Classic Lightweights UK
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Ken Russell - the Whitaker and Mapplebeck years

By: Ken Russell

“My association with Whitaker & Mapplebeck began with a visit by Geoff Whitaker to see me at my place of work, (Martins The Cleaners) in late 1946, when he asked me if I would like to join them in their new business venture. I jumped at the chance as I had always wanted to be a cycle mechanic since leaving school in 1943 at the age of 14.

I started as a mechanic but went on to learn the whole business including wheel-building, servicing Sturmey Archer gears etc. and later some frame building when I assisted with the building of their first frame, a welded model, which was given to me for my competitions.  It was completed just in time for our club's 1947 August Bank-holiday long weekend which started at Alston, Cumbria.

Ken Russell 1Because Geoff and I were working on the Saturday we did not leave for Alston until mid-afternoon on that day. Johnny was left to look after the shop !!!    About 5 miles before Alston I noticed that one of the front fork ends had broken loose. The brazing had failed but as the bike was still safe to ride with care it was decided that I would ride it through the following week (I was taking my week's holiday then along with two members of our club).
Left: Ken finishing 2nd in the 1947 Burbage Road Race on his welded W & M

The following Sunday I had entered the "Shropshire Hospital 3rd & Jnr. RR".   Geoff had arranged to make another pair of forks.  He arrived at the changing rooms a couple of hours before the start complete with a new pair of forks, enamelled and chrome plated, which were discreetly changed. Off I went feeling quite elated and won my very first road race. 

Early in 1948 we discovered a hairline crack in the welded frame and by this time they were building lugged frames so one was built for me.  In terms of numbers of wins and places this was to be the most successful frame I ever had, Ken Russell 2including three RAF championships, 50, 100, and massed start road races, plus three of the BLRC's toughest road races, the " CJ Fox Memorial RR , the "Severn Valley GP" , the "GW BELL Memorial RR” (three times round the Nidderdale course) and, in 1949, the top BLRC Road Race, "The Tour of The Peak".  Unfortunately, the whole bike was stolen Dec 1949.   I had just arrived home on leave and I parked my bike in the yard at the side of the W&M shop. 3 mins later it was gone and I never saw it again.

Right:  Ken winning the C J Fox Memorial RR on a  lugged W & M in 1948

The next frame was another lugged frame, built with the latest "Nervex" lugs and was one of the first to be named "Scelta dei Campioni" (choice of the champions). Perhaps my best performance on this was 2nd place in the 1950 Brighton to Glasgow, beaten by the late, great, George Lander. I used this bike until late 1951 when I joined the Ellis Briggs company.”

Baslow RR 1949
Ken taking first place by a whisker to win the Baslow Road Race in 1949
Brighton-Glasgow 49
 Ken looking very stylish climbing Hollings Hill in the 1949 Brighton-Glasgow Race where he finished 5th overall

In 1952 Ken went on to win the Tour of Britain as lone rider of the Ellis Briggs team.  He had many other successes, as you can see from his CV below:

1st. Shropshire Hospitals 3rd and Junior
1st. Bradford RCC Time Trial - Junior
1st. National Hill Climb Champs - Junior

1st. Airedale Olympic MTT
1st. Moss Moor MTT
1st. C.J. Fox Memorial Road Race
1st. Severn Valley GP
1st. G.W.Bell Memorial Road Race

1st. Moss Moor Road Race
1st. Baslow Road Race
1st. Tour of the Peak
1st. RAF Massed Start Champs
1st. RAF Swinderby Massed Start
1st. RAF Binbrook Massed Start
1st. (First day) Cleveland 2 Day Road Race
5th overall Brighton - Glasgow

Time Trials
1st. RAF Northern Counties Championships
1st. RAF 100 mile Championships
1st. RAF 50 mile Championships
1st. RAF Swinderby 25-mile
1st. RAF Scampton 25-mile
1st. RAF Bawtry 25-mile
1st. RAF Syerston 25-mile
1st. Louth 25-mile
1st. RAF Binbrook MTT
1st. RAF Leconfield 25-mile
2nd. Brighton - Glasgow
(winner of Bradford - Newcastle Stage – 124 miles)
1st= Tour of the Chase Road Race
3rd. National Independents Champs
1st. Circuit of New Mills
1st. (second day) Manchester - Llandudno 2-day
1st. Sheffield - Burton, East Midlands 3 day
1st. Bradford RCC 25-mile TT

1st. Nottingham - Sheffield 3 day
Tour of Britain: Winner of stage 5  Cardiff - Wolverhampton (112 miles)

1952 (Now riding for Ellis Briggs)
1st overall - Tour of Britain winning:
   Stage 2 Southsea – Weymouth 85½ miles
   Stage 5 Aberystwyth-Blackpool 179miles
   Stage 11 Newcastle – Scarborough 88 miles
1st. Chesterfield Road Race
1st. Yorks Champs Road Race
2nd. Dover - London
2nd. Wolverhampton - Llangollen - Wolverhampton
1st. Jackson Trophy Road Race
1st. Wilsden Road Race
Time Trials
1st. Sheffield RCC MTT
1st. Bradford RCC 25-mile

1st. Border Grand Prix, Newcastle

1st. Midland Grand Prix
3rd. National Independents Champs
1st. Buxton Road Race

A very detailed and interestig insight into Ken's early years and his solo win in the 1952 Tour of Britain
published by the Daily Telegraph

Ken Russell 3
A collage of Ken coming third in the National Independent Championships in 1950