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Bradford Bikes and Builders in the late Forties and early Fifties

Posted: Friday 21st August 2020

Author: James Shaw

In the December 2006 newsletter of Cambridge Cycling Club was an extract from a piece by Leeds lad Gordon Barnes which made reference to something earlier about Johnny Mapplebeck. As Johnnie was of my time and place it took my mind back, and Peter Underwood kindly sent me a copy of his brief history of Whitaker & Mapplebeck and Pennine, and pointed me to the Classic Lightweight website.  These filled me in about the days before my time, and ‘what happened next’ after I had gone to a motorbike, then eventually to Cambridge.

Out of the past came people I had known – Geoff Whitaker and Johnny M of course, Ken Russell, Bill Sugden, the Baines brothers and Geoff Wood.  This also brought to mind another Bradford lightweight builder who should be commemorated before he is forgotten, Walter Greaves. I’d better do that before it’s too late. There’s also Geoff Clark. Even now, I am hard put to remember some things which were part of my everyday life then.

My timespan in the golden age of empty roads and glorious frames was quite short really, extending only from 1947 until 1952, but it was crammed with cycling, and progress was everywhere.

Walter Greaves

As so often, it was happenstance which brought me to the joy of ‘proper’ cycling, via the proximity of Walter Greaves’ shop. In Easter 1947 my father said that if I passed my School Certificate he would buy me a bike so, in due course, Walter W Greaves being just down the road, off we went to see about one.  ‘Much the best if I tailor-make a frame specially for the lad, and we can build the bike just as he wants it.’ The estimated built-up price was £14.

The man himself

Walter’s obvious physical feature was that his left arm finished at the elbow. That didn’t stop him from brazing, filing, spray-painting, wheel building, repairing bikes and prams, or cycling. His claim to fame was that, in the 1930’s he had established a world record for the highest mileage ridden in a year. This was as a pro for Three Spires Cycles, presumably of Lichfield. Establishing this in a British twelve-month, with an illness in February, was no match for Hubert Opperman’s subsequent ride in sunny Australia. The machine Walter used when I knew him had a straight handlebar on the left side with a sponge-filled cup, both brakes going to a single lever on the right. He must have also had a gear lever up high, at a time when all were on the down tube, but that is one of the things I have forgotten.

Walter Greaves was an intelligent man of good facial features and strong opinions, firmly expressed, but without swearing. Unfortunately, he was born with an anti-establishment gene, which meant that he had fallen out successively with the various Bradford cycling clubs, and the cycling authorities in general. His two strongest opinions were about drink (dead agin) and Communism (for). He saw himself as representing the proletariat who would gratefully rally behind him. After I knew him well he divulged that he had lost his arm after an incident involving a door and his drunkard of a market stallholder father.

His shop

This stood at a busy crossroads, on the corner of Toller Lane, where I lived, and Whetley Lane, which led directly down to Whitaker & Mapplebeck’s half a mile or so away. Everybody knew the shop because it was on the busy trolley-bus route up to the Infirmary, and had outside a large swinging sign of Walter in profile looking out at the traffic as he rode towards you or away, depending on how you approached.  It was no usual cycle showroom there being no capital to tie up in stock. The most likely things to be found would be somebody’s pram or a local ‘grid’ to be kept going a bit longer. There weren’t too many of those either, thanks to the Bradford hills, the awful cobbles, and the fast smooth trolley buses.

Walter and Renee lived ‘over the shop’ or rather over several and kept a pet monkey, so that the air upstairs was never quite fresh. Mrs G was tiny, and would nowadays be described as ‘feisty’. She was the first person I heard  use the term ‘Buggerlugs’. (To him, not me).

Out of sight in the cellar was the frame-building shop, usually quiet, as orders were very spasmodic. Little money for advertising. Most frames were probably re-orders, or the result of having been seen out on the road.

The centre-piece was the really impressive pivoted frame jig built from welded U-section girder, supported by tube mitreing machinery, paint spray and an enamelling stove. As the shop was near home I spent many hours there, and my clubmates got absolutely fed up with ‘Walter  Greaves says.’

My first ‘real’ bike

Naturally this schoolboy was guided to the unconventional ‘King of ther Mountains’, of which WWG was very proud. It achieved its objective by having a steep seat tube and short top tube, then cantilevering the rider out over the back wheel on a steel seat tube bent to the horizontal ! Whether it did improve one’s climbing I know not, as I was still rubbish on hills, but it did give me problems mounting a saddlebag, I had to make a Meccano frame.   Also being ashy tuggo I didn’t like being the object of curiosity.

