EDGING AHEAD AT THE CATFORD HILL CLIMB by Des Donohoe.
You may wonder why we make this annual pilgrimage to watch the Catford Hill Climb at Yorks Hill. Well the answer is that the first event, held in 1887, was won by S.F. Edge, one of the most famous racing men of the Anerley Bicycle Club. For example, in 1893 he broke the world record for 100 miles on the open road.
But going back to 1887 when S.F won this most difficult of cycling challenges, perhaps the most important statistic was that he was only 17 years old. To win this hill climb at such an early age was a clear indication of the great future that lay ahead of him!
Since Edge put down the Anerley marker, our club members have been a regular competitors and hence our long standing support of the event. His winning of the Catford Hill Climb is recorded in a short biography of Edge, written by a fellow A.B.C member, G.H .Smith. G.H is better known as the author of the Anerley Club history, its first 50 years from 1881 to 1930.
It should be noted that whilst the modern venue is Yorks Hill, near Goathurst Common, the original race (and on 15 subsequent occasions) was ridden up Westerham Hill leading to Biggin Hill. This hill is still a challenge today, even with the aid of modern derailleur gears.
Prior to this first race, Westerham Hill was considered to be insurmountable due primarily to the very steep gradient, made even worse by the rain washed ruts of the unmade road.
Of course the primitive bicycles of the day, mainly penny farthings with solid tyres, were not exactly best suited to racing up such steep hills!
On this day in August 1887, 24 riders started the climb. From these only one penny farthing, with a 54 inch front wheel, made it to the top to take a very creditable fourth place.
Three tricycles also finished. Whilst they are heavy, at least the riders were unlikely to fall off, however slowly they climbed the hill!
As is the norm today, serious riders ride the best machinery available. In 1887 it was the innovative safety bikes. The most famous being the trend setting Rover Safety (above), pioneered by the John Kemp Starley of Coventry.
Of the 24 riders who started the climb, only 12 reached the summit. Of these 12, eight were riding safety bikes, including the winner,Anerley’s S.F. Edge.
Edge was always an innovator