Some Tributes to Bob Grainger from the March 2004 'News'
This is the piece I never wanted
to write. The great Bob Grainger is dead,
Killed in a tragic car accident near his house in Provence.
Bob joined the 'Chesh' as a Junior member in February 1947 (apparently he lied about his age as he was really too young at the time), making him a member for 56 years - two and a bit Life Memberships!
I have always looked upon him as the complete cyclist - happy on road or track, mountains or flat, roughstuff or smooth paths. All came the same to Bob though he did have a preference for the hillier rides.
Never the fastest over short distances,
Bob excelled at the longer tests as his record proves. In 1977
he and Arthur Kelsey broke the Club Tandem '100' record when they
recorded 4h.12m..23secs in the Century R.C. event.
He still holds the Club 24 hour record with 433.12 miles achieved in the Mersey R.C. event.
He held Vets records as follows
1973 at age 42 413.55 miles a plus of 25.574 miles
1976 at age 45 433.12 miles a plus of 53.918 miles
1982 at age 51 427.98 miles a plus of 55.04 miles
all the above in the Mersey Roads 24 hour.
He was Club Handicap Champion in 1958, 1966, 1972 and 2001.
He was an excellent mechanic (a great aficionado of clocks), and I remember well an occasion many years ago near Flash (I think) when a young lady's block disintegrated. Bob set to with a piece of cotton and put every last ball bearing and pawl spring back in on a not too pleasant day so that the youngster could ride home.
Somebody once said to me that if you were riding your bike virtually anywhere in the world and you stopped to talk to another English cyclist, the odds are that he would know, or would at least have heard of Bob Grainger!
He was the only cyclist I ever knew that had baggy skin shorts - but what strength in those thin pins.
Not long after moving home from Cheadle to Edgeley my garage was broken into on a Saturday night and my bike taken. On discovering this catastrophe in the morning I rang Bob to explain that I would be unable to call for him en route to the Clubrun as my bike was gone. Fifteen minutes later a car pulled up outside my house, Bob got out and insisted on giving me a bike to use so that we could complete our ride. - They don't come any better than that!
"Wow did you see that !". These were the typically enthusiastic words with which Bob greeted the tremendous lightning flashes that we experienced at Vaison in 2002 when Bob and Joan had invited us to their villa. It is this infectious excitement and curiosity, that I shall most remember.
It took a couple of days for the
storm to pass before Bob could introduce us to some of his favourite
lanes around the area, and of course the 'piece de resistance'
a climb of Mont Ventoux. The girls used the car, and I enjoyed
Bob's company as we tackled the 'Giant of Provence'. As usual
with Bob the conversation was both interesting and wide-ranging
as we marvelled at the scenery.
After lunch and a superb descent to Sault, Joan and Ann joined us for a flatter route back to Vaison, Bob and I would circle back for the car. Unfortunately I took sick in the afternoon, but showing his usual concern for others, it was soon arranged that I would take the easy road home with the girls, whilst Bob would continue alone to retrieve the car.
Another fond memory is from nearly
20 years ago, when Bob led some of us into the wilds at World's
End. After struggling along a muddy track for some while, Bob,
Nodder and I were soon telling Ann 'don't worry we are halfway'.
This carried on for some time, still Ann had the last laugh as
all of us 'schoolboys' fell off at some point into the mud, whilst
Ann stayed upright.
Of course for Bob the glass was always half full and I shall miss his bright optimism. I am thankful that our paths crossed, leaving me with so many fond memories.
24 HOUR MAN
Pete Levene broke the news to me.
I could sense it was very difficult for him and it was very difficult
for me to comprehend.
Since I came back to cycling after a lapse of 20 plus years, Bob has been a part of all
I have done and tried to do. His help, advice and encouragement, usually as he passed me in a Club or Open event, helped me to settle back into cycling.
I rode my first 24 hour race in
'78 as part of the 'Chesh' team with Joe Pilling and Vernon Lilley.
Bob should have ridden but much to his disappointment he could
not ride. I cannot remember the reason but it must have been very
Bob's help before and during the event when he looked after me with Joan and Pete Johnson even though it rained for 19 hours, he and his team never gave up. Food, drink and encouragement by the bucketful helped me to do a respectable ride and we won the V.T.T.A. Team Championship and the Open Team Award as well.
A few years later we rode a 24 together and Bob organised our training including two weekend rides of 400 miles. Bob knew roads and getting to places I could not believe. One ride was to Newcastle -On-Tyne to my sister's house. The other to South Wales to see my brother. No shortest routes for Bob. Get the miles in. 200 miles on Saturday and the same on Sunday by a different route. During our ride to Newcastle, whilst in the wilds of Yorkshire our road was closed by barriers. Bob said they were for cars and bikes would be O.K. We found out later that it was an Army Artillery Range and I feel we sneaked through during the tea break!
