RACING HERITAGE




Hetchins were actively involved in racing for decades and scored many victories, including World's and Olympic Championships in 1936. Above is Champion, Toni Merkens, with his 'trademark' downward curved handlebar stem and curly Hetchins. Merkens was a popular racer in the 1930s, with many victories to his credit, including Herne Hill (UK), a "Counties Trophy" in the popular five-mile Point-to-Point, and gold in the 1935 World's Championship Track amateur 200m sprint in Belgium. See Bike Cult com for listings of track champions since 1893.



Toni Merkens on the left, easily identified by the handlebar stem. On the right is Sellinger (USA). Foto: Olympics, 1936. Hetchins subsequently offered a Toni Merkens model; only one is known to have survived.



Above: the 1938 Wembly Six-Day team:
(lf to rt) Harry Hetchin, Piet van Kempen (rider), Cor Wals (rider),
(trainer, unknown); they took bronze (behind two teams riding Claud Butlers).


Above: 1938 Wembly Six-Day team: Cor Wals (22) and Piet van Kempen (23).
Wals and van Kempen were Dutchmen with long and successful racing careers.
Van Kempen took part in 110 Six-Days with medals in 32 of them.
Wals: b. 26.2.1912, d. 5.4.1994; Kempen: b. 12.12.1898, d. 5.5.1985.


Above: Piet van Kempen on a full-chrome track bike,
from an original glass-plate negative, ca. 1938.




In 1939 Hetchins supplied bikes for a team composed of Burgess, Hey, Firth, and Rangeley, of the Bronte Wheelers Club, to take part in the Bath Road 100 race, sponsored by the Bath Road Club. They were victorious. Rangeley's medal survives. The sales records list the frames as "on loan" to the team. The foto below shows the team wearing the black Alpaca jackets typical of the time.









Below: time trialing in 1949.




In 1952 Hetchins sponsored a team of riders in the Tour of Britain consisting of, from the left below: Tony Smith, Dave Robinson, Hyman Hetchin (in cap), Tony Phillips, J. Saunders (hands on shoulders), and Sid Aldridge of the Romford R.C. William (Bill) Bellamy was also a member of the team but is not pictured; he crashed and did not finish the race. The bike is Tony Phillips' Experto Crede.


Several people kindly provided the following additional details:
Tony Smith, retired, stage 12; team no. 59.
Dave Robinson, 9th over all, placing in stages: 3rd/5, 5th/7, 6th/4; no. 60.
Tony Phillips, 21st over all, 5th/13; no. 61--bike pictured above.
Sid Aldridge, 34th over all; no. 62.

Dave 'Minta' Robinson (pictured below) was a star performer. He rode the ToB 1951-2-3-4-8-9. This 9th o/a was his best performance. The man in the rear (above) is Stan Saunders who was probably team manager. He won the Brighton - Glasgow race (fore-runner of the ToB) in 1949 riding for the Dayton team. Below: Dave Robinson in flight (the bike is an Experto Crede).




Below: Tony Phillips in flight.

Bill Bellamy (team no. 58), pictured farther below, retired on Stage 11. He was the best rider in the Romford team, having already won the 8th edition of the Brighton - Glasgow that same year, and, as in the ToB, he was an amateur riding against top trade teams. In the '52 ToB, he had worn the leader's jersey 1st o/a in Stg.6 and held it for 2 days until losing it to the eventual tour winner, Ken Russell, on Stg.8. Bill's placings: 5th-Stg.1, 8th-Stg.5. Retired after crashing on Stg.11 (with 3 stages remaining).

There are reports on his performance as follows: 11th Stage Newcastle to Scarborough. This was a very fast stage won at an average speed of 27.4mph for the 88 mile long stage. Ken Russell won the stage from Ian Steel; they had a four minute lead on the next finishers. Five minutes after that the main bunch consisting of 27 riders finished. A minute after these riders, Bill Bellamy finished surrounded by his Romford-Hetchins team. Bill had careened off the road when taking a tight turn at a foot of a gulley. He was thrown over a barbed wire fence and ended up some twenty yards from the road in a field. He was plucky enough to remount and try and get back to the chasing bunch with the aid of his team mates, who had all stopped when he crashed badly. This must have been a strong and valiant ride to keep the loss down to one minute behind the chasing bunch. This effort was all in vain as the next day was a rest day and they took him to hospital for a precautionary examination. He was found to have a cracked vertebra. Hyman and his teammates sent a telegram to his parents informing them that their lad's bid for a double stage win that year had failed and he had had to retire from the Tour quite badly injured. In a tribute to his fallen rival, race leader Ken Russell said, 'For sheer riding ability, Bellamy was unbeatable. He had the uncanny knack of travelling at 30s, yet only appeared to be doing 20.' (Or was it due his Hetchins?? - writer's query)

