Those Were the Days

Team Crawley Wheelers 1968

Pete Main;Ron Ford;Eric Bonner;Adrian Jones

Steve Smith; Peter Hayes;Paul Lipscombe


Since 1999 some things have changed, I am 20 years older for a start and a bit slower on the bike. We have sold our business and retired and no longer live in the Scottish Highlands. Sadly both Dave& Peggy Stokes have died. My old friend and racing adversery Ron Ford is still cycling and we are still in touch. The era of 1960’s cycling is, and feels further away than ever now, did I really have all that energy to cycle all those miles? Was that really me? I have left the original text more or less as it was, apart from when it made no sense.


I am still in touch with Dave Stokes and Ron Ford and after seeing a Crawley Wheelers newsletter I thought it would be interesting to write about club life the far off 60’s.   I have always kept a diary, mostly about cycling but from time to time I throw in the odd comment about other things and I have had interesting time going through these diaries looking for mentions of the Wheelers. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Original diary entries are in italics.

Those Were the Days

My family first moved to Horley, Surrey in 1964.  At the time, I was a cocky 19 years old with some good results as a junior, including a couple of wins. I had been racing regularly since the age of fourteen for the Suffolk Roads CC and then the Goodmayes Wheelers, so on moving to Horley I looked for a new club.   I first tried the Redhill CC, but in the end I chose the Crawley Wheelers.

1964    7791 miles

First Impressions, Autumn

Crawley Wheelers definitely the club for me. I was quickly elected on to the committee as ‘Runs Secretary’ and became friendly with Ron Ford and Adrian (Age) Jones. I celebrated by getting a new (to me) bike. The day was not wasted as I obtained a new bicycle out of it, from Saviles of Battersea, its a Condor and is ideal except for the frame which is 22″ and just possibly might be too small. Cost £27. The Condor is in perfect condition, the tyres, chainset, cranks, saddle and seatpin are brand new. The only sign of wear is on the bars and gears, the enamel is perfect…..Crawley Wheelers AGM in the afternoon, I am now Runs Secretary……Club Committee meeting, what a marathon, 7:30 to 11:30. Hope we can get some club runs going soon. Fixed up with Ron Ford and Adrian Jones to go and see the Tour de France………….Went to Crawley Wheelers social, I am now positive this is the right club for me. There were about 50 there, lots of youngsters. Managed to get some to promise they will come out on Sunday…………The Condor almost ready for use, can’t wait to try it out………… At long, long last have got a club run organised, 7 of us went out to watch a time trial organised by the Central Sussex CC. 38 miles with hard climbs, an enjoyable day. …………..Christmas day; I Went out with Crawley Wheelers to Rusper for a couple of drinks. There were 8 of us.

1964 snippets

Sprints and Tubs         £4.50
New Saddle    £2.10
New Brakes   £3.00
Rory O’Brian re-enamel (any colour) £1.75

1965    10,677 miles

The Club seemed to be strong with 30 regularly turning up to the clubroom. As a 20 year old with nothing to do but ride my bike I did lots of miles and lots of races putting in one or two reasonable performances. I had some fun racing at Herne Hill and Preston Park Tracks.  Ron Ford turns out to be a hard man to beat! I helped design the Club Jersey (yellow top/sleeves and blue body) and visited France with Ron and Adrian to see the TDF, an unforgettable experience.  I come over, looking back, as a bit of an anorak with few interests outside cycling.

Club Room, 30 attending Clubroom, played darts and table tennis, had a go on the rollers. Got a committee meeting organised to sort out club colours………Hard training session tonight, Reigate, Dorking, Horsham, Crawley – 40 miles in 2hr 14mins………. Club Dinner, 113 sat down to dinner and an extra 30 came to the dance. I hope to take some of those trophies off Ron Ford next year ……….Clubs 100 mile reliability trial, got round in 7.53 although was dropped on the hills. Pleasant Club tea to finish. Light snow all day ……….Central Sussex 27 – 1:10:53. Very cold ……….Club 10 at Pound Hill, did 25.35 and beat Ron Ford and Adrian Jones and much to my surprise caught Graham Seymour……….Inter New Towns 25, Ron wins in 1:2:52, I do 1:4:10……….The Old Kent meeting at Crystal Palace, also rode there and back, 90 miles total. Finished at back of bunch, have now done 800 miles in 3 weeks……… Sussex Div. Champs, 3rd, five secs up on the bunch. I have never tried so hard. ………Saw TDF on Mt. Ventoux, took us 3hrs to climb 21 miles………. Poulidor won the TDF stage on Galibier……….1st 100 TT, 5:1:40, I was on a 4:40:00 schedule with 30 miles to go………. Vegetarian C&AC 50, caught 3mins by Adrian and 7mins by Ron and retired……..Braintree 25, 1:1:35………. Club run, not training, really enjoyed it, dinner in a pub….Club Hill Climb, Ardingley………. Club Run, 7 out. Lots of lanes and some beautiful countryside, dinner at Cross-in-Hand………. AGM, re- elected Runs Sec. An interesting meeting with the jobs going to the right people. Things are still looking up for the Crawley Wheelers……….Tom Simpson wins Sports Personality of the Year, we will get an English sponsored team abroad yet……….. Xmas am club run, me, Ron Ford, Adrian Jones, Bill Heron and Peter Hayes.

