www.dadswell.co.uk  Mostly cycling records, mostly on three wheels

Those Glorious years of Arnold and Crimes

Compiled by Alf Arnold in 1981.        Tidied and re-presented for your reading pleasure.

Most of the activity described in the previous pages took place in the 1950s.   After a number of years out, John Arnold returned to the record-breaking scene in 1963, but I think that was it.  By the time I was born in 1964, Crimes and Arnold had done their stuff.

In the mid-1980s, when I started learning about (adult!) tricycles, Dave Pitt spoke of the Crimes & Arnold rides with obvious respect.  He didn't normally talk like that - most of the other names on the records lists were just people who would be swept aside in due course.

I soon discovered that Albert Crimes had just recently died in 1985 aged 64.  In 1986, the Road Records Association announced the existence of a trophy for the fastest tricycle over the newly introduced Birmingham to London record route.   Inscribed at the base of the trophy are the words :

"Presented to the RRA by Mrs M L Crimes and family in memory of her husband Albert"

Dave was very keen to be the first holder of that trophy.  By the time he had a go in 1987 there had already been a couple of attempts made, but nobody had beaten the minimum standard of 5h 10m (for the 113 miles).   As described elsewhere, I was present for Dave's ride and wasn't much help.   But with a fairly uninspiring following wind he made it to the finish in 5h 6m 40s and the silverware was his to look after until someone else went faster.

At around this time, John Arnold's name was often in the cycling magazine - but not for sporting achievements.  He was evidently a regular letter writer, and his views often made the letters page.  The topics were often a bit controversial, and on one occasion someone felt the need to write back and emphasise that John's views were not representative of other members of the Manchester District committee of the RTTC.

At around this time, I could have had no thoughts of meeting John.  And if you'd said that I would actually race against him, I would have said that you were mad.   And you would have been!

Anyway.   The first ever organised Cycling Time Trial took place in the summer of 1895.   It was organised by the North Road Cycling Club.   As 1995 approached, the news was released that the North Road CC would organise a Centenary 50 in 1995 on similar roads to those used in 1895.  There would be an invited list of riders, including (they hoped) a number of long-retired top riders who would 'come back' for just this one race.

One way or the other, I received an invitation to take part.  I'm not sure whether this was because I'd ridden the North Road CC 24hr a couple of times, or whether it was the Land's End to John o'Groats ride that did it.  But I accepted the invitation and confirmed that I would ride my tricycle. 

It was indeed quite exciting to see the list of names for this race.  Plenty of heroes from the past were there.   Including, on tricycle, JF Arnold, Middleton CC.  

I was certainly not far from my cycling 'peak'.  John Arnold hadn't raced since the 1960s.   And yet, I promise you that I was scared that he would beat me. 

As I recall, the early starters had a bit of rain but mostly the roads were just slightly damp.

John shows us that he can still remember how to do it.
(photo by Phil O'Connor)

There was a decent list of End-to-End riders present.  Dave Keeler, Pauline Strong, Andy Wilkinson, Paul Carbutt and John Arnold.  And me, I guess.  A little disappointing that we didn't get to see Dick Poole or David Duffield.  And I can't think why John Woodburn wasn't there.

Among the tricyclists, Steve Brown took the money with 2.08.33.  He was 4 minutes ahead of me, and I was 4 ahead of Don Saunders.   Luckily for us all, John Arnold was just out to enjoy the day. 

I didn't get to meet him at that point, which is a slight pity.   He was certainly well aware of my existence, as he'd made dozens of phone calls to my parents during quite a few of my record attempts. 

Fortunately though, a dozen years later, John was the chief guest at the Tricycle Asociation Annual Dinner.  And so not only did I get a few mentions in his speech, I did also get to have a little chat afterwards.

Considering the fact that his achievements towered over everyone in that room, John was very modest.  He took us through a couple of his adventures from many years previous, including the 24hr of 1953.  An amazing day for tricycling, as John was just beaten by one bicyclist.  And I guess he must've said a bit about his End to End ride.

I do remember his mentioning the ride that Dave and I had done, trying to get the End to End off him.  His feelings were mixed.  On the one hand, he enjoyed holding the record.  But equally he wanted to see it beaten within his lifetime.

He mentioned to me that he and Albert had had problems after about 500 miles, just as Dave and I had.   The difference, of course, is that he and Albert got back on again and continued.

He did concede that he and Albert had a big advantage over Dave & me.  For their ride, the records they were chasing were really quite soft & well within their grasp.   So when they had a few problems, or felt like stopping for a leisurely feed .... they had plenty of time.   There was almost no pressure.   That said, of course, they were travelling faster than any man-powered vehicle had done before - so they weren't taking it easy.

But comparatively, Dave & I were constantly questioning whether we could beat their time, and every little problem suddenly became a potential game-changer.  He understood.   He also knew, quietly, that Crimes & Arnold in 1954 were better than Dadswell & Johnson in 2007.


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