I asked for a ‘maroon’ frame with gold box lining. ‘Let’s call it cerise, it sounds better’. The finished machine had a single freewheel, steel chainset and pedals, steel stem, narrow steel rims, Dunlop ‘Road Racing’ tyres, a Brooks B17 or B15, steel brake levers and ‘Binda’ bends. I read later that Henri Binda made it a point of honour never to rise from the saddle ! The bill came not to £14 but to £20. My father, who ran a factory very firmly, was not amused, I wasn’t present at the subsequent interview.

Later, when I wanted a ‘3-speed’ Walter fitted me up with one of his own, a single-roller ‘Simplex’. My own derailleur ! Sturmeys were for ‘chip-holers’. (Posers  who rode round and round the town centre ending up at the chippie -Ed)

The frames
There were two designs available, the patented ‘King of the Mountains’ which had round forks, and the conventional ‘La Victoire’ with oval. Both had a solid brake-mounting bush in the rear bridge, Walter being dismissive of a transverse hole through the tube. The ‘KoM’ was Walter’s attempt to achieve the rigid back end and short chainstays sought by such as the Baines ‘Gate’, twin-tube Saxons and the like which all aimed to put the rider’s weight over the back wheel. Both types of frame were 531 ‘welded’ ie lugless.   To watch this one-armed man mitreing and brazing, then eventually box lining by trailing a slim strip of paint-soaked paper filled me with admiration.

The downtube transfers were, I think, a Times New Roman style in solid gold letters, with either ‘Walter’ or ‘WW’ small then ‘GREAVES’ large. Almost certainly ‘Walter’. The head and seat tube transfers escape me altogether, although I associate ‘La Victoire’ with an oval.  Pathetic, when I’ve seen them times without number.  When I went to order a new frame Walter was displeased that I wished to go conventional, but instantly realised on which side his bread was buttered.  I can’t even remember how it looked, but it was a Paris-style paint job using three colours.  I do remember that my brother’s ‘La Victoire’ was done the same way; a beautiful metallic turquoise frame with a silver ‘splodge’ then a flamboyant red one in the centre. How silly that I can’t remember what my own looked like, or what became of it. I do remember that it was darned good, did a load of miles, had those dual-purpose rear drop-outs with the long guide spikes, and a hanger for my Osgear – but no beautiful lugs.

Walter’s club

Once I had a bike and started knocking around a bit I found that half a dozen of the local lads were wont to go off from time to time, so I fell in with them and we formed a regular group.  I recall that we could raise a a Hobbs of Barbican, a WF Holdsworth with solid large-flange hubs (very ugly), and a Baines ‘Gate’ . Never to us a ‘Flying Gate’. The others are forgotten.

Walter Greaves saw this group as a heaven-sent opportunity. Having fallen out with the local clubs, here was his chance to lead his own and do things his way.

We were all agreed on affiliation to the colourful BLRC, but what to call this club?  The Olympic spirit was Walter’s sporting ideal, and he insisted that Olympic should be in the title. How about ‘Bradford Olympic’, the obvious choice? As there were already East Bradford, West Bradford  and Bradford Elite (all NCU), Bradford Co-op Velo and the other League club Bradford RCC, together with the minuscule non-racing North Bradford, Greaves pushed for ‘Airedale’, so Airedale Olympic was born, with me as its first Secretary.

Later came South Bradford and Star, both BLRC clubs, and Bradford Elite turned ‘League’, to great rejoicing amongst the ‘Leaguers’ and to the dismay of the ‘Union’.  Star was an ‘exclusive’ peel-off from Bradford RCC. We sought to register as our colours yellow with a black chest band, but Polhill RC already had that, so we made do with yellow with black collar and armbands. None of the NCU before-breakfast black for the BLRC.

In the course of time we gathered new members, including  about four from the Farsley area between Bradford and Leeds, and one of these relieved me of the ‘King of the Mountains’ which had so stupidly embarrassed me. After my time the axis of the club swung towards Leeds, which really is in Airedale. It’s still going, and long may it do so.

Walter’s dream was to open a cyclists’ cafe at a certain bungalow on the Keighley road south of Skipton. Cyclists would flock to it – except that they wouldn’t, Walter wasn’t half as popular as he imagined. As far as I know he did go to live on that road and became a folk singer claiming, being Walter, to be the definitive voice of Yorkshire Folk, and living into his eighties. Someone who was there then will no doubt have the right story.

