“The West Surrey Cyclist” - April - June 2004

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Contents:

Front cover - very similar to previous issue
Inner front cover - West Surrey CTC District Association - as in previous issue
Editorial front matter - very similar to previous issue
Riding Around - With the Editor
Roman “Biking” Holiday - by Richard Ellis
Reliability Ride - 25 April 2004
Cycling in Derbyshire 60 Years Ago - by President Roy Banks
Don’t Forget Your Shirt
Recommend a Pub or Three
Surrey History Trust appeal to raise £6000 to buy cyclists’ visitors’ books created at the Anchor Hotel, Ripley
Sunday May 16th - Surrey Scorathon
It’s Coming Soon - The New Club Shirt
Tireless Tom Hargreaves - Top Man - by Bob McLeod
Meeting Point Changes
For Sale
The Bicycle in History - by John Ostrom - a revised version of his 1995 article
Hampshire Hundred - information from North Hants DA
A ‘Give Blood’ advertisement featuring a penny-farthing (‘It doesn’t matter how you get there...’)
Dates for Your Diary
Get the Magazine Delivered for £3 a Year
Organisers - Please Take Note
DA Personalities - Two - Les Houlton
Outer back cover - advertisement - RVJ Design (Nick Jones - cycle engineering)

Selected items transcribed from the original printed copy:



WSC74 cover

RIDING AROUND

With the Editor

WE might not think it but West Surrey District Association is obviously the celebrity department of the CTC.  Just check out the colour covers of Cycle, our national magazine.  We have become used to seeing cover pictures by and featuring our member Chris Juden and his family.  He takes pictures as part of his work as the CTC’s technical officer and he, Helen and the children feature regularly.

But a few issues ago a gaggle of West Surrey cyclists, with Russ Mantle to the fore, was surprisingly chosen to grace the cover.  And the current issue features none other than our perennially glamorous Mark Waters.

He is pictured in the Alpes-Maritimes and it is one of those sunny day shots that sum up the joys of cycle touring.  I envy my mate Mark mightily not only for being the subject of a good action picture in a wonderful location but becoming a cover boy as well.  It is almost too much for me to bear.  I have been trying for nearly 20 years to take a picture like that, let alone get it published, let alone with me being the subject, let alone it making the cover of Cycle.

Female members are swooning and I am almost dumbfounded with admiration.  The picture should go on CTC recruitment leaflets.  Then watch the membership figures soar.  Meanwhile, I gather the West Surrey committee is thinking of getting Mark to autograph some covers to flog off in aid of DA funds.

Meanwhile again, perhaps I should send in that shot of me in the sunflower fields south of Bordeaux.  But perhaps not.


ACTUALLY, why bother with a bicycle shot at all?  Perhaps the best pictures to illustrate our cycling-related happiness are those of us enjoying ourselves in cafes and pubs.  Committee member Anne Etherington is doing the End-to-end shortly and I asked her to record some aspects of it for a future issue of this mag.  It has become a tradition for our End-to-enders to write a piece on how it was for them and they are always of interest mainly because doing this tour is such a personal thing.

Anyway, I found myself recalling for Anne as an example one little incident when I did the Land’s End to John O’Groats.  I was lunching in a pub in Plymouth preparing to continue on to Dartmoor then Exeter.

This made no sense at all to the pub’s regulars who could not understand why the heck I was in Plymouth.  They insisted I was on the wrong road entirely and had to head up to Scotland as directly as possible.  My explanations that we were on a touring holiday which would eventually get us to John O’Groats via various beauty spots fell on deaf ears.

More of my cycling group joined in and it all degenerated into a huge laugh.  I should have had a picture taken of us with that bunch because that incident turned out to have provided one of the most abiding memories I have of the entire tour.


CONGRATULATIONS are in order for local members who once again have made it among the front riders in the CTC’s annual tourist competition (DATC).

The overall winner in the Mille Miglia Awards was Richard Phipps of West Surrey, with 5,062 miles recorded in DATC events.  Other West Surrey DA medal winners included Roland Masset (2,803 miles), Chris Avery (2,584), Roger Philo (1,873), Simon Jones (932), and bringing up the rear as a bronze medal winner, William Thompson (335 miles).

