The History of Rugby RCC
The Early Years – by Bruce Townsend
In the 30’s cycle racing was either track or time trials : “Massed Start” racing had been banned many years before and cyclo cross had not yet arrived. Time trials were always as early as possible on Sunday mornings and dress had to be black tights and black alpaca jacket – to be inconspicuous! But everyone knew the Rugby RCC because we ran the last Open 50 of the year. The BAR was very important, being the major year long competition, started by “Cycling” in the early 30’s, and for many years the result was not known until after the Rugby 50. We still have the Simpson 50 Trophy that went to the winner. The event was not held during the war and never restarted.
The Club was founded in 1928 but did not really get going until 1929. Two of the founders were Fred Carvell and Les Smith : Fred had a cycle shop in Bank St and Les, who worked at the BTH, provided some of the finance. Carvells is still there but is now sells electrical goods, not cycles. In the 50’s however the cycle shop was very active – with the workshop run by a young Eddie Brodest. The Club used to meet in the workshop every Saturday morning but Fred Carvell gradually got fed up with the fact that no work was ever done on a Saturday morning! Another employee – and Club member – was Eric Capell: his girlfriend Mary Fletcher left the Club to join the Coventry CC and was a member of the ladies’ 25 Championship team. They married and Eric eventually became manager of Carvells shop; he retired a few years ago and Mary died at the end of 1998.
Apart from the Open 50 the other major pre war contribution by Rugby RCC was the ‘invention’ of Cyclo Cross. From the mid 30’s we organised an event which became known as the November Handicap. This started in a field near Crick – a field which is now occupied by the Post House Hotel – and went across what is now the M1 and over the fields to Stanford on Avon, returning along lanes and fields to Crick : about 10 miles of very hard riding. After the war the event was restarted and other similar events gradually evolved in the Midlands and then all over the country. Riders started in four or five groups at several minute intervals – the handicapping being based on 25 mile TT times!
However, Rugby RCC’s main pre-war claim to fame was ‘The Rugby Flyer’: Ralph Dougherty. Ralph joined the Club in the early 30’s and rapidly became the fastest rider, head and shoulders above everyone else. He started to do well in open events and became known as ‘The Rugby Flyer‘. Ralph was also interested in team wins but there were no other riders comparable : but there were in the Leamington C & AC and Ralph joined them. Early in 1939 George Fleming got inside 60 minutes for 25 miles – in an event in Ireland but neither the event nor the course were RTTC recognised and so this was not a record. A few weeks later Ralph Dougherty did the same thing in England and became the first 25 record holder under the hour. After the war George Fleming became the first rider under 2 hours for a ‘50’ and won a Paris to London race but Ralph never really came back into racing. He lived in Alwyn Rd until his death a few years ago and became very interested in walking.
Further information, supplied by Stuart Sherriff and Bruce Townsend
(included in our October 2008 newsletter)
Being quite pleased with our growth in membership over recent years, we asked Stuart Sherriff and Bruce Townsend how things compared 50 or 60 years ago. We only wanted a few numbers, but they came back with much more, so here’s an account of their time as RRCC members. It also shows how important it is to write these things down for posterity – the contrast with 2008 is remarkable!
The club was formed early in 1929. There was a Hill Climb on Brownsover Hill on Dec 26th 1928, an informal event between 12 members who in the new year (1929) formed the Club. The winner was a R Barnett and Fred Carvell was a close second less than 2 seconds back in 2 mins 15 seconds. (Note – Carvell’s Electrical shop in Rugby started out as a bike shop). The club steadily grew and in the 40s and early 50s membership exceeded 100. Bruce Townsend reports that Sunday club runs were in two parts with 30 plus in each group. At that time evening events were held only up until the end of July and entries were lower than they are now. Many members were involved in social and club runs only – there were many lady members – followed by weddings. The clubroom was Wednesday evenings at the pub in Crick (until 1950) and the ride home was just one long sprint – even across the halt sign at the Half way House!
