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SILK TUBS AND SIX BLOCKS

SILK TUBS AND SIX BLOCKS

A potted history of On-One and PlanetX. the who, what, why history and evolutionary story. Planet X owner Dave Loughran will attempt to give us a timeline of our history and how we got here.

 

Starting way back at the start – it’s a bit blurred now but you’ll get the drift of how it all began ……

 

CHAPTER 1

SILK TUBS AND SIX BLOCKS with HILTON WRIGLEY - 1966 to 1984

 

There’s that smelly man again, hobbling into the house, stinking of sweat, clunk clicking his way across the kitchen tiles, beard caked in sweat and hair all over the place. My dad was back from another training ride and I was yet again fighting tooth and nail with my brother driving my mum insane. “You and that bloody bike you should stay in and look after this pair, I’m going out”. Slam goes the door.

 

They say, and it certainly seems to me, that the 1950s was the true golden age of cycling. My Dad was lucky to be part of that era. Whole weekends were based around the escapism and joy of cycling with friends, whether it be racing, Touring, or simply getting an obscene amount of miles in. Their lives and weekends in particular revolved and centered on the pastime of cycling. Tales abounded of the long rides to races on double fixed hubs with your race gear on one side and training gear on other side, of carrying your race wheels on wheel carriers that attached to your front fork. The overnight stays on Saturday nights, crack of dawn starts on Sunday morning followed by a rapid 50 mile TT, then followed by the long ride home.

 

My dad loved cycling, racing, training, and I was brought up in the shadow of his cycling world.

 

Fast forward to my own youth and Sunday mornings invariably either meant a fatherless start to the day as he raced at some ungodly hour or disappeared out for a training ride, or occasionally we would go support him. This would usually involve a couple of hours throwing stones in a pond whilst waiting for the aforementioned dad sweat caked and stinking to finish the race. Then hanging around village halls waiting for times to be chalked up and the final wait to see what “the scratch man” would do,

 

Of course cycling is addictive and tends to pass down the generations and pretty soon I was starting to get interested. Soon the Thursday battle was no longer with my brother but with my dad over that mornings cycling weekly where we would read about the previous weekends exploits by the riders of the day.

 

And so my lifelong passion for cycling was born.

 

Equipment of the day

My dad wasn’t a big equipment freak, in those days not many were, aerodynamics had hardly been invented and the riders edge consisted mainly of drilling every component on your bike with holes.

 

Yet my interest in cycling products was definitely already growing, of course pre-internet there was no easy way to find out about the latest products so product knowledge was limited to that which was passed down from club rider to club rider, most was probably mythical with little standing up to modern science.

 

Frames

Frames were invariably handbuilt by the local master framebuilder plying his trade – small bastions of framebuilders dotted the country and the ultimate dream of many a cycling enthusiast of a new custom made hand built frame was one of he ultimate right of passage into the local cycling fraternity. My Dads frame was made by the little known Hilton Wrigley who crafted a fine track frame and was the local builder who built for many of the local Huddersfield star wheelers riders including I believe the likes of Tour de France stage winner Brian Robinson.

 

Click here for the full story –

http://www.classiclightweights.co.uk/builders/hilton-wrigley-builders.html

 

Tubulars

Tubulars had to be super skinny and superlight, 18mm Wolber Record Routes would be my dads race tubulars – racing these was like zipping along on razor blades, and of course there was the badge of honour tradition of “maturing your tubs” which would involve laying away in a well aerated drawer for a couple of years before riding them.

 

Gearing

Gearing on our racing bikes was invariably 52-42 with a 12-21 6 block, and the superb Simplex Retro-friction downtube shifters made gear changing an art not a science. Trips to the local dealer would involve much oooing and aaaaring at the sight of the latest Campagnolo Super Record or Nuovo Record exotica, and occasionally the progress with the custom 753 frame that had a delivery time of at least 2 years from order. All good things come to those who wait, though not in the case of 14 year old juniors who had outgrown the original measurements.

 

So that’s it on the equipment front – you survived on hand me downs and didn’t take much notice really, it was all in the legs anyway – except of course for the drilled holes and super narrow silk tubulars.

 

Riders of the Day

My youth was filled with tales of firstly Engers and Burton, then in the 80s Cammish and Webster. Time trial legends who seemed superstars remote and far away yet in reality all within arms length and often the wait for “the scratch man” would actually be one of these demi gods. So hanging around village halls quickly became more interesting as my interest grew.

 

The Tour

And then there was the Tour. By my early teens our July lives would be dominated by the rush for channel 4 at 6pm, when Phil Liggett would host the Tour de France stage of the day.

Suddenly cycling was not just about a domestic UK Sunday morning dual carriageway speedfest and a stinky sweaty dad, but a colourful vibrant exotic mix of larger than life superheroes and my interest in cycling spiked further. The racing was with style, it was about panache, to win like a lion – it was the golden years of the Tour with Hinault versus Fignon dominating my teenage summers.

 

The Clothing

Yes, woollen itchy jerseys were still around. Crash hats were nets.

Keeping warm in winter involved a ritual of nicking a pair of your mums tights and any number of plastic bags shoved in your cycling shoes and various layers of newspapers shoved up your jersey,

Technical apparel was but a figment of some soft arse American yet to understand that the tradition of cycling should involve the ability to both suffer and to adapt.

 

The Training

The scientific training of the day would involve tales of woe passed down from clubmate to clubmate, tales of great riders who employed the golden rules would be passed to lesser mortals so they could climb the ladder of greatness. My very own father imbibed some of these pearls of wisdom that I of course followed with the dedication of a disciple to his god.

“Ride 63 inch fixed to learn souplesse” – so endless years of winter riding were spent spinning my legs so fast that my crotch bled and my thighs would radaiate for days after. Sunday evenings were spent sat of the sofa bathing in the glorious heat of legs glowing like a ready brek advert.

 

“Key to a good season is 1000 miles in February” – I tried this once, and was up to 985 miles on the 28th February at 1pm when exhausted I rode into the back of a parked van, broke my forks, and had to get the train home. Devastated I hadn’t achieved the magical 1000 mile I of course went on to have my most dismal season ever – if only I had got that extra 15 miles in. Damn and I still wonder now how good I could have been.

 

The Crash

And then it all went a bit pear shaped.

 

A coach of American tourists were enjoying a Sunday morning drive up the A1 and the driver was engaging them with tales of his coach driving prowess and failed to notice the early morning Sunday time trial and in particular a snotty smelly bloke going flat to the boards on his 87 inch fixed purple custom handbuilt Hilton Wrigley and his large flange Campagnolo hubs thinking he was close to the magical hour.

 

Later that day my Dad was found face down in a ditch with a broken back, punctured lungs, smashed ribs, smashed left leg and obliterated left ankle.

 

To say a near death experience sheds a new light on a joyous pastime and lifestyle is an understatement, and cycling in our household was forced to go underground as my mum banned all things cycling and my dad went through a long slow painful rehabilitation.

 

They do say that out of every tragedy there will spring shoots of new growth and to every negative there is a positive, to every yin is a yang. Well a near death cycling accident might be the most inappropriate and sick event to take positives from but out of the wreckage of the crash amazingly that Hilton Wrigley escaped unscathed and duly passed straight into my grubby little mitts!

 

I think in hindsight it happened at a pivotal time of my life, and truly, honestly, it was that bike stimulated my interest in cycling which turned into a career and a lifetime in the bicycle industry. So thank you Dad for getting flattened by a bus, and thank you Hilton Wrigley for sparking an interest in the quirky, unusual, cycling world that became my life and career and is probably a reason we have ended up here. 

5 April 2012