Geoff Wood

Geoff Wood was the ‘Pennine’ input to Whitaker & Mapplebeck, but this came just after my time. Geoff was a ‘character’, a natural leader, an entrepreneur, always entertaining company, and the most ingenious and practical engineer I have known. He knew people all over the place, and had that talent of being able to talk to anybody. He was also someone to whom things happened, and his stories were great.  Being that bit older than the rest of us Airedale Olympians, many people and ‘incidents’ seemed to come from some not sharply-defined earlier life.  He probably just drifted into our club from somewhere but, having joined, he stayed and became one of our pillars.

Geoff, his mother and her sister lived in a terrace of substantial Victorian villas which looked down on St Mary’s Road, close to Lister Park.   Father Sam Wood, a winner at the Manx TT motorcycling, had departed for the Northallerton area sometime in the past. (Not to be confused with the great Stanley Woods) The family seemed comfortably off, and Geoff was hauled away on cruises from time to time. He told one fellow cruiser that he’d rather be leaning on the bar of The Spotted House with a pint in his hand than ‘standing here in this monkey suit.’  My mother was horrified.

Futher evidence to me of his financial superiority was that he had one of those ‘Continental’ rollneck sweaters, price 5 guineas, from the back page of the Holdsworthy catalogue, whilst I only dreamt of such luxury.

In 1949, at a time when British carmakers condescended to drop pearls before swine, Geoff bought a new Morris Cowley, which was the Oxford with a smaller engine, probably a 1300cc sidevalve. This was the time of column gear changes and bench front seats, and I was privileged to borrow it regularly for my courting, on condition that I put in some petrol and washed it. To lend a new car in those days of scarcity was true friendship!

On one occasion a carful of us were in the Cowley climbing the hill to Horsforth rather slowly when Geoff suddenly jumped out and opened the boot. “That’s why. I’ve still got that bloody anvil !”

Geoff the cyclist

Medium height, balding, steel-framed specs, and an unexpectedly high Bradford voice. Nothing about Geoff looked heroic, but he was more than useful on a bike. For his ‘Pennine Accessories’ team, as it was in those BLRC days, he employed the seriously-good Manchester Independents Bevis Wood and Trevor Fenwick for stage races, and completed the team himself. Geoff wasn’t their equal, but he was no make-weight either. With others, I took some of my holiday leave driving the support van. Bevis died in 2006.

Lightweight News 3 talked about tucking in behind lorries, as we all did when ‘on the rivet’, putting that last ounce of energy into the launch. John Hammond’s coke lorries were a favourite, being high, flat-backed and not too fast. Of course it had to be Geoff  Wood who is tucked in when the shovel falls off, luckily it missed him.

From time to time Geoff and the Cowley disappeared into Lincolnshire where he had done RAF National Service. He was time-trialling happily (in NCU events!!) on familiar courses in the Louth area as ‘Sam Wood’ until he met his black-clad nemesis. With Geoff on the starting line this apparition pointed dramatically, and declaimed the exact words, “I denounce this man! He is a member of the British League of Racing Cyclists”. Thank goodness those petty days are behind us.

One of his exploits concerned the Yorkshire Dales RR which included Greenhow Hill, a vicious climb straight out of Pateley Bridge.  He and Alan Clare, a good rider  from Halifax, were off the back, but Geoff had some RAF ‘energy tablets’ for keeping pilots going, so he gave one to Alan to see what happened, ‘after a couple of minutes he buggered off up the road, so I took the other one quick….’ . They finished together quite happily, but going to sleep that night was another matter. Strychnine is a constituent !

Greenhow Hill enters again on a winter’s day when Geoff, riding his winter ‘fixed’ bike of course, was holed up in the pub at the bottom, chatting to the local farmers. ‘Bet you can’t ride up it’. ‘How much?’ £5 was agreed, big money in those days. The beer added ‘…and I’ll do it in the saddle’. He told me that he expected them to drive to the top, and watch him come over the brow in the saddle, but they piled into their truck and followed him all the way. ‘It damn nearly killed me, but I got the fiver’.

