Nostalgia: Setting the wheels in motion

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THE thrill of the open road, the wind – and rain – in your face, and the daily challenge of negotiating Edinburgh’s traffic.

Cycling round the Capital is rarely uneventful but, as our congested streets become even more clogged up, it is fast becoming the best mode of transport.

The Edinburgh University Cycling Club in George Street

The Edinburgh University Cycling Club in George Street

Indeed, the city is preparing for another drive to encourage residents to ditch four wheels for two, including plans for six new bike stores on streets dominated by tenements.

It is unlikely, however, that the scenes captured in 1884 will be repeated any time soon. Then, members of the Edinburgh University Cycling Club took to an empty George Street for a meeting.

The impressive sight of dozens of penny-farthings drew a crowd and stopped the traffic – consisting of horses and carts obviously.

A similar congregation, though on slightly less impressive machines, was captured on The Mound in 1958. A mystery touring club were pictured watched by a starter and timekeeper.

Long before Chris Hoy, the Edinburgh Falcons cycle speedway team were the two-wheeled stars of their day.

Cycle speedway racing was developed in the late 1940s, with four riders racing four laps on an oval track, on bikes which have low gears and no brakes. It remains popular to this day and is, in fact, undergoing something of a revival.

The picture above was taken in 1955 at Pilrig Park in Leith during a match against a Manchester Select and captures the moment before an inevitable crash.

Slightly safer was top cyclist Sandy Gilchrist, who posed for the Evening News outside his Restalrig Cycles shop ahead of being chosen to represent Scotland in the 1976 Commonwealth Games.