Paul Hetchin added the following: "My Dad told me a few times about a fellow called Bill Bellamy riding a Hetchins in the "Tour Of Britain" and crashing and getting badly injured while leading the race with just a couple of days to go." Below: Bill Bellamy with Hyman Hetchin in front of the Seven Sisters Road shop, 1952 (the frame is a Mag. Bonum).



Tony Smith's son reports that Tony, who passed away in 2008, remained an avid cyclist to the end of his days, though a bit wobbly towards the last.

This '52 Tour was particularly famous for two reasons. 1st.: The winner, Ken Russell, was a lone rider without team support, and 2nd.: both the French and Italian national teams withdrew on the 5th day because of their inability to obtain adequate food for racing due to British food rationing which was still in force.

One, possibly two, of the ToB bikes have survived. They are easily identified by the peculiar serial numbers: HET1, HET2, and so on to HET5.

    

The Editor wishes to thank Peter Underwood, Sid Ellis, Mick Butler, and Paul Hetchin, for providing the above details; Manu Palomeque, Tony Smith's son, provided the team foto; Mick Butler provided the foto of Bill Bellamy, and Mike Duffy recovered the fotos of the lads in flight and of Bill Bellamy and Hetch in Tottenham.




Hetchins sponsored many road races;
below is the program from one such in 1958.


Below: a full-chrome track bike from the 1970s;
it is unusual to find a curly track bike of this vintage.




John Wigglesworth, ex Polytechnic CC, sends the following: he, Ian Alsop, and Dick Swann Jr., participated in a match event at Gladbeck near Dusseldorf, Germany in 1960; Dick Swann Sr. was team manager; all rode Hetchins. John continues: "...most of Hetchins competition success was on the track, hence the straight chainstays; obviously the curly pre-war machines were very much a marketing ploy and a very successful one, as the curly stays are Hetchins in everybody's mind. [However,] Jack Denny admitted that they were just an advertising ploy and added nothing to frame performance, which is why nearly all track frames during the 1950-1970 period were straight-stayed. ... [Typical track bike equipment:] de riguer for chainset and cranks was BSA steel with half-inch block chains, BSA pedals, Brooks hand-made saddles with copper rivets, Titan and Cinelli steel stems were favorites, Airlite hubs were the most popular. As the sixties approached, aluminium chainsets, mainly TA, started to take over, as did (what a blessing) Campagnolo seat pillars, and Lyotard platform pedals."

The fotos and captions below are courtesy of John Wigglesworth. Start of the race in Gladbeck near Dusseldorf, Germany, 1960: at the far left, John Wigglesworth (looking over his left shoulder), at the far right, Ian Alsop (helping the next rider into his pedal); Ian rides an Experto Crede, inch pitch chainrings clearly visible.


Below: Polytechnic CC in flight at Gladbeck:
top left, Dick Swann Jr,
middle, Ian Alsop (out of saddle),
bottom right, John Wigglesworth.




