This is a postcard I found on Sunday in a local antiques fair. It depicts Ventnor Cycle Racing Club and is believed to have been taken in 1936. The cyclists have been carefully arranged to be in a formation that depicts the shape of the Isle of Wight!
Ventnor is a small seaside town on a very steep hillside. The picture shows more than fifty cyclists, quite a lot for a small town club and more than the current membership of my own club, the Wayfarer Cycle Touring Club, which encompasses the whole island. I know nothing else about this club but finding out about it may well be my winter project! It set me wondering about the world of the keen cyclist of the 1930s and I hope to shed a little light on it with the help of an old magazine.
I’ve no magazines for 1936 but this one from June 30th 1937 seems close enough. This was a weekly magazine published every Wednesday. This is a bumper issue but even so it was a substantial magazine to be published weekly especially as there was also a rival weekly, the long established ‘Cycling’. Could todays cycling boom sustain two weekly magazines?
There was certainly no shortage of equipment available as the following advertisement pages demonstrate.
The cyclometer is little different to the one I had on my bike in the mid 70s and the ‘Buxone Canteen’ is also exactly like the one that I was thrilled to own when I was about eleven. Exactly the same design with the frying pan handle attached with a wingnut. I wonder if it was made with the same paper thin aluminium that burnt your food the moment it got near a flame! Probably not. I certainly never had anything like those natty jackets though!
Despite wearing what to me looks like formal dress and carrying heavy oilskin waterproofs they certainly got about. An article describes a tour following the river Elbe in Germany. I’m not sure if the Yorkshire ride described was intended as a day ride or a weekend tour but its a cracking ride and very hilly. Is that hand drawn map in any way inferior to the GPS computer versions that we produce?
They were an innovative lot too.
And finally no magazine would be complete without a test report on the latest bikes.
Somehow I feel close to these bygone cyclists. In many ways the modern world bears little resemblance to the world they knew but the essence of cycling remains the same. We still strain up hills and delight in swooping down again. The first rays of the sun on a frosty morning feel just as wonderful as ever. Many things have changed over the last seventy years but the pleasure of cycling is just the same now as it was then.