This celebrated racing bicycle – the latest product of years of unrivalled experience in the construction of speed cycles – has maintained and improved its great reputation wherever English bicycles are ridden on the racing track. No other racer combines such rigidity and strength with such light weight, and racing men find it surpasses all others in its quick response to the effort or ‘jump’ of the rider.
RUDGE-WHITWORTH TRACK RACER # 088089
This is a unique Rudge-Whitworth Track Racer. It’s an ex-works machine, was used consistently for racing over five decades, and has a full history of its ownership during the past 106 years.
It was built specially in 1911 for cycling champion Fred Woodward of Barnsley, Yorkshire. In the same year, Rudge-Whitworth presented him with a silver cup for winning 25 firsts in a season, including the Professional Championship of England, at Trent Bridge, Nottingham.
It subsequently became the property of Harry Booth, of Ferrybridge, Yorks, who rode it for years winning most of his Yorkshire championships on it, followed by racing cyclist Bob Davies of Leeds.
Then Bill Burton of Knottingley acquired it. He was ‘a very strong and successful track rider, noted for his racing attire – red vest and shorts, and red woollen socks’ – which earned him the nickname ‘Red Devil’.
He rode it successfully, winning the Quarter Mile at Brough six times, and also six Half-miles in succession in one season, and four successive Quarter miles. However, the machine was retired after Bill Burton had a pile up on it at Old Goole.
Around 1980, Bill Burton gave the bicycle to Keith Womersley, of Snaith, East Riding, for safekeeping. The top tube and the down tube were badly bent behind the steering head. Keith straightened out the frame, restored it and rebuilt it as you see it now.
Keith passed it to club secretary Tony Stephenson in 2003, from whom I bought it recently, with the proceeds going to charity. Until my purchase, it had spent its entire life in the Yorkshire area.
The historic racing machine has an impressive history file, including a display board (below, used by Tony when he displayed the bicycle at cycling events) illustrating an inch pitch Rudge-Whitworth racing chainwheel and Chater Lea chainwheel, Rudge-Whitworth’s unique design of pedal crank (to avoid counterfeits) and inch pitch rear sprockets. As well as a synopsis of the bicycle’s history (as above), written by Bill Burton, there’s also an original 1911 Rudge-Whitworth catalogue. Until now, I had only seen a b&w digital copy of this catalogue, so it has been enjoyable to at last see its pages in colour. The catalogue includes the original fold-out chart in its rear pocket.
This track racer has an extremely light-weight frame; its wooden racing rims are fitted with “tubs” – track racing tubular tyres; and it sports a special gold Rudge-Whitworth ‘Hand’ head-badge (top of the page).
1911 Rudge-Whitworth ‘No 4 Aero Special’ Track Racer (ex-Works)
Black & Maroon Enamel Paintwork
26″ Wooden Wheels with Tubular Tyres (“Tubs”)
Inch Pitch Chainwheel; Fixed Wheel
Frame No 088089
As described above, this Aero track racer was repaired and restored in the early 1980s. The restorer felt it important to retain the original components, so the handlebar was retained despite a flat area on the inside left-hand edge (not easy to see because of its black paintwork). Otherwise it would be hard to tell that it had been damaged and repaired. There are a few nicks in the paint. The handlebar grips are repro Britannia racing grips. The oilers on the hubs have the Rudge-Whitworth ‘Hand’ logo on their lids.
The Rudge-Whitworth marque specialist informs me that the differences between the catalogue models and this example are the frame size and its inch pitch chainwheel – Rudge-Whitworth uniquely used 1 5/8″ chainwheels and sprockets between 1898 and 1919.
However, customers could choose inch pitch – or anything else they wanted that varied from the catalogue specifications – and many racers preferred it. Six similar bicycles were sent to Japan at this time, to be given as prizes in cycle race events there, in order to promote the company and encourage the export trade in Asia. One of these has survived, in Korea.
The earlier chainwheel design on the track racer (and also on the display board) is the same as that in the illustration below, though by 1911 the famous ‘Hand’ design chainwheel had been introduced (shown in the catalogue). It presumably has the earlier design because it’s inch pitch.
1911 RUDGE-WHITWORTH CATALOGUE
RUDGE-WHITWORTH & THE ROYAL FAMILY
The Royal Family’s kids rode Rudge-Whitworths. Prince Edward, son of King George V and Queen Mary, was created Prince of Wales on his 16th birthday, on 23rd June 1910. (The above photo is dated September, 1910). He was invested on 13th July 1911, at Caernarfon Castle. Edward became King Edward VIII on 20th January 1936. On his abdication, on 10th December 1936, the throne passed to his brother, King George VI – grandfather of the present Prince of Wales.
King Edward VII – see the reference below – ruled from January to November, 1901. He was Queen Victoria’s oldest son.