Monday, 29 October 2012

I don't like Southend… Oh no… I love it!

In the 1950’s when Time Trials were a cloak and dagger affair with all start sheets bearing the words “Private and Confidential” it was the ambition of all time triallist in the South of England to ride on the RTTC courses which were coded as E.3 and E.4.

These mystic numbers referred to the two super fast courses, which were the two trunk roads that ran between London and Southend. To get into any event on either road was difficult in the days when most open events had a full field of 120 riders and Local Association events always had their full complement of 150 riders.

Having had the good luck to get onto the start sheet in an event on the better of the two courses (E.3 or the A127 road) I was up for doing a scorching “PB” (personal best).

Dressed all in black in accordance the “private and confidential” rules that applied at the time nothing could get in my way.

The weather on the day of the event was good I was young and reasonable fit and everything went really well until I got to the halfway turn point. Then for the first time since the start I braked to slow to make the turn and to my dismay the brake stirrup broke away from the frame. The marshal was quick to offer his assistance and told me to take his bike to complete my ride.

Racing on the Southend Road, circa 1960

It seemed like a good idea (not to mention a generous gesture) at the time but as you can see the bike had gave me had mudguards, a saddlebag and a ridiculously low gear. My quest for a good time vanished as I spun the low gear to the finish. It also didn’t help that the unfamiliar pedals were obviously bent to the point where it was almost impossible to keep my foot within the toeclips. The tyres could have done with a few more pounds of air pressure aswell.

My disappointment was further compounded when at the end of the event the chap who had loaned me his bike turned up on mine and told me that he had found the securing nut from the rear of my brake on the road and hand tightened it and then rode my bike back to the finish area without any trouble. His first action on reclaiming his bike was to check that his sandwiches were still in his saddlebag and had not been eaten as, he assumed from the time I recorded that I must have had a lunch break during the second half of my ride.

Friday, 26 October 2012

A Poorly Documented Cycling Career: Part 2

Poorly documented time trial photo. 

More lamentable pictures, here I am shown in time trial mode. All the essentials of the photographers craft are exhibited here, the subject well centred in the frame. Despite bright weather the dullness of the English time trial scene has been captured in a landscape devoid of interest making it easily identifiable as Kent or Essex or Cambridgeshire or ……anywhere else flat. Do I really miss those 6am starts?

Distant bunch race Herne Hill.

Its not all time trials as can be witnessed by this gem from the velodrome, the Good Friday meet at Herne Hill to be prescise. Although as a photo record of me it continues in failing to identify me (I am there in the bunch) it does work as a record of this venue in the early 1980’s. Note the old tarmac surface, and it seems well attended (there wasn’t the public interest back then, cyclists must have had larger families in those days).

Posted by Love Yellow

Monday, 22 October 2012

Classic Cycling Item 1: Big Suisse Bell

Large Swiss Bell
Large Swiss dangler, close up

We all know road racing is really about the spectators... Anyone who has ever been to a Cycling World Championship will know everyone (it's a stipulation) has these bells and they make an ear-splitting din with them up the climbs.

The bell above was purchased at the 1983 Swiss World's - Women's road race: Gold - Marianne Berglund, Silver - Rebecca Twigg, Bronze - Maria Canins. Men's road race: Gold - Greg LeMond, Silver - Adri van der Poel, Bronze - Stephen Roche.

When the World Champ's is in the 'land of Suisse' then it's the law that each spectator has at least two... or one very large one, which is carried around by a group of men (usually short and fat) and waved at anyone who looks in it's general direction.

Suisse spectators with over-sized bells (source: Suisse Olympic website)
Posted by Love Yellow

Old Bikes: Gillot Road /Track Frame 1951 Vintage

My first real racing frame, which I bought second hand from one of my older Eltham Paragon club mates, was a 1951 hand built Gillot. It was finished in black with the Gillot decals on the head and seat tube. It came with a 4 inch steel Necini extension.

This frame together with sprint rims built on Airlite hubs, a Williams chainset, Lyotard pedals, and a Brampton chain was used by me to ride track events . When fitted with a G.B. front brake it was also used as my transport for work and pleasure rides and also road time trials from 5 to 100 miles.

