Family Archive - Grandad


Digging through the Winter family cycling archive one thing is clear, we live a life behind bars.
It all started with him. Martyn, my grandad, my biggest cycling hero. I often ask myself "what would grandad do" as a reminder to HTFU when it starts to hurt.

Grandad's passion for cycling filtered down through the generations. His riding style, sportsmanship, kindness, patience, passion, and dedication are everything I aspire to.

Grandad dedicated his life to cycling, family, and traveling (probably in that order). He met my nan at a cycling club and my dad met my mum roller racing - so my brothers and I were pretty much born on a saddle.

SCAN 07.jpg

My earliest recollection of riding was on a bike belonging to our lodger, he went home at the weekend and I was allowed to borrow his machine. It was a good job he never saw what happened! A group of lads from the road would disappear for hours. We rode up though Sutton high street to Belmont Downs, to ride on the chalk hills beside the railway, or on to Burgh Heath pond to go fishing for minnows, another favourite was through Banstead to Chipstead Valley and career down the sand hills, can’t remember if I could sit on the saddle or if I had to adjust it each time, the best bit was he used to pay me to keep it clean! My Dad bought me my first bike from a shop near Sutton Bus Garage, it was just at the end of the war, so like so much else it was make-up with whatever was available. However, it was not long before I made “improvements”.

SCAN 06.jpg

Our next door neighbor after this demob opened a cycle shop at Rosehill and I used to do jobs for him (Like scraping the paint off frames before they were enameled) to buy the parts I wanted. With a friend, we went to the Surrey Roads Club room at the Triangle Cafe, at the bottom of Lind Road, to try to join. However, we were told we were too young (I was only eleven at the time) but to come back a year later after getting some miles in. So a year later on my bike made from all sorts of bits and pieces, I started riding with a real cycling club. At this time not long after the war cycling was the thing to do. Before the days of mass car ownership, you either went around by bus or train or as so many did to get independent, by bicycle. I was in heaven, we rode every Sunday, from morning start at 9 am until dusk, goodness knows how many miles we did, but it was all very sociable. I was still at school and was fortunate to have a master who had raced before the war and was still riding every day. He took me under his wing and tried to give me help both with the bike but also on my riding. By the time I was 14yrs I was keen to start racing, however, at that time it was thought that you needed to be at least eighteen! It was considered too hard for anyone younger.

On 14th March 1948, I rode my first race, a club 25 on the Godstone course. It meant leaving Sutton in the early hours to ride to the start. My comment on the ride:  The morning was cold with a heavy ground mist, almost a fog, no wind, long gradients, and a few hills.  My time 1hr. 13mins. 13sec.on a 74″ gear. The fastest was Brian Pitcher 1.11.28.

That year I rode 9 events 2,-10s. 5,- 25s 1,-30ml and 1 massed start, that involved riding across London to Matching Green Aerodrome circuit. Racing 21-mile handicap, then riding back home.  I remember it was very late before we got back. I was approx 15th from 89 starters. (Keith Bennet was 4th) Best times by the end of the season, 10mi. 24.30, 25mi. 1.6.40, 30mi. 1.25.01.

My comments at the end of the year: “Have won 5 medals so must consider a highly successful start to racing”.

SCAN 14.jpg

I think it was during August that I went on my first cycle tour, with John Lorkin.  We went on a 7-day youth hostel tour to Devon. Winchester, Milton Abbas, Ottery St Mary, Salcombe, Otterham, Brendon, Marlborough. Bed was 4/6, Breakfast 9p. A few things I can remember. At Winchester; washing in the water from the mill race. At a tea stop on the coast being propositioned to go skinny dipping with the young female relations of the man asking.  Being given two boiled eggs for tea near the hostel at Brendon, and buying my first ever High-Pressure tyre from a cycle shop at Marlborough on our last day.

At the beginning of 1949, I joined the Redmon C.C.

SCAN 02.jpg

For some reason - I think it is called fate - I decided I wanted a change from rangers, church etc. and joined the Redmon cycling club. It is a wonder I went back after my first ride. I was told by one of the riders that if I could not keep up with him then I would not be able to keep up with anyone. Later I discovered it was John Finnegan, the club’s champion.

Club evenings were at the George Inn, Morden where we also had our social gatherings. There the great romance started at the club dance. I sat one side of the room and grandad the other. He looked at me, said something to the cyclist sitting next to him, laughed and went on drinking his pint. He did not speak or ask me to dance. A crowd of us walked home together along Green lane. When we parted grandad kissed me and asked for a date.

I had to be home early on our first date the following Saturday. I was spending the night with my friend Pat Pryor as we were setting off on our bikes at 4 am the next morning to marshal a cycle race at Godstone. Grandad was supposed to be riding but most of the riders arrived at Godstone, looked at the rain and decided not to ride - sat by a lovely warm fire with plenty of cups of tea. The marshals stood on a wet, cold corner wondering where they were.

SCAN 09.jpg

Grandad was in the RAF. Oh, he was so dishy in his uniform. He cycled home from his base first at Compton Bassett, then Yatesbury in Wiltshire on a Saturday afternoon 88 miles each way. I would often cycle out to meet him. Then we would go out on Saturday evenings to the pictures - or maybe a walk - and he would ride back on Sundays. If there was a club event he might ride out to it, race and then go back. I reminded him of the time when we had only just started going out, he met the club at Ash, Nr Aldershot for lunch. He was after my apple pie but I had to have it for energy to get back to Morden. He said he must have been keen to go that far out of his way.

SCAN 15.jpg

My first 10 mile time trial was run by the West London CA on a course that went past Hampton Court Palace. It was on the 28th March 1975. It was freezing cold and snowing. I can still remember looking down at the finish to see a pile of snow in my lap. Dad, your grandfather, went over and complained to the coach of the winning junior rider, about how dangerous to his health it was, letting him start in just a silk short sleeved racing vest and shorts. The coach was Alf Whiteway, who replied, “he’s a hard lad and is going places.” The rider was Tony Doyle, who went on to become World Pursuit Champion, and was our best ever six day rider. The winning time was 25:08.

SCAN 12.jpg


All our holidays revolved around dad’s bike races. One year we broke down somewhere on a very bendy, hilly road in Wales on the way to Builth Wells. A car, 4 children, trailer, 6 bikes. He (Grandad) took his bike off the top of the car and cycled off to find a phone box to call the AA. It took him a while as he cycled on from the phone box to carry on and enter the race! It must have been a good warm-up because he won. It’s a good job he did win - he’d have faced a serious telling off from mum (Nan) for abandoning all of us if he hadn’t!

We have many happy memories passing him rice pudding and peaches in his 12-hour races. He always lost half a stone and sometimes even toenails! Looking at his racing records his best 12 hour was 258.426 miles. We used to pass up sponges on the final circuit of the 12 hours to anyone who passed.

SCAN 16.jpg

Grandad grew up and lived most of his life in Surrey, now that I have moved back to the area, it feels good to train on the same roads he did.

Dad’s garage is like a bike museum full of old bikes, tandems and a trike. It just makes you want to ride everything! No carbon in sight, only Reynolds Tubing. The racing tandem is buried by wheels and old bikes. Dad and grandad are still the holders of the 100 mile British tandem record with a time of 3:20.48 Their success put down to hard training and being ‘a good match’. They held plenty of other tandem records but this one stands the test of time.

SCAN 17.jpg