South West London DA: Sou' Wester Archive
Profile of Tim Cox

Profile: Tim Cox - (Sep/Oct 2000)

Farewell from Tim Cox

I cycled my 300,000th mile this January - a realisation which came not on the open road but in the kitchen of my dingy flat while repairing a puncture. Does all this seem possible? Backwards in time to my early teens spent in the South Hams area of Devon, betwixt moor and sea - an open area of wide views crossed by narrow lanes containing some of the most precipitous hills to be found anywhere.

What encouraged me to cycle? An early influence came from my father who insisted on travelling the 3 1/2 miles to Calne by bicycle but it was the vision of seeing a group of cyclists near Lands End, so free and easy under the summer sun that attracted me. I compared this to the captivity of the car, of the hot sticky seats, and scenery which flashed past outside. Then there was the book Laughter on Two Wheels by Rex Coley, which I borrowed from the local public library. I thought that I could do the things he did.

There was more inspiration in simple curiosity to explore those narrow, remote lanes through farms and hamlets with strange names where few cars penetrated, to piece them together to form through routes from one place to another and back again. Steep hills did not bother me - rather the resident dogs on various farms!

I learnt the hard way - on a single speed Rudge roadster before graduating to a five speed Dawes Realmrider. Riding position and saddle-height was gleaned from books like R.C. Shaw's Teach Yourself Cycling and was always being modified. As I got better my distances increased. Afternoon rides became all-day affairs. There were the attempts to get to Chagford and, the day I did it, collapsing face downward into my evening meal through sheer exhaustion.

My first tour came at 18, starting with a 90 mile ride to Ilfracombe and the steamer to Cardiff the next day. Up as far as Bala and back via Cheddar. I lost two stone in weight, and ended with no clothes that fitted me properly.

A job at the former Milk Marketing Board as a Librarian brought me to London. I thought that joining a cycling club would be a good way of finding out something about a totally new area and of meeting people of similar interests to my own. My first ride with the Cheam & Morden Section was in May 1973. There were only two of us, both newcomers, but we managed to get to the lunch venue of Shipley in West Sussex. I had a very painful back due to a cat bite (strange but true!). At the end of the 80 mile ride I could hardly move and had to have two weeks off work until an osteopath put me right.

And so club-riding progressed after this shaky start and recently I calculated that I must have been on around 1,100, many of which I wrote about during my years as Section scribe and Editor of the Sou'Wester. I commuted, toured much of the UK and cycled abroad visiting Norway and Canada amongst other countries. A lot was done solo to satisfy my everlasting curiosity about places. And some of what I discovered appeared in print in Cox's Rural Rides published in 1994.

Certain days and times stand out from all this, climbing up Bwlch-y-Groes in Wales in thick snow drifts above my thighs; humorous incidents like the late George Younger losing his dentures at Capel; a definition of trial and tribulation could be getting 80 punctures in one year; and the biggest near miss of all would have been the almost fatal road accident in 1980, the memory of which lives on in my daily drug dosage for epilepsy.

So now I come to the present. I wanted the Millennium to be a time for change, and so by the time you read this I will have relocated myself to my old roots in Devon. For one thing my mother is getting older and frailer and concern for her makes me want to be much closer. For another, city life - traffic, rubbish, vandalism, and a general deterioration in the environment has got very much on my nerves. So goodbye to all I know - to those I have ridden many miles with, to the others I give an odd wave to on the road. It's been nice seeing you.

If you are down in the South Hams area of Devon please call in.