Bob's keenness, enthusiasm and knowledge
about all things cycling was unrivalled by anyone I know.
I remember Bert Mathieu during a speech at a Club Dinner saying every mile is a memory, and I have some wonderful memories of Bob, and whatever I am doing the memory of his wonderful outlook on life will be with me.
If there is a heaven Bob will be
there, but I believe Harp practice on Sunday will be cancelled
- Bob will have them all out on their bikes.
That's heaven to him.
I was first introduced to Bob in early 1949 when I joined the 'Chesh'. In those days we only rode together occasionally as particularly during the season he was representing the Club in the many time trials of that era, and which he continued to support for many years.
It wasn't until my retirement in
1999 that I took to the bike again and I decided to ask Bob for
advice as bikes, equipment and clothing had changed radically
since the '50's. I had always found him very friendly and chatty
when our paths had crossed occasionally over the intervening years.
Shortly before Bob partially retired he suggested that we go out riding together on Wednesdays for a couple of hours, to which I agreed. Since then I learned that Bob's two hours would be anything from 3 to 6 hours. We had many enjoyable rides together and hardly ever missed our Wednesdays, even when the weather was bad, as Bob was a born optimist and always thought it would clear up, which on many occasions it did. We only had to turn back once, when we had got as far as Gawsworth and had to take shelter under the lych-gate at the church due to prolonged heavy hail and cold winds. So rather cold and wet we about turned and ended up in A.J's café.
Bob loved the hills, being the good climber that he was, and one of his favourites was to Pott Shrigley, Lamaload Reservoir and into Wildboarclough. Many times he would stop on the tops to admire the scenery, and would point out the various landmarks and hills in the distance.
His knowledge of the Cheshire lanes
was second to none, and only very rarely have to resort to maps.
Only on the north side of the Chester Road did he have to look
at the O.S. map.
He loved off-road riding and would always find a track if possible. On one occasion we were heading for Red House Farm at Dunham Massey when, as we crossed over the M56, the map was consulted as he wanted to pick up the disused railway line near Lymm, when he noticed that a track was marked that would take us roughly in that direction. As we rode down the road, he suddenly stopped and pointed out the track that he was looking for. I would have ridden straight past as it was barely discernible. It was very overgrown and looked as if nobody had set foot on it for years, never mind ridden a bike down it. Undeterred we headed into the unknown and fortunately it was only about 3/4 of a mile long and we made it without any mishaps.
He had an extensive knowledge of nature, knowing all the crops in the fields, the flowers and trees. One morning, somewhere near Marton, we stopped to watch a Buzzard, something I would never have been aware of, but was only able to watch this spectacular air show due to Bob's knowledge of birds.
Bob was so friendly, helpful and
never at a loss for conversation. Characteristics which he carried
through his life.
He will be sadly missed by his family and his countless friends both cycling and business.
Some years back I was having trouble
with my arthritic knee, it made a clicking noise at the top of
the pedal stroke and it ached. I don't know what my doctor would
have suggested. But Bob said "Keep pedalling, you will ride
through it, it will be alright",
I did not know Bob until I joined the Chesh but I imagine his early years must have been ruled by that attitude, his determination and a love of his bike that later enabled him to ride over mountains and distances that younger ones would not attempt, and Bob did that day after day, and then stood there, with his lycra hanging loose and that happy smile of success on his face.
I worked for Bob at his house and his workplace, I also rode with him, served on committee with him,I joined him on various social events and he always had a similar way of doing things. He would discuss what we were intending to do, he would push his ideas, but, once a decision had been made he would give it his all to reach the goal with the best result. Yes Bob could be a bit trying at times but that was to his credit, he was always trying to achieve that bit more. I would never accuse him of being anything other than straight, I would trust him all the way and I will miss him, as will many other friends he made on his road through life.
We first met when I called at his home in Withington in the late Forties, when we were still 'young bloods' anxious to ride bikes. I joined the 'Chesh' briefly, before becoming embroiled in the British League of Racing Cyclists (BLRC) etc. Bob frowned upon the loud colours, flamboyant behaviour, and gears. We were considered to resemble advertising placards, which I suppose was fairly true. On the other hand we thought of the NCU as 'Spidermen' with black tights, black tops, alpaca jackets and fixed gears. What silly times those were, especially as they caused us to go our separate ways!