John Wigglesworth: "Ian Alsop also rode a Hetchins at the 1960 Rome Olympics. In the photos above, he was 16-17 and developed into the outstanding all-round track rider of his time in the UK, winning gold at the Commenwealth Games in the 10-mile scratch race in 1966. After the Mexico Olympics [1968] he retired in a rather dramatic personal fashion and returned to Mexico to live and became the national track coach."
Jim Hendry, archivist of the British Cycling Federation, kindly supplied the following summary of Ian Alsop's results.
British Track Championship Performances
1959 Junior Men 500m Sprint, Herne Hill, silver
1960 Junior Men 500m Sprint, Coventry, bronze
1962 Amateur Tandem Sprint, Notttingham, tied gold/silver (w/Roger Whitfield on the tandem)
1963 Amateur 1000m Sprint, Herne Hill, silver
1963 Amateur 4000m Team Pursuit, Fallowfield, gold (Polytechnic CC team)
1964 Amateur 4000m Team Pursuit, Wolverhampton, bronze (Polytechnic CC team)
1964 Amateur Tandem Sprint, Nottingham, silver (w/Brian Dacey on the tandem)
1965 Amateur 1000m Sprint, Salford Park, silver
1965 Amateur Division 4000m Team Pursuit, Kirkby, gold (North London team)
1965 Amateur Tandem Sprint, Nottingham, silver (w/Tony Gowland)
1966 Amateur 1000m Sprint, Kirkby, silver
1966 Amateur Kilometre Time Trial, Welwyn, silver
1966 Amateur 4000m Team Pursuit, Wolverhampton, silver (Polytechnic CC)
1966 Amateur Division 4000m Team Pursuit, Herne Hill, silver (North London)
1966 Amateur 10 mile Scratch, Nottingham, gold
1966 Amateur 50 mile Madison, Salford Park, gold (w/Tony Gowland)
1967 Amateur 10 mile Scratch, Halesowen, gold
1967 Amateur Division 4000m Team Pursuit, Salford Park, silver (North London)
1967 Amateur 50 mile Madison, Herne Hill, bronze (w/Tony Gowland)
1967 Amateur Tandem Sprint, Herne Hill, silver (w/Tony Gowland)
1968 Amateur Kilometre Time Trial, Herne Hill, tied for bronze
1968 Amateur 4000m Team Pursuit, Scunthorpe, gold (Polytechnic CC)
1968 Amateur Tandem Sprint, Leicester, gold (w/Geoff Cooke)
World's Championship and Olympic Performances
1963 Rocourt, Belgium, Amateur Sprint, competed
1963 Rocourt, Belgium, Amateur Team Pursuit, 13th place (GB team)
1965 San Sebastian, Spain, Amateur Sprint, competed
1965 San Sebastian, Spain, Amateur Team Pursuit, 8th place (GB team)
1966 Frankfurt, Germany, Amateur Team Pursuit, 7th place (GB team)
1967 Amsterdam, Holland, Amateur Team Pursuit, 8th place (GB team)
1968 Mexico Olympics, 4000m Team Pursuit, 12th place (GB team)

Ian Alsop continues to represent Mexico and win medals at masters events, including the Huntsman World Seniors games, hill climbs and XC mountainbike events. http://www.hwsg.com/Archive/2002results/pages/mountainbiking.html lists him in the experts category for men aged 55-59, gold, mountainbiking, Huntsman World Senior Games, 2002.


Left: Dick Swann (on bike),
Gladbeck, Dusseldorf, 1960.

Left: John Wigglesworth at
Herne Hill, London, 1960.



Alan Johnson, ex Polytechnic CC, sends the following: "My brother Brian and myself were members of the Polytechnic club in the 1960s although we lived in Northamptonshire and our local track was Wicksteeds at Kettering until Leicester velodrome was built in 1967. We met Dick Swann at the Leicester grass track racing at the Saffron Lane site in the early 60s as he was living in Leicester to write a book about Victorian era champions (such as Bert Harris) and he encouraged us to join the London club. We both won club championships against the likes of Gowland and Robinson, Alsop etc., also North London division championships and medals in the national tandem sprint at Nottingham and Leicester. We were very soon astride Hetchins bikes and my brother Brian (who lives in Sydney) still has the one that Dick Swann senior is seen riding in the photo above. The frame I had as a schoolboy was number H 5028 and I won the National Championship on it, now in the possesion of Dave Marsh cycles South Yorkshire. The frame I had built by Hetchins in 1968 was an Experto Crede with lots of extra special features, but I sold it before coming to Aussie in 1980. I also had a Hetchins tandem, a pre-war job, which Scotty Alsop (Ian's father) gave to me and I won bronze and silver medals in the national championships at Leicester in 1968 and 1970 - the frame was damaged in around 1977 and repaired by Mike Mullet of Reading; it is currently with Dave Marsh. I also remember Ian Alsop's disappearance in 1968, which Peter Robinson and I often talk about when we meet up and talk of old times. Peter was in the London Poly and now also lives here in Perth Australia as I do." Fotos below courtesy of Brian and Alan Johnson.