Actually, one Geoff Smith of West Surrey is listed as a bronze winner with 343 miles, but that is a bit of a mystery.  Geoff Smith Jnr and your esteemed editor of the same name (Snr) have compared notes and it cannot be either of us.

The appellation “V” for veteran has been attached to the listing on the CTC website.  Geoff junior ain’t but I am.  All very strange.  Perhaps there is yet another Geoff Smith out there of whom the two of us at present know nothing.


Do let Keith ChestertonK@guildford.gov.uk and this magazine have your written comments.  Your suggestions DO count.  - Geoff Smith
THIS was the message in the previous issue, and you can guess the response - zilch.  Not to worry.  Keith continues to work at refining the suggested National Cycle Network Route 22 across our territory and committee members have added their contributions verbally at committee meetings.

What we can look forward to, eventually, will be a well-defined route between Runfold and Dorking which will provide an extremely high profile for cycling in West Surrey.  We will keep you posted but if you do have a brainwave for how the route can avoid the steep Combe Lane, north of Shere, for instance, do let Keith and me know.

Getting this route right is of vital importance for committed cyclists, those who will be swelling our ranks in the years ahead, walkers, and for all who are involved in outdoor leisure and country pursuits in this area.


RVJ Design (Nick Jones, cycle engineering), who advertise on our back page, were of considerable help to our member Bill Thompson with an awkward frame modification job.

Bill told me:  “I was puzzled about what to do but Nick identified the problem and dealt with it superbly by designing and fitting a new part.  I have no hesitation in recommending him.”


ROMAN “BIKING” HOLIDAY

Richard Ellis

This week-long cycling trip was organized via “Saga” the travel tour operator for “oldies”(!!), with our CTC group sharing flights, coach, and hotel with some Saga non-cyclists, who viewed us with mixed curiosity and incredulity.

The tour was centred on Fiuggi, a spa resort some 35 miles east of Rome, famous for its curative waters and associated with popes who visited the town.  Fiuggi is set in the mountains (not on one of the seven hills of Rome) with an old fortress/town on top, and new town (18th century) below, lovely boulevards, piazzas, and landscape views.

On arrival we assembled our bikes, and then we toured the town - and I managed to puncture within 300 yds of the hotel - a good start!  Local cycling was tough … the old town area reached by 1 in 4 or 5 gradients, which I sensibly walked(!) on this first afternoon.  A portent for the rest of the trip.

The next day started with heavy rain, then brightened quickly and we saw no more rain during the rest of the week’s tour - just unbroken sunshine in the mid to high 70s.  Our small “Gourmet group” of six - out of the total party of 30 fellow cyclists, had met each other on previous tours and shared a gastronomic interest.  The rest of the group, led by John + Greta Lumbers, were keen on picnic lunches based on supermarket fare (more later).

During the week, our small group generally followed the leaders’ routes, but fitted in more refreshment stops.  On the first full day, we started with a 7-mile long hill, then swooped down to a small village for coffee, then up and down and up again to another picturesque mountain village of Jenne, for a late lunch.

By this time, we were frankly getting tired, so instead of doing the complete loop of a further 10 hilly miles, we re-traced our route before returning to Fiuggi, stopping off for a beer at the morning “coffee stop” taverna.  This hostelry had a display cabinet which included bottles of local wine labeled with the portrait of “Il Duce”, and some faded photos of Mussolini himself.  Our Italian wasn’t good enough to make further enquiries but we might have discovered a nest of Fascist supporters!?

Despite the short distance of 40 miles, it took us almost 5 hours, and climbing 4200 ft according to the computer, to get back to base.

The second day (Thursday) was thankfully easier!  A character named Ringo and his off-road cycling companion had discovered a different route on the previous day, an 8-mile cycle path which started near Fiuggi and meandered into a distant valley.  Our group followed this cycle path - an old railway track, traffic free, off-road, and hugging the mountainside on a steepish gradient (more later) - giving glorious views of the landscape, and winding in and round small village settlements and farms.

So after a mile or two’s ascent out of Fiuggi, we sailed down this old railway track, tarmac for most of the way, marked by rusting overhead gantries (no cables) and past some derelict 1920-30s stations, bit spooky, and wondered if all their old trains ran on time - most other things didn’t from our tour experiences!

