This classic image taken in 1901 shows American cycling pioneer Charles “Mile a Minute” Murphy competing in a roller race aginst Tom Butler. Though more famous for his one mile in one minute speed record behind a train (see links below) this image and a near identical one of him with Frank Albert show that Roller-Racing was popular, as was bike-racing in general, in late 19th early 20th century America. This photo has in recent times made Murphy (real name Charles) a roller-racing / goldsprints icon.
Murphy held many cycling records and medals and also performed in a touring roller-race Vaudeville act between October 1900 and January 1901 alongside another cycling legend Marshall “Major” Taylor, the first black world champion in any sport.
Why I wanted to put on the first London Goldsprint at the Horseshoe Inn in Clerkenwell Close
Firstly I wanna point out that at that time messengers started becoming much more of a community than had ever been before, but My reason was purely selfish. Let me elaborate. I had been racing track for a few years and as many know, the warm up for track races are done on rollers.
Having practiced for a few years doing ridiculous (and sometimes out of control) rev outs, now came the ideal opportunity. My team captain at Brixton Cycles, the great Robert Jeffries, invited me to partake in an ‘old school’ exhibition roller race at the Catford Club house. This was my first time to race on rollers, and frankly I was dreading the idea of making a complete twat of myself on stage in-front of a whole hall of spectators. During the warm-up, Rob ordered me to do a rev-out at which he told me my target was 100kmh………oh shit………I hit 99! We went on to win the comp, that’s when I was hooked.The following year I entered the South London roller league, finishing in 2nd place, beaten to (conned out of) the gold by one of the ‘home team’ riders in a dead heat finish in the final and sketchy points count back conducted…..hmmmm
From this experience I gained a lot more knowledge of the purist technique of the race.
Here are a few things I picked up:
Always jump straight into your race, the quicker you get up to full speed the easier it is to rev the gear and get your balance.
At about 10 seconds your heart-rate should be at top out levels, then you hit the “evils at 20’s”, the place that no-one ever wants to stay for long.
Around the 20 second marker is the point of highest lactic acid build up. The pain can be excruciating, bringing on the ‘cum face”, the legs turn to granite and you become completely oblivious to any sound apart from the screaming pain of every inch of muscle from the waist down. Everyone has a tactic to overcome this feeling and that alone can be what separates the men from the boys, or the dead from the brain dead.
The following season I went to Switzerland for the WCMC with the intention to compete in the Goldsprint home trainer race, but unfortunately couldn’t get to Zurich in time for the race. I got to Zurich the day after the Goldsprint and one day before the WCMC started, there was a buzz of the event still in the air about how one of the Londoners (A ‘the dark horse’ J) had his spun his way into the finals. At that moment I was ‘Right that’s fucking it, its coming to London!’
On arrival back on home turf and after a consultation with a ton of ‘blah blah blah’ from Buffalo Bill and a lot of help and advice from a few others it was on the cards.
The venue was an easy choice, we had the perfect place in mind.
In previous Alleycat days, we were ordered not to start the races from The Duke, for fear of having a premature termination by the filth. This led us to seek out other watering holes to kick off or finish at. Halfway between the west end and the city nestled into the corner of a Victorian housing estate was located the most characteristic but unassuming Horseshoe Inn.
Over the years we had become regular patrons of such boozer, very friendly landlord and staff, the interior was a little on the thread bare side, but the beer was good and cheap, a function room upstairs and Richard (the landlord) was up for ‘us types’.
Getting the machines for the night was also a mission. The only machines I knew of to hire were from BEC CC. The chair of that club was the late (and very great) Mr. Ron Beckett a very nice man with a very serious attitude to bike racing “No messing about on these Tipper, records have been set on these, so I don’t want no prats taking the piss on them”, as I was thinking: couriers-booze-pub…….hmmm.”ok, trust me, Ron, they will be fine”
It all came together on the legendary night of the 10th of November 2000. It was the first time this was tried in London and nobody was sure if anyone was gonna even turn up
A few of the original Swiss crew arrived, one being the infamous ‘Porno Steve’ with a cleated pair of white leather Duigi keirin shoes, drawling with a glory look in his eyes ready to kick London’s arse.
Registration was form 7pm, ample time for a quick beer and ‘sarnie’ before signing up.
We were all worried that there would be a no show or no interest but all worries were quashed when at 7.15, Bill checked me that we already had 50 entries (some of whom seemed to be on performance enhancers/inhibiters).
Needless to say, the self appointed master of ceremonies for the night was, of course, the mouth piece of the London courier circuit, the one and (thank god) only Buffalo Bill, who managed to drone so much useless crap that it seemed to divert the spectators attention away and transfixed them to the racing that ensued, just to avoid having to listen to him. Even the music supplied by DJ Burrell of the system TI2TB wasn’t enough to drown out Bill’s somewhat irritating and over-amplified voice.
After the qualifiers in which I was unable to take part for a few different dutiful reasons and a sick note from my mum, it all turned very serious when it came down to the ‘kill or be killed’ final rounds
There were some devastating times and surprising knockouts
At the final there was an eruption of excitement when the home-towner ‘Elliott’ stepped up to the out of towner ‘Porno Steve’ for a no bolds barred, head to head, dog eat dog, man off and the key to the courier city.
And as the story goes Elliott gracefully spun and won in style, to the pleasure of all of the frenzied onlookers, a ton of beer was drunk and a fucking huge thing was started for the courier community to be proud of.
I want to say for the record, there was absolutely no rigging in the final, honest guv.
For months after, I received thanks by so many people for a great and original night out by all of the courier community and other spectators introduced to this amazing spectacle.
Ok so, it was my idea but so many people pulled together to make it such an epic event.
I would like to thank. Buffalo Bill, Stringer, Steevo, Barnsey, Alistair, Don, Burrell, Caspar, Dave, The Horseshoe, Brixton Cycles, Sonic Cycles and many others for their input, advice, prizes, support and help.
Entering a roller race a few weeks ago bought back a host of memories. Having hung up my cycling wheels for 3 years and my racing legs for 6 years, I felt a certain amount reminiscence and pride taking part 8 years after the London Goldsprint of 2000, but this time it was a whole different story. I finished 18th and very nearly reversed my guts back out all over the stage.
This is it, THE event at the Cyle Messengers World Championships that started the Goldsprint Revolution and inspired Greg Tipper from London and New York couiers to create goldsprint events in the USA and London (later became Rollapaluza)
Goldsprints and / or “roller-racing” are social, usually indoor, static cycling events. Equipment varies but is based on genuine track bikes on rollers, with riders going head to head over a set distance.
Goldsprint.com is about videos, stories, images and history of roller-racing and goldsprints.