Sidney's time-trials

I started time-trialling while I was a member of Hackney Clarion CC, having found that I was better at turning the pedals rather than pushing them. To begin with I just beat 'evens' (20 mph) and did 1-12 for a 25 and 2-26 for a 50. But then I started to get the idea (oh I see, you actually have to try) and got down to 1-5 for a 25. I was a typical middle-marker, not very fast but not very slow either. My best ride was an open 50 on the A11. On the day (some time early in 1950) there was a strong northeast wind blowing. I was using a gear a bit lower than most of the other riders, and got to the halfway turn comfortably in 1-10. The second half with a tailwind was crazy, with me just letting my legs go round as fast as possible, passing everyone and getting to the finish in an hour and two minutes. I must have been flying because when I finished someone asked me what gear I was using - that's why I remember it was 79 (46 x 15 on 26" wheels). My 14-minute improvement earned me the First Handicap prize. Can't remember what it was, probably a puncture outfit.

My Clarion friend Sid Kenton was always trying to go one better than me and on a float morning on a dead flat 25 course in Norfolk he did a 1-2 while my best stayed at 1-5. Sadly we lost touch when I joined the North London CC. I was never able to improve my best times at 25 and 50 miles, although I came close in a club 50 in 1951. The club champion had caught me and we rode side by side for awhile. Then ten miles from the finish I made my legs go round faster and dropped him. Unfortunately a few miles up the road I went over the top (don't ask) and finished in hospital so I'll never know what time I might have done.

I started to ride 100s and again I was just inside evens with a time of 4-50 in the club 100, but I tried a bit harder in a Wessex open 100 and did a 4-37. In another open 100 on the Bath Road I had the bizzarre experience of passing the  great Vic Gibbons. He had just whizzed past me and, using gears for the first time, the air was blue as he struggled to get them working up the next hill. Naturally I seized my chance of fame, which was very brief as Vic sorted his gears out and of course I never saw him again.

To be considered for the club (or national) best all rounder championship you had to ride a 12-hour time trial. The interesting part of this is at the end, as there s no possibility of a finish line. After riding the course around the local counties, a finishing circuit is provided where you are followed by a riding marshal who tells you when your time is up. Then, back at the start, you find out how far you went - in my case ususally between 220 and 230 miles. In those days only the fast men could do evens for that long.

1952  was a busy year for me. Not only did I gain a Higher National Certificate in electrical engineering but I also became club champion of the North London Cycling Club. This was mainly on the basis of a 100 -mile time trial that I rode in June that year, a club record at 4-37. My 2-12 for the 50-mile and 224 miles for the 12-hour went towards a 21mph average. This was enough to win the club championship and get me on to the RTTC British Best All Rounder list.

Next year while I was in the RAF (1953 - 1954) I won a massed-start race at Stapleford Tawney aerodrome for the selection of a team to go to the Maccabiah (Jewish Olympics). I was not granted leave to go to Israel, for which I am truly thankful. I kept up with my time-trialling and did an unofficial 2-10 for a 50. However, by demob time the spark had gone. A club 100 in 1955 saw me falling off my bike at the finish, not because I'd gone particularly fast but because I was just knackered. The following year saw me losing touch with the North London CC as life intruded. So I had a short racing career, but one I enjoyed, having found something I was good at and loved doing - twiddling.