Land's End to Jobn O'Groats
Then there are the riders who by their achievements focused public attention on variable hub gears. Mills has already been named-no less noteworthy is Harry Green.
During 1907 and the early part of 1908, attack after attack was inade on the cycling record for the most famous route in the British Isles, the road from Land's End to John O'Groats. Three cyclists had set up new records for this heart-breaking ride and, in June, 1908, it stood at 2 days, 22 hours, 42 minutes. The experts thought that would stand, but a month later Green, using a three-speed Sturmey-Archer hub, reduced it by two hours. Commented F. T. Bidlake in the Daily Chronicle: "Green's machine was fitted with a three-speed gear, and I venture to think that no single-geared machine could possibly have carried him so well". As might be expected in an association with the Raleigh bicycle, the triple gear used was a Sturmey-Archer with foot-acted concealed brake, the combination being known as the "Tri-Coaster."
Green's record stood for 21 years until in 1929 Jack Rossiter set off from Land's End on a fine August day and covered the 866 miles to John O'Groats in 61 hours, 27 minutes, reducing by nearly 7 hours Harry Green's record and claiming the added distinction of being the first record-breaker to cycle every inch of the End-to-End roacL His Sturmey Archer equipped Raleigh had been more than a match for Shap, the Grampians and the even more dreaded Berriedale. He used a "K" hub, giving variations of 2S per cent. below and 33 1/3 per cent. above normal. A year later he broke the 1,000 miles record, which had also been standing for 21 years, by nearly 4 hours.
By 1935 the Land's End-John O'Groats record and other Road Racing Association records had passed from Raleigh hands. The Australian, Hubert ("Oppie") Opperman, had reduced the time, using a derailleur gear, a type of variable gear which was becoming increasingly popular in Continental races.
Frank Southall, the greatest all-rounder of the decade, began the onslaught on road records in 1934, gaining most of the medium distance records on the R.R.A. list, including three previously held by Charles Marshall.
To counter these successes, plans were laid in Nottingham for regaining the road honotirs held for so long by Sturmey. Archer. Three outstanding cyclists were selected, Sid Ferris, Bert James and Charlie Holland.
Late in 1936 the first of many victories was won by the new team. In the following year Sid Ferris regained the Land's End-John O'Groats and the 1,000 miles record and in all the Nottingham team collected twelve major road records.
In 1939 Tommy Godwin, using a Sturmey~Archer hub, broke the year's mileage record with the amazing total of 75,065 miles. Not content with this he went on to cover 100,000 miles in 499 days.
The unique qualities of the Dynohub were convincingly demonstrated by Sid Ferris when, in 1938, he broke the 24-hour R.R.A. record.
Ferris, who had already bettered the existing Edinburgh London time, only to have his claim rejected because a helper had broken the R.R.A. rules, was rushed to the Scottish capital by night train for a second attempt. Because of the long night ride involved, there was considerable concern amongst his supporters, for Ferris, who has only one eye, had suffered from eye strain during his marathon journey from Land's End to John O'Grnats. But for the October dash between the Scottish and English capitals his bicycle was fitted with the new Dynohub. There can be no finer tribute to the easy running of the Dynohub than the fact that it was used during 15 hours of darkness on what proved to be a record run.
Such then is the history of Sturmey-Archer, and of the men who made it possible, up to this Jubilee year of 1952 when over 2,000,000 Sturmey-Archer hubs will be produced. But it is neither the end of the story nor probably of its list of contributors.
Studying the number of units now made by the Company, it would seem at first sight that there is hardly room for further innovations-from the original hub gear of 1902 the Company now produces eight different hub gears, five brake hubs and combinations, three Dynohubs and combinations, and a full range of cycle-lighting equipment to take care of the varied requirements of the most discriminating cyclist.
But in cycling circles gearing will always be one of the most controversial topics. Cyclists will continue to develop new theories about ideal gear ratios and equipment. They will find that Sturmey-Archer technicians, ceaselessly busy with blueprints and formulae, will be a step ahead of them for Sturmey-Archer, though it looks proudly back on 50 years of achievement, looks confidently forward to solving for good and all the problem of finding a gear to provide any required combination of ratios.