Another episode from Boats and Bikes…
Cycle Time Trials – the 1970s
I found the competitive side of cycling to be just what I wanted at that time. I needed a new angle on cycling and this was it! I managed to be moderately successful and I improved my “Personal Best” times over the distances I raced – mainly 10, 25 & 50 mile events.
During the winter of 1970/71 I went to a bespoke cycle frame builder in Southampton, associated with the then Rotrax Cycles shop in Shirley Road and ordered a new cycle frame, purely for racing.
I had, until then, used either a borrowed racing bike, or a make-shift one I rigged up, as a temporary mount.
I was now working in Woolston and Hamble at a boat building company, running the stores operation, so that was quite convenient for visiting Rotrax Cycles and obtaining parts, bought weekly, to accumulate towards building up the new bike, once the frame was ready.
Here are a few images of Rotrax Cycles framesets. Image credit: Tim Maund, Rotrax Cycles.
You can find out the history of Rotrax Cycles in Southampton in this informative website: Rotrax Cycles.
I still rode CTC Sunday Club Runs when not racing and several of us in the same club rode competitive races during the summer months, which started at unearthly hours early on Sunday mornings, before the traffic ‘built up’. We then rode out to join the club run riders, often at their lunch stop. For instance we would start at 06.15am from near Ringwood.
In that way, we accumulated some interesting mileages. We would drive to the time trial, which was often quite a way away. We would then ride a 50 mile time trial, including a warm up beforehand, so the total mileage was probably 55 miles.
Then it would be time to put the bike on the car roof rack, drive home, change quickly, get out the touring bike, ride to meet the others and then ride out, maybe to Highcliffe (if it was a beach run), or to Fordingbridge, (another 25/35 miles or more). Then I would join up with the club riders, ride to tea and then go back home, often via a pub and game of darts, before getting home late on Sunday evening, having maybe ridden a total of 120/130 miles during the day.Sometimes it was many more miles!
I rode the Poole Whs 12 hour, where, instead of riding a set distance course, one rode on a measured course (all still on public roads), for the time (12 hours), and it was the distance covered that decided your race position. In 1971, I managed 203+ miles.
I still followed the offshore powerboat racing of course, and attended as many events as I could, driving where and when I could fit them around the bike races!
In 1972 I had my best year at time trials. I had set a new club record and personal best (‘PB’), for 25 miles in October 1971, which I was most happy with, and this set me up for a good 1972.
The 1972 season saw me achieve “PB’s” at 10, 50, 100 miles, & ride 236.47 miles for 12 hours, just missing the club record by about one and a half miles, due to puncturing a tyre during the afternoon.
Becoming a Press Reporter
I still took time out to watch powerboat races and got more involved by getting a “Press Pass”, and writing press reports for The Hampshire Chronicle. One of the leading powerboat designers, Don Shead, was based at that time in Hursley, so when boats to his design did well, which they often did, that made it easy to write an interesting report, which was always printed in full.
Being a “Press Reporter”, albeit, an ‘amateur’, gave me introductions to previously forbidden places at powerboat races, like “Race Control”, where you could get limitless information and “goodies”, as well as access to press boats, free meals (literally), & other ‘goodies’! Life was good!
However, after the pressures of sustaining high levels of training etc to keep my cycle racing at top peak, I backed off in 1973. I also changed jobs in April that year, plus having a girl friend in Poole, meant not having so much time to go training.
I kept up my activities surrounding powerboats though, and still rode lots of time trials and a few road-races, but not as successfully as previously.
This kept going during 1973 and 74. In 1975, still cycling of course and following ‘my’ powerboats, I got engaged to a young lady from Eastleigh, as it really was time to think about settling down at last!
We married in January 1976, but I still rode on Sunday club runs, but returned home for lunch most times, as I could hardly keep staying out all day riding 75/100 miles, but leave a young wife at home.
Coming up to date
Since then 40 years ago, I have kept up my interests in both activities.
I raced bikes competitively, off and on, some years more than others, for a number of years.
I had a renaissance in the early 1990s and got within reasonably close distance of some of my times of twenty years before, but never beat them.
I still ride my bike now, mostly on club social rides on Wednesdays (since I’ve been retired) and on Sunday mornings. We do 30/50 miles on some rides, but it is the social contact that is probably more important now. But riding does keep you reasonably fit!
I became a race timekeeper many years ago, so am involved with races still, but only actually ride an “Event” a couple or so times a year, for “Old Times Sake”! I help out with various events and keep in touch with many contacts from my “racing days”.
I am probably more involved now with powerboats than ever before, although the sport has declined somewhat in this country, as opposed to other countries, where it thrives still. This is possibly due to lack of positive support from the governing body, the RYA – The Royal Yachting Association.
There is still much goodwill towards the Cowes/Torquay race, which is the oldest offshore race still continuously running in the world!
I am now involved with the trophies for this event, which have accumulated over many years.
The trophies are kept on the Isle of Wight and are still awarded where appropriate, each year. I am lucky enough to now be friends with several people who are at the hub of the sport and who were successful racers back in the 1970s and 80s.
I am also secretary and treasurer of a club, with a growing membership, that seeks to help and support those owning, or seeking to own, the Classic powerboats from years gone by.
We run rallies and other events, one of which is held alongside the present day Cowes-Torquay Race, thus showing old and new versions of boats through over 50 years of such events.
I think this probably brings this particular saga to a convenient close, but, with luck, I hope to continue my association with “Bikes & Boats” for some time to come!
(editors: Allison Symes, Janet Williams)
- Hazel Bateman: An Interactive Local History Talk by Martin Napier
Article Series by Martin Napier
- Part 1: Martin Napier: Growing up in Chandler’s-Ford: 1950s – 1960s
- Part 2: Martin Napier: Growing up in Chandler’s Ford: 1950s – 1960s: Paper Boy; North End School
- Part 3: Martin Napier: Growing up in Chandler’s Ford: 1950s – 1960s Bonfire Night
- Part 4: Martin Napier: Growing up in Chandler’s Ford: 1950s – 1960s: North End School
- Part 5: Martin Napier: Growing up in Chandler’s Ford: 1950s – 1960s: Bicycle, Bicycle!
- Part 6: Martin Napier: Growing up in Chandler’s Ford: 1950s – 1960s: A Summer of Hope and Sorrow
- Part 7: Martin Napier: Growing up in Chandler’s Ford: 1950s – 1960s: The Big Freeze in 1963
- Part 8: Martin Napier: Growing up in Chandler’s Ford: 1950s – 1960s: Breaking Free from North End School
- Part 9: Martin Napier: Growing up in Chandler’s Ford: 1950s – 1960s: My Passions with Bikes and Boats
- Part 10: Martin Napier: Growing up in Chandler’s Ford: 1950s – 1960s: Bikes, Boats, and Adventures
- Part 11: Martin Napier: Growing up in Chandler’s Ford: 1950s – 1960s: Witnessing My First Powerboat Race
- Part 12: Martin Napier: Growing up in Chandler’s Ford: 1950s – 1960s: the Joy of Powerboat Race and Cycling
- Part 13: Martin Napier: Growing up in Chandler’s Ford: 1950s – 1960s: Passions for Power Boat, Bike, and Lambretta
- Part 14: Martin Napier: Growing up in Chandler’s Ford: 1950s – 1960s: Rotrax Memories; Joy of Powerboat