The twelve hour time trial is an event that is peculiar to the UK. It is difficult to understand why anyone in their right mind would want to cycle for that long and end up in approximately the same place that they started. However, that said I have to admit I have been guilty of riding a few “Twelves”.
In 1955 having completed my National Service in the RAF I returned to the Eltham Paragon C.C. which was basically a Time Trial Club. Up to 1955 except for a few road races whilst in the RAF the furthest distance I had ridden competitively was 25 miles but being full of ambition I decided that I would attempt to win the clubs Best Allrounder competition which mean’t riding at least one Fifty mile, one Hundred mile and one TWELVE HOUR TIME TRIAL. I was assured by the clubs more experienced members that riding a twelve was just like having a nice Sunday out on the bike.
My first problem was that the only local twelve was at the beginning of August and there was no fifty or hundred events that I could ride before then. As a result I had no option but to look big and dive straight into the all day ride without any experience of distance riding. With little or no understanding of what I was letting myself in I had a forty odd mile ride on the Saturday to the digs booked near the event start at a place called Grafty Green. This mean’t carrying racing wheels and a loaded saddlebag with all the clothing and food needed for the ride (including a baked rice pudding - this is what I understood all twelve hour riders ate).
I could take you through a blow-by-blow account... but that would be a very long, and my daughter assures me, boring story. So, of the ride itself the things that stand out in my memory are: (a) it was a boiling hot day (mouth and throat ended up sore from constant drinking the orange squash that was handed up all round the course .
(b) I can remember panicking as I approached the - up to that time unseen - dead turn at the foot of Sutton Valance Hill (I imagined we had to go to the top - fortunately I was wrong).
(c) dropping a juicy peach that I had carried all day as a treat for myself for when I reached the finishing circuit. I could not waste my treat so I stopped, walked back along the road with cramping legs, picked it up and enjoyed it more than anything I had ever eaten before.
The other thing that is worthy of mention is that my legs hurt more than I thought was possible.
The ride overall was a bit of a failure as I only managed to complete 218 miles which when combined with the later 50 and 100 mile times left me as poor also ran in the BAR competition.
FOOTNOTE:As Eltham John's daughter, I do not think 218 miles is a failure. It's a bloody long way. Though, those shorts and socks are... a Fashion Failure.