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The geographic location of Glasgow, sitting astride a river and surrounded by beautiful countryside and well-served by suitable roads and paths, proved ideal for the development of an enthusiastic cycling fraternity. From its once severely overcrowded, sooty, tenement neighbourhoods, one could very easily, and very cheaply, make one's way out into the clean fresh air with a minimum of effort. Throughout a large part of the last century, cycling was a major pastime and sport for many Glaswegians. All one required was a bicycle and this was, by and large, within the financial means of most working-class people. Cycling flourished in Glasgow.

The popularity of the sport led to the development of a host of cycling clubs in the city. These clubs catered to cycling in all its aspects from simple local touring, to international cycling competitions. The keen interest in touring contributed a great deal to the development of the Scottish Youth Hostel Association (SYHA), by means of which a cyclist could spend weekends or annual holidays outside the city in very good accommodation at very modest rates. The SYHA catered only to hikers and cyclists in those days. Members travelling by motor bike or motor cars were not welcome at the hostels.

Glasgow had long been well-served by cycling clubs. In the years after the Second World War, for example, the city boasted about twelve cycling clubs, all of which fostered the sport in all its aspects. It was not uncommon to see the cycling clubs riding through the city or along country roads riding two-abreast on traffic-free roads. During the winter months most clubs had a "spot" on the shores of Loch Lomond and around Lunderston Bay, where a club member could ride out to the spot on a Sunday and spend the day sitting at a cheery fire and "drumming-up" along with fellow club mates. Riding home at night during the short days of winter one could ride along Loch Lomond and see glowing club fires at a variety of different club spots.

Cycling of course was a great deal more popular during the summer months, and much time was devoted to bicycle racing. In the early days of the time-trial racing, races were held early in the morning, every Sunday, from early March until October. Short-distance races, say 25 miles for example, would start around 6am, while the long-distance events like 100 miles or 12 hour races, might start as early as 4am. After the Second World War the time-trialing was so popular, with perhaps more than 150 riders wanting to ride, that the field had to be split into two races to accommodate all these enthusiasts.

In the heydays of cycling there were several Glasgow racing men who achieved national and international recognition, in the many aspects of bicycle racing. Back in the 1930s, Jackie Bone of the Glasgow Wheelers acquired national fame when he became the first British cyclist to attain an average speed of more than 20 mph in a 12-hour race. Jackie also rode as a member of the British team in the road race at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. In the post-Second World War era another Glasgow cyclist, Ian Steele of the Glasgow United C.C., enjoyed wide international recognition following his winning of the prestigious Warsaw-Prague road race. In more recent years, Robert Miller, late of the Glasgow Wheelers, won the "King of the Mountains" title in the international multi-stage Tour de France - a highly contested and extremely demanding, aspect of the Tour. In track racing, Glasgow's Johnny McKenzie of the Douglas C.C. gained national recognition in 1948 by defeating the reigning World Champion sprinter, Reg Harris, at a competition in Ibrox Stadium.

Many Glasgow cyclists spent their summer holidays touring around Britain, moving from one hostel to another. Around Glasgow there were many fine hostels, well within a comfortable day's ride. This recreation was so popular that it was generally advisable to book ahead in order to assure accommodation was available. It was not uncommon to see whole families, mother, father, and children, enjoying a cycling holiday: no travelling expenses here!

The touring aspect of cycling was not without its competition. Clubs such as the British Cyclists Touring Club (C.T.C.) held map-reading competitions and a variety of others involving cycling skills. The British Blue Ribbon competition in the non-racing aspect of cycling was simply the number of miles ridden in one year, and Glasgow had a real champion in this field. For many years the British magazine "The Cycling" provided graph paper for mileage enthusiasts to graph their annual mileage by months, and Glasgow's Tommy Chambers was a frequent winner.

