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Cycling 45 years ago.

Trev The RevTrev The Rev Posts: 1,040
edited November 2012 in Road general
Cycling 40 odd years a go was very different. For a start the equipment was appalling. Bikes were heavy, every time a bike manufacturer brings out a new bike it is lighter than the previous model. My bike in 1968 was a lightweight for it's time - about 28lbs. Frames get stiffer every year, especially around the bottom bracket. Back in 1968 bikes were very sloppy, you could feel it whenever you made an effort out of the saddle. You lost loads of power. The frames were round steel tubes, very un aero, you lost at least 50 watts at 25mph, not that we knew how many watts we produced back then. With only 5 sprockets we had to plan our routes carefully to avoid steep hills and changing gear was so awkward and took so long you had to plan a gear change several hundred yards in advance. Mostly we just stuck it in a gear and left it there. Many of us went back to fixed or single speed.

Wheels were hopeless too, 36 spokes and box shaped rims, so un aerodynamic it was very hard to get up to speeds above 20mph (another 50 watts lost at 25mph). Tyres as you know improve every year but back then rolling resistance was about 40% worse (about 20 watts) and there was hardly any wet weather grip and virtually no puncture protection. Every ride you had to repair at least 6 punctures.

We had no computers so we had no idea how fast we were going or how far we had been. No GPS meant we could only go on shorter known routes otherwise we would get lost. You often came across blokes in the lanes of Kent who were still lost from the week before. Some of them were in a terrible state.

With no understanding of hydration needs and the need to drink before we were thirsty we often became dehydrated and collapsed. Without energy drinks and gels we were always bonking terribly, sometimes fainting. With no recovery drinks it was only possible to go for one long ride a week because it took us several days to recover eating only food and drinking hot mugs of tea or coffee.

When you did get back from a ride, with no computer or power meter files to download - you spent hours with a note book and pencil recording faithfully every detail of your ride and measuring distances on an ordnance survey map. With no calculator it took ages to work out average speeds. With hardly any data it was impossible to come up with a structured training plan so we just rode about aimlessly.

If you did have a shower at home it was not thermostatically controlled so you were often scalded unless there was a power cut then you had a cold shower.

There were no helmets, so many of us were killed after the slightest fall, and all of us suffered some sort of brain damage from time to time. Many of us are permanently facially scarred after face plants. We had no mobile phones so if seriously injured you had to stagger or crawl to the nearest red phone box. Thankfully there were rather more of them in those days. The ambulance would take about 30 minutes to arrive, they had no medical equipment on board, they just put you on a stretcher and put a red blanket over you. When you got to hospital you were given an internal examination to check for internal bleeding. I'm sure this sort of thing is against the law these days and would be termed as some sort of abuse but it did make sure you only went to A&E if you really needed to. You only got an ex ray if a limb was completely snapped.

There was no such thing as cycling glasses. Some posers would wear sunglasses but most of us suffered from terrible conjunctivitis and went blind.

Despite all this, Alf Engers did 25 miles in under 50 minutes - almost 20 years before tri bars which must be worth another 75 watts at 30 mph.

The only things that were in our favour in those days were no one had asthma, or was allergic to anything at all. There was less traffic and the old steel frames didn't break every time you crashed.
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  • bluedoggybluedoggy Posts: 279
    Really fascinating! Thanks for the story:) Alf Engers -amazing!
    Wilier cento uno.
  • Ron StuartRon Stuart Posts: 1,242
    First stage of the Tour of Britain in 1955 was from London to Clacton (Butlins) and was ridden by the winner at an average of 26mph. Joe Christison won this stage. :shock:
  • giropaulgiropaul Posts: 414
    All sort of true, but not at all how I saw it at the time.

    Clubs had proper club runs, that stayed together and were at a steady pace. Cameraderie mattered, what bike you rode didn't. There was a coffee stop, a tea stop and a tea stop. Now everyone "needs" to get back.

    There were cycist-friendly cafes peppered across the countryside.