The lug work and finish were superb and when I sold the frame a couple of years ago on E-Bay it was collected by an enthusiastic bike restorer who asked endless questions of the frames history and who said that it would be returning it to its original showroom state.
 Gillot special fork crown shows damage from constant fitting of brake stirrup
Gillot frame number shows date frame made
seat cluster showing top of the pencil rear stays

Although I miss my old frame is great to think that someone now is getting pleasure from the machine that served me so well all those years ago.

My Badly Documented Cycling Career

Am I alone in having such a poor record of my cycling exploits? Having ridden my first race aged 10 (a cyclo cross against senior riders including the national champion at the time Keith Mernickle) my memory allows for me only to recall the freezing temperature, an unbelievably heavy bike and being lapped constantly.
Badly documented cycling career photo 1 (Tonbridge bypass)

No photographic evidence of this event or any other exists. At the age of 13 this high definition photo taken by a family member is of me riding a time trial on the Tonbridge bypass. I can only assume I was going extremely fast as before the pic was taken I seem to be past and on my way out of shot. What promise!

Badly documented cycling career photo 2 (Eastway, London)

This next photo records my early road racing exploits. Here I am, still 13 coming up the finishing straight at Eastway circuit. From memory I guess I’ve been dropped again and going too slow to get in the frame (this photography lark’s not easy) but the close up of a complete stranger’s head, maybe where Head and Shoulders got the idea to use Mark Cavendish in their ads.

Posted by Love Yellow

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Family Album

This is great picture (Eltham J himself) I dug out from one of my old family photo albums. The outdoor track is Herne Hill in South London and the event is a 4000 metre pursuit. I particularly like the 'streamline' body number, which acts as a sail down the back straight and then doubles as a picnic blanket once the racing is over.

I am told that this outfit was state of the art, with shorts either from Holdsworth's bike shop in South London or purchased in Belgium by whoever was heading out to the continent. They weren’t Lycra but wool (yes!) in fact the 'give' you get in modern fabrics was created by using bagginess, which unfortunately didn't last long being wool. All the jerseys were pure silk, very expensive but lightweight.

Posted by Love Yellow

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Eltham John - our new silver surfer cycling blogger

Eltham John, above (winning at Herne Hill in the late 50's / early 60's riding for the London club Eltham Paragon) will be blogging on Love Yellow's blog, with stories of past races, venues, track, time trailing and general nonsense. He even has his own 'silver-surfer' Love Yellow logo. Welcome aboard Eltham John.

Posted by Love Yellow

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Loved Cycling Possessions: My Brooklyn Jersey

Brooklyn Chewing Gum were an Italian cycling team during the 1970s and early 80s. It was a classics team and featured many of the great classic riders such as Roger de Vlaeminck, who won four Paris–Roubaix.

This is a trade jersey sold around that time in bike shops (rare even then). I used to wear it out on my bike… it's wool. That's how old I am. It will never be for sale. (Unless someone offer a great sum)

Posted by Love Yellow

Campag-nology: The Art & Science of Bicycle Bell Ringing

Campanology, or rather Campag-nology is the art of bicycle bell ringing. In 1957 bicycle bell ringing was not only an art but a compulsory skill and were fitted to all roadworthy bikes whether you were time trialing or just out for a club run, as were flat caps (I'll be covering flat caps and 'how they developed into the modern aero helmet' at a later date).

Uncle Bernard is modeling the latest bicycle bell, which at the time was the lightest stripped down racing model, possibly with a (no-weight) silent ring, named The Victory. It was an alloy shell with a spring-pinger, which once fitted was never really as effective as a firm shout.

I hoped you've enjoyed this modest journey back in time. Next week I'll look at how people used to pump up their tyres - before air was freely available. Cheerio.

Posted by Love Yellow

Friday, 12 October 2012

Family Album circa 1950

A 4000 metre pursuit at Herne Hill. I would love to know who made that number and from what cardboard box it was cut?

Notice the areo position and flat back (of uncle Bernard) despite a frame made for a giant. What you can’t see is the smooth pedalling action, which he and his brother possessed. Unfortunately, as the years passed smooth pedalling became drag-strip grinding on a 108 inch gear and knees became a thing of wonder to be enjoyed for their weight bearing and bending capacity, retrospectively.

There's a doubled-up cog on the back wheel probably so he could ride the bike home, as nearly all Monday Comp-ers would have done (no one had a car in those days, everyone rode fixed wheel all the time – funny how these trends come back around). Most would also have fitted a front brake for the road, as is the law… and probably a bell.

Posted by Love Yellow