Meandering through the interwebz I came across a fantastic website: Cycling before Lycra. And upon emailing him, Allan (Nelson) kindly said there was no problem should I want to post about it 🙂
This was a loooong while ago, but as we are close to Christmas, and as Santa’s wishes are aplenty… I wanted to share images and text from Allan’s site, about that time in history when his mum and dad were part of that partly forgotten era when cycling was something easy, fun and natural! No fancy clothing, no fancy gear… a real inspiration and delight in looking back in time.
My father, Les Nelson, was in what was known as a ‘reserved occupation’ during the Second World War, a riveter in the local Vickers Armstrong Shipyard in Barrow-in-Furness. He started cycling in 1934, and soon became a keen cyclist, who, as well as racing and touring, rode his bike to work from 1936-1947, regardless of the weather.
Well known by the bus drivers on the Shipyard run, he would regularly ‘beat the bus’ to and from work on his fixed wheel bike, a distance of around 8 miles in each direction. As he says, the roads were a lot quieter then due in no small part to the petrol rationing (now there’s an idea!).
I love the photograph of Allan’s mum… so incredibly fantastic, without a single bit of lycra and yet she definitely meant [cycling] business! Not to mention how elegant her bike’s handlebars look!
Here’s Mum (Joan Nelson – nee Thomas) leaning against the wall of the White House Cafe (now demolished) at Levens in 1941
The bike she’s on here is of unknown make, but she later bought a ‘Halder’ (second-hand of course as during the war it was very difficult to buy new bikes, not many were being made).
Allan’s parents – Les and Joan – were touring in the first half of the 20th century, they had so much style doing what they enjoyed, but all with simplicity, the pictures Allan shared on his site provide an imagery that in the 21st century I hope will be re-proposed, as more people may choose to swap their cars for their bikes.
Les’s first bike was a “Sun Wasp”, 19″ frame, 26″ wheels. He then bought a “GA” (which he thinks stands for ‘George Astbury’). It was a Solihull model, egg-shell blue, 21″ frame (too big!), 26″ wheels, Cyclo gears (3 speed derailleur). For racing he turned the wheel round and put a fixed cog on. The complete bike cost him £12.00 which he paid off at 4s 6d per week, which was given to his father who had put the money up for the bike. Les’s wages at that time were around £5 per week.
Thanks Allan, for allowing me to reproduce some of the fantastic photos and text of your parents and their bikes. I really wish to see more of non-lycra touring and enjoyment of cycling around to be taken up once more by many and not just the few…
For more photos, anecdotes et al, go visit Allan’s site.
All images and quoted text are protected by Copyrights of Allan Nelson. Images and text reproduced with the kind permission of Allan Nelson.
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, while sharing a toast for a Bicycling New Year!!!
Update: Allan left a fantastic comment (scroll down to read it) about more fantastic anecdotes from his parents’ cycling adventures, go check it out!