Bombs and Bicycles – The “Skid Kids” of Postwar London

In the years after World War II and unlikely sport arose from the ashes of London’s bomb sites, cycle speedway.

skid-kids-east-surrey-grove-peckham-south-london-1948Kids from as young as 13 put London’s many bomb sites to productive use by turning them into speedway tracks and racing their bicycles around them.

Well I use the word “bicycles” but according to reports, most of these bicycles were not roadworthy, and many were homemade, sporting old wheels and frames, and bent gas piping for handlebars.

That did not stop the “skid kids,” who blasted around the dirt tracks dreaming of one day racing real speedway.

Cycle Speedway Boom in Postwar London

According to Wikipedia, the sport actually goes back to 1920s, but it really took off in London in 1945 with the abundance of bomb sites providing dirt tracks for the city’s daring youth.

Intercity tournaments commenced in 1946, and in 1950 the international clash between England and the Netherlands drew 10,000 spectators.

In it’s heyday in 1950, there were over 200 teams in East London alone. The total number of racers across the country is estimated at between 30,000 and100,000.

This emerging sport was a significant milestone in history, according to sports historian Simon Inglis:

“It was the birth of youth culture that hadn’t existed before, which enabled kids to have a completely separate identity to their parents for the first time – cycle speedway was something that no adult did.”

After 1950, the bomb sites were cleared and the sport declined rapidly, going back to it’s local roots at a few scattered tracks around the country, but essentially fading into obscurity.

BBC Magazine has an interesting article on the sport with comments from some of the original racers, one of whom at 84 is still racing his bicycle today (on the road).

Cycle Speedway is still going today in the UK, administered by British Cycling, and it is practiced in Europe and the United States.

Sources: Wikipedia, BBC Magazine



New Affordable Power Meter in the Works

A new power meter looks to hit the market soon. Invented by British cyclist, Ken Norton, “Limits” power meter promises to be one of the cheapest power meters available, selling for a mere $385 (260 GBP), ridiculously cheap compared to most power meters available.

Limits is specifically designed to be affordable and within reach of most cyclists; and it’s designed to be easily interchangeable, so you can switch it between any bike easily, including your mountain bike.

How It Works

Limits Power Meter Installation limits-power-meter-step-2 limits-power-meter-step-3Installation is quick and easy.

Limits is attached to the bike between the pedal and the crank, and uses 4 strain gauges to measure the power being applied by the rider.

The power meter also houses an inclinometer (with a resolution of 1 degree), so it can tell when a pedal revolution has completed, so you get cadence as well. Torque data is also included.

Currently Limits only measures power on the left side, but a future release will measure power on both sides.

Limits uses Ant+ so will work with any Ant+ head unit or device. Limits is waterproof and has a battery life of 1 year, so you won’t be switching batteries out every week.

At sub $400, this power meter should bring power training within reach of most cyclists, and with the flexibility of easily moving it from bike to bike, it should be especially attractive to cyclists who ride and race across disciplines.

Limits is a crowdfunded project launching April 20, 2015.

Learn more about the Limits power meter

Bikes Made From “Nature’s Carbon”

Renovo make bicycles out of wood, using hollow wooden tubes. Seems kind of primitive, considering we have all these fancy materials today, titanium, aluminum, carbon fiber… So why wood?

Some amazing things have been made from wood, including the world’s largest wingspan plane, the H4 Hercules… all wood!

Hercules Cargo Plane
The H4 Hercules all wood construction aircraft.

And according to Renovo:

Wood has unique engineering properties that deliver superior ride quality and durability compared to man-made materials, and…it’s sustainable, unlike other common frame materials. When the right wood is combined with an array of advanced technologies, it becomes a high performance material that will forever change your understanding of ‘wood.’

Wooden Mountain Bike

Renovo say that wood has superior damping ability, is light, stiff and durable. In short you get a smooth ride, excellent power transfer, superior handling and a bike that will last.

Plus wood makes your bike a one-of-a-kind handcrafted masterpiece.

Wooden Bicycle - The Firewood Detail

The frames are significantly heavier than today’s super light frames, coming in at around 4-5 lbs, so not your best option if you do a lot of climbing.

Renovo offer a wide range of bikes, from commuter, road, mountain, touring and even time trial/triathlon. Prices vary by type, model and options, but prices start around $4,800 for a road bike.

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