We climbed to another hilltop village, Paliano, for a well earned beer and rest, but lost Fred, one of our “Gourmet group”, who had gone off in search of a recommended restaurant for lunch called Est Est.

We sent two of our group down to find Fred and this elusive restaurant in vain;  first on bikes, apparently Bert nearly went over the handlebars going down and the road was hardly rideable on return, even for Bert our mountain goat;  secondly on foot - Les found the walk just as tough, so we abandoned the effort and waited for Fred to return but in vain.

We later discovered that the “local” who gave us this recommendation failed to tell us that the restaurant was at the bottom of a very, very steep hill, full of hairpin bends over a mile away from the hillside village.  Meantime Fred waited and waited for us at the restaurant, and eventually gave up, missed his lunch, and cycled back to Fiuggi taking another route, as he couldn’t face cycling/walking up the hill again!!

The rest of the gastronomic party had to make do with a MacDonalds-type pizza followed by a lukewarm cappuccino in the hilltop village, and looped back on another road back to the old railway track again … now realising that this mountain railway track was not quite so easy going up!  Total distance 38 miles and at least 2000' climbing again this day.

Our best day cycling was next - going down to a lakeside valley parkland about 2 miles wide, and after another ascent, and another graunching but thankfully short ride, arrived in the hilltop village of Fumone.  This village was quite medieval in appearance and fact - picturesque cobbled streets, alleys, and courtyards, pantiled roofs and traffic-free, as not wide enough for cars!  We all voted this was the best place visited on the “tour”

Unfortunately we then made the mistake of venturing on to another town in the vicinity called Alatri for lunch.  However, it seemed closed to tourists - no tavernas open - but full of traffic, rushing around in siesta time. We quickly left - retraced our steps (cycle-tracks) to a lakeside café, passed in the morning, for liquid refreshment in the mid-afternoon having missed lunch (one up to the Lumbers supermarket picnickers!)  Total distance a miserable 27 miles but again 2000' climbing.

Saturday was our “rest” day - excursion to Rome - with the main Saga group complete with some walking sticks.  We were trapped on the coach with the Saga rep, who had verbal diarrhoea and was frankly a pain in the ….  Fortunately I had taken the precaution of packing ear plugs, so I missed most of her ramblings.  Apart from the rep. the Rome “experience” was good - so must revisit sometime in the future on a short break/long weekend.

Rome visit highlights were the stunning buildings, piazzas, statues, frescoes, and remains of the ancient chariot amphitheatre … but I was ticked off for eating ice-cream on the Spanish steps, a local’s meeting place, and some of our small group lost their way in the main alleys/piazzas - but we all met up and got back safely.

Instead of visiting Rome, some of our group had cycled on this day and … had biking accidents!

One ex-West Surrey DA cyclist in our group, Don from Virginia Water, was knocked over by an errant motorcyclist in Fiuggi and suffered a broken collarbone, plus a few cuts, whilst a lady from the North Country fell off her bike and broke a wrist.  Both ending up in hospital for treatment but not detained.

Most of us were back on bikes again next day.  Our small group visited family friends of Fred in Palestrino, a largish town about equidistant between Rome and Fiuggi - again taking the old railway/now cycle track, then using more major local roads.  We were met by a delightful young couple, who lived in a small country house complete with orchard, vines, pomegranate trees, where we had a good leisurely lunch (one up to the gourmet group).  Another graunching ride back home in hot afternoon, but a satisfying 58 miles in total.

Our final day’s ride of this memorable trip was to another nearby hilltop small town of Ferentino, which had a large piazza overlooking a wooded valley, where we had another lukewarm cappuccino!  On the uphill climb to this town, I lost all gears and fell off my bike, resulting in grazes and cuts to right leg - only to be rebuked by a local motorist behind for blocking the road - or at least that is what I think he said - he got a mouthful of English in response!  We later retraced our way again looking in vain for lunch stops again (2-1 to the Lumbers picnickers), but finally ending up at the lakeside cafe again - but this time for a real Italian lunch + beer (draw 2-2 with the picnickers)   Total mileage about 28 again.