    It was ok, and encouraged, for youngsters to use second-hand cast offs from the senior riders. Now every 12 year old "must" have carbon wheels etc

    If you were into cycling, you joined a club (or the CTC). Then most people progressed into some sort of racing. Many people were happy to never win, taking part was the thing. Everyone was expected to contribute to the sport, by marshalling etc.

    Everyone could handle their bike properly,

    The big stars were out with you on club runs, not at training camps somewhere.

    Advice from experienced riders was readily available (and free!). People accepted advice graciously. Now everyone, even those not racing, seems to have to have a coach.

    No-one wore a helmet, and no-one I'm aware of ever died as a result. I remember an almost boycott when rules came in that we had to wear helmets (proper ones, not the plastic things), for circuits of less than 1 mile. It was at a criterium round the Nestles factory in Mickleover.

    Of course, I was also 45 years younger, lighter and a lot fitter!
  • Thank god the drinks companies and helmet manufacturers came along to save us all.
  • Thanks Trev. Very good. I'm 61 so I vividly remember all those things. However. What you had was what you had. There wasn't anything any better. Cycling was fun as hopefully it still is now. If we could go forward 45 years from now I suspect you could write similar about todays cycling. Progress is progress but unfortunately not always for the better.
    I'm not getting old... I'm just using lower gears......
    Sirius - Steel Reynolds 631
    Cove Handjob - Steel Columbus Nivacrom
    Trek Madone - Carbon
  • NewTTerNewTTer Posts: 463
    giropaul wrote:
    All sort of true, but not at all how I saw it at the time.

    Clubs had proper club runs, that stayed together and were at a steady pace. Cameraderie mattered, what bike you rode didn't. There was a coffee stop, a tea stop and a tea stop. Now everyone "needs" to get back.

    There were cycist-friendly cafes peppered across the countryside.

    It was ok, and encouraged, for youngsters to use second-hand cast offs from the senior riders. Now every 12 year old "must" have carbon wheels etc

    If you were into cycling, you joined a club (or the CTC). Then most people progressed into some sort of racing. Many people were happy to never win, taking part was the thing. Everyone was expected to contribute to the sport, by marshalling etc.

    Everyone could handle their bike properly,

    The big stars were out with you on club runs, not at training camps somewhere.

    Advice from experienced riders was readily available (and free!). People accepted advice graciously. Now everyone, even those not racing, seems to have to have a coach.

    No-one wore a helmet, and no-one I'm aware of ever died as a result. I remember an almost boycott when rules came in that we had to wear helmets (proper ones, not the plastic things), for circuits of less than 1 mile. It was at a criterium round the Nestles factory in Mickleover.

    Of course, I was also 45 years younger, lighter and a lot fitter!
    An excellent well thought out reply Giropaul, rather then the bitter twisted sniping nonsense being trundled out by the chief bigot Trev
  • danowatdanowat Posts: 2,877
    Nostaligia - nostalgia describes a sentimental longing for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.

    Pure rose tinted nostaligic claptrap.

    Do you really believe, if Alf Engers was racing today, he'd be racing the same bike as he did back then?, of course he wouldn't.

    People ride what is at the edge of the envelope, they do now, just as they did back then.

    I bet there was a trev the rev back in the 1960's saying, ohh, it was so much better when we were all riding around on steel rimmed wooden wheels, or penny farthings......
  • Trev The RevTrev The Rev Posts: 1,040
    Thanks Trev. Very good. I'm 61 so I vividly remember all those things. However. What you had was what you had. There wasn't anything any better. Cycling was fun as hopefully it still is now. If we could go forward 45 years from now I suspect you could write similar about todays cycling. Progress is progress but unfortunately not always for the better.

    Some years ago now I reverted to old school minimalist cycling, steel frame, no gears just single speed / fixed, no computer, no power meter or aero equipment, no helmet, no GPS or Garmin, and leave the mobile phone at home.

