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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Wed Sep 14, 2016 11:44 pm 
retrobike rider
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Though I was not involved in the UK 'Tracker' scene I do remember seeing these homemade off-road bikes around. So in a crude attempt to discover how commonplace they were I have been asking other cyclists of my generation if they also remember them. A few initially said no, but when I told them of my own experience of wondering how they coped in traffic with those wide 'cow-horn' handlebars it seemed to spark something in their memory and they changed their minds.

When I asked one friend I have known for more than 25 years, he reminisced about the various 'Tracker' bikes he built and broke. He also told of his experiments with various wheel sizes including Raleigh Chopper wheels and of how he and his friends used old frames found in ditches etc as the basis of their 'Tracker' creations.

All in all it seems that the stories are remarkably consistent irrespective of where in Britain these making and riding activities took place. It is also commonplace for 'Tracker' bike riders to believe that 'Tracker' bike riding was unique to themselves or there group of friends or only happened in their own town or city.

The general feeling I am getting is that 'Tracker' bike making was very widespread among teenage boys and especially those with some practical skill and know-how. Or at least those who could call on the help and tinkering skills of fathers, brothers or friends.

So why so little mention of 'Tracker' bikes in the UK cycling history books etc?

I think that the main reason is that few of those who wrote the books and cycle magazines took 'Trackers' seriously. Riding them was just not seen as an important activity like road racing etc, it was just teenagers messing around and having fun.

However, when viewed from the perspective how the mountain bike revolutionised cycling in Britain, the existence of 'Tracker' bikes take on a new importance. What all 'Tracker' bike riders knew is that riding off-road was great fun and they had inadvertently created bicycles of the future and were in fact preempting what we now call mountain biking.

Whilst several British cycling manufactures tried to manufacture ready made 'Tracker' bikes they made the mistake of following the low cost children's bicycle model the most famous example being the Raleigh Bomber.

The mountain bikes took the same basic concept but with the emphasis on high construction quality and targeted at affluent adults.


Last edited by GrahamJohnWallace on Sun Sep 18, 2016 8:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Trackers
PostPosted: Sat Sep 17, 2016 11:35 am 
Old School Grand Master
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Posts: 3469
Location: Stockport ..
My last Tracker bike i owned i bought off a friend in the mid 80s which when i say bought was more of a swap really for some bit's and piece's i had that my mate wanted even though i can't remember what the thing's were i actually gave him plus i'd paid £12 i think but any way i do remeber riding through the local woods on it a fair bit and the local farm trails even though i initially had the bike just for getting about on it got more off road use then i intended unfortunately it was the 1st victim of being nicked from round the back of our house as i had no shed to keep it in and had no other way of securing it and it was by far the best bike i'd ever owned at the time so i was well gutted but unlike some that had been with a small group of friend's hanging out with their tracker's and competing against one another i never did although i did use to muck around doing wheelies and trackstands which the later came in handy when i eventually got my 1st road bike with toe clip's as i still found myself doing trackstands while stopped at traffic lights which either resulted in funny looks off drivers and sarky comments or looks of disbelief and compliments ..

The one thing that i never thought about when i had my Tracker's was the habbit i'd got into of bunny hopping so when i 1st got into mountain biking in the late 80s i found certain obstacles on the trails really easy to get over as i just automatically hopped the bike over or onto the obstacle and carried on .


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 Post subject: Re: Trackers
PostPosted: Sun Sep 18, 2016 1:31 pm 
Gold Trader / MacRetro rider
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Joined: Sun Apr 02, 2006 1:03 pm
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Location: Returning
What a brilliant thread
Dirt trackers were what we were , and we went dirt tracking , our bikes evolved over a couple of years 1973/4 I think , paper round money used to modify bikes
The bikes were generally either a ten speed ( Carlton being the most common in our gang , or a 20" wheeled shopper , Dawes kingpin Raleigh rsw20 sort of thing
Our dads used to do motorcycle trials , 3 or for of us would tag along and pedal from section to section , the evolution of these bikes was usually formed on these rides , usually in the sort of tracks and paths we now ride our mtb's on , renthals bars with a Coke can shim was usually the first thing , and sometimes the only mod , but different cranks and locked up deraliers being common , the " blade" mudguards being common too , don't think we ever straightened forks , but one lad stevie Wilkie built a bike called bronco bombshell tha had extended forks on it , he cut the legs of a pair of forks and bolted them to the dropouts on another pair , later getting them brazed , looke cool as to me at 13 years old
We had a scrambles track in the local woods , where someone had thoughtfully piled up some soil , so we had berms and jumps , and crashes

Image

Me at about 12 on a pre modded Dawes kingpin , the E's designate the end of a trials section , I'd just ridden down the big bank behind me



Mike


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Sun Sep 18, 2016 2:16 pm 
retrobike rider / Gold Trader
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Joined: Sun Sep 16, 2012 9:59 pm
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Location: Kent, UK
Nice to see someone has pics of that period, I don't have any. I used to ride my tracker in Joydens Wood in Kent, and at our local motocross tracks, Bourne Wood, now a gravel pit, and Canada Heights, which is still a motocross track.
I still have the bike, just need to build it again.