Another winter’s day turned out to be one of the most entertaining I ever remember. As the weather was rather foul and sleety, Geoff suggested that the half-dozen of us headbangers go to a pub he knew not far away near Halifax which was cyclist-friendly and had a separate room with a big fire and large tables.  Already installed was a tall and good-looking cycling stranger but obviously well-known to Geoff from that misty past, one Oscar Savile, who was really friendly and a delight to be with.  Between the two of them they had us falling about all afternoon.  His name wasn’t actually ‘Oscar’ at all, but he was universally known as that from his Oscar Egg frame, the only one that I ever saw. Later I had to put him on a start sheet for a time trial (rarities in the BLRC, with no formalities like proper forms) as ‘O Savile’, then admit that I didn’t actually know his proper name. ‘It’s James, or Jimmy’, but Oscar’s fine’. It was the man himself, a good climber of what he called ‘the brown stuff’, and later to be the smart public image of stage races like the ‘Tour of Britain’, becoming known as ‘The Duke’. But to us, Sir Jimmy Saville is still ‘Oscar’.

A rambling diversion.  As I have been told it, the Swiss rider Oscar Egg attacked track records using a horizontal bike, and made it necessary to create a separate class. I have no idea if this is true, but somebody will know. I do know that we used to fall in occasionally with the Ilkley CC whose member, a Mr Thornton, rode the only horizontal I ever saw in those days. To the young me he looked quite old and not very athletic, but he always kept up. He explained it as like being able to sit back against a wall then push hard with the legs.

Geoff the engineer

I mentioned earlier my Osgear, but it wasn’t an Osgear really, it was one Geoff had made for his own bike, and I got it when he decided to make himself another. For those too young to know, the elegant Osgear suspended a spring-loaded arm from the bottom bracket and changed gear with a fork which swung across under the chainstay.

I don’t remember if the genuine article was positive or not, but Geoff’s had a double cable so that the fork was pulled both ways, whereas other gears of the time, such as Simplex, relied on relaxing the cable whilst one hoped, hovering on the pedals, that the spring would push the chain into bottom. Very hit and miss, but the Cyclo ‘Benelux’ changed all that. The beloved Osgear had to go when double chain rings appeared as it just couldn’t cope, but at least we then got eight gears.

I am almost certain that Geoff was apprenticed to Parkinson’s in Shipley. He had certainly worked there. They were a self-contained medium-sized family manufacturer of vices and machine tools, with their own foundry, so Geoff was able to learn engineering from A-Z, which he clearly did. I spent the last 7 years before I left Bradford working there. Needless to say, Geoff Wood realised an opportunity for profit when he saw one, nipping out during the morning for pies and sausage rolls which were then sneaked down to the Heat Treatment to await the break.

During my time the foundry installed a pneumatic Jolting Table which gave the big sand moulding boxes a good bumping. It was on solid rock below road level at the top of Ives Street. At the other side was Ellis Briggs’ shop, from which the stucco started falling into the street. They said the cause was obvious, but our people pooh-poohed it. It’s all history now as the whole area has been ‘redeveloped’, and Briggs long since moved across the main road.

Later Geoff started making various accessories in a workshop down an alley off Manningham Lane, the main road to Keighley. How he ferreted out such places I don’t know. I can remember the aluminium bodies and levers of the CO2 pumps, and tools to speed their production, and I think there were handlebar end plugs, but anything else I have forgotten. He employed an off-duty milkman and a pupil from nearby Belle Vue school who brought along a mate or two, all on an ‘informal’ basis. Someone talked, because Mr Clipboard paid a visit. How or where production continued after that I do not recall. The tie-up with Whitaker & Mapplebeck came after I had dropped out of cycling (for the first time).

Finally, confirmed bachelor Geoff surprised us all by marrying non-cycling Louise, and I heard that he became a technician at Cookridge Hospital, Leeds. One thing is certain. There would be no ‘sorry, it can’t be done’. Geoff Wood was the most ingenious and practical engineer of my acquaintance.

Whitaker & Mapplebeck

It was a reference in Lightweight News to John Mapplebeck which set this whole cathartic nonsense going but, ironically, I had less to do with W & M than with Walter Greaves, and less to do with John Mapplebeck than Geoff Whitaker.  They were of the ‘senior generation’ of the mighty Bradford Racing Club, and their tandem racing reputation went before them, putting me in awe of both, but John more than Geoff because he could be a bit sharp, and gave a feeling of not suffering fools.  I did become pretty pally with Geoff over time. It was said that they could ride a tandem out of the saddle but I never saw it for myself,  I’d love to know.  My brother said last week that the Mapplebeck family belonged to a specialized religious sect. News to me, I’d be interested to know more.

