Classic Lightweights UK
Ken Russell - the Whitaker and Mapplebeck yearsBy: Ken Russell
“My association with Whitaker & Mapplebeck began with a visit by Geoff Whitaker to see me at my place of work, (Martins The Cleaners) in late 1946, when he asked me if I would like to join them in their new business venture. I jumped at the chance as I had always wanted to be a cycle mechanic since leaving school in 1943 at the age of 14.
I started as a mechanic but went on to learn the whole business including wheel-building, servicing Sturmey Archer gears etc. and later some frame building when I assisted with the building of their first frame, a welded model, which was given to me for my competitions. It was completed just in time for our club's 1947 August Bank-holiday long weekend which started at Alston, Cumbria.
Because Geoff and I were working on the Saturday we did not leave for Alston until mid-afternoon on that day. Johnny was left to look after the shop !!! About 5 miles before Alston I noticed that one of the front fork ends had broken loose. The brazing had failed but as the bike was still safe to ride with care it was decided that I would ride it through the following week (I was taking my week's holiday then along with two members of our club).
Left: Ken finishing 2nd in the 1947 Burbage Road Race on his welded W & M
The following Sunday I had entered the "Shropshire Hospital 3rd & Jnr. RR". Geoff had arranged to make another pair of forks. He arrived at the changing rooms a couple of hours before the start complete with a new pair of forks, enamelled and chrome plated, which were discreetly changed. Off I went feeling quite elated and won my very first road race.
Early in 1948 we discovered a hairline crack in the welded frame and by this time they were building lugged frames so one was built for me. In terms of numbers of wins and places this was to be the most successful frame I ever had, including three RAF championships, 50, 100, and massed start road races, plus three of the BLRC's toughest road races, the " CJ Fox Memorial RR , the "Severn Valley GP" , the "GW BELL Memorial RR” (three times round the Nidderdale course) and, in 1949, the top BLRC Road Race, "The Tour of The Peak". Unfortunately, the whole bike was stolen Dec 1949. I had just arrived home on leave and I parked my bike in the yard at the side of the W&M shop. 3 mins later it was gone and I never saw it again.
Right: Ken winning the C J Fox Memorial RR on a lugged W & M in 1948
The next frame was another lugged frame, built with the latest "Nervex" lugs and was one of the first to be named "Scelta dei Campioni" (choice of the champions). Perhaps my best performance on this was 2nd place in the 1950 Brighton to Glasgow, beaten by the late, great, George Lander. I used this bike until late 1951 when I joined the Ellis Briggs company.”
In 1952 Ken went on to win the Tour of Britain as lone rider of the Ellis Briggs team. He had many other successes, as you can see from his CV below:
A collage of Ken coming third in the National Independent Championships in 1950
© 2006 Classic Lightweights