The Second Coming

At. the beginning of the 1950's cycling began a boom reminiscent of that of nearly 100 years earlier. The national economy began to emerge from the effects of the war, though money was still not plentiful while National Conscription was probably responsible for many of the country's youth being in good physical condition. And the roads were still largely free of traffic. Bicycle manufacture in Britain reached prodigious proportions and the Cycle Shows at Earl's Court attracted huge crowds.

The cycling clubs were quite suddenly faced with a near-embarrassment of new members; club runs attracted 20 or 30 members each week and new clubs were formed all over the country, many towns boasting several clubs all of which catered for the same interests without encroaching too much on one another.

Only one club existed throughout this time in Maidenhead, although Marlow had it's club and the Chiltern Road Club was formed covering an area roughly centred around the Slough and High Wycombe area, both towns having separate clubs in addition.

About this time too, a significant event had taken place in Wolverhampton which had far reaching ramifications in the world of cycle racing in England and Wales. The National Cyclists Union had been the organisation which controlled all racing on tracks, both grass and hard, while the Road Time Trials Council was the strict controller of the only racing over roads. These races were time events where riders started at regular intervals and the winner was decided by the fastest time, or in some cases, the greatest distance covered within a certain period of time. This form of racing was and is, extremely popular throughout the country and its style had evolved as a result of sometimes extreme opposition from both police and public in the very early days of the sport.

Meanwhile on the Continent another form of road racing was being practised in which the riders started in a group and the winner was the rider who crossed the finishing line first. Remembering their earlier struggles with officialdom, officers of the R.T.T.C. were implacably opposed to the continental style of road racing on open roads in England and Wales (Scotland having it's own Cycling Union). Percy Stallard and some friends in Wolverhampton decided to organise a continental style race on open roads in defiance of the controlling bodies to test police reaction, arguing that only by racing in this way could British Cyclists be prepared to meet their continental counterparts on equal terms.

The event was a success and Stallard then formed the British League of Racing Cyclists to promote his style of racing. The BLRC was immediately outlawed by the other two organisations and this caused a bitter polarisation of the Cycling Clubs who were forced into allegiance to one or other organisation much as in the days of the AAA/NCU rift. So it is perhaps not surprising that the Maidenhead Club remained with the NCU although it should be remembered that there was a strong interest in track racing among club members. The Chiltern R.C. was the club affiliated to the BLRC.

This situation lasted for a number of years until the NCU began to organise events of it's own on open roads in competition with the BLRC and soon Police and other interested parties began to exert pressure which ultimately caused unification of the two organisations into the British Cycling Federation.

Track racing had, since the beginning, been popular and during the summer months a "circus" of riders went from one sports meeting to another to take part in the cycle races held on the grass running tracks. The surfaced cycle tracks in the area also drew crowds to Slough, Reading, Paddington and Herne Hill until interest gradually waned during the late 1950s.

But the cycling bubble was soon to burst. More prosperity meant that cars came within the reach of more and more people and so the road became congested, a cyclist was often considered to ride a bicycle because he was too poor to own a car and altogether the public view of cycling became one of complete indifference if riot downright antagonism. Club membership dwindled to the obstinate few who saw no reason to forsake their trusty mounts.

By the end of the 1950's many clubs had disappeared, some had amalgamated with others and the cycling section of the MC & AC had shrunk to a mere handful of members. Club runs on Sundays were maintained but often consisted of one or two riders. Racing was reduced too, not by the number of events but by the number of members available to take part and naturally the club finances suffered. This situation continued well into the 1960's with only slight improvement while contact between the cycling and athletic sections was minimal.

During this period, too, the corrugated iron pavilion in Kidwells Park had returned to service as the club headquarters having been commandeered during the war by the War Department, but after a few years a plan was announced to build a dual carriageway to by-pass the High Street, This scheme took away part of Kidwells Park and with it the headquarters of the club so it moved it's base to a pavilion in the newly-developed Braywick Road playing fields.