Whitaker & Mapplebeck certainly became the frames to have round Bradford so, in due course the Greaves moved on (where?) and I got my ‘Ticker’ – with its fancy lugs – and  so did my brother Wilfred.   ‘Re della Corsa’ rings a bell. Mine was burgundy with yellow diamonds on the seat and down tubes at my request, kitted out with the latest equipment, but not Campag, which I always thought a rip-off.

The standard BLRC routine in the winter was to remove the gears and go to 66” fixed and a dynamo with a big headlamp on the front spindle, or the forks if you had a mere ‘touring’ bike with a bracket there. You certainly weren’t going to spoil the paint with clamps. This was a twice-a-year pantomime, so in 1951 there was a sudden vogue for ‘winter bikes’ which could get mucky, and be as ugly as sin.  It was all a bit of a joke. Suddenly everyone flocked to W&M in an outbreak of ‘Europa’ frames which were nasty leggy things with lie-back angles, but they were cheap, possibly five guineas.

Having gone, a mite reluctantly, down to Ingleby Road to get one I was drawn to one side by Geoff who said he had just the thing for tall me, and much superior to the Europa.  It was a 24 inch ‘Dilecta’, still a mass-production frame but really quite respectable and not a lot more money, probably £6-15-0. It had decent angles, reasonably-feathered lugs just on the fancy side of basic, gear and brake cable eyes, and a gear lever boss on the down tube, reasonably close clearances and a smart metallic green finish. The only ‘minus’, as I soon discovered, was that both bottom bracket cups were right-hand threads, so that the so-called ‘fixed’ one was anything but. Being behind the chainset made it a real pain. I think that eventually I used a loose cup with a lockring, then some genius invented unit bottom brackets. The Dilecta has no place in ‘Lightweight News’ really, but it is a rarity, and I have neve seen another.  I discovered years later that they won the first-ever team time trial in the Tour de France in the 1920’s. It is now my fixed-gear utility bike.

In 1952 cycling gave way to a girl and a motorbike. The Ticker was sold (to somebody) and the Dilecta went out on permanent loan. I had finished with cycling – or so I thought.

January 1953. Your king needs you in the Royal Engineers. Eventually I stabilized just outside Farnborough in Hampshire in glorious cycling country. My brother, although younger, finished his RAF duty before me, and put me wise to the benefits of having a sport in the Services. Cycling just happened to be the best, as all other teams went out in a lorry with their officer, but we disappeared into the countryside out of camp sight and mind, out of uniform and unsupervised as cycling in those days was definitely not an ‘officer’ thing. It was also possible to ride service events midweek and civilian ones at the weekend.   Ask Ken Russell about it.   He was the RAF star then, and even got flown to events. They knew a winner when they had one.

I had no bike now so borrowed my brother’s W&M, which had the Benelux that I found such a revelation. One lovely summer day half a dozen of us set off down the main road to Dorset (try that now) for the Army Massed Start Championship at Blandford Camp. Every time I got out of the saddle crossing Salisbury Plain my bike creaked, and it got worse. On arrival we found that there was a crack under the front of the down tube in the heat-affected zone of the brazing – so no ride. Stan Brittain, the Army star of the time won it. Afterwards we limped down to Bournemouth for the train, and then I rode it from Waterloo to King’s Cross in the rush hour, thence to Whitaker’s, who fixed it. After National Service I retired for the second time (but not the last.)

W & R Baines

The building by Whitaker’s of Baines ‘Flying Gate’ frames happened after my time, and is fascinating. I did toy with the idea of one for a while. The large Baines shop had a prominent site in the middle of Bradford, and lay somewhere in ‘seriousness’ between Halfords on the one hand and Eliis Briggs and Whitaker’s on the other. It was the place where Joe Public went when they knew that they wanted something better than basic.  It was well-stocked, and catered for those daunted by enthusiasts’ shops. I don’t know that either of the brothers cycled.  One was trim and slim, and looked as if he could, but the other was not built for cycling.  I  don’t recall any local clubmen working behind the counter.

Ken Russell

I can’t claim to know Ken well as he was another of whom I was in awe. I did make him and Geoff Wood fall about once when I displayed my innocence of what a ‘camp bicycle’ was.

One of my clearest recollections of Ken is in the 1949 Yorkshire Championship RR, my first Senior race. It was 96 miles, five laps of the Golden Acre circuit outside Leeds, with five climbs of Pool Bank. Although I can’t climb I stayed in for the first lap, and was perplexed to see how Ken was being treated. Bradford RCC had the winner right there but his own clubmates ganged up against him! At Ken’s every move there was a cry of ‘Russell up’ and it was  blocked. Eventually he dropped to the back, out of mind, then roared through and away. He didn’t win though, The team tactics gave the victory to Stan Hill. A good rider, but not a Ken Russell. I finished, but last. 22nd out of 40.

