Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Cyclist Battalions in the First World War

This is the cap badge of a little known corps of the British Army, which fought during the First` World War. Bicycles revolutionised the way in which people moved, at the turn of the century. They were light, safe and cheap. The motor-car was in its infancy, even in 1914. The British Army (like other armies) still used many horses for heavy transport and troop movement.

WW1 Army Cyclist Corps cap badge

WW1 soldiers on bicycles
These soldiers are preparing to ride fully equipped bicycles. Note the rifles slung along the cross bar and the hot, sweaty and itchy woollen battle dress – complete with long puttees round their legs. No lycra then
The very first complete bicycle unit (the 26th Middlesex Rifle Volunteers) was raised in 1888; the same year as Worcester St johns Cycling Club was formed. There were 14 cyclists battalions on the eve of World War 1. Most were Territorial Army Units.

However, The Army Cyclists’ Corps was formed up in 1914 and fought throughout the First World War. All of the new army divisions raised under Lord Kitchener's instructions in 1914 included a cyclist company.

Pay was to be the same as that of the infantry. Proficiency pay would be given to men who qualified as a proficient cyclist and who had the necessary physical endurance. 

The primary role of the cyclists were reconnaissance and communications. They were armed with rifles and fought as infantry. 

This is a recruiting poster during the war. It's interesting to see that dental health was apparently a big issue then.

WW1 recruiting poster

Sadly, like all the divisions, which fought in this terrible conflict 100 years ago, many cyclists were killed. The very first British fatality of the war was 16 year old John Parr, a military cyclist. He joined the Middlesex Regiment under age in the hope that The Army would give him a better life than struggling in poverty in London. He was killed near Mons in one of the first skirmishes of the War. 

This is a picture of one of the Headstones of another cyclist in a Commonwealth War Graves Commission graveyard.

WW1 headstone 660 L CPL J White

If you are local to Worcester, and want more information on cycling, you might be interested in the Worcester Show coming up. We will be there along with other cycling organisations, so do come along.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Charity Bike rides - Don't Knock Those Middle-Aged Men in Lycra

Most days, we read stories in the newspaper of (mostly men) cyclists  who have taken on a major challenge to ride from Lands End to John O’Groats or London to Paris.

In some cases, these are people who have never ridden much at all or they are people who have returned to cycling. In either case, they were inspired to re-start cycling to support some worthy cause.

If the challenge has hills and long day rides, much training should be done in advance. A one hour cycle ride in jeans will soon suggest that cycling clothing would be a better choice. Anyway, having acquired the cycling clothing, you can soon see how unflattering it is. Every ounce of surplus flesh is exposed; there’s no hiding place. Fitness becomes a high priority and a “regime” starts. Many miles are burnt on the roads, punctures repaired, gears adjusted and saddle sores dealt with.

And of course, the parallel challenge is raising money for the cause. Potential donors are constantly approached by other charities and donor fatigue is a big factor. Anyway, coffee mornings, concerts, football matches and cake sales all bring in the money for the charity, eventually.

Quicker than you think, the first day of the event arrives. Off you go with some others who have experienced the same preparation as you. An immediate esprit de corps is generated as you all find a common cause and have faced the same challenges. This spirit tends to prevail and ( in my experience) long term friendships are formed.

I have also found that, having got into the habit of cycling regularly in training, I needed to continue the momentum. It’s true to say that every time you finish a cycle ride, you feel good. You feel the benefits of fresh air, of companionship ( or your own company), the sites and smells of the countryside, often a good tea stop and most of all the after-effects of good exercise.

As a youth, I cycled all day and every day – eventually graduating to a ten-speed Hercules in the sixties and, in the seventies, a lightweight Carlton. Both of these British firms are defunct now. Now I have ended up with a mountain-bike, a “hybrid” (half way between mountain and road bike) and a very light road bike, with no less than ten sprockets on the back (you can get eleven!). I ride with a group of senior men and ladies from Worcester St John’s Cycling club every week and ride most days for shopping, visiting or just for fun. I am hooked again.

The cycling revolution is catching on in Britain and it’s not just because of The Tour de France; it’s been happening slowly for a number of years. The only frustration now is the lack of cycling infrastructure in our county. That’s a great pity because it has some spectacular scenery. It rivals Yorkshire, in my view.

There are some really good bike shops in the County. I like to support the Trotmans in Malvern Link. They have a good café now too.

So don’t knock those “MAMILs” (Middle Aged Men in Lycra). They won’t stay tubby for long, if they keep at it and they are all buying expensive bicycles and cycling kit in local bike-shops as well as keeping the cafes busy with their demand for team and cakes. 

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Push Bikers ride for charity

Mike and Jan Skan and Sue from the Push Bike! group have been riding for charity.

They have completed the London Brighton Cycle ride on 15th June, when both Mike & Sue were celebrating birthdays, and the 48 mile Worcestershire Bike Ride  on 29th June in aid of the British Heart Foundation.

This is a photo they took outside the Wheelbarrow & Castle pub at Inkberrow.

If any one wishes to donate to the British Heart Foundation this is the link to Mike and Jan's Just Giving page:
Both were excellent rides!

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Women cycle in style

Courtesy IStock

Want to get on your bike but don’t know what to wear? Or, is cycling lycra not your look? Don’t be put off, you can cycle in style.

Unless you are trial or audax riding, you can be flexible around what you wear. For cycling around town, or cycle commuting, everyday clothes, shoes or boots are generally fine.  Just a little thought is all that is needed, and fashion need not be cast aside. More or less anything goes but you may want to think about:

  • When wearing boot-leg or wide leg trousers you may need cycle clips, velcro ankle bands (slap bands) or legwarmers around the ankle on the chain side of the bike.
  • Need I say, peddle pusher trousers are ideal for this time of year.
  • Skirts just need to be comfortable, but if you like them long and flowing, then clipping with a peg should keep them away from the chain.
  • Breathable waterproofs stuffed into a pannier or handlebar basket are so useful.
The warmer months present fewer clothing issues than in winter, but watch this space for an article later in the year on artfully layering up for autumn and winter cycling.

For longer day rides and cycle touring you can find clothing that allows you to cycle through a light shower and dry off quickly, and minimise that clammy or sweaty feeling. Cotton is best avoided, but lycra isn’t essential. If you prefer to stop at a cafe or tea shop and blend in, there are many outlets selling outdoor, travel and holiday wear that are ideal for holiday cycling. 

Courtesy IStock
Rohan are particularly good for smarter breathable, showerproof and non-crease clothing. When panniers are your wardrobe, clothes that crush down to the size of a crisp packet and unravel crease-free are a boon.

Most of the above clothing is made from hi-tech synthetic material, but if you prefer natural materials then wool is hard to beat. Even at this time of year fine wool clothing can keep you cool. It is a natural fibre -  breathable, insulating, good for wicking moisture away, renewable, biodegradable and looks good. Andy Kirkpatrick, a mountain climber, sings its praises as a forgotten hard to beat natural performance fabric for demanding outdoor sports in ‘The wonders of wool’ (http://www.andy-kirkpatrick.com/articles/view/the_wonders_of_wool). If it’s good enough for mountain climbers.........

Useful for ‘Women who want to cycle’ is the Sustrans Bike Belles guide (http://www.admin.ox.ac.uk/media/global/wwwadminoxacuk/localsites/estatesdirectorate/documents/travel/Bikebelles.pdf). For cycling related events and gear check out the Malvern Outdoor Festival in Victoria Park on 20th July (https://www.facebook.com/MalvernOutdoorFestival).

For more information and advice on cycling in Worcestershire visit our blog at www.pushbikecampign.org
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