Things came to a head in 1953 when nationally there was a split between those that wanted to race on closed circuits and those that wanted to race on the road. The new organisation was known as the BLRC and locally that brought about the formation of what we know as Rugby Velo. After the split, having checked the membership books, Bruce has found the total paid up membership in 1953 was 78. Numbers started to drop away by the sixties as possession of motor bikes and old cars kept youngsters off the bike. By 1970 numbers were down to a handful but had a major resurrection in the mid 70s. Bruce had returned from working in Lancashire and his two sons became interested, so with their friends they got club runs going again. This rapidly snowballed and by 1980 the club was very healthy with lots of young members. This carried on through the eighties but gradually fell away to low numbers again by the mid 1990s.
Stuart has recorded his own memories of being a RRCC member in 1953. This is a world apart from 2008 and it probably says a lot about roads and traffic density, apart from the shear enthusiasm of those members.
The RRCC was very strong and active at this time and it brought about a great many lasting friendships. One of the things that I think contributed to this was that we had a clubroom at the Green Man in Dunchurch. We met there after the summer evening time trials, always riding back to Rugby as a group, often with a sprint up the Catholic hill! We continued to meet socially throughout the winter. Members had a membership card listing club runs and there was a club notice board on the wall at the meeting point at the top of Barby Road.
A large percentage of members (see list) were active racing members. In summer they raced in the clubs evening time trials (only10`s and 25`s) and at weekends both in massed start races, often on Saturday afternoons (Long Lawford Aerodrome was a popular venue) and early on Sunday mornings in open time trials (25, 50, 100 miles and 12 hours), of which there were many. Marshalling in the shorter events and marshalling and feeding in the longer events was part of being in the club, if you were not competing you were expected to do it. Weekend racing seems to have almost disappeared in RRCC, a shame, but probably because a good percentage of members are triathletes and they are doing their own thing. A typical summer Sunday in the early 50`s was to meet at Barby Road corner at 3am, ride 25 miles to Stonebridge to ride a 25 mile time trial, take mudguards off and turn the rear wheel round to the racing sprocket side, ride the race, then return the bike back to day-ride mode. We would then ride down to somewhere like Evesham to meet the club run for lunch (there were organised club runs for anyone not racing or marshalling), then back to Rugby with a tea stop probably in Stratford. Racing was on 79″, 81″ or 83″ fixed gears, the rest of the day was on 69″ or 72″. The ladies also rode fixed wheels.
Gears were only used for massed starts (only a few massed starts on open roads) and touring. Gears were very limited, a 5 speed block (14-16-18-20-22) and the first double chainwheels with only 3 teeth difference (usually 46/49). Bottom gear (56″) was a bit high for climbing really steep hills and the top gear (95″) was too low when going downhill.
Bikes had to be built up, there were only a few off the shelf racing models available. Frames were steel, either what was termed gas tubing or the lightweight Reynolds 531. A lot of members raced on high pressures, but they were a lot heavier than those available today, not many could afford the light Dunlop time trial tubulars or the spare set of wheels to put them on. There were no clipless pedals, just toe clips and straps. Most members for quite a while only had one bike, they used it for day rides, touring and racing, and sometimes even for going to work.
Other Summer racing included grass track (often included in athletic meetings) with Bruce Ward, Ron Ackford and Brian Eyre being keen competitors. Several members competed in the Coventry Track League on a Tuesday night at the Butts Stadium. The last event of the season was the hill climb, often held on Edge Hill. One notable achievement around this time was the club winning the team prize in the road race round the TT Circuit in the Isle of Man, nobody would believe them until it was in print in the Cycling Magazine. I think the team was Bernard Harris, Jimmy Greaves and Bill Bailey. Club membership declined slightly around 1953 when a number of members left the NCU (National Cyclists Union) and joined the BLRC (British League of Racing Cyclists) so that they could take part in massed starts on open roads, unfortunately for them it never really got going. The BLRC club formed in Rugby was the Rugby Velo.
Club tours were popular. At Easter 2 groups would tour Wales meeting up on the final night at Ludlow Youth Hostel. In the summer holiday groups would go to France, Ireland, Cornwall or Scotland. In 1951 Jim Moir and I did a 1000 mile tour of Ireland, he was 16 and I was15. We rode straight up the Watling Street to Holyhead to get the ferry! In 1952 John Tinkler, Dave Williams, John Gardner, Harold Liddle, Jonny Wyatt, Ben Gunn and I did a 2 week tour of Scotland, we went on the Friday overnight train to Glasgow. The train was packed, no seats, we slept on the corridor floor, heads on saddlebags! No problem with bikes on trains in those days, every train had a guards’ van at the rear end.
