In its first 30 years Balham Cycling Club established some of the most iconic races in the Southern England cycling calendar. A series of ‘25’ time trials either side of the First World War attracted some of the best riders of the period and between 1923-1926 three of its most well-known races were launched – the already featured Balham Rough Stuff, the NCU Tandem 25 Paced Championship and the focus of our article here, the Balham Second Class 100 Time Trial.
The ‘Balham 100’ was an integral part of the cycling season from 1924 until well into the 1950s (exact date as yet unconfirmed). It was unique in that it was aimed at up-and-coming riders and those who had no chance of getting into one of the top Open 100s. The time standards changed over the years but the guiding entry criteria never did. A Cycling report from 1930 states the race was “For riders who had not hitherto beaten 5.5 hours for the distance, or 2.5 hours for 50miles.”
The time trial was held annually on Whit-Sunday and while I’ve yet to get my hands on a route map we know the race followed the Bath Road course. This was essentially the A4 of 1920s-1950s England. Towns named in race reports unearthed so far include Savernake, Newbury (at the 50mile mark) and Thatcham.
In its pomp The Balham 100 attracted over 200 riders from clubs as far away as Basingstoke, York, Bath and all points inbetween. In the July 1949 edition of the club magazine Balham Gazette Secretary Len Vanner reviews the year’s 100 and declares “257 entries speaks for itself and beats the previous record of 218 when I promoted it some 15 years ago!”
In the same article Len gives us an insight into the competitive nature of cycling race management in the 50s and the popularity of the Balham 100. He writes: “You can take it from me there is more than one club looking for an opportunity of pinching not only our date but also the event.”
It was clearly a huge success for many years and it would be unfair to pluck out two stories that focus on chaos and skullduggery. Below are the words of Ken Smith highlighting the chaos that ensued in 1947 and a race report from 1938 highlighting suspected pacing.
Inquiry held following pace riding accusations
“Incidents in the Balham CC’s second classs 100 will be the subject of a special inquiry to be held this week. Until the findings of the inquiry are known the result of the team race will not be announced. The fastest team to finish was the Vegetarian CC trio Hodges, Windfield, Tuner but checkers at two points could find no record of Turner’s passing. The times of four other riders have been withheld owing to suggestions of pace riding…”
“As this was a Balham event I was No 1 on the card. Moved well up Pangbourne Lane to the first turn, which was just before Oxford and being marshaled by Oxford City RC. Rode on and found myself on the outskirts of Oxford! The marshal had not arrived and those early starters were going into Oxford. I turned round rode back wondering where the exact turn was located. By that time other riders were milling around, cursing, and riding back to the start. I hung around for some time, left a rider who had volunteered to turn the field (he said he knew where it was) and shouted to them at the start that no one was at the turn. The Oxford City had arrived shortly afterwards. I rode round the course for the exercise only, no chance of a decent time. Many early starters just packed. Very disappointed as I had prepared to do a good ride.”
- 1924 W Martin, Century RC
- 1930 R Webber, Fulham Wheelers
- 1934 Alec Smith, Vegetarian CC (See race report)
- 1937 G Temple, Shaftsbury CC
- 1938 AC Hodges, Vegetarian CC
- 1940 WW2 The Open 2nd Class 100 was replaced by a Bath Road Open 50
- 1947 J Hull, Rapier CC
- 1949 J Liversidge, Rutland CC
- 1950 A Hammond, Doncaster Wheelers
- 1951 HG Moffatt, Leicester Forest CC
- 1952 GE Freeman, Chequers RC
Have you or any family members got any photos or club memorabilia from the Balham 100? DO you have any cuttings or race cards? Email me at email@example.com or drop me a line in the comments box. I would love to hear from you.
Ken Smith’s scrapbook
Newspaper cuttings from FindMyPast
Balham Gazette extracts from John Simcock collection
Medal from Blogger’s own collection