Tommy Chambers, a true Glaswegian, spent all his free time riding his bicycle and it was not uncommon for Tommy to ride in excess of 18,000 miles in one year. Over a period of 51 years, Tommy amassed an unbelievable grand total of 799,405 miles (1,287,440 kms) on his bicycle, and was credited with holding the world's cycling mileage record by the "Guiness Book of Records". Throughout his cycling life Tommy kept diaries of all his rides, and recorded all the money he had spent on his bicycle, the number of punctures and all other mechanical problems he'd suffered. When Tommy died, he left all his diaries and other pertinent personal cycling information to Glasgow's People's Palace, along with a very substantial sum of money.

Sad to say, the sport of cycling in Glasgow is no longer quite so popular as it once was. With the massive increase in automobile usage, there has been a great decrease in the popularity of bicycle riding. North America on the other hand, has experienced a great increase in the cycling sport and many major cities encourage cycling by providing such things as cycle paths and reserved bicycle lanes. In riding down the Loch Lomond road on a winter Sunday now, it's very unlikely one will see the cheery glow of a Glasgow cycling club's fire.
Hello Ross, I think I'm the one who started the 'off topic' trend so I'd better make the move to the "Cycling" thread in order to comment on your Reply 116 on the "Where In Glasgow Do You Come From?"thread.

Glad to hear you love your bike; there are lots of worse things to love in life than the bike. Not too many people around Scotland now who still love their bike. I stayed in a B & B in Largs once, and the fellow in the house asked me why an 'old man' was still riding a bike. I told him I liked it, and he informed me that he hadn't ridden a bicycle since the day he passed his driving test. I wouldn't be at all surprised if this is a phase many people in Scotland have gone through (the statistics for heart condition illnesses in Scotland, might well attest to this!). It seems the bicycle has become a mere toy in Scotland.

This is too bad, because I think Scotland is just about the best place in the world to ride a bicycle. I know, my wife and I have toured Scotland 23 times on a bicycle, and these tours were all marvellous. I have a journal of all these tours, and if I ever lack something to read, I need only open my journal and spend a bit of time climbing over these mountains into Tighnabruich, or going for a ride round the Clyde coast.

My bicycle riding these days is done in the comfort of my basement where I ride my wind-trainer for half an hour, four times per week. No, this is not great fun at all, it's a pain in the bloody you-can-guess-where, but it provides a convenient source of exercise-- and that is the only reason I ride it.

I guess if one has to cycle through Alexanria, then a good way to do it would be in the company of your father and his rugby mates. Too bad this, because it is a very good path and it is ideally located for getting to Loch Lomond and the youth hostels there.

I can understand how you feel about sending the backpacking runner in the wrong direction. I've been at both ends of this unfortunate occurrence. It happens Ross, and there's nothing can be done about the now, so put it down to experience. A well-intentioned lady in Crieff sent us on a trip over a mountain track because she thought we'd enjoy it more than the road... we cursed her for about an hour trudging up a path which was just about a degree and a half short of being perpendicular!

Cheers, Dugald.
"I do have an agenda - my agenda is a clean sport and to retain the credibility of the sport "

(International Cyclists' Union (UCI) boss, Pat McQuaid. [ BBC News, Aug 8th, 2006] )

In response to what has become apparent in the cycling world over the past several weeks, I, Dugald, would like to comment as follows:

I've been thrilled by the performance of quite a number of great sporting figures in many sporting events in my life. I guess one of the last times was watching the magnificent performance of one, Marco Pantani, in the 1998 Tour de France, as he danced his way up through the soaring mountains in his effort to claim the prestigious title "King of the Mountains". Wow, thought I, what a great cyclist this Pantani is. Yes, 'wow' indeed, but I was just one of the thousands of enthusiastic cyclists who celebrated his brilliant performance, only to find out later, that the Italian was a fake! He had cheated us... he had taken performance-enhancing drugs!