    I enjoy my cycling again, almost as much as I did back in the late sixties and early seventies.
  • Cycling 40 odd years a go was very different. For a start the equipment was appalling. Bikes were heavy, every time a bike manufacturer brings out a new bike it is lighter than the previous model. My bike in 1968 was a lightweight for it's time - about 28lbs. Frames get stiffer every year, especially around the bottom bracket. Back in 1968 bikes were very sloppy, you could feel it whenever you made an effort out of the saddle. You lost loads of power. The frames were round steel tubes, very un aero, you lost at least 50 watts at 25mph, not that we knew how many watts we produced back then. With only 5 sprockets we had to plan our routes carefully to avoid steep hills and changing gear was so awkward and took so long you had to plan a gear change several hundred yards in advance. Mostly we just stuck it in a gear and left it there. Many of us went back to fixed or single speed.

    Wheels were hopeless too, 36 spokes and box shaped rims, so un aerodynamic it was very hard to get up to speeds above 20mph (another 50 watts lost at 25mph). Tyres as you know improve every year but back then rolling resistance was about 40% worse (about 20 watts) and there was hardly any wet weather grip and virtually no puncture protection. Every ride you had to repair at least 6 punctures.

    We had no computers so we had no idea how fast we were going or how far we had been. No GPS meant we could only go on shorter known routes otherwise we would get lost. You often came across blokes in the lanes of Kent who were still lost from the week before. Some of them were in a terrible state.

    With no understanding of hydration needs and the need to drink before we were thirsty we often became dehydrated and collapsed. Without energy drinks and gels we were always bonking terribly, sometimes fainting. With no recovery drinks it was only possible to go for one long ride a week because it took us several days to recover eating only food and drinking hot mugs of tea or coffee.

    When you did get back from a ride, with no computer or power meter files to download - you spent hours with a note book and pencil recording faithfully every detail of your ride and measuring distances on an ordnance survey map. With no calculator it took ages to work out average speeds. With hardly any data it was impossible to come up with a structured training plan so we just rode about aimlessly.

    If you did have a shower at home it was not thermostatically controlled so you were often scalded unless there was a power cut then you had a cold shower.

    There were no helmets, so many of us were killed after the slightest fall, and all of us suffered some sort of brain damage from time to time. Many of us are permanently facially scarred after face plants. We had no mobile phones so if seriously injured you had to stagger or crawl to the nearest red phone box. Thankfully there were rather more of them in those days. The ambulance would take about 30 minutes to arrive, they had no medical equipment on board, they just put you on a stretcher and put a red blanket over you. When you got to hospital you were given an internal examination to check for internal bleeding. I'm sure this sort of thing is against the law these days and would be termed as some sort of abuse but it did make sure you only went to A&E if you really needed to. You only got an ex ray if a limb was completely snapped.

    There was no such thing as cycling glasses. Some posers would wear sunglasses but most of us suffered from terrible conjunctivitis and went blind.

    Despite all this, Alf Engers did 25 miles in under 50 minutes - almost 20 years before tri bars which must be worth another 75 watts at 30 mph.

    The only things that were in our favour in those days were no one had asthma, or was allergic to anything at all. There was less traffic and the old steel frames didn't break every time you crashed.

    I think you had a low spec bike... front derailleurs were available at the time and so were 28 spokes light wheels for racing.
    Thing is roads were censored in the UK, hence the top end bikes did not have a market.
    By adding up all the Watts advantages you mention, even a 10 years old boy should be able to go at 30 mph on a modern bike... these numbers simply make no sense.

    I ride a 1982 top of the range bike in original conditions except the rims... there is very little difference in performance with a top of the range modern bike... maybe 20-30 Watts at best according to my numbers up alpine climbs.
    I climbed the col d'Aubisque at 922 vertical metres/hour with a state of the art carbon bike and I recently climbed the very similar col st Panthaleon at 915 mt hour with my 1982 bike... it means I would have been dropped by around 10 vertical metres over the length (ca. 1200 vertical metres) of the climb, which are give or take 40 seconds
  • Trev The RevTrev The Rev Posts: 1,040
    I ride a 1982 top of the range bike in original conditions except the rims... there is very little difference in performance with a top of the range modern bike... maybe 20-30 Watts at best according to my numbers up alpine climbs.
    I climbed the col d'Aubisque at 922 vertical metres/hour with a state of the art carbon bike and I recently climbed the very similar col st Panthaleon at 915 mt hour with my 1982 bike... it means I would have been dropped by around 10 vertical metres over the length (ca. 1200 vertical metres) of the climb, which are give or take 40 seconds

    The figures for watts I used are the sort of claims made by modern bike manufacturers and aerodynamic experts - Dr Andrew Coggan claims a modern TT frame alone saves 20 to 30 watts over a 1980s steel frame at about 270 watts total power, and that is the saving the frame alone makes, tri bars save 2 to 3 minutes over 25 miles, that must be 50 watts at least. A disc rear wheel and deep aero rim front wheel save another 20 to 30 watts at 25mph to 30 mph.

