A key figure in cycling back in the early days was George Ace, originally from Swansea; he moved to Tenby and was Welsh Cycling Champion from 1879 – 1889. George Ace began cycling as a lad and bought his first machine when he was 18. It had a wheel with a diameter of 55inches and on this bicycle George soon began setting records that stood for many years. In 1885 he rode for a wager from Haverfordwest to Tenby in 1hour 24minutes, not bad considering his bike weighed 40lbs and gears and tarmac were still unheard of. Later that year he became the proud owner of a Rover ‘safety ‘ bicycle on which he rode from Swansea to Tenby in 4hours 28minutes.
In 1884 a cycle club was formed with George as captain and Hon. Secretary, and the club headquarters at the Royal Hotel, Tenby. From then until 1893, annual cycle championships were held every August. During these times cycling became very popular in the town and over the years the Observer reported a great deal on the club and cycling in general. On July 26th, 1888 the Observer reported “All trades people in Tenby have kindly consented to close their places of business for the afternoon of August 22nd for the clubs Fourth Annual Championship”.
It reported on the 23rd August 1888 that during the championships held on the football field at the Clicketts “ Mrs W.J. Palmer gave a pleasing exhibition of some trick riding on a ‘safety’ bicycle”. On the 19th September 1889 the announcement was made that a Cyclists Torchlight or Illuminated procession would take place on the 25th August at 7:30pm, “Meeting at the gatehouse yard preparatory to going round the town, wind and weather permitting. All cyclists are requested to have their lamps lit and to rig up other illuminants on their cycles – as taste may suggest and discretion allow”. A similar attempt to arouse public interest was made on August Bank holiday 1893, when the cycle races were preceeded by a procession of cyclists in fancy costume round the town, and prizes awarded for the best costume.
At a public meeting in the Town Hall on the 23rd May 1894 the cycle club was re-organised to bring about a change of emphasis from athletic to club runs and from then on Tenby was involved in the nationwide bicycle boom. There were club runs in June, one to Saundersfoot and back, and others where members cycled to Kingsmoor, Redberth, Sageston and home via Ivy Tower and Gumfreston. These may not seem big distances nowadays but considering the machines they were riding back then, it was a real feat. Meetings were also held at the clubs new headquarters, The South Wales Temperance Hotel, St. Georges Street.
In July 1896 the Observer reported that view of the bicycle craze which is now in full swing in Tenby, it had been arranged that a cycling professional would write a weekly column in the paper. It also reported that during this time, came an indication to the emancipation of women, and moonlight rides with as many as thirty ladies and gentlemen were taking part.
Two new cycling clubs appeared in 1898, The Tenby United Cycling Club and The Westgate Cycling Club, the former stating it had many lady members. Around this time George Ace set up a cycle repair shop in Warren Street, and before long this enterprising cyclist was to be a pioneer of motoring and car sales in Tenby and in fact the Observer offices in Warren Street, and the Dentist opposite were once George’s showrooms.
George Ace died within two days of his 82nd Birthday, at his home in Warren Street, following a fall and then a seizure. His Penny Farthing bicycle, on which he set many records, can still be seen in Tenby Museum, Castle Hill. *
As proudly stated on the head badge of this bicycle, George Ace was the Welsh cycling champion between 1879 and 1889. According to Ray Miller’s Encyclopaedia, Tenby Cycle Works was established at both Tenby and Haverford, Pembrokeshire, in 1898, and made the ‘Ace’ and ‘En-y-Byd’. The company George Ace Ltd was incorporated on 16 December 1907, but it is not known when the company ceased trading.
There seems to have been a connection to the Tenby and Pembroke Cycle Co. You can see an advert, below, for the Tenby & Pembroke Cycle Co, in the 23 September 1898 edition of The Pembrokeshire Herald & General Advertiser.
1899 ‘George Ace’ with Eadie Band Brake
Frame No 31993
This George Ace used Eadie parts, including the band brake. The band brake was state-of-the-art for bicycles in 1899. But, with the advent of the coaster brake in 1898, within just a few years the band brake became obsolete and only Triumph continued to offer it on their bicycles.
EADIE BAND BRAKE
Compare the second pattern Eadie Band Brake, pictured above, with the first pattern example on this bicycle, whose sprocket pattern is identical to the 1898 Eadie chainwheel.