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 Post subject: Re: Trackers
PostPosted: Sun Sep 18, 2016 2:51 pm 
Old School Grand Master
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Joined: Wed May 08, 2013 1:31 am
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Location: Stockport ..
Nice pic and story mikee and andyz get a build thread up and let's see the ol Tracker re born mate as i'd love to see it mate ;) ..


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Mon Sep 19, 2016 10:32 pm 
retrobike rider
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I just came across this comment from a YouTube video about the Californian origins of Mountain Biking: 'The Daredevils Who Invented Mountain Biking'
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YgljZQn62wM

Colin Dyas
Colin Dyas11 months ago (edited)

"I really loathe the fact that California claim to have invented mountain biking. I grew up in Shrewsbury, Shropshire. England and at age 13/14, was part of a gang who loved Moto X, but were to young to have MX bikes. So we fitted MX handlebars and knobbly tyres onto bog standard 3 speed bikes, gave the bikes names such as "Bone Shaker" & Knacker Cracker" & launched ourselves down single track paths on local hills including Haughmond Hill, as well as the insane "big hill" on the world famous Hawkstone Park MX circuit. We built crude trails, plank jumps. & rode on any dirt or street obstacles we could find, in a pursuit we called "rasping" or "burning". Can I prove this? No, not even our parents had cameras then, let alone us, but the bikes we rode were much more like today's MTB's than the cruiser bikes in this video. Can I date this, well in part Yes, as I recall trespassing (I mean riding) in Haughmond Hill Quarry listening to radio coverage of the March 1974 Wolves Vs Man City League Cup final, as one of our less adventurous mates went to the game. But we were riding trails well before this. We Brits are an inventive lot, witness the internet, artificial intelligence, & cross dressing. And everyone on the planet knows that it was an Englishman; Sir Issac Newton, who invented gravity. So we put his gravity to good use by nailing it hard on hills. Us Brits invented Mountain Biking. No argument, and I'm sure other UK kids might say similar. What sets us apart from CA, apart from the lack of money, and lack of modesty, was not the need to race and wear lycra, but the modification we made to our bikes. and the use or creation of single track trails down the sides of hills as opposed to using dull highway width forest roads. I love California.love the States and actually have more family there than herein the UK. I have even been to Marin County, but take it from me guys, us Salopians were rasping trails in Shropshire long before you Californians, so wake up and smell our rubber. If not we will be terribly, terribly angry at you. Happy to talk more if anyone is interested. Sarah especially Have a Nice Day."


It seems to me that though the Californians came up with the term 'Mountain Bike' and from that the term 'Mountain Biking', they were not the first to modify bicycles in order to make them more suitable and enjoyable for riding off road.

Whilst I have little doubt that the US fat-tyred 'post-boy' bikes were commonly ridden off-road for fun all over the United States. Their looks however, and their fat tyres were intended to turn them into look alike motorbikes and not to make them perform well off-road. The fact that they needed no modification in order to perform well on rough terrain was purely accidental.

In terms of modifying bikes to improve their off-road abilities the earliest I know of would be the first custom built cycle speedway bikes of the 1940s and early 50s. No doubt these bikes were not just ridden on the flat speedway tracks but also the rougher parts of the bombsites, and were fitted with brakes when not being used in races. Then there are the bikes of the French VCCP. http://mmbhof.org/velo-cross-club-parisien-vccp/
The custom made roughstuff bikes made by UK frame-builders for affluent roughstuffers. And of course the home made 'Tracker' bikes created by/for UK teenagers.

Though the link between cycle speedway bikes and 'Tracker' bikes is blurred and whilst some 'Tracker' bikes used cycle speedway tyres, handlebars, and frames, others didn't. However it seems that knobbly cycle speedway or cyclocross tyres were the 'must have' addition for those that could afford them.


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 Post subject: Re: Trackers
PostPosted: Tue Sep 20, 2016 8:12 am 
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Joined: Sun May 14, 2006 5:38 pm
Posts: 974
Location: Sussex
This has to be one of the best topics ever on here and probably in itself easily contains the definitive history of 'trackers in the UK'.

For my part it's my earliest memory of off-road riding and allows me to say I guess I've been off-roading for forty years!

Back around '76/'77 is when I remember them (and we too always knew them as 'Trackers'), as others have said probably 26 x 1 3/8" knobbly/cross type tyres, regular small road or just general bike frames as they were then with massively wide (and very easily bent) 'cowhorn' bars. Drifting round corners on the trails in Epping forest in Essex (especially Knighton woods and the duck pond in Buckhurst Hill near where we all lived - back then a sleepy little town).

