by Frank E Earp
No one can have failed to have noticed the sudden rise in popularity of cycling in all its forms, as both a sport and leisure activity. It cannot be a coincidence that this ‘rise’ began shortly after Bradley Wiggins stunning win of the 2012 Tour De France. But, as they say, for cycling in Britain, ‘the best was yet to come!’
The 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, saw the greatest ever success for Team G.B. Who can forget Sir Christopher (Chris) Hoy’s dominance in the Velodrome? The names of the medal winners, both male and female have rightly passed into history and their golden legacy is to be treasured.
In all sports the success of current athletes can only be built upon the generations who have gone before! For cycling, there is one man’s name that should be written large across the page: Raymond (Ray) Charles Booty, a.k.a. ‘The Boot’. Sadly, Ray died on the 25th Aug. 2012.
Ray was born in Ipswich, Suffolk, the son of a Ministry of Transport vehicle examiner. The family moved to Peterborough and then, when Ray was 15, to Stapleford. On leaving school the following year, Ray joined Ericsson’s, the electronics firm, whose headquarters were in Beeston. He studied for his higher national diploma. A neighbour got him interested in riding a bike seriously, and it was in the colours of Beeston’s Ericsson Wheelers Cycling Club that he rode to his great time-trial victories.
It is said that Ray achieved for road cycling what Sir Roger Bannister did for track-running, – as Bannister broke the 4 minute mile record, – Ray broke the 100 miles in 4 hours record.
Ray was a ‘road cyclist,’ who began competing in events for the Army Cycling Union during his time in the army and later for Ericsson’s Wheelers Club. Ray proved himself a ‘born’ road cyclist and endurance rider. He held ‘The Season Long, – Best All-Rounder,’ title three times between 1953 and 1957, given for average speeds of 50 m.p.h. over 100 miles.
In 1954 Ray won the Manx International Road Race and in 1958, a ‘Gold Medal’ in The British and Commonwealth Games, Road Race in Cardiff. However, Ray’s best achievements came in ‘time trials’ and endurance.
Between 1954 and 1958, Ray competed in the 12 Hours Championships, – distance covered in 12 hrs. Ray won the Championship every year and twice set the record, – 1956, = 265.66 miles and 1958, = 266 miles.
Ray competed in the 100 miles National Championship between 1954 -1959 and again was Champion for the whole period. He first set the record in 1955 with a time of 4hrs. 4mins. 30secs., braking this in 1956 with a time of 4hrs. 1min. 52secs.
On a blazing hot August Bank Holiday Monday, – 6th Aug. 1956, – Ray entered The Bath Road event. This was a time trial ‘out and back’ over a distance of 100 miles. The course was from Reading, – through Theale, Pangbourne, Wallingford, Shillingford and Abingdon, returning to Reading via the A4. He had already cycled from Nottingham the day-before to take part in the event. The ‘Boot’ completed the course in an amazing time of 3hrs. 58mins. 28secs., beating the future professional rider Stan Brittain by 12 mins.
With the Bath Road event, Ray had broken the elusive 4 hour barrier. Modern cycling athletes ride purpose built light-weight cycles, – Ray achieved his records ridding a Raleigh bicycle with an 84 inch fixed gear.
On the 3rd Sept. the same year ‘The Flying Boot’ had his chance to beat his 4 hour record. This time he was competing under Road Record Association Rules. This is a ‘straight-out’ 100 mile trial, which allows competitors to take advantage of tail winds and gradient drop. Ray had also changed his cycle for a machine with Sturmly Archer hub gears. Ray completed the course in a time of 3 hrs. 28 mins. 40 secs., – a record which was to stand for 34 years until it was beaten by Ian Cammish.
The next time you peddle down the road, think of the achievements of Raymond Charles Booty, the Flying Boot!