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Friday
May012009

The Higginson Twins: A Pedaling Phenomenon 

In 1952, the year I started racing in England, to be able to ride a 25 mile time trial in under one hour was an achievement that only a few top riders in the country could lay claim.

The previous year 1951, the British Competition Record for the distance was a little over 57 minutes, and was held by North London rider Dave Keeler. Many of the top twenty-five milers of that era specialized in this distance, and was the only event they rode.

Two other 25 mile specialists who stood out were twenty something identical twin brothers Stan and Bernard Higginson from Halesowen in the Birmingham area. (Stan Higginson is pictured above.) They always competed in the same event and usually took first and second place.

Occasionally Bernard would beat his brother Stanley, but usually it was Stan who was the stronger of the two, but only by the narrowest of margins, a few seconds. Stan Higginson took the competition record from Keeler late in 1951, lowering the time to just over 56 minutes.

British time trials of that era, and especially the shorter distances were always ridden using a fixed wheel. Usually 86 inch (48 x 15) Most riders trained on a 65 inch gear (48 x 20) or 68 inch (48 x 19) throughout the winter months.

A very popular early season event was a medium gear 25 mile time trial were the gear was restricted to 72 inches (48 x 18) All competitors used the same single fixed gear. This leveled the playing field, and the ones who had learned to pedal fast throughout the winter months would come out on top.

So it was on Sunday March 23rd in 1952 on a perfect day with little wind the best 25 milers in the country gathered for the Calleva RC 72 inch Medium Gear Event, held on a North London course. There was a full field, this being the first event of the year where the top London and Midland riders would do battle.

History was made that morning, when three riders finished under the hour. As I said at the beginning of this piece, it was an achievement in the early 1950s for any rider to beat the hour for 25 miles; to do so on a 72 inch gear was phenomenal.

Stan Higginson won the event in 59 minutes, 20 seconds. This meant he was pedaling at over 118 revolutions per minute for 25 miles. That is some serious spinning, or twiddling as it was known back then.

Stan’s twin brother Bernard came in second with a time of 59 min. 48 sec. and the former competition record holder Dave Keeler was third with a time of 59 min. 58 sec. Incidentally, Stan Higginson’s winning ride that day was only two seconds slower than the record for that particular course done on unrestricted gears.

I remember this moment in British cycling history well. Although I was not at the actual event, I remember these times were talked about all over the UK in the weeks that followed.

There is very little information out there on riders of this era, and I wonder if the Higginson twins are still with us. Quite possible as they would be in their early eighties now.

I found one article on this event, in which the writer speculated that Dave Keeler may have been the first to beat the hour on a 72 inch gear. He may well have been, as he would have started and finished before the Higginsons on that day. But as I remember, this was the day that the first sub hour 72 inch gear ride was ever recorded in the UK.

Another tidbit of information about the Higginson twins. I remember reading in a Cycling Magazine article, when the twins boasted that they never trained, saying they were too lazy. However, they did state that they both rode their bikes to and from work each day.

The seven mile commute from their home to the Birmingham factory where they both worked was treated like a race between the two. The first out to his bike in the morning, and again at night leaving work, after strapping on his saddle bag, leaped on his bike and took off. The other would chase.

To say they didn’t train was not strictly true. What they were doing was probably the best preparation they could have done for a 25 mile time trial.

Stan and Bernard also competed in pursuit races on the track, and I'm pretty sure Stan Higginson was National Pursuit Champion on more than one occasion. But I can find no record at this time to confirm.

 

 

Reader Comments (12)

Another stellar history lesson in cycling. Well done as always Dave.
It's too bad more of these sorts of events, perhpaps modified for today's recreational cyclists and weekend warriors are not more available in this day and age. Keep on inspiring and posting Mr. Moulton.

May 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMike

Slightly off topic: I recall reading that Kiwi miler, John Walker never trained either, unless you count drinking beer.

May 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGunnar Berg

Great story -- thanks for sharing.

That guy could spin.

May 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRider

Interesting history on pedaling technique that we can turn into lessons. I have read many of today's top pros spend their winters "spinning" on fixed wheels. Nothing beats it for development and refinement of your pedaling.
Not such an old or out-dated idea.
But you have to do it, or try it to benefit and understand. What was taken for granted in the past we (should) see in a different way today.
Thanks for your take on racing.

May 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

Fantastic post Dave. I love your articles on cycling history.

May 7, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermander

I was ` googling ` Stan Higginson when I came across this post. I started cycling in 1949 and TT racing in 1950. I rode for the ` Wombwell Wheelers` in Yorkshire. They were such wonderful and memorable years. Stan Higginson was of course a legend and my hero. I rode my first TT and did a 1hr 4min at 15 yrs of age. This immediatley promoted to the first team, the guy who was the number 3 rider was very upset with me and complained the the reason he rode so badly was because """"""""""he had fog in his hubs """"""""""""""""" he never ever lived that comment down. I live in Berkshire now, I went to the last club reunion some years ago, the lad was there, and so many people asked him if he had trouble getting to the reunion with fog in his car wheels.
Thanks for the interesting page.
Regards

Henry Ellis

May 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHenry Ellis

Great article. I'm confident that one of the Higginson bros is alive and well and living not far from Kidderminster, UK. I was lucky enough to purchase a Holdsworth Zephyr that belonged to one of them, (not sure which) I have just had it renovated. Happy to send pics if people are interested.

September 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLewin

Glad to say that Stan Higginson is indeed alive and well - spent a very enjoyable evening with him and his lovely wife on Saturday learning a little about his cycling exploits. What a delightful chap!

October 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSusi

Bernard is alive and well and living in Fernhill Heath Worcs.

April 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBondy

is it true that one of the Higginson brothers failed the National Service medical and was advised to take up cycling for his health ? What is true is that in the early 50`s it was difficult to ride any popular 25`s and not get beaten by the " terrible twins ".

Bob Brown.

October 5, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbob brown

IT IS WITH GREAT SADNESS THAT MY FATHER IN LAW STAN HIGGINSON PASSED AWAY THIS MORNING- SEPTEMBER 31ST 2014 WITH HEART FAILURE.
HE WAS LOVED BY ALL WHO KNEW HIM AND WILL BE TERRIBLY MISSED.
PLEASE KEEP HIS WIFE HELEN, SON MICHAEL AND DAUGHTER CAROL AND THEIR FAMILIES IN YOUR THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS AT THIS VERY SAD TIME. THANKYOU.

August 31, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDiane Higginson

I APOLOGISE THE ABOVE IS MEANT TO READ AUGUST 31ST 2014

August 31, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDiane Higginson

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