Winter was looked upon as the social season, the only racing was the cyclo cross, plenty of mud! We used any old bike (most couldn’t afford to build up a proper cross bike) and we usually ended up doing more running than cycling, but in those days for many it was not very serious, just a lot of fun. There were not many cyclo cross races, local ones were at Kenilworth Common on Boxing Day, and the November Handicap organised by the RRCC at Crick. Groups of members met socially on Saturday night, going to the dinners of other clubs in the Coventry Cycling Clubs Alliance (on our bikes), meeting in pubs on Saturday night for a drink (or two or three or four) and then going to a dance (no yobs then with knives and guns). The RRCC even ran dances in Dunchurch Village Hall!
A club winter tradition was the Malvern Run. This was an early season (March) training ride/unofficial race over the Malvern Hills to Ledbury for lunch. Unwritten rules were mudguards and you must ride a fixed gear of 72″or less, and obviously we needed lights. Anyone dropped had to make their own way. The afternoon was at a more leisurely pace back to Stratford to join the rest of the club for tea. Total distance was around 120 miles.
A pre-racing season activity was the Shuckburgh run. This was an evening training run (in the dark, some had lights!) starting at Barby Road corner, out to Southam, across to Daventry, then back to Rugby. You didn’t get dropped if you had no lights!
The Club Dinner was the highlight of the year, nearly every member went, a case of here’s your ticket, that will be 5 shillings (25p!). People invited included the Mayor or the MP and members of other local clubs. Members brought wives, girlfriends, friends and even their parents. There was a three course meal, prize presentation by the celebrity guest, then a dance with a live band. Numbers were I think in excess of 150 and halls used included The Mart in Clifton Road (The British Restaurant during the war, now Sainsburys) and the Drill Hall in Rowland Street (now the Indian Centre)
I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed remembering those good old cycling days.
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Bruce and Stuart have now come up with a long list of members from the 50s. There are bound to be mistakes and omissions, but there are over 100 names there. Bruce and Stuart recall that many of the ladies in the group at the bottom married fellas on this list – who needs the internet when there’s a cycling club! Worth pointing out that a recent group of the “Wednesday Riders” had 11 people from this list !
Fred Carvell, Les Smith, Bill Dale, Edgar Hicks, Harold Liddl,e Eddie Brodest, Ron Brodest, Bill Bailey, Tommy Lyttle, Bruce Townsend, Ken Rushall, Pete Rushall, Bruce Ward, Dave Rudd, Jonny Hanson, Brian Herbert, Albert Smith, Pete Smith, Pete Rose, Cliff Taylor, Brian Cooper, Ken Cooper, Dennis Clark, Bernard Harris, Derek Hirons, Terry Hirons, Ray Hirons, Jim Greaves, Bud Metcalf, Brian Eyre, Ben Gunn, Terry Wild, Eric Burdet,t Don House, Dave Williams, Derek Townsend, Jonny Gardner, John Tinkler, Bill Maris, Jonny Wyatt, Jonny Morris, Mick Firth, Stuart Sherriff, Jim Moir, Derek Lee, Jonny Green, Ian Turner, Ron Barton, Richard Trebbit, Ian Williamson, Richard Clewes, Sammy Lee, Ron Faulks, L Simpson, Gordon Townsend, George Faulkner, Cyril Adams, Jonny Warren, Jack Green, Ron Ackford, Jack Winsor, George Williams, Pete Bates, Eric Capell, Bill Shires, Brian Dawkins, W Lucas, Dave Barras, Pete Nown, Barry Timms, Phil Douglas, Bob Harris, A Bradbury, D Baker, A Hotchkiss, Ken Barham, F Robinson, Trevor Goodman, Bill Sutton, Cyril Downes, John Billing
Lady Members: Muriel Dale, Wendy Lowe, Pat Bir, Pat Burdett, Pam Cluet,t Margaret Baker, Margorie Smith, Mary Smith, Avril Marriot, Mary Baines, Brenda Houghton, Janet Nason, Ann Donnely, Cis Taylor, Pat Gerold, Joan Payne, Betty Hinks, Noreen Hitchcock, Mary Fletcher