Excerpt From Dennis (Den) Harris’ Memoires

Hello all. I recently found a couple of cycling medals given to my dad, Dennis (Den) Harris many years ago when he was in the Rovers. Dad is 95 now and often tells me stories of his time in the Rovers and the Chelmer. He also wrote what he affectionately called his ‘book’, which was more of a giant Word document recounting his life, often not in any particular order! Here’s an excerpt from it where he talks about his cycling days. He mentions some names but other folks he rode with include ‘Spud’ Baker and Freddie Parrott.
Harry Harris.

“In 1949 I started cycle racing and in 1949 and 1950 I won the Colchester Rovers handicap championship. Then I went and joined the Chelmer cycle club in Chelmsford in 1952. When I joined Peter and Mary Horsenell were in the club and racing and both are still racing today in 2006. When I won the Chelmer best all-rounder in 1954, Lionel Banks was club champion. Mary Horsenell held the ten-mile club record in 1950 with a time of 27 minutes 23sec and in 1967 she got it down to 25 minutes 40 sec she also did 228 miles in a 12 hour in 1965.
In 1950 I cycled all the way from Colchester to Land’s End. My first stop on Sunday night was at Bournemouth in a hotel for the night. Staying at the hotel were some riders for the road race the next morning; one of them was Dave Bedwell a top rider he once rode the Tour de France. The next morning Dave Bedwell won the race.
The next day I cycled though Dorchester, Exeter to Oakhampton. where I stopped for the night at the London Hotel. Bed and breakfast in those days was just two shillings and sixpence, now it is around £35 or more in 2006. The next day I cycled across Bodmin moor and past Jamaica Inn, then right down to Land’s End. That night I rode back to Penzance and stopped in a house which did bed and breakfast, and it was a lot cheaper than a hotel. At Land’s End at that time there was only one house and on the roof was written ‘The first and last House in England’. A signpost with miles to John o’ Groats New York and Australia stood there also. Next day I went back though Exeter to Weston-Super-Mare where I stopped again for the night and watched some swimming races at their pool.
In the morning, I made my way to Taunton and Bristol stopping at Gloucester the night, meeting up with Bill Weeks the following day. We rode to Tarvin for start of the 24-hour time trial race, Bill was also in the Colchester Rovers, he also worked at Paxmans with my dad.
Jack King was going to ride a 24-hour time trial race, he was trying to get the 24hr record on a tricycle, which was 404 miles at that time. It was on the 9th of July 1950, and I was going to look after him handing up food and drinks with Bill Weeks. In the end Jack King did 416 miles 803, more than 12 miles better than the old record but John Arnold from the Middleton cycle club had started 10 minutes in front of Jack, and he did 419 miles to beat the old record by 15 miles. John Arnold with Albert Crimes on a tandem trike did Lands ends to John o’ Groats in two days 4hrs 26 minutes and is still record today in year 2007.
Later in the year Jack King did 453 miles in the 24hr national championships and was third overall. It is still a club record today in year 2008 and that was on his racing bike not on a tricycle. Jack King lived in Clacton and would ride to Colchester each day to his job at the West End Cycle Store, but later he got a job working at a school in Clacton. After that I made my way back to Tarvin in Cheshire, stopping there just the one night. Then I left Jack King and Bill Weeks and made my way to Shrewsbury, Banbury through Oxford and stopped at Reading for the night. The next day I cycled back to Colchester.
Another time I rode from Barnes Bridge in London to Bath and back in February in a time of 14 hours 15 minutes, it was 212 miles, it was organized by the Castelnau cycle club. I went in for the 16 hour Medal they was also a 18 hour class. My best 10-mile time was 25 minutes 8 sec, 25 miles 1 hour 3 minutes 38 sec. My fastest 50 mile was 2 hours 13 minutes 33 sec, my 100 miles was 4 hours 45 minutes 15 sec, 12-hour distance was 233.75 miles, and this was a Chelmer club record it lasted for two years, I did it on the 8th August 1954. They were all done in 1954 or before all on a fixed wheel 82” gear. After all the races we would cycle home, after the 12-hour race which was at Bishops Stortford, we all rode back the 32 miles to Colchester. Jack King, who did 239 miles in the 12-hour, had to cycle to Clacton about 50 miles!”