I’ve had a lovely evening chuckling away to myself, thanks to a surprise birthday present from my friend Lauren – a 1938 issue of The Cyclist!
I hope I’m beyond infringing copyright but this really deserves to be shared more widely. 79 years later and so much has changed … or has it?!
The thorny subject of how the roads are policed and dangerous perceptions of cyclists are still rather topical, sad to say. I particularly like the turn of phrase “We had hoped that the Chief Constable would have denied this report, for the atmosphere of levity at a dinner is as likely to affect reporters as Chief Constables …”
It seems “Super happy” Tour de France cyclist interviewees are perhaps not as modern or euro a creation as I thought, these Ellman Cyclists were “Off for a Super Pleasurable Time” in 1938.
Frank Southall was a record-breaking cyclist of the day and gives a fascinating insight into breaking the Land’s End to London then 24 hour record of 454 miles in a day, in spite of about 6 punctures, being chased by a policeman on a bike and organisation by telegram. It really puts my own feeble carbon and internet-assisted efforts into perspective!
Touring at a more leisurely pace was very well catered for too, it seems that before Mr Garmin invented Stravaland there was already a magnificent online route planning system, in the form of “Our Touring Department Settles Readers’ Problems”! Only slightly hindered by the speed of the postal system and catching the next publishing date, admittedly probably quicker and more reliable than today’s, you could just put quill to paper and verily, your route would pop up in the next edition:
No challenge too great, even if you require an 8 day tandem ride from Birmingham and prefer riding on the coast:
This wonderful article was looking back at the 1891 inaugural Bordeaux – Paris race, written by the marvellous G.P. Mills, including a picture of him “as he is to-day” well in 1938 at least.
One of the bits I like best here is the locals describing him as a “gas bag” for thinking he could complete the 362 miles in 26 hours, when they were issuing medals for 3-5 days (and him subsequently justifying his half-hour tardiness).
There are some lovely colourful lines like “the race showed our French friends the possibility of covering a long distance in a short time” and a delightful description of the rather ineffective French reverse-drafting technique, compared to the slick superstar team of gallacticos strategically positioned along the route for our hero. Insert your own comparisons with Sky and AG2R FdJ etc here.
There’s lots more too, if only the modern-day cycling magazines were half as interesting I’d probably still subscribe to a dying medium, sadly I’ve got bored of the repetitive template/formula and my attention-span has spiralled down to 140 characters in recent times. Perhaps there’s a market to recirculate some of these gems and appreciate some of the wisdom from a bygone era, the similarities as well as differences in the simple pursuit of riding a bike.
I could post much more from this issue but it’s late and I need my bed, maybe I’ll update this tomorrow!