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Bromley Video: Racing Is Life - The Beryl Burton Story



An excellent tribute to a breathtaking cyclist.

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Racing Is Life - The Beryl Burton Story follows the journey of one of the best female cyclists ever to take to two wheels.

For those that have heard the name but know very little about Beryl Burton, Beryl was a no nonsense Yorkshire tom boy who won the RTTC Best All Rounder 25 years in a row from 1959 until 1983.

She was 7 times world champion in the 3,000 metre pursuit and on the road - all while being a mother and holding down jobs on fruit farms in West Yorkshire.

Beryl was extraordinary. In 1967, she set a new 12-hour time trial record of 277.25 miles a distance that surpassed the men's record of the time by 0.73 miles a time not beaten by a man for two years. While setting the record she caught and passed Mike McNamara who was on his way to setting the men's record at 276.52 miles and winning that year's men's British Best All-Rounder.

Apparently Beryl handed him a liquorice allsort as she passed him - not as an insult but because she would always share the food she had. McNamara gratefully ate it.

Based entirely on extensive super 8 footage the film starts with film shot from a moving car of Beryl streaking along at speed. Straight away you can see why she won everything in sight for almost 30 years. The fluid power of her pedal action and her utterly flat-backed position on the bike reveal her as a natural.

Racing is Life is partly an hour and a half of nostalgia for the British amateur racing scene of the 1950s - 1980s. This is a world of duffle coats and thermos flasks, cherry cheeks and briar pipes, leafy lanes and plain trackie tops.

With commentary from Charlie, Beryl's husband and her daughter Denise - and additional narration from Phil Liggert and the exotically named Roger St Pierre in his Jason King white roll-neck, 'Racing is Life' is a proper British news reel affair - with jaunty music and plenty of cheery pluck.

It's also a window on the rather more patient motorists of a bygone era. Driving a Mark 1 Cortina - bereft of power steering and ABS brakes - and being under taken on a roundabout by a fierce looking Beryl Burton in time trial mode must have been unnnerving. Cycling then was a world without sponsorship and often without transport: Beryl would regularly ride 30-50 miles to a race, race, win - and ride back again.

This isn't just a nostalgia trip though. 'Racing is Life' was a favourite saying of Beryl's and she meant it. Beryl didn't read books or own a TV. She had no phone in the house and little imagination outside cycling. Cycle racing really was her only obsession - and a singular obsession is never healthy. Roger St Pierre comments on her downfall: 'Weakness and failure... She couldn't ever entertain that. As you get older you can't keep winning bike races. Her whole life was based around winning bike races...When she ceased winning races her whole life fell apart. She had no identity except winning bikes races. She couldn't come to terms with this.'

Ignoring pleas from friends and family to slow down, Beryl continued to train and race as she always had - even through illness. On the 8th of May when out delivering invites to her 59th birthday Beryl suffered a fatal heart attack and was found alongside her bike at the side of the road.

Beryl was 30 years ahead of her time. Her 100 miles record lasted 28 years until beaten in the 1990s by women using aerodynamic bikes. Her 12 hour record still stands today. She was World 3,000 metres pursuits champion 5 times, World road race champion twice and National RR Champion 12 times. There wasn't a women's world championship time trial event during Beryl's career and the women's road race wasn't part of the Olympics until 1984. If Beryl was a new rider today you get the feeling that Marianne Vos wouldn't have stood a chance on the Mall last summer.

With the first stage of the 2014 TDF finishing in Beryl's last home town of Harrogate this film couldn't have been released at a better time. It's a fine tribute to probably the best cyclist the UK has ever seen - man or woman.


An excellent tribute to a breathtaking cyclist. test report

Make and model: Bromley Video Racing Is Life - The Beryl Burton Story

Size tested: n/a

Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

It's a must for anyone interested in competitive cycling.

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

Plenty of extras. It's a through tribute. The only niggle is the single recording of sprockets used throughout when bikes are in motion which gets a little repetitive. .

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Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.

Would you consider buying the product? Yes.

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.

Overall rating: 10/10

About the tester

Age: 47  Height:   Weight:

I usually ride: Dolan Prefissio - winter bike  My best bike is: Condor Moda Ti - summer bike

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Every week  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding,


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