    My bike was a Dawes Debonair, single front ring, 5 cog Simplex derailleur, 36 spoke wheels, not top end no, perhaps only weighed 24lbs. The modern advances are mostly aerodynamic. Hill climb times have not improved, but time triallists are considerably faster today.
  • I ride a 1982 top of the range bike in original conditions except the rims... there is very little difference in performance with a top of the range modern bike... maybe 20-30 Watts at best according to my numbers up alpine climbs.
    I climbed the col d'Aubisque at 922 vertical metres/hour with a state of the art carbon bike and I recently climbed the very similar col st Panthaleon at 915 mt hour with my 1982 bike... it means I would have been dropped by around 10 vertical metres over the length (ca. 1200 vertical metres) of the climb, which are give or take 40 seconds

    The figures for watts I used are the sort of claims made by modern bike manufacturers and aerodynamic experts - Dr Andrew Coggan claims a modern TT frame alone saves 20 to 30 watts over a 1980s steel frame at about 270 watts total power, and that is the saving the frame alone makes, tri bars save 2 to 3 minutes over 25 miles, that must be 50 watts at least. A disc rear wheel and deep aero rim front wheel save another 20 to 30 watts at 25mph to 30 mph.

    My bike was a Dawes Debonair, single front ring, 5 cog Simplex derailleur, 36 spoke wheels, not top end no, perhaps only weighed 24lbs. The modern advances are mostly aerodynamic. Hill climb times have not improved, but time triallists are considerably faster today.

    That's more like it... :D
    In my view the only aspect where modern bikes are superior is braking... your 1968 brakes are probably rubbish, although my 1980s ones are already pretty good.

    The evolution of TT bikes make little sense... they can barely be ridden outside closed roads/flat course conditions... it's a bit like driving a racing car... good on the track, silly on the road...
  • keef66keef66 Posts: 13,123
    45 years ago (I was 10) my bike was a sit up and beg affair based on a gas pipe frame rescued from the tip. Steel wheels and Sturmey Archer 5 speed hub gears, steel crankset complete with trouser-shredding cotter pins. Steel handlebars, steel seatpost etc etc. It must've weighed 40 pounds. It still took me quite a long way though.

    Couple of years later I bought a much better used bike off a schoolfriend who worked in a bike shop. Lightweight steel frame, alloy wheels, bars, stem and seat post, Weinmann alloy brake calipers and levers, Huret 5 speed dereailleur. As you can imagine, the difference was startling. All day rides of up to 100 miles suddenly became practical. Doubt it weighed much more than the bike I have now.

    It was true about the lack of computers; my usual post-ride recovery was poring over the OS maps and retracing the route with a piece of string so I could then triumphantly measure it. Then I acquired one of those clicky mileometers with a star wheel driven by a pin on a front spoke. Liked seeing the numbers tick over, but never ever felt completely comfortable bombing down hills with it clattering away just millimeters from the front wheel :shock:
  • keef66 wrote:

    It was true about the lack of computers; my usual post-ride recovery was poring over the OS maps and retracing the route with a piece of string so I could then triumphantly measure it. Then I acquired one of those clicky mileometers with a star wheel driven by a pin on a front spoke. Liked seeing the numbers tick over, but never ever felt completely comfortable bombing down hills with it clattering away just millimeters from the front wheel :shock:

    Yep, Sachs Huret... had a NOS one which I flogged on Ebay recently. At the time I couldn't be bothered to figure out how to mount the damn thing... with all the pulleys and belts...
    Strangely enough, after many years and various computers, I have now given up on them again... with sites like mapmyride etc, they are no longer necessary and I have a pretty good feel for actual speed
  • Ron StuartRon Stuart Posts: 1,242
    Modern race bikes are lighter now but not the population :P
  • stickmanstickman Posts: 791
    Planning a route to avoid hills is something I never heard of!
    When the TdF started they rode longer routes on heavy fixed gear bikes through the mountains on unmade roads.
    Bikes, saddles and stuff

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/
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    Gears - Obscuring the goodness of singlespeed
  • meursaultmeursault Posts: 1,433
    If you did have a shower at home it was not thermostatically controlled so you were often scalded unless there was a power cut then you had a cold shower.

