Three Men Five Wheels

From Sporting Cyclist 1959

SUNDAY proved a very busy day and the morning was spent preparing the trikes and the vehicle. After lunch there were numerous ‘phone calls to get the weather forecast, and then David pronounced the verdict, “We start tomorrow.” More feverish activity with a small office printing kit preparing postcards notifying the many helpers of the intended start, and them off to Penzance to catch the post. We discovered later that many cards were not received until the Tuesday evening, which probably accounted for the “blank patches” among the helpers en route. A visit to the “End” for photographs; a penn’orth on the weighing machine for David, who turned the dial to 13 st. 5 lb.; meet the timekeeper, Ted Bricknell, off the train from Penzance; last-minute details to arrange, supper and 14 hours had gone by before you could say Albert Grimes ! Monday the 11th proved cloudy but with a strong S.W. wind, and everybody was busy by 6 o’clock.

Breakfast, final adjustments, flasks filled, watch checked, down to the Land’s End Hotel, 8 a.m., and we were off. The early miles passed swiftly by, and despite rain storms David made good progress, so good that we had difficulty in bypassing him to hand up food, but by dint of fast sprints through Devon lanes and many wishes for larger scale maps, we were successful on all but one occasion. During a quick thirst quencher at Lowdown, while Gerry was on the ‘phone reporting progress to Keith Edwards at Birmingham, the landlord of the ” Victoria Arms” volunteered to be the passenger when the End to End is attempted in a bathchair ! He was but one of the many enroute who thought it was another twist to the Babs Moore effort, and most were surprised to discover that the cyclist! End to End has been on the books for over five decades and that its strictly timed and observed and must comply with many ancient rules and regulations. Around Taunton, we began to notice an Austin which kept appearing on the side-road ahead, the occupants of which had a drink or sponge ready. These turned out to be the Ferry brothers from Yeovil, who helped as far as Bristol. Their knowledge of the lanes in this area fabulous and enabled them to keep up a succession of by-passes to get ahead of David. Despite the evening traffic in Bristol, the local club folk ensured a swift transit through the city, and we were soon on our way to Gloucester, where Lewis Morris and his crew were on duty. David was through here, 231 miles, in 12 hours, a few hundred yards better than his own record. It was here that we found that David had lost a shoe-plate, which resulted in many ‘phone calls and so much dashing about. In the end we collected half a dozen plates from helpers in Wolverhampton, and on the Tuesday, David changed into a spare pair of shoes. During the next few miles Gerry sat in the back cobbling, using the car jack as a last ! At Gloucester we handed over our charge to Jack Clements (president of the Beacon R.C.C.) and Dick Bowes (Solihull C.C.) while we pressed ahead, the idea being to have a break at Stourbridge before taking over again at Newcastle-under-Lyme. That was the idea! In fact David was traveling at such a rate of knots that we barely had time for a wash, a meal, tidy the van and replenish the flasks before it was time to be on the road again. We found David and followers at Wolverhampton; and as we were not due to take over again for another 30 miles, we made ourselves useful acting as domestique to the other helpers. At Newcastle we met George Wad, who, with Jack Duckers and Wilf (all of the `’.T.T.A.), in his van were to provide the mobile feeding arrangements for the rest of the journey. Between Newcastle and Warrington, we saw Jack Littlemore, and other Northwestern members of the T.A., flitting around the dark Cheshire lanes with drinks and encouragement. It was on this stretch that David had a bad patch, and his hour and a half gain on schedule dwindled to nil by the time Preston was reached at 6.29 a.m. on Tuesday. During this “bad patch,” slave driver Peter Barlow gave me instructions that under no conditions was I to allow David to rest, “He must be kept on the shove, if only at 5 m.p.h.” This was carried out! At the top of the hill leaving Wigan, a local policeman was quite unperturbed, at 5.30 in the morning, to find a parked tricycle whose rider was sitting in the back of a van, while three helpers were busy giving him a rub down and change. He asked us if it were an endurance test. Well, I suppose that is one way to describe it ! At Lancaster we were met by Gordon Tait and his clubmates who had a table, etc., erected by the side o the road and we witnessed a most efficient “wash and brush up” and feed. David disappeared under half a dozen helpers, who washed, massaged, fed, etc., and in a matter of minutes he was on the road again. Drinks were provided for both van crews, a dip in the bucket and we were off an the road again. From here on, the wind turned north, and was to remain there, despite forecasts of an early change, for the next 460 miles. David presses steadily on, and after climbing Shap had to “honk” down the other side against the wind! Through Penrith and Carlisle and across the border at Gretna Green, where the sound of bagpipes reminded us we were in Scotland. At this point, David told us he was feeling sleepy, and at if sound of the bagpipes thought 1 had arrived at the “Golden Gates At Abington, 526 miles, David stopped, against his will, for scheduled break. However, it was worth it, and after motherly attention from Mrs. MacInnes, David was soon feeling better, so much so that we watched three minutes tick relentlessly by, while “our rider” enthralled with the juke-box of Mr. Acker Bilk! I have wondered since what Peter Barlow would have

