My years with the Midland Cycling & Athletics Club
Posted: Friday 21st August 2020
Like many of the older cyclist I spent my childhood during WWII. This image below shows the bomb damage around the corner from my house in the 1940s, I am one of the three nippers (all 7yrs old) by the barrow.
We loved to look for shrapnel and bomb fins etc, but the chap on the bike, I am sure is Roy Packwood, He was in his late 20s then and he lived next door to us, He was a life long member of the Midland C&AC and he the one that got me interested in cycling I joined the club in 1947 age 14-years.
I spent 5 years from 1949 to 1953 racing with the Midland Cycling & Athletics Club in the Birmingham area. Roy and Kathy Packwood lived next door to me in Yardley. They were long time members of the Midland C & AC and got me interested in cycling. My first ‘Racing’ bike was a Raleigh that was fitted with a Sturmey Archer 3-speed. My Uncle Tom who, after WWII, went to work for Cyclo in Aston, replaced the S/A with a Cyclo three-speed ACE close-ratio gear. I had nothing but trouble with this.
In 1949 I talked my Dad into financing me to purchase a 1949 Claud Butler frame that I had built to my specification. It was a 22″, which was really too big for me but that was the fashion in those days. It was equipped with deep drop bars, long stem etc. Of course everyone rode a single fixed gear in those days so it had the one brake on the front. I liked the lever on the left side (so I could hold a pint in the right hand!).
My first open race on the Claud was the Wyndham RCC 25-mile time trial held in April 1950. I finished third with a time of 1-7-50; the winners time 1-7-4. “Good ride Crumpy”, my mates said. I then decided to have a frame built by Bill Gameson in Tysley. It was a 21″ frame built with Reynolds 531db, Nervex double-butted tubing with chrome lugs, fork and rear ends. It was finished in the club colours, being light blue with dark blue panels. It had Chater-Lea cranks, Brooks B17N saddle, Pellisier bars on a long chrome Reynolds stem, GB brake, Airlite hubs on Dunlop rims for training or with sprints for racing.
We always rode to the events with the bike loaded with the full kit. We carried our sprints bolted to Cyclo carriers and held to the bars with toe straps. Strip off the kit and off you go, I used Dunlop #3 tubulars to race on with a low 84″ single fixed gear. I did the full season in 1950, doing some 4000 m pursuits and massed-start races as well as time trials.
In June I won the club 25 time trial with a 1-4-07, then in September 1950 my finest ride? I took third to Bas Frances and Bob Maitland in the NCU Centre Champ 25 with a best to-date ride of 1-1-34; we also took the first place team prize.
Later that year I finished second in the Ansty Road Race by inches in Oct 1950 and went on to end the season competing in hill climbs etc. See above for a report of the club dinner in December 1950.
The Midland C & AC founded in 1890 has a very long history of top notch riders, including Charles Holland, the first, yes the first English rider to compete in the Tour de France. I even got to go on club rides with him, plus his Brothers Alf, Walter and Jack, as well as Jack Simpson, my mentor, Les Willmott, John Bourne and John Pottier who is still racing to this day (he rode in the Wearwell team for several years in the Tour of Britain).
In the 1951 season John Chance was the star. He won many 25’s and along with John Bradbury and myself we became the team to beat. This included the Halesowen CC boys, the Higginson twins. We earned the reputation of being the “Three fast Johnnies” (see image above), written up several times in Cycling and The Bicycle.
In April The Bicycle wrote, “The two Brilliant Johnnies, Chance and Crump, expect to join HM Forces before this season ends but replacements from the Midland nursery are on the way! I was conscripted into the RAF on 7th June 1951. I was a batman to the sports officer and did get to ride and race quite a lot and also played football.
After my service in the RAF I, like many others that had spent the best two years of their life in the HM forces, got into other pursuits. Who knows, maybe I would have ridden the Tour of Britian maybe the Tour de France if this had not happened. But, oh the memoriess I have and the mates. I still am in contact with several still belong to the Midland C & AC and have raced with the club all their lives.
I left for the USA in March 1957, but still to this day ride 9K miles a year.