    If you lived in London, and someone flushed their loo in Glasgow, you also got the scald/freeze rapid combo too.
    Superstition sets the whole world in flames; philosophy quenches them.

    Voltaire
  • ...many of us were killed after the slightest fall...
    I think I died two or three times but after an ice cold water bottle poured down my back was usually able to reach the cafe stop. Not all good though as last one there had to pay. Tough days :lol::lol:
    I'm not getting old... I'm just using lower gears......
    Sirius - Steel Reynolds 631
    Cove Handjob - Steel Columbus Nivacrom
    Trek Madone - Carbon
  • Ron StuartRon Stuart Posts: 1,242
    Raced against this bike recently, anyone have an idea who rode it originally and again on the 7th of Oct last :?:
    414_10151295731039524_651594818_n.jpg
  • Good read this, including the rest of the thread.

    I'm not quite as old as some, but definitely share many of the experiences. I used to live down in Plymouth as a kid growing up in the late 70's, and we regularly rode down to Fowey in Cornwall, via the Torpoint Ferry, roughly an 80 mile round trip. I was about 12 years old at the time. Our bikes were built up by me and my brother in the shed, handsprayed, with bars wrapped in electrical tape, crappy flat pedals and whatever rubber we could find for tyres. We rarely got off to walk, although there was the odd hill we simply couldn't climb. We didn't even have trainers, I recall wearing normal black shoes, jeans with clips, and an old coat in the winter. If it rained we just got soaked through.

    It seems ridiculous now, that we buy all this gear, technical clothing. I bet I couldn't do that same run in the times we used to do it in those days. I recall the fun of tearing down steep hills and overtaking cars, not knowing the danger (or caring). I was taken out going down the inside of cars on the steep descent into Looe once, we were doing much more than 30mph, when I look back I must have been mad. The brakes rarely worked properly, and would usually serve better as a warning because of the screech, rather than a stopping aid.

    One memory that always stays with me, was flying down a hill close to home, doing quite some speed, when a rather large lady carrying several bags of shopping, stepped out in front of me. As I tried to swerve around her, she panicked and stepped right where I was going. I will never forget the loud grunt she gave as I crashed full speed into her, knocked her flying, and her shopping bags all split open and her potatoes and tins rolled off down the hill. Amazingly I just had two broken fingers, a bit of road rash on my legs and elbows and a graze on my head, so I think she cushioned me. To say she wasn't impressed is an understatement. There was a right commotion with all the neighbours out helping her, I was dragged back home by those who knew where I lived, and was grounded for ages. Apparently she was taken by ambulance to hospital, I never found out what the damage was. The good thing with bikes back then was it was hard to break them, even on fat old ladies.

    Happy days.
    Ridley Orion
  • giropaulgiropaul Posts: 414
    Ron Stuart wrote:
    Raced against this bike recently, anyone have an idea who rode it originally and again on the 7th of Oct last :?:
    414_10151295731039524_651594818_n.jpg

    Yes, I do know, because I wielded a spanner on it when it was new, and helped the owner find the original kit to go back on it - but others may enjoy guessing, so I won't spoil it yet for them.
  • Ron Stuart wrote:
    Raced against this bike recently, anyone have an idea who rode it originally and again on the 7th of Oct last :?:
    414_10151295731039524_651594818_n.jpg

    Jimmy Savile :shock:
    "You really think you can burn off sugar with exercise?" downhill paul
  • Ron StuartRon Stuart Posts: 1,242
    Ron Stuart wrote:
    Raced against this bike recently, anyone have an idea who rode it originally and again on the 7th of Oct last :?:
    414_10151295731039524_651594818_n.jpg