1965 snippets

Chainwheels  £5   
Headset  50p
Track Mitts£1.50
Club Jersey  £2.50 

1966    7370 miles

The transition into the senior ranks was proving difficult and I retired from so many road races, for a time, I was nicknamed ‘packer Main’ which hurt a little. I did produce a couple of reasonable time trials doing a ‘2’ for a 25 and a ‘7’ for a 50. I went on holiday to Brittany doing 800 miles in two weeks with Adrian. I seemed to enjoy the touring and the club runs as much as the racing. Still few signs of any interests other than cycling.

Club Dinner……..9 of us went really hard to Uckfield, getting there in 1hr 20m from Crawley………Bromley Hilly 27. Gale force winds and cold rain, 1:24:27……..General Election, another Labour Triumph!………17th, Derham RR…….Attend Graham Seymour’s wedding………Eastbourne Rovers 25, 1:4:39………Southend 50, 2:7:36 and won 1st hcp, I am very pleased……..September 1966. Touring for 2 weeks in Brittany with Adrian, 800miles………1st club run of the winter, 6 out including several youngsters……..No schoolboys on club run, so we went hard and did 80 miles……..Xmas 10, 31.09

1967    7480 miles

My times and performances failed to improve.  We knew very little about training in those days so it was miles, miles and more miles.  I constantly refer in my diaries to feeling tired and needing to do more training.  What I can see now is that I needed a rest. I also started a social life outside cycling that included drinking, dancing and girls. I started work as an engineer with the Electricity Board after completing a five year apprenticeship. 

A hard club run over some of the biggest hills in Sussex, 100 miles on a 64″ fixed……..Inter-new-towns 25, 1:7:9 but still 3rd counter in the Crawley team………Bellingham Whs 25, Gatwick. 1:5:07 on a fixed, 1st team…….National Championship 50, Kidderminster, 2:10:28……..Attacked club Brighton and back record. Did 2:6:40. Chain off twice, level crossing closed and stopped by the police for jumping a red light. Steve and Adrian beat record. Dave Stokes is the timekeeper…..10 out on club run. 70miles……. Drinking, bowling and a takeaway Chinese with the 18+ group….Xmas 10, 35:07, a personal worst.

1968    6559 miles

I went skiing for the first time with Ron. My racing performances stayed about the same although I was less tired as my job prevented me from cycling for several days at a time. I still did not make the link between my racing performances, my fatigue levels and the amount of rest I got. In the summer I toured in Austria including the Glossglockner Pass. The Club thrived with huge attendances to club runs in the autumn.

1st skiing holiday in Switzerland with Ron Ford……..Club Dinner……..First race, 2 up TT with Adrian, 2nd Crawley team…….Inter-new -Towns 25, 1:7:10, fastest Crawley Wheeler (no Ron F.)……..24:48 on 84 fixed, Gatwick 10 course…….Went out with Eric Bonner and the lads, off the back with 5 miles left, 50 in 2:15:00………Morning – 3/J race, finished 18th. Afternoon – Criterium pm (20m), finished 5th……….National 50, 2:9:22……..Gatwick 10, 24:37, 90″ fixed………Gatwick 10, 24:31……..Weybridge RR, 70 miles, rode 30 miles each way to and from race as well. Days total 130 miles………Sussex Champs, 7th , Ron Ford wins………August 68; two weeks cycle touring in Austria……..Inter New Towns RR, 9th. A really good hard fought race over a hilly circuit around Cowden, Turners Hill and Crawley Down, four Basildons away with Ron F. and there was nothing we could do after that………One of the best Sundays I have had for a long time. Out on my own into the depths of Sussex and explored many new lanes……….Clubrun to Nutley, 35 attended………A bitterly cold winter day with a strong W wind, Club run to Maidstone, suffered a lot but really enjoyed it, only 25 out, 86miles………AGM, no jobs this time…..