The performance of Floyd Landis in the recent Tour de France was not something about which I cheered. Outstanding and all, as his performance was claimed to be, I stood back from the celebrations; I learned my lesson from the Marco Pantani affair. Landis it seems, has tested positive for having used a performance-enhancing drug, and been fired by his cycling team and on the verge of being stripped of his Tour de France winner's title. He's a cheat, and I don't like cheats in sport. Cheats give a sport a bad name, and I especially don't like the sport of cycling having a bad name.

I was a cyclist for most of my life and took part in many races. I was never a champion, and could count on one hand the number of bicycle-racing events in which I participated with any measure of success, but I never took drugs, and to me it was always a clean sport, a sport in which I felt good about being a part. I gave up on watching bicycle-racing after the 1998 Tour because of the Pantani exposť, and I have never watched one since... it's phoney!

The great French "5-Tour-winner", Anquetil, asked us sometime after his retirement in the 1950's, "Do you think we ride for three weeks over some of the steepest toughest roads in Europe drinking soda-pop?". For me, the answer to his rhetoric question was unacceptable, and remained so, until 1998 when Pantani's exposeure told the whole story. There is now another chapter to this drug story... the one provided by Floyd Landis and his testosterone, artificial and otherwise.

The 'drug story' should have sunk in earlier in 1967 when the 'great' English rider, Tommy Simpson, climbed himself to death in the Tour under the influence of amphetamines. Tommy Simpson was a revered British rider with a string of great cycling accolades to his name. He was looked up to in the world of British cycling. Indeed, he is still looked upon as a great racing cyclist and there is even a prestigious race held to this day in his native Yorkshire which bears his name... yet the man was a cheat!

I was in Scotland in 1998 at the time of the Pantani exposure and I heard Robert Miller, a great Glaswegian cyclist, being interviewed on the radio. Miller, himself a winner of the Tour de France "King of the Mountain" title, the same title Simpson killed himself trying to acquire, and the one Pantani cheated in his effort to acquire, refused, in a very round about way, to deny ever having taken drugs while riding in the Tour. This 'refusal' left no doubt in my mind that he too, had cheated.

What about Scotland's other great figures in the world of cycling?. What of Scotland's Graham O'bree for example, a man whose cycling exploits excited me more than any other world cyclist, did he establish his unbelievable records under the influence of drugs? Did O'Bree become the pursuit Champion of all the World by cheating? I don't know, I have no proof that he used drugs to cheat in races. In his autobiography he admits to having tried drugs outside the world of bicycle racing, but there is no such admission regarding bicycle racing, but I am not at all sure any more. I do hope he hadn't cheated.

Govan's Ian Steele, of Warsaw/Prague-International-Road-Race fame, is one Glaswegian cyclist I feel confident about believing never cheated under the influence of drugs. I think the other famous Scottish cyclists, before the Robert Miller era, were clean performers. But let us not forget Scotland's other current drug cheat, David Miller (no relation to Robert), who was barred from racing for a period as punishment for having raced under the influence of drugs.

Bicycle racing of course, isn't the only sport in which performance-enhancing drugs are used. We in Canada had to suffer for example, the great embarrassment brought upon us by Ben Johnson in the Korean Olympics of 1990. The Americans too, have their more recent embarrassment, through the drug exploits of the once World's 100-metre record holder, Justin Gatlin. It seems cheating is endemic in the world of international sport.

Out of the top five riders in last year's Tour, Lance Armstrong is the only one who would have been allowed to compete in this year's Tour, the other four are all under suspension regarding the use of drugs in this year's Tour of Spain. Should we not wonder about Lance Armstrong? Did he take drugs in his winning of the Tour an incredible seven times? Does this suggest Armstrong got out before his drugs became identifiable? Floyd Landis, and his vehement denial of having taken drugs to win the Tour (they all deny ever having taken performance-enhancing drugs) won't clear his name. Should we listen to those who tell us that there are people constantly working to develop performance-enhancing drugs which cannot be tested? The sport is forever tarnished, and Landis has contributed greatly to this sad state of cycling affairs. Get stuffed Landis!
My mistake, been away too long!
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