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Video: Pathe News coverage of first National Bike Week in 1923

Black white footage from a different era

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 You couldn’t legally get a drink there though as Prohibition was still in force and would not be repealed for another decade.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.

Bike Week has recently launched a new phone and tablet-friendly website and is looking for extra events to populate its event listing. See the Bike Week FAQs for details of how to get involved.

John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for Along with founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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levermonkey | 10 years ago

 14 Disgraceful! I have never seen such rank disregard to personal safety. None of the riders shown was wearing a helmet or any high visibility clothing. And as to their so called road positioning! That poor car driver actually had to slow down. Horse-whipping is too good for them!

The Daily Mail must be told!

On a serious note is there any more film?  4

Simon_MacMichael | 10 years ago

Mercury One - they've made this video (and others - more about that very soon) available on YouTube and enabled embedding, which is in effect a link to the video. So not an issue in this case, although using footage in a documentary is clearly a different scenario.

WolfieSmith replied to Simon_MacMichael | 10 years ago

Funny that. I was told if I wanted to post it to Vimeo it would be £800. I'll apply again and tell them it's Lidl - sorry YouTube instead.

WolfieSmith | 10 years ago

Hope you didn't have to pay to show this clip? I approached Pathe as I'm making a none profit documentary about a rider and wanted a 5 second clip of the rider in the 1960's. Pathe charge £800 per 15 seconds with no option for anything less.

Load of Cockerel if you ask me.

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