The rest of our trip was figuratively all downhill … with a sting in the tail on our return the next day, when Alitalia insisted that all our 30 bikes were wrapped separately in thick cling-film, for which they charged us 12 euros each, and took over 3 hours to complete.  Needless to say, we are now boycotting the airline and making our “views” known!

Overall, the trip was good, but physically challenging rides with little respite from the many climbs.  Unexpectedly, there were few tavernas en route, so our idea of gourmet lunches was unsatisfied - though there were many mountainside fountains to quench our thirst.  Needless to say, the camaraderie was excellent throughout the tour - so here’s to 2004, with early planning starting now!

P.S.  Any offers for my heavy hybrid bike - not for hills!


RELIABILITY RIDE - 25 April 2004

SPRING must be on the way, as I am once again thinking about the DA’s 50-mile Reliability Ride.  As in previous years the routes will start at Pyrford Common Car Park and CTC HQ Godalming;  with nominal start times of 0800, 0830 and 0900 for ride times of 5, 4 to 4.5, and 3.5 hours respectively.  All participants and helpers should therefore be gathered at the Holmbury St Mary finish by 1pm to enjoy a social luncheon, and a leisurely ride home.

Whilst I am still the focal point for the event, family commitments mean that I shall be absent on the day.  Fortunately I have had offers of help for all the marshalling, but would appreciate any other offers, as it is good to have company when on duty - especially at the (refreshment) control and the finish.  Please call me, Phil Hamilton, on 01483 772008, if you can be of assistance.


CYCLING IN DERBYSHIRE 60 YEARS AGO

By President Roy Banks

I first became involved in serious cycling when I lived in Chesterfield, on the eastern edge of the Peak District, in 1943/44.

Mum worked in the British Restaurant as a WVS Volunteer and got to know the local cycle shop owner, Jimmy Webster.  She asked him to find me a decent bike and in due course he did so.  It was a pre-war Merlin track bike, DB531, 21 in. size and 26 in. HP wheels, and it cost £15.  It was through Jimmy that I joined the Chesterfield Spire CC, who met on Thursday evenings at the Half Moon Inn.  I had only been a couple of times when I met Ron Tyson;  he was the same age as me and his Mum had just bought him a good bike.  It was a 22in. Henry Rensch.  Both bikes had fixed gears.  I remember that we used about 60in. gears in winter and 70in. in summer.  We were discouraged from going on Club runs.  We could not keep up or do the distances, so Ron and I decided to join the YHA and go hostelling at weekends.

We worked Saturday mornings, so PM every Saturday we set off for one of the hostels in the Peak District.  Our Favourites were Hartington and Ravenstor, which overlooks Miller’s Dale.  There was not any traffic, nor sign-posts, and we used 1 in. = 1 mile O.S. maps.  We always wore shorts but with knee-length socks in the winter.  There were two 1000 ft climbs to get to Hartington, up from Bakewell to cross the Buxton-Ashbourne road into the rock-strewn Long Dale Valley.

We never booked at the hostel, aiming to be there before 5 p.m., hoping to get accommodation kept back for casuals.  We would stay B. and B. in the village when necessary.  That cost 5 shillings, so the hostel charge would have been a lot less than that.  There was only self-catering at the hostel, which provided gas rings and pots and pans.  We usually took bread, baked beans, corned beef, POM and dried egg.

Hartington was more popular with walkers than cyclists.  They used the High Peak and Tissington Trail narrow-gauge railways, which Beeching axed in 1962.  We sometimes prearranged with cycling friends from Derby and Sheffield, which hostel to visit the next week.  We often visited the Devonshire Arms in the village and returned to the hostel for the evening entertainment.  The lounge furniture would be cleared back and games like “British Bulldog” or “Husky Fusky” would be played sometimes.  The girls would sometimes play British Bulldog, but never Husky Fusky.  How we did not suffer serious injury playing these I will never know!  We all had to be in our bunk beds by 10 p.m.

On Sundays we found cafes in the villages who provided tea and sandwiches or similar.  On one occasion we found 6-8ins. of snow and drifting in the morning and it took all day to get home.  Alport, near Bakewell, was very popular with cyclists for tea and we sometimes stopped at the Robin Hood near Baslow for a jar on the way home.

