Cycling before Lycra  

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Les Nelson at Lake Bank Coniston

As we zoom around on our lightweight bicycle frames, tri-bars, 10 speed cassettes, wearing clothing that one minute keeps you dry and the next, wicks the sweat away, it's interesting to look at how it was in the 1930's-1940's. 

My father, Les Nelson, was in what was known as a 'reserved occupation' during the Second World War, a riveter in the local Vickers Armstrong Shipyard in Barrow-in-Furness.   He started cycling in 1934, and soon became a keen cyclist, who, as well as racing and touring, rode his bike to work from 1936-1947, regardless of the weather. 
Well known by the bus drivers on the Shipyard run, he would regularly 'beat the bus' to and from work on his fixed wheel bike, a distance of around 8 miles in each direction.   As he says, the roads were a lot quieter then due in no small part to the petrol rationing (now there's an idea!). He rode to work and back for 11 years, barely missing a day.

Les was a member of the Barrow Spartans Cycling Club before moving to Walney Wheelers and Dalton Wheelers which merged to become Barrow Central Wheelers.  Interesting to note that the Spartans was a strictly 'men only' club at that time.

These pages 'Cycling before Lycra' are dedicated to Les and my mother Joan, and I thank them for supplying the photo's, and the anecdotes to go with them.


Joan Nelson (nee Thomas) at the White House Cafe on Levens