I shouted encouragement to Bob on Tuesday Track League nights at Fallowfield, where he rode in pursuit events, with some success, but it was some years later that we became close friends.
Our offspring attended Lane End school at Cheadle Hulme and took Cycling Proficiency tests there. As a marshal, I was pleasantly surprised to see Bob as Machine Examiner, a very appropriate task for his mechanical ability.
My son, Nigel, soon changed school
to Bramhall High School, where he was encouraged by his teacher,
the late Alan Dinely, to cycle seriously. As a visitor to our
house, Alan ribbed me about raiding the biscuit barrel, which
contributed to my 15 stones. I responded by dieting and building
a bike, which led me to join the runs which were led by Bob Grainger
Now Bob used his map reading prowess to match his adventurous spirit and Knowledge of the region, thus discovering new routes and inventing others. By invent, I mean literally taking to the sticks and grass, crossing muddy fields, rough tracks, woods, paths etc. He seemed to have a penchant for canal towpaths as I recall.
Unable to resist an inviting opening we would explore interesting places. This spirit resulted in the most enjoyable and amazing outings, with laughter and banter all the time. The youngsters had been joined by my daughter Cathy and they all enjoyed each other's company.
During this period, Bob would often ride his Bob Jackson tandem with Pauline, referred to as 'Per the Stoker'. They frightened us to death with their exploits, such as flat-out descending over cattle grids and refusing to believe that tandems were not intended for rough stuff. Adventure? Yes indeed and plenty of miles too.
We would set off at a gentle potter, only to end up at Bangor on Dee or somewhere remote for lunch. Not always welcomed by the publicans. With youngsters we became resourceful in seeking sustenance, as you do!
One winter, Bob and I decided to
ride the whole season on a low fixed gear. This helped to keep
us warm, but there was a need to rediscover the art of twiddling.
Bob was always better on the hills than I and it was left for
to pedal frantically and catch up on the downhills. Of course,
we all had to regroup, which must be the origin of the modern
idiom of 'chilling out'. One memorable outing resulted in Bob
daring to ride his solo down a very steep rough-stuff incline
near Jenkins Chapel, without going over the bars. Of course we
failed to appreciate that his slim build and nice low profile,
also produced a low centre of gravity. So we all ended up on the
On winter afternoons, at about 3 p.m., Bob would sniff the air and announce that it was about time we returned home to watch 'Ski Sunday' on TV. It has stuck so well that we still refer to Ski Sunday on cold afternoons.
Then came Grainger Travel Inc., when Bob kindly made arrangements for a group of us to visit the Rotterdam Six Day race, travelling by train to Hull, then the night ferry to Rotterdam.
Having elected for cabins, we found ourselves entombed in small steel boxes in the bowels of the ship. Imagine the ribald comments about Grainger Travel and how we should interview the tour Director and request a compensation refund etc. Early in the morning we were awakened by a crew member bearing hand-out oranges. We tried to persuade him how many had crammed into the box, but I think he'd heard that scam before! Bob was his usual good - natured self in gravely considering our trumped up complaints and putting us down gently, but ever so firmly.
In a previous issue of the 'NEWS', I mentioned a prank that we pulled on my late friend Barney Calver and how Bob and Joan had gone along with Barney in turning the tables on us, by entertaining said miscreant at their house, while we became frantic about the success of our attempt to lose him.
There are pages of memorable trips which could be written and it is for each of us to treasure the good times we enjoyed in Bob's company, but we have all benefitted from his generosity in thought, word and deed.
Although not a cyclist, I still
considered Bob to be one of my friends and on the rare occasions
I did go out on my bike I was always given lots of help and encouragement.
I will miss the little chats we had when I answered the 'phone and it was Bob calling Pete about some cycling matter.
I appreciate what a good friend
and advisor on all matters that he was to Pete.
I will miss him.
Bob was one of six who turned up
at the Rising Sun in June 1999 for our run to Langsett and the
Strines Valley. The others were Pam, Rob Bailey, Roy Aitken, Mike
Workman and myself.
At some stage before lunch Pam and Rob turned for home. After our lunch at Langsett we'd already tackled a couple of the toughest climbs along the Strines Valley and were riding along the flat. Bob was saying that the road was just as good as he'd remembered it. This prompted me to ask him when he'd last ridden it - "In 1957" - This in turn prompted Mike to ask him "Why've you left it so long?". Bob's reply was short but sweet - "I've been busy."
After stopping at the Woodbine Cafe for afternoon tea Bob had one of his good ideas - that we take the easy way home through Edale and Mam Nick onto Rushup Edge.
A great day out in great company - I'll miss him.