Tag: cycling

Frames and Spokes and Chains

Meet Beeston’s bicycle collector

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A famous Nottingham company that most people will know is Raleigh, who evolved and popularised the bicycle. Frank Bowden founded Raleigh in 1888, after acquiring a small cycle making workshop in Raleigh Street.  By 1896 Raleigh was the largest cycle manufacturer in the world with bikes produced at their much missed factory in Lenton, made famous of course through the Sillitoe novel ‘Saturday Night, Sunday Morning’. Frank’s son Harold took over the business in 1921 and for a time lived at the manor house at Beeston Fields, now the golf club. Sadly the company folded in the late 1980s, and the site cleared for Nottingham University’s Jubilee Campus.

Beeston of course had it’s own bicycle factory, the Humber Works, formed by Thomas Humber in 1878.  They also branched out into making motorbikes and cars. In 1932 Humber sold their cycle patents to Raleigh, with Humber Cars ceasing trading in 1967.

Like a lot of people then, we were quite poor, so I used to make up bikes from old parts.

Unlike cars, bicycles don’t seem to attract the same level of fascination. Maybe people view bikes as just being two wheels and a saddle. Fortunately there’s one man in Beeston that’s doing his best to preserve the history of the humble pushbike. I first met Paul Page last January, when he appeared as an ‘I Am Beeston’ subject. During our chat, I discovered his passion for bicycles and preserving their history. Paul recently invited me to his house to see his collection of bikes and memorabilia. Arriving, I noticed an old, rusty bike propped up by a garden shed. “This is a 1904 Sunbeam safety cycle,” enthused Paul. “Introduced to replace penny-farthings. Hence ‘safety cycle’”.  Inside his large workshop, were many bike frames hanging up, waiting to be assessed. He has around 14 musette bags. These are small logoed bags that riders use to carry tools and food. Of course there’s one with Sid Standard’s name on it. I had to ask him if he had met Beeston’s cycling legend. “Sadly not. I think he died before we came to live in Beeston. But I do have one of his bikes, a 1984 Superbe 541 that was built by Peter Riches”.

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Rows of bikes, many ridden by famous cyclists, boxes full of memorabilia, and of course the obligatory Christmas tree fight for space in the spacious loft. Paul directs me to what looks like an old army bike. “This is a prototype Raleigh military bike from 1943. 50 were made, but only 6 survive. I think this is the only unrestored one. It was so over engineered, that it wasn’t taken up”. Paul then shines a light into a corner, where an old trike sits. “This was raced by David Duffield in 1962, when he went from Lands End to John O’Groats”. I ask Paul what made him interested in cycling. “I used to cycle as a kid. Like a lot of people then, we were quite poor, so I used to make up bikes from old parts. My dad rode a Hetchins bike. Would love to have one of them in the collection. I’d also like something from Beeston’s Cycling Club, and a Raleigh jersey. Talking of Raleigh, I’m really keen to own something from their Specialist Products Division. With so many local people working for Raleigh, someone must have something lurking in their garage”.

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I was curious to know how Paul increases his collection. “It tends to be word of mouth. I also run an advert in Cycling Weekly. These bikes were designed to be used, and I try to make them road worthy. My wife Penny is a keen cyclist. We’ve ridden all over Europe. Sadly our children don’t share our enthusiasm, and will probably chuck the lot away when we go”. Back in Paul’s ‘man cave’, he shows me an old advertising sign for the Heart of the Midlands, now Rock City. “Something else I’ve saved from landfill”.

Paul obtained an ordinary looking gents Raleigh Popular bike in November, but it has a mystery attached to it. Purchased in Cardiff by David Thomas on 13th July 1935. Around the 11th February 1937, David disappeared. The bike had remained with the family until Paul purchased it. No one knows what happened to David. He was interested in ships, so may have gone to sea, losing his life during WW2. Or he just fancied doing a ‘Reggie Perrin’ and becoming something more exciting than an accounts clerk.

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Paul has a truly wonderful collection of cycling history and it’s a great shame that more don’t have the opportunity of seeing it. Beeston therefore needs a ‘museum of cycling’, so that Paul’s collection can be displayed properly.

If anyone has anything to do with vintage cycling that they’d like to offer Paul, then please get in touch through the Beestonian’s Facebook page. Of course if anyone can offer a large space that would be suitable for a museum, then we’d really love to hear from you too.

Words and photography by Christopher Frost

Beeston Road Club continues Britain’s cycling craze

Since Britain’s cycling success at the Olympics, this countries perception of the sport has changed to an extent that it is now seen as fashionable.

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Local cycling clubs across the country have benefited from this current and rising trend, including Beeston Road Club.

The club was founded on Wollaton Park by a group of cyclists on VE day in 1945. Together they formed the Beeston Touring Club, which would then become Beeston Road Club.

One of Beeston Road Club’s most popular groups are its junior group and I managed to go and watch one of their sessions at Harvey Hadden, and speak to the main coach in charge, Louise O’Reilly.

“I’m the go ride lead who looks after the junior section of the club and I’m also one of the coaches along with Lisa Reddish and Adam Smith. We are all volunteers, I work in Lincoln for Active Lincolnshire, so my job is to try and get people more active, similarly to what I do here.”

“Around four years ago, we applied to be a part of British Cycling’s go ride club, which meant that we had to have to have several things in place, such as a safeguarding officer and coaches.”

We’ve cycled to Derby and back again staying in a youth hostel overnight

“Lots of parents had kids nearby who wanted to join, so we started taking in children from ten upwards and now we’ve gone down to eight. We go up to sixteen, after which they become a ‘youth’ where they then get entered into the youth leagues.”