All in all, it was a great introduction to cycling, and a time of which I have very fond memories.


DON’T FORGET YOUR SHIRT

Peter Clint has made an urgent late plea to all readers who have expressed an interest in buying the new West Surrey DA shirt or wish to place an order, to please contact him as soon as possible to ascertain size required - and to pay.  See his shirts item elsewhere in the magazine and phone him on 01932 340564.


RECOMMEND A PUB OR THREE

Routes compilers - and your magazine editor - would appreciate your suggestions for possible new pub lunch stops.  Scribble a few paragraphs about likely hostelries, their drinks and food choices, and their overall ambience, and send them in to the mag and rides leaders.


SURREY HISTORY TRUST

Registered Charity No. 1076586

An uphill challenge -
Please help us to raise £6,000 to purchase six volumes of the cyclists’ visitors’ books created at the Anchor Hotel, Ripley

Why are they important?

The social history of cycling on the Ripley Road starts with the first mention of Ripley as a cyclists’ halt in 1876.  The Portsmouth Road to Ripley was particularly popular, because of its good surface, attractive scenery and its proximity to London and the suburbs.  By Whitsun 1894 the police estimated that 20,000 cyclists passed through Kingston on their way to Ripley.  There were major problems with the police, who arrested cyclists for speeding:  ‘Cyclists, including respectable young ladies, would be arrested, marched to the cells, and detained for up to three hours.’

Why The Anchor?

The ‘Anchor’ was the heart of Ripley Road cycling.  The sixteenth-century building and the welcome given by ‘Mrs Harriet Dibble and her two comely daughters’ attracted cyclists and there are memorial windows in Ripley church, paid for by cyclists, to Annie and Harriet Dibble.

Who signed?

Cycling clubs proliferated in Surrey and London with a number of local and national figures regularly calling in at the Anchor.  H. G. Wells (who used Woking for his War of the Worlds) and G. B. Shaw were internationally famous.

Locally, J. C. Dennis, the founder of the Dennis Vehicle Company, was in the Guildford Cycling Club and signed often in the 1890's.  His company, later famous for fire engines and other specialist vehicles, began as cycle producers in Guildford!

From London, Alfred L. Bower (later to be a distinguished Lord Mayor of London in 1924) was nicknamed the Good Old Superior Bow-wower in the books.  He is also remembered as the founder of the El Vino’s Wine Bar in Fleet Street!

Why Now?

Sadly some of the earlier Visitors Books have already been sold to a private collection and are no longer accessible to the public.  The remaining books are therefore of considerable interest even if the Anchor Inn, Ripley, had not been so important in cycling history.  It is also significant that the books remained at the Anchor Hotel for over a century, prized by visitors and cycling enthusiasts alike.

£300 has already been raised through a sponsored cycle ride by archive staff, and former Dennis managers, John Smith and Bob Bryson.

PLEASE HELP US KEEP THESE ARCHIVES IN SURREY

Cheques payable to the Surrey History Trust, Surrey History Centre, 130 Goldsworth Road, Woking, Surrey. GU21 6ND.


SUNDAY MAY 16th - SURREY SCORATHON

A FUN CYCLING EVENT - for ALL Standards

Bramley Village Hall, Hall Rd, off Station Rd (B2129), GR 009449, 1.5 miles from Shalford & 3 miles from Guildford main rail station.

Arrive any time between 9 and 11 am

Bring OS Maps 186 & 187 (Guildford and Dorking) or Explorer 145

Time limit of 4 Hours from when you get given the list of clues, (before you get penalty points)

Free Drinks and snacks - £2 entry fee (+50p non-members CTC)

Full Course about 30 miles, but you can only do 15 if you want!
Follow simple course - clues in order - following a pleasant route.
Route on minor roads and some hard tracks (just over 1 mile on A roads)

Most of the clues will be easy, but to add interest, some will be a bit cryptic.

Any Queries contact Keith Chesterton - 01483 563392

Organised by CTC (Cyclists Touring Club) West Surrey


It’s Coming Soon

“THE NEW CLUB SHIRT”

Very soon the new club shirt will become a reality.

