BACKPEDAL: Vegetarians dominate at the 1928 Rough Stuff

1928 March 2 Source Cycling Balham Cyclists DG Turner Venue Surrey / Kent Meeting Balham Rough Stuff Meeting Date 1928 February 26 Race 25 Mile Race Result Balham’s Turner finishes 15th, Len Cave & HEG Ferris make it a Vegetarian C&AC 1-2 and ensure the team prize goes the same way.

Worth reading cutting just for the phrase: “Naturally there were a few tumbles on the sharper corners of the course, but these were due rather to too much self-confidence on the part if the riders”

The only big open competition of the winter came and went last Sunday under blue sunny skies that made it difficult to believe that spring had not at last arrived. Whether the competitors appreciated the beauty of the countryside under such ideal conditions is no doubt an open question, but certainly they had good reason to congratulate themselves on the prolonged spell of dry weather which preceded the race, for the lanes were much more easily negotiated than was the case after last year’s downpour. Naturally there were a few tumbles on the sharper corners of the course, but these were due rather to too much self-confidence on the part if the riders than to the condition of the surface, which was, however, very rough and bumpy.


Several interesting names figured among the 100 on the starting card, notably those of FL Cleeve (last year’s winner), JE Holdsworth, WW Perkins, L Cave, EH Thompson, HEG Ferris and T Chambers, the Douglas rider, who had made the trip from Scotland specially for the race – his second in Southern England.

Cave was known to be fit, and his clubmates’ confidence that he would do well was was fully justified, for he finished fastest in 1hr 44mins 24secs, 2mins 2.5secs ahead of Ferris, who was second, both in the winning Vegetarian team and in the race.

The first check was taken at Farleigh Common, after the competitors had covered about four miles of fairly mixed country. The start took place at the top of one of the long hills neighbouring the London end of the main Eastbourne road, and within a few hundred yards it was necessary for the competitors to stand very hard on their pedals in order to surmount a fierce stretch of 1-in-5 gradient. Cave who was an early starter made a very clean ascent; his clubmate, Thompson, although very fast at the bottom of the hill, had some little difficulty with the top, while Cleeve had the misfortune to lose his toe-strap and was forced to walk. The check showed Cave to be leading by about 45 secs from Ferris, Perkins and GT Barrows, but the competitors had already began to get well strung out and some had taken well over 20mins against the leaders’ 17mins.

From this point the course led into an intricate tangle of lanes, emerging finally by way of Bedlested Hill on the main Warlingham-Westerham road. Cave had no sooner reached this point than his rear tyre, a tandem tubular, deflated but very fortunately CF Davey was close at hand with a spare machine, and the Vegetarian was able to continue with very little delay. At the top of Titsey Hill his lead was seen to have dropped by 15secs over a group which included Cleeve, Ferris, Perkins and Barrows.

The 1-in-6 slopes of Titsey induced some fierce hurrying, and at fewest two of the competitors overshot the turning half-way down and fell. One of them was A Eadon, the fourth of the Vegetarian string. Rather shaken, he delayed some 10mins before resuming, finally finishing in 2hrs 0mins 50secs.

Soon afterwards Westerham Hill provided the prelude to what was undoubtedly the most strenuous section of the course, including, as it did, the terrific descents and ascents at Tatsfield, Saltbox and Biggin Hill. Every competitor was forced to indulge in some walking before starting on the steady drop to Addington. Cave had punctured again at Hawley Corner, at the top of Westerham Hill, and was using a machine equipped with steel wheels and a 57-in. gear. He passed Mr Bidlake up the finishing slope of 1-in-10, and it was found that he had clocked 1hr 44mins 24secs. Soon after this Barrows came through in 1.48.23, and until Ferris arrived he retained second position. With men in first and second places the Vegetarians were naturally very gleeful, and hopes were entertained that Thompson, who had started last but one, might manage to complete the hat-trick. He finished very strongly, picking up some 2mins on the field in the last few miles of the race, but was not quite fast enough to oust Cleeve or Perkins (fourth) from their respective positions.

The team race totals were as follows: Vegetarians C&AC 5hrs 19mins 6secs; Norwood Paragon 5hrs 30mins 24secs; Kentish Wheelers 5hrs 36mins 44secs.



Your Help

Have you or any family members got any photos or club memorabilia from the Balham Rough Stuff ?  Did you ride in it in the 50s and 60s? Email me at or drop me a line in the comments box. I would love to hear from you.


Race report from Cycling Weekly formerly Cycling


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