The Bugle | Blast 439

Friday 29th May 2020
Big Wheel Edition




"It is an excellent thing to encourage an innocent sport (such as bicycling) which keeps young fellows out of the public-houses, music halls and gambling hells and all the other traps that are ready to catch them." - Ion Keith-Falconer


Our first two pioneering racing bicyclists John Moore won in Paris and John Keen in Surbiton in 1869 Bugle 436 & 438). Their speed was in large part determined by the size of the wheel on their 'Ordinaries' aka penny-farthings. This was obviously limited by the length of the leg to reach the pedals.

Hence bein 6' 3" (truly exceptional in Victorian times) conferred a great advantage and the ability to ride a larger wheel - the equivelent of having an extra top gear nowadays.

Our third bicyclist of the era is Ion Keith-Falconer, the third son of  the 8th Earl of Kintorere, had both height and money. He rode a  low velocipede at Harrow School before graduating onto an 86" Ordinary at Cambridge University.

The Cambridge University Bicycle Club (CUBiC) was founded in his first year - 1874. The 11 members elected him Vice-President and in November of 1874 he won his first race. He wrote:

Yesterday was the ten-mile bicycle race. Three started. I was one. I ran the distance in 34 minutes, being the fastest time, amateur or professional, on record. I was not at all exhausted... Today I am going to amuse the public by riding an 86-inch bicycle to Trumpington and back. There is a little scale of steps up it,[5] up which I am helped, and then started off and left to myself. It is great fun riding this leviathan: it creates such an extraordinary sensation among the old dons who happen to be passing.

[Cambridge University Bicycle Club - see:]

Wikipedia adds []: 

In 1875, he won a club race over the 42 miles (68 km) from Hatfield to Cambridge, and on 10 May won a race against Oxford University from St Albans to Oxford, 50 miles (80 km). The following April he won a four-mile (6 km) race, described as "the amateur championship", at Lillie Bridge, setting a record time. On 15 May he won the Cambridge club's 50-mile (80 km) race at Fenner's in 3h 20m 37s.

On 11 May 1878 he won the National Cyclists' Union two-mile (3 km) championship at Stamford Bridge. It was probably this race that gave him the status of world champion. Until the creation of the International Cycling Association, the NCU's championships were considered the unofficial championships of the world.[6]

In 1882, Keith-Falconer rode from Land's End to John o' Groats, the length of Britain, in 13 days. He rode 215 miles (346 km) in his last two days. His last race of importance was the amateur championship on 29 July 1882, at Crystal Palace, outside London. He won, seven minutes better than the record, in 2h 43m 58s.

One wonders whether any of the founders of the Anerley were there to compete against Ion.

He had taken a first at Cambridge in Theology and became an evangelical missionary. He died in Aden in 1887.



Ion was 75" (6'3"). His biggest bike was a mammoth 86" so this was his version of a Brompton. By my ruler around 50". 

The father of penny farthing manufacturing was James Starley in Coventry. His most famous 'Ariel' of the time was designed for men of a more modest build.


If you want to drive your Range Rover 260 miles for childcare or drive blind to a beauty spot during lockdown then our government has no problem. They are now relaxing restrictions - so it's OK to resume some sort of group riding again?

No according to Cycling UK. Their latest advice (updated today) can be found here:

We are compelled to follow that advice because, as Cycling UK makes clear, ignoring that advice invalidates the Club insurance. That would finish the club and its officers if there was a public laibility claim.

So what you can do in your garden doesn't yet equate you can do on a bike on the road. It would seem it's OK for members of two households to ride together (maxing out at 6?) and that's what has been informally happening anyway at your own risk.

Should we formalise it and, say, publish a GPX of one of our regular rides for us to ride on a Tuesday or Sunday morning?

We don't have to gather or start together but we will encounter each other on the ride and as long as we don't bunch up to more than two at a time it's probably within the law and even the spirit of the law. The risk is yours alone.

Picnic halfway? Bring a megaphone if you want to chat?

We can expect the government to clarify the situation for cyclists in the short term which may help. If enough people maintain social distancing to avoid a second wave we can expect greater freedom in later summer.

Something to discuss at the next Zoom Club Meet: 8pm Monday. And if anyone can find the latest advice for the 70+ please bring it along.



The government says it wants us to cycle to work rather than drive or take public transport. There is a lovely story in today's Grauniad about the Bike Station, a Scottish bicycle recycling charity, offering free bikes to NHS staff and other key workers:

Is the government prepared to put its money where its mouth is? Seemingly they are pumping £1.6 billion to doing just that.

Except today (again) I read my local council (Lewisham) is getting just £100k. It'll cost almost that work out how best to spend it!

No commuting revolution there methinks. Ministers who say we should almost all don't. I tried to find a photo of man of the week Dominic Cummings riding a bike but there were none known to Mr Google.

There were lots of him getting into taxis, being chauffered around and driving his own Range Rover. So is it one exhortation for us and polluting diesels for him?



Doing their bit during lockdown. Here in Sydenham they have reclaimed the old Co-op - closed for years - to set up a commune for the homeless with attached bicycle workshop. Over in Sutton they are reclaiming streets for bike lanes:

Isn't that what the government said we should  be doing?



The success of guerilla operators like Extinction Rebellion together with officially sanctioned changes by local authorities depends on people using them.

Which they can't if they don't know about them. Sustrans is trying to keep uup and map the changes. They are mostly unsurprisingly in London. Find out what and they know and help tell them what they don't here:



Not another retail victim of Covid-19 - the closure was announced back in January. Nevertheless a great opportunity for us vultures to get upto 60% off on our necessities:

A shame though, with Wiggle's aquisition of ChainReaction online comptition is reducing and prices are becoming less compeititive.

Offline the budget biker is increasingly becoming reliant on the Lidl and Aldi spot sales. For those that don't fancy queuing at their local Aldi - they have a decent range of stuff available online with free delivery over £20:



TomTom suggests this is a good read from our friends over at LFGSS:

Stay Safe