Designed with various shades of green depicting the Surrey Hills, and yellow flashes to add colour combined with black edging to disguise those small signs of wear, this elegant garment is something you cannot afford to ignore.

The CTC badge is incorporated on the left breast, and your club “West Surrey D A” is displayed prominently on the back and with less impact on each sleeve.  Every shirt has the normal three pockets in the back.

It is hoped that in wearing this garment not only will you feel well dressed, but most importantly you will be advertising your club to others, who we hope will be encouraged to come and join us, thereby expanding interest in cycling for health and pleasure.

Shirts will be available in various materials:-
“Gamex Plus”  a light summer-weight material (basic shirt)
“Wintex”  (basic shirt)
“Wintex Airtex”  (basic shirt)
“Isolon”  a heavy-weight winter material.

Sizes and styles are available to fit everyone, and will be at prices lower than normally available for similar quality in the shops.

Whilst final prices have not yet been agreed, the following are indicative:-
Basic shirt:  Short Sleeve / Short Zip........... £22
Basic shirt:  Long Sleeve / Short Zip............ £26
Basic shirt:  Short Sleeve / Long Zip............ £24
Basic shirt:  Long Sleeve / Long Zip............ £28
For any of the above in “Isolon” fabric there will be an extra charge of £4.

Many of you have already indicated your interest -- What must now happen is to convert this interest into hard cash.

As soon as possible, and once final details are crystallised, I shall contact all those who have expressed an interest, ask them to come for a fitting, i.e. size, and take payment for all orders, which must be cash up front.  As soon as we hold thirty-five firm orders, manufacture will commence, and shirts should then become available some six weeks later.  Thereafter orders may be placed one at a time if required.

If you have not already indicated your interest and would like to do so please contact me, Peter Clint on 01932 - 340564.


TIRELESS TOM HARGREAVES - TOP MAN

By Bob McLeod

I had always known that Tom did a lot for the club but it was not until I volunteered to take on some of his duties, mainly compiling and distributing the Runs List, that I realised just how much we as members owe to Tom for his work in recent years.

In addition to the above each year, Tom calculates who has won which cup.  He has organised the prestigious Tour of the Hills.  He has planned and led Youth Hostel weekends at the Spring Bank Holiday and the Sunday Riders group.  The www.westsurreyctcda.org.da web site was created and maintained by Tom.  We are fortunate that computer specialist David Jupe has agreed to take on that task.

Tom kindly presented me with a CD, which I tried to play in my Walkman but found that it only works on the PC.  It holds a complete record amongst other things of all the background activities that he and others have been involved in over the years.  Tom has written countless letters on our behalf to all sorts of organisations to promote cycling interests.

The really useful data, however, reveals the sort of person that Tom is and just how he has been able to manage so successfully all these roles over the years.  He is just so incredibly well organised.  The CD was full of spreadsheets that make my job with the runs list much simpler than one would imagine.  It also contains details for running the above event, from booking the hall at Shere in September to getting the medals engraved a year later in the August.

This year the contact name and address is me:
Bob McLeod, 23 Beresford Close, Frimley Green, Camberley, GU16 6LB

Behind the scenes others are overseeing and assisting to ensure that it all runs smoothly.  If there are any members prepared to be the contact in the future, please get in touch now as there is plenty to do in preparation for August 15th and you could learn the ropes ready for your name in print.  Offers of help for marshalling are also required.

Thanks, Tom, for all your work.  Looking forward to your return to England.


MEETING POINT CHANGES

The Midweek Wayfarers have changed some of the meeting points for their Wednesday morning assemblies.  Littlewick roundabout, Woking, has been eliminated, as Mimbridge Nurseries, Chobham Road, has been found to be the better choice.  Similarly, Westfield cricket ground, Woking, is out, as the often-used Mayford Green is very close by.

An additional meeting point for the Midweekers will be Pirbright Green as this is considered to be an excellent starting point for Hampshire, Hertfordshire and Berkshire-bound rides.


