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emporer sports (via cyclechat uk)

December 17th, 2009 Comments off

I remember Emporer Sports with great fondness. Their shop was in Cheam (or Carshalton) and run by Tony Mills and Mick Howard.

Tony and Mick were always really supportive of us as youngsters (we were 14 or so at the time) and were never bothered about having us kids hang around the shop, making tea and handing out biscuits. They encouraged our love of racing and made us feel like champions whenever we returned with tales of our races. Tony built me my first TT specific wheels, an amazingly stiff and responsive pair of 24 spoke Campag LF hubs on (probably) Arc en Ciel rims – radial front, the rear radial (on the offside) and tangential tied & soldered on the gear side. Beauties. Never strayed out of true.

Around this time (mid/late 70s), Mick had started building using Ishiwata 017 (or perhaps it was 015) tubing, so it’s likely that this is the tube set on your frame. It has an instantly recognizable ES color, a deep lustrous red. A great find for you, congrats. And really nice to see this picture of Sean Yates in this thread. He was around the shop at times, and even though I rode for a rival team, he was another who was really supportive of us schoolboys. Endemic of the great environment of ES.

Good times, good people.

Read the whole thread at CycleChat UK

Categories: History Tags: ,

pursuit tangent

December 11th, 2009 Comments off

Finding out about the decision to drop the individual pursuit from the Olympics sent me into a heady remembrance of my track days.

My first encounter with the track was probably in 1972, maybe ’73. In South London, our only option was the track at Herne Hill, a (then) black cement track with a long, long history. There was a track in Paddington, North London, but that was a world away for us. Or so it felt.

At the time, I had just joined Kingston Wheelers CC, a club based in my home town of Chessington (I still can’t figure out how I even discovered such a thing as a team). We used to meet at Gil Jessup’s house, but as membership expanded, that soon became too small, and they figured out using a Kingston School (Latchmere?) for our Monday night club meetings. Tea and biscuits to the fore, I was always full of anticipation for getting to work out on the rollers the club owned.

I digress. My first taste of the track (man, it was bumpy!) was mostly notable for not crashing. My friend Andy forgot that you couldn’t just stop pedaling and was hauled out of his saddle down on to the top tube. Ouch doesn’t even come close. I fell in love with the track – not because of Andy’s mishap. I don’t recall any great success – though I did win schoolboy runner-up in 1974 – but I longed to ride fixed at any opportunity.

Kingston Wheelers, 1975

Kingston Wheelers CC, 28 Sept 1975 (I’m on the left). (Paul Fulcher is at the back, 5th from the left)

The first track ‘iron’ I ever owned was the most beautiful frame I ever bought – a 23.5″ lugless Condor Barrachi in a ruby flam color, Reynolds 531 tubing – sold to me for some ludicrous sum by fellow club member Paul Fulcher. I wish I could remember what I did with that frame. The color was so deep, so lustrous.

There were other clubs in the area, but our biggest rival (or so it felt) were the Clarence Wheelers, who had quite a profile and garnered a lot of attention because of a kid named Tony Doyle. I saw him on the track at Herne Hill a whole lot of times and was absolutely and totally in awe of his fluid pedaling style. It was at one of these track meets that I met Alf Whiteway, one of the founders of Clarence Wheelers who liked the way I rode (he told me that the way I rode reminded him of Tony’s style) and kind of extended an invitation to join CWCC…

Tony Doyle
Vintage track photos at the London FGSS

I went back and forward on the decision for a while, but finally decided to go for it. I wanted to ride the track, inspired by Tony and Alf, and the fact Alf pushed fixed gear riding, fixed gear events, and that high cadence, smooth pedaling style made the decision a little easier. I ended up being selected to ride the points and the team pursuit at the SWLC track meet in ’77 (or ’78). It was a huge thrill and honor to be picked for the team, but I was a disaster in the pursuit, where I got blown out with about 3 laps to go (I think my teammates were Barry Smallworth, Mark McLaughlin and Robert Corcoran).

It was a portent to the end of my racing career.

in motion

December 10th, 2009 Comments off

Philip Ames, June 1979

Finally got around to scanning the only picture I ever had of me actually racing. I always loved this picture. It rewarded my vanity!

Here I am on my gold 62cm Alan aluminium build, racing in a 25 mile event in Kent in June of 1977 or ’78 (at least I think it was June). Not long after this season drew to a close, rock’n'roll took the place of serious cycling and, well, there you have it. As the years passed, it never ceased to amaze me how many people working in the music business were marginally fanatical about cycling.

This was the closest I ever came to breaking the hour – if I remember correctly, I finished in 1:00:31.

About the bike. Besides it being an absolute giant at 62cm x 62cm, and it being gold and aluminium (I heard these frames were held together with airplane glue), it was all Campagnolo equipped. How the hell could I even afford Campagnolo at this time in my life??? The bars are 42cm Cinelli 65s (Criterium), the bars I have loved and used all my life (I still have them on the Condor and the Schwinn). The stem is a Cinelli 1A (I’ve since moved on to X/A stems), the hubs are Campag large flange (who the hell started calling them “high flange”???), probably on Arc En Ciel rims and definitely Wolber tubulars. They were built at Emporer Sports in Carshalton/Cheam, the front being a radial 24, the rear being a 24 radial (non gear side) and tangenital tied and soldered on the gear side, for extra strength. Amazing wheels – never put even the slightest warp in them.

Campag brakes, levers, rear derailleur. Note the single ring – who had use for 10 gears? – which, knowing me, might well have been a 48T. Remove the handlebar tape above the gear levers for extra weight saving (yeah, I know…ass), and there you have it. Patrick “Poulidor” shoes, the height of (affordable) fashion!

This bike was pretty short lived I think – this was the only season I raced it and, as mentioned, was put out to pasture when owning a Fender Precision (or Jazz) bass became more important. I also blew out my knee after a 50 mile event near Southampton at the end of that season, trying to win the club championship that year. I’d completed a 100 the week before (5:04:00, or something like that), and my best 10 time that year was 21:30.

All in all, the best and most enjoyable season I ever had