1969    7090 miles

Skiing, touring and socialising took time from cycling. I managed one or two good performances.  I toured in the Pyrenees in the summer with Peter Knottely who wrote for Cycling Weekly for many years as ‘Randonneur’. Stormed all the TDF passes (Tourmelet etc) and  caught dysentery at the end of the holiday.    Rode a 12 hr TT one week later despite still being ill and did a creditable 221.405miles.

Skiing Switzerland with Ron and Bern Wright. Club Vagabond, Leysin. Drove there in Bern’s Austin 1100………Out training for the first time this year, 95 miles, was pushed for 10 miles by Eric Bonner and took 3hrs to do the last 35 miles. Has probably done me good………Went well and kept up with the lads………Inter New Towns 25, 1:14:36. 1st race, gales, rode home from Basildon afterwards, total 101 miles………Hainult Hilly 40, 1.56.16. Felt fit………2 up TT, 1.9.59, 10th from 35 teams, Adrian killed me on the hills………..May 69; touring in Wales alone……….Wren 50, 2.7.36, well pleased after only 4 hrs sleep……..June 69; Touring Pyrenees passes with Peter Knottely and others………Poly 12hr. 222miles, satisfied….Retire for the year suffering from extreme fatigue………Looking after Paul Lipscombe in SCCU 12hr………..4 on club run, Steyning and across downs, 80 miles…… Club weekend to Goudhurst Youth Hostel, myself, Paul, Bob and Ron. 

1970    4541 miles

I decided it was time to leave “mummys-care” so I got a job with North Western Electricity Board (NORWEB) based at Penrith in the Lake District.  I leave the club and take up ‘outdoor sports’.   I raced spasmodically in 1970 for the Border City Wheelers, with no decent results and then retired from competitive cycling. I visited Norway with Adrian and two others in September 1970, my last long tour for many years.

January. Last club run with the Crawley Wheelers, and probably the most forgettable as it poured with rain and I suffered like hell over the last miles…..


I  never completely stopped riding my bike. I think if I had got really good results I might have continued but instead I moved on to a whole variety of sports such as mountaineering, skiing, orienteering, sailing, kayaking and canoeing.  I gave up engineering, qualified as a PE teacher and worked for 21 years as an Outdoor Education Teacher at various residential centres. I migrated gradually northwards and now live in Newtonmore in the Highlands of Scotland where I run an 18 bed Independent Hostel with my wife Kathryn.  We have two sons Andrew (15) and Duncan(12). About five years ago I made a serious comeback to competitive cycling using all the latest knowledge of training.   I started my comeback with hopes of beating my earlier times and have ended up with 25:13 for a 10, a 1:7:01 for a 25 and a 2:19:01 for a 50, not bad but not as fast as hoped. I did 4008 miles in 1998, my highest total since 1970. At the age of 53 there is not much prospect of me going faster.  I have plans in 1999 to do fewer time trials, more Audax,  a Trailquest, a Veterans Road Race and possibly some touring if time can be found. All fitted in between running the business and looking after the family.

I have many good memories of the 60’s. When I read about the  ‘flower power’ or ‘free love’ I can only assume I was riding my bike or asleep. I missed it all.  They were carefree, sociable, fun times when responsibilities were few and miles were many. The Crawley Wheelers was a thriving club then and I think it’s fantastic that after all these years you are still going strong.  I hardly recognise any names now but I would like to wish all present and past members the best for 1999 and the future. I hope your days and times are all fast, but if they are not then just enjoy your cycling.  If you are ever visiting this part of Scotland you know where to come and  stay, mention the ‘Wheelers’ and I may even give you a reduction.

 ©Peter Main – 1999 & re-published 2020

2 thoughts on “Those Were the Days

  1. Hello Peter, I was a Crawley Wheeler for a few years in the late 60’s. I remember going on the winter Sunday morning club runs. We sprinted for the town signs and went out in all weathers. I remember standing in front of an open fire in a pub on Portslade seafront with steam rising from our soaking wet trousers. Adrian had a trade mark french beret and the dye ran out of it and ran down his face in black streaks. As you say training was limited to putting the miles in. I was out with Peter Hayes one night when climbing out of the saddle up Handcross hill in the dark we ran into the back of a broken down car with no lights. No injuries but my top tube was bent. We naively complained about the car to the Police and of course got told to clear off. I enjoyed some 3rd cat racing and time trialing and it was great to find something to do as Crawley was incredibly boring especially on Sundays with nothing but Liberace on the tv.


  2. Hi Pete – just wondered if you had any memories/photos of Danny Routledge ?
    He was Crawley Wheelers in the 1970’s


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