When Ken won the ‘Tour of Britain’ a Civic Reception was arranged in front of the Town Hall, so I joined the crowd on my way home from work. Somebody had thought it would be a good idea to get the Sports Editor of the Daily Express, a Mr Rose. He clearly knew nothing about cycling and had also clearly enjoyed a civic lunch, because he kept referring to ‘Ken Sharples’ despite the shouts of the crowd. All very embarrassing.  Yet another aside, Town Hall Square was paved with jarra wood to give hooves something to bite into, like the cobbles, but keep the iron tyres quiet. As motors became more numerous tar had been laid on top, but wartime neglect exposed patches of jarra. On a damp day this was an absolute death-trap for two-wheelers.

Star RC

This was an elite breakaway from Bradford RCC and I only remember the names of Stan Hill and Laurie Kitchen. What I do remember though is a crazy ‘training ride’ they undertook in one weekend from Bradford to Brighton and back. It made the local paper, and was a disaster

Bill Sugden and the Professionals

Ken Russell mentioned his great friend Bill Sugden, one of the ‘good guys’.  Bill was one of those many whom one knew fairly well from riding alongside when clubruns merged, or from teaspots and the like.

The opportunity to get to know him better came at the Sports Day of one of the Wharfedale villages and, through Bill I discovered the world of the professional grass track rider.  Up came the usual bike races, and Bill was desperate to ride, but for some reason hadn’t got his bike. Would I lend my road bike?  I took a lot of persuading, but Bill was pleasant and capable. At the start he and a local collided, to my alarm, but all was well and Bill finished second. The winner was on a track bike, and in conversation told us that he and a closed shop of other unlicensed pro’s made a good living in the summer by riding at the numerous Miners’ Galas all over the North, where big money was involved, both on and off the track. Empty slots were filled by riding the village shows. Bill Dodds of the BLRC Bradford Co-op Velo, and a real live wire, liked the idea and took his track bike to a few of these, but after a win or two was politely invited to stay away. I was sorry to see from Ken that Bill died in 1990. Definitely a Mr Nice Guy.

Geoff Clark

Another Bradford frame builder who might easily be forgotten. He was another of the Bradford RCC seniors like Whitaker & Mapplebeck, but still racing very actively.  Small, lightly built, wiry and quiet – a real gent – but, once on the bike, determined.  He won the gruelling Warsaw-Berlin-Prague ‘Peace Race’ on his own – without team or support.  His frame-building came fairly late on in my time, and I don’t know where the workshop was, nor anything about his output. I hope those who were around then can tell us, but the main thing is that he mustn’t be forgotten.

Some final oddments
Three pieces of equipment which appear to have been unique or very rare in my orbit, two from Walter Greaves and one from Geoff Whitaker. I wonder if they might have been reps’ samples.
KP Alumlite rims. When I wanted a new pair of wheels built Walter Greaves produced these. They had the normal braking surface then a raised centre which stiffened the rim, shortened the spokes and lifted the nipples away from the tube. The wheels were undoubtedly stiff but looked so clumsy, and I was all for elegance, even at the expense of function. I never saw any others, and soon sold them on. They were sensible, and would look quite at home on a modern off-roader.

Dunlop moulded rubber saddle. We all used to cosset our Brooks saddles and try to protect them from the wet, especially that thrown up from the back wheel. Leaguers did not use mudguards except in the winter.  One day Greaves produced this dark grey object which was like a B15 and a mite heavier. It had the usual frame underneath and saddlebag loops which were all moulded in. Of course it laughed off rain, needed no attention at all and wasn’t always trying to get back its original shape – ie flat. I used it for years and years and years, until it got beyond saving, but I never saw or heard of another, nor met anyone who had.

Bartali brake levers. One of the finest devices known to non-climbers. Geoff Whitaker pulled them out one day. They were cast aluminium and chunkier than GB’s, being fairly broad across the front and nubbly, not the usual smoothly rounded. The nubbles fitted the fingers, but the real clincher was the full-width hook under which you curled a finger when climbing. They came without calipers, and were magic. I never saw any others, and had no option but to throw them sadly away when they eventually fell to bits.

Thanks for reading

Posted: Friday 21st August 2020

Author: James Shaw

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