I was born in September 1944 and I have ridden bikes for as long as I can remember, which is probably from the age of five or six. It all started with a Triang kid's tricycle, with cranks on the front wheel, and progressed through a much better trike (we didn't have stabilisers in those days) to my first bicycle - a BSA with a split curving top tube (crossbar then) which I believe was a children's version of the Airborne model used by paratroopers in the second world war. It was found abandoned outside the greengrocer's shop where my mother worked. BSA are the initials of the Birmingham Small Arms Company; who manufactured motorcycles, air rifles and shotguns, though some people said it stood for 'bloody sore arse'.
My last non-racing bike was a city bike which went through various incarnations, ending up as my paper round bike with fixed wheel and upturned dropped handlebars. But this was the bike that got me into the countryside, on day long excursions, and ignited my passion for cycling.
My first 'racing bike' was a handbuilt Bob Jackson, which I bought at the age of fourteen. Paper round money didn't stretch to a full road bike so, although it was a road frame, I built it initially as a fixed wheel bike with one brake. In my naivety I thought that the new bike would turn me into a club cyclist so, having finished building the bike on Saturday, I arranged to meet a local club, Leeds Westfield, for their Sunday club run. This turned out to be the senior men's group and we rode around 120 miles into the Yorkshire Dales. The distance and my young age weren't the only challenges; my 81 inch fixed gear and a new Brooks B15 saddle were added difficulties. By the middle of the ride I was unable to keep up with the group but I was fortunate enough to be befriended by an ageing, overweight grass track rider who kindly guided me on the roads which were to become my backyard but which were then so unfamiliar. For the next week, at school, I found it difficult to stand up and I certainly couldn't sit down.
Such experiences will resonate with cyclists of my age; we were either put off for good or we became converts to the world of club and competitive cycling. For me it was definitely the latter. From then on I immersed myself completely in this new world, with it's freedom, companionship, challenges and so much to learn. The day-long Sunday rides provided plenty of opportunity for all of this.
At this momentous time in my own cycling career I had little interest in the politics of sport but I later learned that this really was a momentous time for cycling in Britain. In 1959, after years of feuding, the National Cyclists' Union (NCU) and the British League of Racing Cyclists (BLRC) had amalgamated to form the British Cycling Federation (BCF), now trendily known as just British Cycling (BC). Little did I know what a major part the BCF and BC would play in my future.
It quickly became clear that road racing was what I wanted to do but it wasn't possible to get a licence until the age of sixteen so, in the racing season, I made do with riding out to watch the Sunday road races in which my elders were competing, which sometimes meant covering over 100 miles in a day. I was in awe of Ken Wilson, local junior who was as good as the best seniors. He won almost every race he rode and he was National Junior Champion in both of his juniors years, a feat that was not to be repeated until 35 years later but the competition in those days was much fiercer, with only the first three in each division championship allowed to compete in the Nationals.
I became part of the West Yorkshire road racing fraternity and went out with the Leeds chaingang every Tuesday and Thursday; and what a group this was. Many of the big names of the time were there; Albert Hitchen, Arthur Metcalfe, Bernard Burns and Jack Macklam, to name but a few. So renowned was the Leeds chaingang that other big names from far afield would stay in Leeds for a week or two just to ride with it and benefit from the race-like training. At that age my ambition was simply to get round with the main group, a feat that I did manage a couple of times. I soaked up as much as I could from the big names; what they wore (there was no such thing as training clothing in those days, riders bought the most suitable everyday clothing and often altered it to make it better for cycling; you could tell a lot about a rider by their clothing), what equipment they used, their riding style, how they behaved and much more. But the time I liked best was January, when we would ride steadily, two abreast, and I would manoeuvre myself next to one of the big names, ask endless questions but try to be cool - a hard balancing act.
Towards the end of 1960, when I was just sixteen, I was asked to join Leeds Coureurs, an invitation only club and the best in West Yorkshire. This was the club that Ken Wilson belonged to and I was to be his team mate; it seemed too good to be true and something I could only have dreamed of.
So my racing career started in 1961 and it went badly for about four or five races; I got dropped on the first climb in all of them. Then I had a dramatic change of form and, in a hilly race near Otley, I finished second to Ken Wilson, narrowly beating my other team mate for a team one, two, three. Many other similar results followed but nobody could beat Ken Wilson.
I was a good junior, and even managed a win when Ken Wilson had moved up to the senior ranks, but I was no more than that. Like a lot of people I had a long break to get married and bring up a family but I started again in 1982 and raced for a further five or six undistinguished years before turning my attention to coaching.