I can even remember tying rope to the bars like reins and riding horse style as we all copied the cowboy films and Saturday morning shows!

Happy days when every moment was spent outdoors and we used to make wooden go-carts, tie a convoy of them together and chuck ourselves downhill on the steep roads nearby oblivious to the traffic.

Soon after was the Grifter, Tomahawk, Chopper stage and then of course 'converting' the Grifter to a BMX and then BMX itself which became my 'life' for the next five years. Always riding in the local woods back then (except Sundays at ROM skatepark) growing up with one of my best friends Dave Curry who became a minor BMX star for a short while. We were not far from East London and remember riding the woods with the late great Neil Ruffel (sadly departed now and brother of the legendary Andy) and other BMX guys from Woodford, Ilford, Chigwell etc.

Super, super happy days.


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 Post subject: Re: Trackers
PostPosted: Fri Sep 23, 2016 7:42 pm 
Gold Trader / MacRetro rider
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Joined: Sun Sep 04, 2011 11:33 am
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Location: Riding my Woodsie.
Nothing new here really but just thought I should add this to the discussion.
Listening to a podcast with old school BMX racer Tim March he mentions that him and all his motorcycle club mates were riding Trackers when they first saw 'On Any Sunday'. Not sure if that would be as early as 1971 when the film was released in the cinema but worth a listen maybe.

From about 2 min 50s.

http://www.daleholmes.com/wp-content/up ... mmarch.mp3


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Tue Sep 27, 2016 10:34 am 
retrobike rider
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Location: North Yorkshire
Aah, now we're talking, must see if I can find a pic of my converted Rory O.Brien. Step brother gave it to me as a racer/everyday hack which he used at Uni.

Was'nt long before I had resprayed it metallic green and fitted cowhorns!!

Restored it back to a roadie while I was working at John Atkins and sold it around '97. Wonder if it is still going?

I will try and post some more pics of the Vindec tracker too.


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 02, 2016 8:06 am 
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Good morning all I've always liked adapting 'normal' things, not quite as extreme as John Lennon's psychedelic Rolls Royce, but in my own way.
Back in 1974 when the bike of the day (if you didn't go for the hard to ride Raleigh chopper) was the 5/10 speed racer. All my father could afford (I still love him for it, in 'A boy named Sue' kinda way) was a single speed Dawes Kingpin.
Living in industrial Coventry in the West Midlands there was the canal, railway and gasworks and plenty of wasteland so an ideal dumping ground for the odd stolen Austin Cambridge and of course push bikes and parts. So it's 1974 and I find a 5 speed wheel. Although my dad never helped me there were plenty of tools in his shed as he was an engineer. On goes the five speed block after a mighty struggle to remove it and that started my love of bike image changing. Soon after a derailleur, cable and gear change lever was added and my Kingpin had more style
The start of the tracker era for us long haired flared yobs was 1975. I don't know how it came about as we never read about trackers we just knew from the older boys or someone's dad maybe.
A 5 speed racing frame I found on wasteground behind Foleshill cemetary was the starting point for my tracker.
A local bike shop in Holbrooks was selling cowhorn handlebars, 26 x 1 3/8 knobbly tyres and short mudgaurds.
My wheels and other parts came from old 40's/50's bikes found dumped on the plentiful wasteland areas.
I loved the style of Westrick wheels so they were my choice and of course a lot of the rear wheels were 3 speed Sturmey Archers. One of the rear wheels I found had a threaded driver ( I later found out that bikes made before 1950 used thread so if you need to find one...) instead of the 3 point cogs fixed with circlip.
I thought it would be great to have both 3 speed hub and 5 speed derailleur gears, no one else agreed so it just had to be done.
The main problem I had was the spindle length (6 1/4'' I now know are available which will just about allow a 5 speed block) so I cut about 2 inches off an old one and fixed it with a long threaded nut which worked as a spacer as well.
So now we have frame, wheels, tyres and bars. Brake parts and an old saddle and pedals/ cranks were always found on part dumped bikes. Chain was standard with split pin and the derailleur was widened slightly for smooth running.
OK now for the forks straightening. Now me old man had a shed with a bench vice so the forks were done with 2 pieces of wood either side fork and vice tightened. Not heated up!
Now because I wanted working front and rear brakes (no one else did?) a search began for a front caliper that now placed the blocks on the rim after the stretched forks.
We never did much off roading we used these bikes to see how fast we could get from one end of our level street to the other and of course the hero could wheelie the length!
There were about 7 of us mates and we all had different bikes, built our own way.
I have tried to recreate a bike from the good old days and it's for viewing on ebay more than for sale hence the high pricing. It's well worth a look and if it can inspire someone else..........
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/112150703492? ... 1586.l2649


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