“Coming down to Harvey Hadden in the summer is great, because it’s off road and we can work on lots of different race tactics, so some of them do little races, some do a breakaway and it just gets them used to riding in groups and practising things like cornering at speed whilst we can talk without there being traffic to worry about.”

The group have also been on cycling trips outside of their regular cycling sessions.

“We’ve cycled to Derby and back again staying in a youth hostel overnight, it was our first away trip. Some of the group also go on the velodrome along with other clubs every three or four weeks.”

Beeston Road Club, has cyclists who are there with ambitions to become a professional cyclist, but also those who just want to have fun.

“I really love cycling; my dad is really into it and we often cycle together but I see it as more of a hobby,” said Joe aged 14. “I learnt to cycle when I was three, I still remember the park in London where I learnt how to ride a bike! I started riding about two years ago.”

“Everyone has to have a way to exercise and cycling is my way. I also love the banter when I come here!”

Caitlin aged 10, finished sixth last year out of eighty other cyclists in the U-12 Notts & Derby Cycle Cross League. “I’ve been cycling for six years and I’m hoping to become a professional cyclist one day and race in the Olympics” she said.

To join Beeston Road Club, visit: www.britishcycling.org.uk/clubfinder and type in Beeston RC.

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Cycling Graffiti

You’ve probably seen these stencils on Chilwell High Road. They mark places where it is particularly dangerous for cyclists. Indeed they mark where accidents have occurred; accidents that could have been avoided if those creating the tramlines and cycling lanes around them had just thought properly.

The cycle lane goes onto the tram tracks. It doesn’t take much sense to see that there is hardly enough room for a tram and bicycle to run alongside each other, hence the recent accidents that have happened. What’s more, the lane then veers onto the pavement right into pedestrians. In the words of one cyclist I talked to “it doesn’t make any sense, it’s unsafe and erratic.”

It isn’t only Beeston. These stencils have begun appearing all over Nottingham. A group of cycling activists have taken it upon themselves to right what they think are serious wrongs in the way cycle tracks have been laid out (or not as the case may be).

And I can certainly understand. Cyclists have been unnecessarily injured by the tramlines, by lorries and HGVs, and normal drivers, and it seems at least part of the blame must be taken by the council’s ineptly installed cycle lanes.

Particularly dangerous are so-called “pinch points”. These are where lanes suddenly narrow; where bollards jut out, areas for parking, or those triangle patches that feed in and out of roundabouts. These naturally cause vehicles to edge left, but what that means for the cyclist is suddenly they have much less space, and they didn’t have much to begin with. The graffitists have created stencils saying “cycling priority lane” to remind drivers to pay special attention to cyclists. Remember that it is actually recommended that cyclists position themselves in the centre of the lane, not to the side; that is the safest place for them.

I spoke to a local cycling activist who told me he had been involved in the Beeston stencilling. Understandably he wished to remain anonymous. He spoke emphatically of known friends of his who had been killed cycling simply because drivers just don’t understand where cyclists are supposed to be.

“Cyclists follow all the same rules as other vehicles on the road, they should be in the middle of the lane. It’s called the primary position. A lot of motorists don’t realise this. They try to edge cyclists to the side.” This is particularly when reaching so-called pinch points as previously mentioned, particularly roundabouts.

“The city as a whole is supposed to be pledging to get more cyclists on the road*1, ordinary people, not your lycra-clad stereotypes. But to do that you need to have infrastructure to make cycling safe. That’s one of the reasons that ordinary people, children and such, don’t cycle to work and school; it has the image of being unsafe.”

Part of that is of course the attitude of some drivers. I myself have seen some really appalling things done to cyclists, which is truly ironic, as the activist explained:

“More people cycling would be better for motorists as well; there would be less traffic.”

In fact the benefits of cycling are pretty wide reaching. Let’s look at pollution. For example the area around the ringroad (the QMC) is in the top ten of polluted areas in Europe. The activist said, “When you cycle through there at rush hour you can literally taste the pollution.” Nottingham is one of the worst cities in the UK for pollution.*2

More locally rush hour is always a big issue in Beeston; parents taking their kids to and from school, people on their way to and from work. If more people cycled, it is undeniable there would be a big impact on levels of pollution. But first of all there would need to be safe and thorough cycle routes so that parents would feel their children were safe cycling, and that individuals themselves felt safe. Currently this is not always the case.

And this is why the activist has decided it is time to take to the night and do this.

“Nottingham really doesn’t have very good cycling infrastructure. I’ve cycled around London and felt it was much safer, the attitudes of drivers were better.”

“Because of these problems, particularly the attitudes of drivers, I don’t feel safe letting my kids cycle around this city, which is a great tragedy. Cycling is good for the mind, body and soul. Not to mention the environment, both local and wider.”

Their message?

“Nottingham City Council has pledged to erase all of our stencils. The’ve gotten rid of a few already. We’d prefer it if they didn’t waste tax payers’ money, as we’re not going to stop until safe cycling infrastructure is implemented.”

The city, he feels, just isn’t doing enough to make cycling safe and accessible to all.

“We feel they’re just doing the bare minimum. It’s obvious these people don’t cycle much themselves as much of what they’ve put in place is actually more dangerous than it would be to have no cycle paths at all. They need to listen to the right people.”

Here are some positive sites that I found myself where you can go for more information about cycling safety, cycling law or to get legally involved in cycling activism:

http://smartertravelnottingham.wordpress.com

http://bikeability.org.uk

  1. http://transport2.nottinghamcity.gov.uk/cycle/
  2. bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-27323198

Christian Fox

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