    Jimmy Savile :shock:

    JS was pushing up daisies on 7th Oct last :roll:
  • Ron Stuart wrote:

    JS was pushing up daisies on 7th Oct last :roll:

    Yeah but pushing what up daisies? 8)
    "You really think you can burn off sugar with exercise?" downhill paul
  • APIIIAPIII Posts: 2,010
    I'm just leafing through my late grandad's copy of "fifty years of road riding - a history of the north road cycling club (1885-1935). He was elected in 1918! Some interesting stuff in there
  • unixnerdunixnerd Posts: 2,864
    Not 45 years ago but nearer 35 I had a single speed Elswick Hopper, aged 11 I rode it 10 miles to Loch Ness and was very proud of myself. My mother was horrified :-) I then had a bright red five speed Peugeot racer which likely weighed a ton but I loved it, even had dynamo lights that howled and wore the side of the tyre down. It's saddle was a single piece of very hard plastic which was quickly upgraded.

    The one thing I really remember is cleaning the wheels most weekends on those two and my later Raleigh, they were chromed steel and rusted like mad. They also went out of true very easily.

    What amazes me now is that folk pay other folk to service their bikes! A foreign notion in my day when spanners and a screwdriver weren't seen as something to be afraid of.
    http://www.strathspey.co.uk - Quality Binoculars at a Sensible Price.
    Specialized Roubaix SL3 Expert 2012, Cannondale CAAD5,
    Marin Mount Vision (1997), Edinburgh Country tourer, 3 cats!
  • I proudly ride on vintage steel (my favourite was my dad's; I thought it was the coolest bike in the world when I was a lad...), but the one gripe I have with old bikes is with 27" wheels as there are so few tyres available. At some point I will 'modernise'; I'm only 30 years too late. :lol:

    Everything else is fine: downtube friction shifters, 5/6/7 speed gears, clips and straps... I'm very thankful for the fact that though I'm in my 20s I have the perspective that many younger riders do not; it's hilarious what so many cyclists complain about as inadequate. If I can average 25mph+ on weighty plain gauge with steel rims and flat bars, your Specialized is just fine. :lol:
  • I like cycling of any sort. Now or back in the day bombing round on my Grifter or out in th november rain on my ti Litespeed, all good.
    I don't mean to brag, I don't mean to boast, but I'm intercontinental when I eat French toast...
  • murf1480murf1480 Posts: 117
    Ron Stuart wrote:
    Ron Stuart wrote:
    Raced against this bike recently, anyone have an idea who rode it originally and again on the 7th of Oct last :?:
    414_10151295731039524_651594818_n.jpg

    Jimmy Savile :shock:

    JS was pushing up daisies on 7th Oct last :roll:

    Adrian Timmis 87 TDF bike
  • I have an old Pug in that colour. It's not as nice as that one.
  • NavrigNavrig Posts: 1,352
    edited November 2012
    unixnerd wrote:
    Not 45 years ago but nearer 35 I had a single speed Elswick Hopper,

    I think that was what I had in the lat 70s but as it had been (hand) resprayed I couldn't be sure. Cost about £15 second hand. - SCRUB THAT. Just did a Google search. I didn't have a Hopper, I think it may have been a Raleigh 20 (hides away in :oops: ). Either way it was low tech and worked.

    I then was offered an extended holiday or a new "racing" bike just like my friend's Puch. That was until mum and dad priced the Puch (it was yellow with 5sp rear derrailleur) then I was offered a Vindec Club 50 or Blue 50. This had 10 gears so must have been better!! The gears were Huret and the brakes Weinnman centre pulls (Puch had side pulls). I think the Vindec cost £65. It was sky blue and the decals were wrinkled (I hated that). The saddle was solid plastic and I never changed it. I suspect I deadened many of the nerves in my backside riding that bike because nowadays I can jump on any bike with any saddle and I never get a numb or sore bum.

    I kept that bike for a about 10 years then it was nicked in Aberdeen. I replaced it with my first MTB and I stayed on the dark side until about 5 years ago.
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