My earliest recollection of riding was on a bike belonging to our lodger, he went home at the weekend and I was allowed to borrow his machine. It was a good job he never saw what happened! A group of lads from the road would disappear for hours. We rode up though Sutton high street to Belmont Downs, to ride on the chalk hills beside the railway, or on to Burgh Heath pond to go fishing for minnows, another favourite was through Banstead to Chipstead Valley and career down the sand hills, can’t remember if I could sit on the saddle or if I had to adjust it each time, the best bit was he used to pay me to keep it clean! My Dad bought me my first bike from a shop near Sutton Bus Garage, it was just at the end of the war, so like so much else it was make up with whatever was available. However it was not long before I made” improvements”. Our next door neighbour after this demob opened a cycle shop at Rosehill and I used to do jobs for him (Like scraping the paint off frames before they were enameled) to buy the parts I wanted. With a friend, we went to the Surrey Roads Club room at the Triangle Cafe, at the bottom of Lind Road, to try to join. However we were told we were too young (I was only eleven at the time) but to come back a year later after getting some miles in. So a year later on my bike made from all sorts of bits and pieces I started riding with a real cycling club. At this time not long after the war cycling was the thing to do. Before the days of mass car ownership you either went around by bus or train, or as so many did to get independent, by bicycle. I was in heaven, we rode every Sunday, from morning start at 9am until dusk, goodness knows how many miles we did, but it was all very sociable. I was still at school and was fortunate to have a master who had raced before the war and was still riding every day. He took me under his wing and tried to give me help both with the bike but also on my riding. By the time I was 14yrs I was keen to start racing, however at that time it was thought that you needed to be at least eighteen! It was considered too hard for anyone younger.
On 14th March 1948 I rode my first race, a club 25 on the Godstone course. It meant leaving Sutton in the early hours to ride to the start. My comment on the ride. The morning was cold with a heavy ground mist, almost a fog, no wind, long gradients, and a few hills. My time 1hr. 13mins. 13sec.on a 74″ gear. The fastest was Brian Pitcher 1.11.28.
That year I rode 9 events 2,-10s. 5,- 25s 1,-30ml and 1 massed start, that involved riding across London to Matching Green Aerodrome circuit. Racing 21 mile handicap, then riding back home. I remember it was very late before we got back. I was approx 15th from 89 starters. (Keith Bennet was 4th) Best times by the end of the season, 10ml. 24.30, 25ml 1.6.40, 30ml 1.25.01.
My comments at the end of the year. “Have won 5 medals so must consider a highly successful start to racing”.
I think it was during August that I went on my first cycle tour, with John Lorkin. We went on a 7 day youth hostel tour to Devon. Winchester, Milton Abbas, Ottery St Mary, Salcombe, Otterham, Brendon, Marlborough. Bed was 4/6, Breakfast 9p. A few things I can remember. At Winchester;, washing in the water from the mill race. At a tea stop on the coast being propositioned to go skinny dipping with the young female relations of the man asking. Being given two boiled eggs for tea near the hostel at Brendon, and buying my first ever High Pressure tyre from a cycle shop at Marlborough on our last day.
At the beginning of 1949 I joined the Redmon C.C.
Previously Printed in the Redmon Review for April 2005.