We bet you didn’t know that National Bike Week, the annual celebration of all things pedal-powered, is over 90 years old? Pathe News has recently digitised 90,000 news film clips, including this footage of the first-ever National Bicycle Week, way back in 1923.
As you can see there was still an Ordinary or two kicking around, as well as wooden boneshakers and the odd front-pedalled bike, but the vast majority wouldn’t be out of place on the streets of Hackney, Cambridge or York today.
Otherwise, though, 1923 seems like a different planet. The first Le Mans 24-hour race was held; Henri Pélissier won the Tour de France despite organiser Henri Desgrange’s prediction two years before that he never would — Pélissier was shot dead 12 years later by his lover, with the revolver his wife had used to commit suicide; Vladimir K. Zworykin filed his first patent (in the United States) for "television systems"; and the Hollywood sign went up in Los Angeles. You couldn’t legally get a drink there though as Prohibition was still in force and would not be repealed for another decade.
In politics, Germany suffered its worst hyperinflation; Adolf Hitler led the unsuccessful Beer Hall Putsch attempt to overthrow the Bavarian government; the British Mandate for Palestine created a Jewish homeland under British administration; Turkey became a republic with Kemal Atatürk as its first president; and Lenin retired from his post as Chairman of the Soviet government after his third stroke, leading eventually to Joseph Stalin’s ascendency as leader of the Soviet Union.
Back in the present day, this year’s Bike Week runs June 14-22 and includes organised rides, events such as Edinburgh Festival of Cycling and London’s World Naked Bike Ride, Dr Bike repair advisors in towns and cities and lots more.
Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.
Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.
Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.
The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.