THE BICYCLE IN HISTORY

By John Ostrom

John reckons he has been “deluged” with requests from members for information about a “semi-legendary figure” canonised as St Sprockett, patron saint of cyclists.  An earlier edition of the magazine published his detailed research, which new readers can now share.  It begins with a confession from John that he had no idea where to start... - Editor

Happily help was at hand.  My uncle, Father Sean O’strom SJ is a well known professor of antiquities and two-wheel locomotion at MacGillicuddy University.  He is author of that definitive study “The wheel from Archimedes to Brunel”, (MUP 54 vols folio).  When it comes to locomotion O’strom is, as they say locally, “a bighe uillhhe”.  When I contacted him he was in Lhasa researching the prayer wheel in mediaeval Tibet.  In spite of being up to his ears in yak droppings he was kind enough to fax me the memorandum which I reproduce below.  Uncle asked me to stress that it was written without him being able to consult his notes.

FATHER O’STROM’S PAPER

Saint Sprockettus was a sixth-century Irish monk, who was, before his transfer to Rome (at an undisclosed fee), called Fergus Sphroadhcathe (simplified spelling) in his native Kerry, but known to his few friends as “Sprock”.

Much midnight oil has been burned and numerous erudite papers published on whether indeed Sprock was inventor of the first bicycle.  With regret I have to say that recent delving into the archives of the Emperor Diocletian have revealed that the Roman army had a device called the Ordinarius - colloquially known as the Denarius, or as we would say - The Penny.  Regrettably the Romans had no farthing so that it was a one-wheel contraption and as such extremely unpopular with the brutal and licentious legionaries, who had to be regularly decimated to persuade them to mount.  The Denarius was unstable at the best of times and in the 2000 stadii down-montus race quite lethal.  The Denarius fell into disuse about the same time as Rome itself declined.

We move on a couple of hundred years or so.  Legend has it that Sprock was despatched to Ireland by the Pope to keep an eye on St Patrick, who was suspected of heresy of the pelagian variety.  Being allergic to horses Sprock procured a dilapidated Denarius for his journey over the Alps.  It is said that Sprock, like St Paul on the road to Damascus, was struck blind by the Holy Spirit.  Other authorities, it must be said, suggest that his disability came from spirit of a more profane variety.  Whatever the truth, when Sprock recovered his vision he immediately realised that he should add a second, smaller wheel to his Denarius, thus gaining much needed stability.

Arriving in Dublin (in good time since it was not yet built) and having dealt with the heresy thing, Sprock lost no time in setting up a factory to make his Mark Two Denarius.  Some time later he added primitive handlebars, which were an improvement over the reins used until that time.  He even devised a primitive brake.  These state-of-the-art machines were made under licence by his agents the monks of Iona, who marketed it under the frightfully ingenious brand name - Iona Bicycle.  For many years all went well and it is believed that Sprock retired to a tax haven in the Isle of Man.  This is controversial.

Now the trail grows fainter.  Some sources suggest that Sprock’s patent was filched by St Pat, who sneakily began selling an inferior model using nasty and unreliable components from Gaul.  This gave the trade a bad name and in the end they both went bankrupt, were nationalised by Alfred, re-privatised by Canute and re-launched as a public/private initiative by Edward the Confessor.  In any case the market had collapsed, since the Anglo-Saxons, who all had disgusting table manners, abandoned the sensible Roman practice of investing public funds in huge eight-lane sandalways.  Instead they spent the revenue guzzling beef, quaffing mead and pinching other men’s wives, thus allowing the splendid sandalways to rot.  Riding the Denarius through forest and fen was no big deal, though by that time of course Sprock and St Pat had both gone to the great velodrome in the sky.

Here and there in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and the Domesday Book there are tantalising references to the Denarius, but these must be treated with scepticism.  In an unpublished manuscript by Chaucer there is mention of a “verie parfit gentil Pedaller”, but this may be a mis-spelling of peddler.  We must be cautious.  Some say that Edward the Third and his son Bolingbroke swapped their horses for Denarii in the French wars, but that the French claimed this was unfair competition and obtained a ruling from Brussels outlawing its use in warfare as an early version WMD.  Furious at this blatant piece of Brussels duplicity Ted went north to duff up the Scots and Bolingbroke retired to Brookwood.  (I must say it all seems most improbable.  Ed.)