Below: Polytechnic CC in 1965:
Dick Swann front row left (with moustache)

Below: Cover of the Polytechnic CC Gazette:

Below: Brian Johnson on Experto Crede; Dick Swann in background:


Jim Hendry, archivist of the British Cycling Federation, kindly supplied the following summary of the Johnsons' of Corby Northants results.
British National Performances
1962 Amateur 880 yards Grass, Manchester, bronze (Brian)
1965 Amateur Tandem Sprint, Nottingham, bronze (Brian, w/Barry Pond)
1965 Amateur 880 yards, Grass, Nottingham, bronze (Brian)
1967 Under-16 Men 500m Sprint, Nottingham, gold (Alan)
1968 Amateur Tandem Sprint, Leicester, bronze (Alan, w/Keith Downing)
1969 Amateur 880 yards, Grass, Heckington, silver (Alan)
1970 Amateur Tandem Sprint, Leicester, silver (Alan, w/Jim Middlemore)
1976 Amateur 50km Motor Pace, Leicester, silver (Alan, w/Alan Gibb)
1976 Amateur 800m Grass, Leeds, silver (Alan)
1976 Amateur 8km Grass, Hereford, silver (Dave Marsh), bronze (Alan)
1977 Amateur 50km Motor Pace, silver (Alan w/Alan Gibb)
1978 Amateur 50km Motor Pace, gold (Alan w/Rob Griggs)
1979 Amateur 50km Motor Pace, gold (Alan w/Rob Griggs)
1979 8 kms, Grass, Hereford, silver (Alan)

There is a story that Brian Johnson was once chucked into the boating lake at Wicksteed Park in Kettering as retribution for causing a crash in one of the track events. Alan's version of the story follows: "As regards the boating lake at Wicksteeds, that is the stuff of legend -- and was not true in fact. It was the Wicksteed Trophy race in 1962 and 6 or 7 riders crashed on the last lap. I remember it well as I was only 11 years old and can still see the crash clearly to this day. Brian actually punctured on the last lap and crashed onto the grass; the rider next to him panicked and swung to his right and cleaned up the whole bunch. Many were in hospital and at the next meeting the Kettering riders refused to ride against Brian. As regards throwing Brian in the lake, they would have liked to but us Johnsons came out in force and the spectators and family and friends that came out of the background from Corby were amazing. Brian was riding a 'Macleans Featherweight' frame on the day of the crash and as it was ruined in the crash Dick Swann gave Brian his own Hetchins which he rode from then on. The Kettering evening Telegraph made a big deal of it, as anything about Corby (only 8 miles away) was always viewed with a bit of distain in their eyes. To top it all, Brian had left the Kettering Friendly cycling club and had recently joined the Polytechnic cycling club. Roger Piggins won the Wicksteed Trophy race as I think he was the only one who stayed on his bike [after the crash]. Note for Jim Hendry archives regarding Wicksteeds track flying start lap record: Wicksteeds was an asphalt track. Our father Cyril of the Northampton Rovers Bicycle Club held the record from 1936 until about 1960 when none other than Dave Handley himself broke the record, and his time was 27.7; this was then lowered to 27.00 by John Burns of the Polytechnic a few years later. We mostly used aluminium rims for grass track racing, but our father would have used wood when he won the Northamptonshire 880 yards championship in 1934; I still have his medal here in Australia."

Click here to see some of Dick Swann's calligraphy for Hetchins.




Above: a visitor to this web site writes: [the foto shows an Experto Crede] "....in a time trial ridden, just after his 15th birthday, by a suffering me. As you can see by dirty ankle bone and calf, I had just slid off a couple of minutes before, turning onto the foot of the grits. I had worked several years of evenings and Saturdays on the local fruit wholesale market, to the detriment of my studies, to buy what was a club boy's dream, and had just "upgraded" from fixed to Campag." Readers of a certain age will regognize the chain droop in the foto above. At that time, when derailleur gears were relatively new, it was commonly believed that a tight chain would create drag and slow the rider down. So chain droop was very in. The owner continues: "it was an art form to set the Campag jockey wheel to allow some bottom gear droop without a washing line of slack chain on the smaller sprockets of the block. Indeed, a lost art." Foto courtesy of the owner. That bike is still in his possession, by the way; click here.









Above: in case anyone thought no one seriously races Hetchins any more ...



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