The picture here shows me aged seventeen competing in my native England in the National 12 Hour Time Trial Championship. I remember that I was the first rider off at 5:01 a.m. on a Sunday morning in August 1953 and I rode non-stop until precisely 5:01 p.m. that evening when a time keeper who had followed me for the last few miles told me to stop. The whole course was measured precisely and for the last part of the event riders were directed onto a fifteen mile “finishing circuit” until their time ran out.
The mileage was marked on the finishing circuit at every quarter of a mile. From the point where my time ran out the time keeper went back to the nearest marker and on a fixed wheel bicycle counted pedal revolutions to the point where I had stopped. Using this method each rider had the distance covered measured to the nearest yard. I covered just over 220 miles my best ride for this event and one that I never bettered in later years. The winning ride that day was around 250 miles.
After I set out that morning other riders followed at one minute intervals; 120 in all over a two hour period. It was a perfect day as I remember, overcast but not cold and little or no wind. The course was on the famous Great North Road where time trials had been held since they started in the late 1800s. The Great North Road or “The A1” as it is designated was the main arterial road from London to Scotland at the time. The first freeway or Motorway as they are called in England was not built until 1959.
The course started at Girtford Bridge about 40 miles north of London and went as far north as Grantham in Lincolnshire. The course was laid out like a giant tree with the A1 being the main trunk running south to north and along the way we were diverted off on branches running east and west. Riding along a branch road to a certain point then doing a “U” turn to ride back to the Great North Road. In the picture I had just done one of these "U" turns and was out of the saddle getting back up to speed. The whole event monitored by volunteer marshals and everyone checked to ensure they rode every part of the course.
When I say I rode non-stop I mean non-stop. I was held on the start line by a helper, and as the seconds counted down I strapped my feet into the pedals and they remained there for the entire twelve hours; my feet never touched the ground during that period. I carried food and drink with me, and more was handed up during the event. My favorite food to carry was rice pudding with raisins in it. My mother would bake it in the oven until it was semi solid but still moist and could be cut into rectangular pieces and wrapped in grease proof paper. This was before the time of plastic wrap and aluminum foil.
It was still officially dark when I started and I had to use battery lights. You can just see the tail light mounted above the rear brake. The heavy front lamp was clipped to my handlebars and I had dropped that off en-route by the time this picture was taken. In case you are wondering I did not have to pee the entire twelve hours; I guess perspiration removed any excess liquid from my body.