The last authenticated reference to the Denarius in English history concerns King Richard the Third, whose despairing cry “half my kingdom for a horse” went unanswered.  He was reduced to purchasing a Denarius of doubtful provenance from a wily local dealer, one Sir Roger de Philo, at an outrageous price.  The machine fell to pieces with terminal consequences for Dick, who finished, like so many cyclists, in a ditch.

There remains only the disputed question of Sprock’s canonisation.  On that subject the Curia has been less than helpful.  It has even been alleged that Sprock was never elevated to sainthood.  My own belief (and here I may be putting my own status with the Holy See in jeopardy) is that Pope Borgia had all the records expunged so that he could market a machine of his own.  This was to be a truly Catholic device with three wheels and the rather pretentious brand name Athanasius Trinitus.  It is said that he despatched an Italian monk called Bonifacio Shimano to the Far East to introduce the Athanasius and True Religion to the Heathen.  This was a mistake because in Japan Christianity proved a real turkey, while the Japanese lost no time in marketing their own (much cheaper and, it must be said, more reliable) version of the Denarius.

Father Sean O’strom S J.

Sadly since receiving this document from Uncle I have learned that he has been transferred to Pekin as guest of the Chinese government.  He is now helping the Pekin Police (or the Beijing Bill) with their enquiries.

Note.  For those unfamiliar with the local cycling scene I should mention that Mr Roger Philo is a well known and highly respected member of the DA.  Mr Kenneth Bolingbroke, another member of very long standing, is remembered with affection by all those who knew him.  Neither of these gentlemen is in any way connected with events described above.


HAMPSHIRE HUNDRED

We do not hear enough about special events organised by near neighbours in Bucks, Berks, Hants and East Surrey.  I take some from indirect sources but it is purely hit-or-miss.  Here is one from North Hants DA which reached me just as the mag was being compiled.  More please, but do let me have details earlier...  Geoff Smith, Editor

North Hants DA is organising the Hampshire Hundred with challenges for all abilities with rides of 50km, 50 miles and 100km through north and west Hampshire.  It is on Saturday April 17th, starting at Medstead near Alton, a familiar lunch stop for West Surrey DA riders.  Contact Dave Mackensie on 01420 89182 or d.Mackenzie@tiscali.co.uk


DATES FOR YOUR DIARY

MARCH 28:  Stonehenge 200km and Danebury 150km Audax rides (Mark Waters, 01483 414307)
APRIL 3:  Cycle jumble, Ripley
APRIL 25:  Reliability Ride (Phil Hamilton, 01483 772008)  Note to non-riders:  Volunteers urgently needed.  Details elsewhere in this issue.
APRIL 30 - MAY3:  CTC South of England Rally, Fort Purbrook, Portsdown Hill, Portsmouth.  Rides of varying length to suit all abilities, with entertainment on Saturday and Sunday evenings.  Information pack and booking form for meals and accommodation from P. Mitchell, 33 Broadlands Avenue, Waterlooville. PO7 7JE, 02392 262745, soerally@ukonline.co.uk
MAY 2:  Isle of Wight Round the Island randonnee
MAY 9:  Woking Bikeathon
MAY 16:  Scorathon (treasure hunt) (Keith Chesterton, 01483 563392)
Spring Bank Holiday:  Touring weekend, Cotswold area (Clive Richardson, 01428 724390)
JUNE 26 - JUNE 28:  Dieppe Raid (Caroline Street, 83 Garstons Close, Titchfield, Fareham. PO14 4EU, 01329 845330)
JUNE 12-20:  Bike Week
JULY 11:  Rough Stuff (Derek Tanner, 01276 474553)
JULY 31 - AUGUST 6:  CTC Birthday Rides annual cycling holiday week, Peak District (Della McGavin, CTC HQ 01483 520737)
AUGUST 15:  Tour of the Hills (Bob McLeod 01252 835321)
SEPTEMBER 12:  Make-A-Wish charity ride (Bill Thompson, 01276 25191)
SEPTEMBER 19:  Woking Hospice charity ride (Bryon Alden 01483 763297)
OCTOBER 23:  AGM and lunch, Hoe Bridge Golf Club, Woking (Peter Clint, 01932 340564)


And finally....

DA PERSONALITIES - TWO

Mr Leslie Houlton
Does not ride a Moulton
He says he feels
Safer on much larger wheels.
 

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