BLOG POST: My Top Tenuous Links to Pro Riders

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By Michael Mackie

In reverse number three.
Location - Herne Hill track, 1st April 1988. Attempt to break the National hour record on a Tandem.
I was with the late Ken Bird (more on him later). Riding one of Ken Birds hand-built tandems two local cycling legends Richard Hallet and Steve Marchant were about to embark on the attempt. My job, as I used to help out in Ken’s bike shop, was to sweep the track. That day they did not claim the hour record but broke the national 5km, 10km, and 20km records. It must have been my excellent sweeping technique.

At Number two.
On the 18th February 2017, I had the pleasure of meeting a hero, a legend a real hard man of cycling. I was visiting The Bike Show in London when I came across the Vitus Bike stand.

Hanging on the wall was a stunning Vitus bike from the 1980s as ridden by a rider from Carrick-on-Suir, Ireland, the great Sean Kelly. Winner of numerous classic races, Paris-Nice, Paris-Roubaix, Nissan Classic to name a few. Kelly was signing his autobiography so I grabbed a copy, met him, and got him to sign my book. Even at 64 years, he still looks fit, had a really firm handshake, but was very humble with it.

 kelly fog

And at Number One...
I mentioned Ken Bird earlier. He ran two bike shops in the 1970’s and 80’s, one in Anerley Hill, the other in Green Street Green near Orpington. I occasionally helped out at his shop but mainly rode for his small race team. He was old school and just told us “get the miles in”. Which I did, plenty of them, but lacked the speed for racing, hence never getting beyond Cat 4.

Ken was a frame builder and wheel builder. All the frames that carried Ken Bird’s name had a well-deserved reputation for quality. Some were said to be built at the Holdsworth works in Anerley, London. Other top-of-the-line frames were said to be built by Charles Roberts. Ken started his career working for the famed Claud Butler. Ken served as team mechanic to the British Tour de France squad three times (including the fateful ’67 tour when friend Tom Simpson died during his ascent of Mt. Ventoux) He would often tell me the story of the fateful day on Mt Ventoux, on how Tom Simpson passed away at his feet. So my final claim is for Ken Bird and for Tom Simpson.