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Ken Russell - The Whitaker and Mapplebeck Years

Posted: Wednesday 29th April 2020

Author: 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.

Ken finishing 2nd in the 1947 Burbage Road Race on his welded W & M
Ken finishing 2nd in the 1947 Burbage Road Race on his welded W & M

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).

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.

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:

1st. Shropshire Hospitals 3rd and Junior2nd. Brighton - Glasgow
(winner of Bradford - Newcastle Stage – 124 miles)
1st. Bradford RCC Time Trial - Junior1st= Tour of the Chase Road Race
1st. National Hill Climb Champs - Junior3rd. National Independents Champs
1st. Circuit of New Mills
19481st. (second day) Manchester - Llandudno 2-day
1st. Airedale Olympic MTT1st. Sheffield - Burton, East Midlands 3 day
1st. Moss Moor MTT1st. Bradford RCC 25-mile TT
1st. C.J. Fox Memorial Road Race
1st. Severn Valley GP1951
1st. G.W.Bell Memorial Road Race1st. Nottingham - Sheffield 3 day
Tour of Britain: Winner of stage 5 Cardiff - Wolverhampton (112 miles)
1st. Moss Moor Road Race1952 (Now riding for Ellis Briggs)
1st. Baslow Road Race1st overall - Tour of Britain winning:
1st. Tour of the PeakStage 2 Southsea – Weymouth 85½ miles
1st. RAF Massed Start ChampsStage 5 Aberystwyth-Blackpool 179miles
1st. RAF Swinderby Massed StartStage 11 Newcastle – Scarborough 88 miles
1st. RAF Binbrook Massed Start1st. Chesterfield Road Race
1st. (First day) Cleveland 2 Day Road Race1st. Yorks Champs Road Race
5th overall Brighton - Glasgow2nd. Dover - London
2nd. Wolverhampton - Llangollen - Wolverhampton
Time Trials1st. Jackson Trophy Road Race
1st. RAF Northern Counties Championships1st. Wilsden Road Race
1st. RAF 100 mile ChampionshipsTime Trials
1st. RAF 50 mile Championships1st. Sheffield RCC MTT
1st. RAF Swinderby 25-mile1st. Bradford RCC 25-mile
1st. RAF Scampton 25-mile
1st. RAF Bawtry 25-mile1953
1st. RAF Syerston 25-mile1st. Border Grand Prix, Newcastle
1st. Louth 25-mile
1st. RAF Binbrook MTT1955
1st. RAF Leconfield 25-mile1st. Midland Grand Prix
3rd. National Independents Champs
1st. Buxton Road Race

A very detailed and interesting insight into Ken’s early years and his solo win in the 1952 Tour of Britain published by the Daily Telegraph

Thanks for reading

Posted: Wednesday 29th April 2020

Author: Ken Russell

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