicly rejected the offered Champagne, renouncing it as poison. Instead he ate a grapefruit he had been carrying. He did a triumphant lap of honour round the Herne Hill track. His record was further bolstered by nearly 2400 miles, right up to his arrival at the door of Bradford Town Hall on the 31st of December. He had completed 45383 miles!!

The stats are as follows. Average speed 124 miles a day, but over 130 on when he actually rode dawn to dusk. Of course he was greatly advantaged by it being a leap year! Longest day was 275 miles. He did 374 miles once between sleeps. “Un-shippings” - 19 in five days, record of 8 in one day, thereafter, probably lost count.

Walter reversed the saying “if you can’t beat them, join them”. He had crossed so many clubs, officials and cyclists in the Leeds / Bradford area, whether or not he had joined them. So in 1948 he founded his own club, the Airedale Olympic CC. He got his way with the name, as Airedale could not be confused with the many Bradford clubs, and it was London Olympic year. Over an undetermined period, he was a member of the Vegetarian Cycling and Athletic Club. This came to an end with Walter saying to Secretary Peter Duncan "I'll punch your head in and do it publicly." That was the end of an argument, a friendship and an era.

He co-formed the "rebel" British League of Cyclists who rejected the government's attempts to regulate / ban road races. Many of the Vegetarian Clubs riders went with him.

Not satisfied just with a wife he also had a monkey. A local man recorded that his wife was “feisty”. She used to call Walter "buggerlugs", an early example of this endearment. He tried to fix up a dancing bear for his club social "do". For once he was over-ruled.

He started up a bike firm and for some years produced quite a few frames. Unusually at that time, many of the frames were lug-less. He could make them one-handedly, with jigs and clamps. His King of the Mountains frame had eccentric geometry to shorten the wheelbase and position the bum of the rider over the back wheel as much as possible (a la Flying Gate or Saxon bi-tube efforts). He determined to incorporate a cyclist's cafe in his workshop, the Forge. This venture foundered. His disagreeable nature, a monkey turd in a jelly plus sandwiches of indeterminate filling, were cited as reasons for it not catching on. He took to performing in a music duo at various locations, mostly pubs. His son continued the bike business. He earned a bit on money finding 8 cyclist extras for as film crew. He doesn't seem to have lacked entrepronueral initiative.

You can read a section on his frame-making, see link at the end of this article.

1979 saw the onset of Parkinson’s disease. He died in 1987, aged 80, in a state of poverty from which he had never really escaped.

The bike shown is in Bradford Industrial Museum. It has Walter Greaves name on it. The museum at one time claimed it to be his "1936 record" bike. However this has been modified and it now accepted as just one he made and used. It is strange that only 25 years after his death, memories of him have dimmed, but some have scarcely mellowed. The television program "Grumpy Old Men" started too late for one final career change. But he might have been too far off the cantankerous end of “grumpy scale” for that.

Stuart Collins

Sources : Bradford Argus and Telegraph cutting, Bradford Library, Airdale CC website, Bradford Industrial Museum, Classic Cycles website, The Cyclist (USA), Cycling Weekly and an unkown man outside Ribble Cycles.

Link to page about the Greaves frame-building

PS. The endurance record enthralled for but a few years more. As Walter was celebrating the end of his year (by eating a grapefruit), another rider was registering miles into the next. Three riders beat his time in 1937 including Ossie Nicholson who re-took the record with 62,567 miles. Englishman Tommy Goodwin took the mileage to 75,065 in 1939. Either that was deemed to be unbeatable or, after the war, people found something more exciting to contemplate than riding an average of over 200 miles each and every day. A postwar claim of 80000 miles was disallowed.

I have researched and extended the story of the amazing Walter quite considerably. I have also got hold of some brilliant pictures. Do give it a look by clicking on the link below.

[ above picture shows Walter Greaves in the 1947 Brighton to Glasgow stage race (pre-cursor to the Tour of Britain). Note three bottles. Each had a straw. ]

Read the full story of one-off Walter W Greaves 1907 - 1987
[loads into new window]

written by Stuart Collins - "Webmaster"

A Paris Roubaix Saga

My uneventful daytrip to see the
epic race
By Stuart Collins

I awoke at 4am to the ominous sound of rain lashing on the bedroom window of my parent's house in Saltwood, Kent. Should I respond and set out to see the Paris Roubaix as "planned"? A defunct / unused part of my brain responded "yes". The rest of me reponded reluctantly. The weather forecast insisted that the cold front would soon pass through. The near-gale force wind, a great nuisance then, would back to be useful westerly wind right behind me. And the deluge of rain would cease, eventually. I could have gone to Dover via the A20 but decided to be true to the spirit of the touring cyclist and go on small lanes along the tops of the North Downs. I left the village and passed "Road Closed" signs. The road had been "closed" for years and I operated on the usual surmise that such warnings do not relate to cyclists. However I encountered a 5ft fence. This was to do with the construction of a new "proper" railway line linking London and the Channel Tunnel. My light revealed a new, deep cutting. Over the fence I went and down a steep, slimy, mired 45 degree slope for some distance. At the bottom I could just make out a level surface of grey appearance. I guessed that this was concrete and I was correct. However it was setting concrete and I went knee deep into it. The bike kept on getting stuck, as did my legs. I was like a two-toed sloth on a Zimmer frame Then I had to scale the other side of the cutting. This proved to be far from easy; all the worse for my shoe coming off. Not one, but three fences then greeted me. I clambered over them in turn, avoiding lots of machinery. I supposed that I had wasted half an hour but made a determined bid to do the 12 miles to Dover to get the first ferry.

