Up until the mid 1960s many cyclists in England did not own a car; to get to a race they had to ride their bike. Just like the cyclist in the picture above, sprint rims and tubular tires (Sprints and Tubs.) were too expensive for everyday use, and were reserved for racing only.
Training and commuting to work were done on HP tires. (Clinchers.) The racing wheels were carried on two wheel carriers attached to the front wheel axel; the wheels then fastened to the handlebars with a pair of toe straps. These wheels and tires were only used for the duration of the event.
Time-trials always took place at the crack of dawn, so it was usually dark when the cyclist left home; the rider above has a battery lamp clipped to his handlebars. Also note the bike has mudguards and a rear luggage rack; these would be removed before the race, and re-fitted after for the ride home. Below is another innovative way to get to an event.
The pictures are from the Bernard Thompson collection. Bernard, who died in recent years, was a freelance cycling photographer whose pictures appeared in Cycling Magazine, from the 1950s through the 1980s. More great photos can be seen on CyclingInfo.co.uk/blog.
Bernard Thompson probably made most of his income selling prints to non-famous club riders. There would be 120 riders in most open time-trials; his strategy was to stand at a point where riders slowed to do a u-turn in the road and had to call out their race number to an event marshal.
He took a picture, noted the rider's race number, and then got the rider's names and addresses from the race organizer. Sending out a mass-mailing, he probably sold close to 120 prints every weekend. It was special for a regular club rider to get a nice picture by a professional photographer.The picture above is of me riding in the National Championship 12 Hour Time-Trial in 1953. You won't find it in this collection, but it is a Bernard Thompson photograph. It is one of the many thousands taken by him over the years.
I remember Bernard Thompson taking that picture as clear as if it were yesterday. I was about an hour into the event and this was the first turn. (On the Great North Road somewhere near Biggleswade, I think.) I was out of the saddle picking up speed again when I saw him take the shot.
Right after he took it, I nodded and gave him a little smile. I had no idea who he was, so I was thrilled the following week when I got a note in the mail from Bernard Thompson, the famous “Cycling” photographer.