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.