Racing the Wind!

I hope that this post is the first in a series of short book reviews. I have a number of cycling books on my shelves that may not be accessible to everybody; either because of their age, or because they have stayed in manuscript form. I hope to scan some pages and the title of each of them, and write a few accompanying words.

First to be scrutinized is Cecil Cripps, Racing the Wind!, published in Australia in about 1991/2. This is a book which has eluded me for more than a decade; I felt I could have used it when I started my own book on fast cyclists about fifteen years ago, but all I had then was a photocopied chapter. As it turns out now that was enough because Cripps starts where my book ends, chronologically speaking.

Looking the book up on the internet I find only two copies, both from UK sellers, and both priced to the gunwales, if I may say so, so here we go.

It´s not only the title page which is unusual, giving all sorts of info one might expect inside, but missing things like an editor´s name. This somewhat amateurish approach to layout continues over the whole distance, with photos obviously framed in felt tip, and newspaper photographs of quite horrible quality. There is a colour section, too, though. Here´s an example of one of the pages in b/w:

Please excuse the bad quality, but I didn´t want to crack the tome´s spine while scanning.

What is obvious from this sample page is that the book is crammed with facts, figures, names. As such it´s an absolute gold mine. Those figures or pictures might not alway be where you expect them, so the mine metaphor gains one more meaning.

The book traces the development of bicycle speed records through the decades, starting with Dr. Cortis, continuing with better known names such as Major Taylor, Mile-a-Minute Murphy and Oppy, Alfred Letourneur, José Meiffret (on whom there was a really interesting article in Der Knochenschüttler some time ago) and winding down with a chapter on some Australian recordmen after reporting John Howard´s and Fred Rompelberg´s exploits. Each of them receives many pages of dates, figures, biography and funny snippets.

Reading the book one quickly sees that it is well written (Cripps was a journalist), excepting perhaps Cripps´ predilection for exclamation marks, and very factual (he was a racing cyclist too). It is proof of the fact that something that looks amateurish can be very useful indeed. It says in the book that Cripps was 66 when Racing the Wind! was published; I have not been able to find out if he´s still alive, so if anyone has any additional info, please leave a comment.

Cecil Cripps, Racing the Wind!, Vetsport Promotions, Chelsea, Australia, no year given. Hard cover, many b/w and colour photos and cartoons, index of names, 192 pages.

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One Comment

  1. David Kimber
    Posted November 8, 2012 at 9:00 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks for this info. I have the old Excelsior Pace bike shown in this photo which I am in the midst of restoring for the second time bought from Bob Finlay in the late 1960s. I am interested in tracking down any information about pace racing in the 1920s and 30s. If you have any further comments/ references etc would very much like to hear from you. Also you might be interested in the Finlay Bros website that is being developed by Erica Finlay which has quite a lot of info on the BARB pushbike, the Finlay bros creation in Melbourne.

    my email address is dwkimber1@bigpond.com.

    Regards

    David

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