I missed it narrowly, but boarded the next one. It was 6:30 and still pitch black and raining.
I had a concrete coating up to the waist and it was setting! I decided that occupying the carpeted lounges was not quite the done thing so went out onto the deck. A man was using a power hose to clean the deck and with the mixture of Franglais and gesticulation I got him to train his water-jet on my lower limbs. The conciquence was a cyclist slightly cleaner, much colder but, intelligence-wise, unimproved.

By Calais the rain was easing. My master plan was to go over a cantilever bridge over the dock entrance and directly to the railway station in order to catch the first train to Hazebrouk and towards Lille and Roubaix. However the bridge was up and a notice revealed (in three languages) that it was closed for the day due to maintenance. Well, it was actually open but this was no time for pedantry. So, nothing for it, but to go round the houses, and the port, to get to the station. As I approached, a train was moving out and I guessed correctly that it was mine. So, after considering Plan B onwards, I got to plan H. I determined to cycle 55Km to Hazebrouk and pick up a train bound for Lille. Three hours to get there. Wind 45% helpful. No sweat.

After a wrong turn (I am sure it was bad signposting) I added on an extra 8km and arrived at Hazebrouk to again see my train pulling out. Helpfully the wind was now as forecast and directly behind me. There were no other trains and so I set off at break-neck speed (relative term) in the direction of Roubaix. I got a puncture and stopped for food but I was going quite well. The wind eased. I was held up, ironically, by a minor bike race. Then a level crossing halted progress as a Lille-bound train rumbled through. My next encounter was with another road closed sign (only in this case a Gallic Route Ferme version). I decide to learn from my experience and compliantly followed the "Deviation" sign. After my detour I was now on a cobbled road, which didn't feature on my map, heading towards the sunset. My pessimism lifted when I discerned a good number of parked cars and a thread of humans on the horizon. As I got closer I detected that the thread of humans was mobile, and then that it was moving towards me! The race had just gone through!! "Merde and Sacre Blue".

The only thing left to do was to ride to Lille and get a train back. Somehow I found myself on a motorway taking a massively elevated route to the city centre. The station was hidden amidst the concrete monster that passes for the city centre (I think they call it integration). The motorway entered the grey Lego-like jungle and sucked me into the station via a tunnelled branch. I felt it was like going down the tubes, a metaphor for my day. I had never really wanted to visit Lille and seemed to have avoided it now, just viewing its' intestines.
Things could only get better. They did, although a little too late and of no great consequence. I got straight onto a train and arrived back to the Saltwood Castle Hotel before it closed. I recounted the story of my day. My audience had heard of my plans on the previous night and they had a good chortle at the tale of my misadventure. No doubt the reader of this will be having a small hoot about it also. Be my guest, you rotten lot!

By Stuart Collins - "Webmaster"

Life cycles

I have just discovered your website and I am sure it will prove to be an extremely useful resource.
As a child during the 1950s, I built up several bikes from bits discovered in the local tip at the village of Welford where my parents had moved from South Wales. We had a number of accomplished racing cyclists in the village and they were prone to bend their machines frequently and throw them away - so the tip produced rich pickings and I built wheels on exotic large flange hubs and sported aluminium drop handlebars on the ancient Dawes three speed tourer that I had painted with Humbrol and Japlac paints. In those days I suffered from asthma so had more fun tinkering than riding.
Anyway, all this was in the past until I moved to the Leicestershire and Lincolnshire border village of Eaton in 1995. The reason for the move was that I had taken over a chief executive of the Great Central Railway in Loughborough and we bought the village shop and post office in Eaton to run as a small business enterprise for my wife. For whatever reason the move agreed with me and I managed to shake off my asthma and was soon regularly riding the 40 mile return journey to work on a rather heavy traditional Peugeot tourer that I had purchased new from Halfords something I could not have contemplated a few years earlier. I eventually trimmed the travelling time down to just over an hour but it often took twenty minutes longer riding home at night!
Other bikes were soon added to my collection including another Peugeot that I bought (from the USA) on eBay when that particular auction site was still in its infancy and genuine bargains were still to be had - If I remember correctly, the shipping cost of nearly £30 was by far the biggest expense.
I bought a nice 1967 Bates 'BAR' from Ray Etherton that, unusually, had conventional Reynolds 531 tubing and I built it up with period components. Then I found a Viking "Ian Steel" model 531 frame at the Mildenhall Cycling Rally. What has made the latter rather special is that, as I was carrying it back to my van, I was stopped by Bob Thom and Ian Steel who introduced themselves. They examined the frame and advised me on the choice of components. I obtained their autographs and Mr Thom took my address and subsequently sent me some old catalogues and information relating to my frame. I had the frame restored by Mercian Cycles in 1997, and although I have all the correct and recommended components, I have yet to build it up.
When I worked at the Great Central Railway, my only day off was Wednesday and I often cycled round the Vale of Belvoir with a compulsory stop at Margaret's Café in Redmile for tea and cake - what an institution that was and what a great shame that it is no more. The picture of the tea pot on your website brought back many happy memories.
I retired in 2005 and have since been cruising the canal network on a narrowboat bought with the proceeds from the sale of our business. We also bought a house in Northamptonshire where we keep all the stuff that we cannot possibly fit into the boat. I have recently started riding again and fully intend to complete the Viking along with several other projects; which explains why I have been looking up 'cycle jumbles'!
I have just catalogued more than 450 bicycle components in my collection; mostly English and French lightweight items produced between 1960 and 1990, including another five frames!
Great website - please keep up the good work!
Graham Oliver

Email from Grahame and Jane Oliver

Click here to read marvelous paper on the last 25 years of Raleigh - by Tony Hadland
Takes you to another website. Please come back!!

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