Something wrong here – 1000 miles from Lands End to John O’Groats (above) but only 874 in the reverse direction (below. The small sign too is wrong “Should be ‘Trike it and like it’ ” says Dave. But one signpost is right – his new record tme of 2-10-59 for the tricycle end to end.

said if he had been present! soon as the disc finished, he sent packing to complete, a differ type of record. Acker Bilk’s music must have magical powers, a 20 minute deficit on schedule reduced to nil in the next 88 miles through Lanark and Stirling a Perth. Upon reaching Perth, David asks for his lamps and extra clothes ready for the night, and Gerry takes this opportunity to rub some neat’s foot oil on David’s legs. A few miles further on we stopped a short while at Bankfoot to get supper. Gerry tells me that neat’s foot oil on one’s fingers adds quite a distinctive flavour to six penn’orth and a piece of cod. The 115 miles from Perth to Inverness includes the crossing of the Grampians, with a steady unbroken climb to the summit at Dalwhinnie. It was on this climb that, in the headlights, we suddenly saw something on the road ahead, and upon investigation found David lying on the ground with his feet up on the trike axle! A quick rub down, and the feeling soon returned to his legs and he was pedalling on once more. Shortly after Tomatin (where he was 50 minutes down on schedule), David stopped to allow the van to go on ahead and make sure the organisation at Inverness was prepared. This journey was not really necessary, for the organisation there was about the finest I have seen on a record attempt or long distance time trial. The Inverness organisation was undertaken by the Clackmannanshire Wheelers under the able direction of their secretary, Maysie McLeod. We were directed by marshalls stationed on every corner to Maysie’s house where every necessity had been prepared. David’s imminent arrival was announced by a motorcyclist who had seen him on the outskirts of the town and had used back streets to get there first. With the help of Maysie’s husband, Ian, David was soon washed, changed, fed, and in half an hour was away again. Many remarks are made to tricyclists and David told us the latest; a small Scots lad had asked him, “Do ye no think ye’re a bit tae big to ride one o’ them?” All the helpers were kindly provided with washing facilities and breakfast and then Ian, despite the rain which was now falling heavily, rode ahead of the van to pilot us through the town and on to the road for Dingwall. David was now showing signs of his 50 odd hours without sleep, but he rode steadily on through repeated rain showers, and although an hour down on his schedule (which was calculated to beat Albert’s time by two hours) he managed to keep it at this level. When he heard at Inverness that Albert had walked Berriedale, David was determined to ride, and this he did ! I believe he is the first End to End tricyclist to do this and is therefore not only the first tricyclist to complete the ride without sleep but also the first to ride the whole course. Due to road repairs the surface on both Helmsdale and Berriedale was atrocious, and progress was so slow in places that he was almost at a standstill. Every turn of the pedals must have been agony, for it even made my legs ache, and I was walking alongside! However, he was still able to pass the time of day with two girls whom he met at the top. Freewheeling down the other side for a breather, David would have never thought that, the next day, on the way home, he would be helping to push a fuelless van to the top from the opposite direction ! David then settled down to tackle the last 40 miles, and this he did in earnest, for the wind, at last, had moved on to his shoulder. In fact, he went “mad,” and mile after mile was reeled off at 21-22 m.p.h., and this after 850 miles in 58 hours ! The last 17 miles from Wick was covered in 50 minutes. We overtook David for the first, and last, time .about nine miles from ‘Groats so that Ted could be in position to time the finish. I would have given a lot for a picture of David’s face as we passed him, though I shall carry a mental picture of his contorted, determined features for many years ! Despite the isolation of John O’Groats there was quite a crowd to welcome David after he passed Ted at 11 minutes to seven to record a time of 2 days, 10 hours, 59 minutes. During this story I have said little or nothing about the splendid work undertaken by George Ward and his crew with the feeding arrangements. They were in the right place at the right time and worked without any fuss. With a Calor gas stove in the back of the van, every feed of porridge was freshly prepared, though I think there was almost as much porridge around the van and its contents as that which went into the bottles for David ! To the uninitiated, this would appear to be the End, but no. After a short sleep of 25 minutes in .the van, David was up again. Photographs, telegrams; another penn’orth on the scales, now showing 12st. 51b.; reporters; telephone calls, etc., before making our way to the hotel for the night. After a bath, David was ready for a meal and we sat down to dinner. Sandy, a coach driver who was staggered to hear of David’s 2 day ride, told us it had taken him three days to get to Glasgow with his coach and generously treated us to drinks. Finally, at half past ten, we made our way slowly up the stairs and so to bed. The only thing left now was the journey home to Birmingham. And that took us TWO days! !

HEADING NORTH ” Breakfast ” at Lancaster at a roadside pull-up manned by Gordon Tait and Wilf Crowther, regular End-to-End helpers.

Less than 50 miles to go After the eight mile drag out a Helmsdale, a quick freshener from Peter Thorne (author of this story) Pip Jones stands by with bidons of porridge and glucose drink.

Three hours earlier, Dave Duffield stops at the summit of Aultna main. It was early morning, cold wet and windy.

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