World 12 hour roller-race record 1968

Cliff Nicholson and Rod Scott, members of the record breaking team share their memories of the attempt.

Harlow Cycling Club was lucky, in having amongst its members an engineer.
During 1961, Ken Wall beavered away (completely unknown to the majority of the Club Members until he formally presented them to the Club at its Annual Dinner) making the world’s fastest set of Racing Rollers. A complete set of 4 rollers with the very latest in gearing were the envy of riders everywhere. Whereas conventional roller drums were made of sheet steel, Ken made his from wooden slats.  These were turned in a lathe to be perfectly round and, as even the thickness of the paint had not missed Ken’s eye for perfection, were accurate to within a fraction of an inch per mile. Fifty years on, these rollers are still the bench mark for any one who wants to build “Competition Rollers”.

12 hour roller race record

Above: Ken Wall, Eric Beachamp, Bob Clifton, Cliff Nicholson, Bob Aucherlonie, and Rod Scott.

This meant that Roller Racing was very popular at the club, winter months saw regular indoor competitions and attracted a good number of youngsters to cycling. The other attraction were some cycling stars and boasted ex continental professional team mate of Jacques Anquetil and Raphael Geminani, Vin Denson and top international track rider, Dave le Grys as members.

Roller racing was highly popular and in 1967 Ken Wall rode the rollers on BBC’s Blue Peter. Ken claims still to have his “Blue Peter Badge” presented by John Noakes and Peter Purves the shows presenters.

In 1968 the club felt they were strong enough on Roller racing to make an attempt on the Team 12 Hour World Record. The team of 6 club members went for the record on 20th July 1968 in Harlow Town Centre. On a Saturday it attracted huge crowds of shoppers and the atmosphere was not just electric but full of embrocation!

112 teeth roller race record chainring

Above: That 112 chainring!

Each rider rode for 10 minutes and the changeover was as the needles of the dial reached the top. Starting at 5.00am in the morning the ride was easy to begin with but as the day wore on so cramp and lack of oxygen in the legs made the attempt daunting. The team were successful with a Record of 554 miles and 1595 yards. This equates to 46¼ miles per hour or just under 7¾ miles per rider every 10 minutes! The record was scrutinised by Dick Taylor, who officiated at the Commonwealth Games in Cardiff in 1958 and registered the record with the Guinness Records. The gearing could be no higher than 134 inches, which some riders found too low; but that’s the rules! This was especially true when you see the chain ring on the club’s adapted Hetchins. With 112 teeth it provided a gearing of 297 inches! This equated to the bike moving almost 78 feet with every crank revolution! This was used to attempt the 100 mph Roller record! From a distant memory it was pretty scary, riding with no one supporting you and slowly winding that gear up!

Barry Hodson, a club member in 1976 set a new figure for the World Hour Roller Record. This distance of 53 miles 1240 yards stood until Ron Hewes, also a club member who had trained with Hodson back in the 70’s, made a determined effort in 1988 and set the unchallenged distance of 61 miles 540 yards. This achievement was recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as a World’s Best Distance.

Sir Jimmy Saville was an active rider of the club’s rollers and in 1968 he set a new Individual Hour Roller Record; sadly we don’t have details of the distance he covered.

Below: Cliff and Rod take to the rollers again in 2009!