FEATURE: 50 years of British Cycling

British Cycling has lived through five decades, surviving potentially disastrous infighting in the ‘90s and then went on to help usher in a golden period for the sport of cycling – set to culminate with the London 2012 Olympics.
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British Cycling has lived through five decades, surviving potentially disastrous infighting in the ‘90s and then went on to help usher in a golden period for the sport of cycling – set to culminate with the London 2012 Olympics.

To celebrate the organisation’s 50th anniversary, Jonathon Harker unearths an eye-watering 50 British Cycling-related facts...

In celebration of the organisation’s milestone, British Cycling inducted cycling legends into its first Hall of Fame in February this year. The honoured inductees included figures from British Cycling’s history, from Beryl Burton OBE to Victoria Pendleton.

Over 250 cyclists helped decide who deserved a spot on that first Hall of Fame.


British Cycling’s HQ is set to relocate to the new National Cycling Centre in Manchester next year. BC is currently based in temporary offices, except for the GB Cycling Team, allowing them space to prepare for 2012.

Handily, the National Cycling Centre is just off route 60 of the National Cycle Network.

British Cycling’s new HQ will also be close to the new National Indoor BMX Centre – the world’s first purpose-built indoor BMX track, costing £24 million.


With 2012 around the corner, the spotlight is on British Cycling and Team GB like never before. One million spectators have already registered for tickets for the 2012 Olympics, and with cycling currently Britain’s most successful Olympic and Paralympic sport, expectations are riding high for results on the track, and also for the knock-on effect on the cycle industry. In the summer of 2008 the GB Cycling Team took home gold medals in eight events, silvers in four, and bronze medals in two.

Paralympian cyclists also hauled in the medals for Team GB in 2008. Their efforts were awarded with a table-topping 20 medals: 16 golds and four silvers.

Through its support for competitive disabled cyclists, British Cycling ran a nationwide search – Talent 2012 – seeking for potential Paralympians for 2012.

The record of British Cycling stars outside the Olympics hasn’t been too shabby either recently, with success in World Cup events and Track World Championships – events that are increasingly visiting the UK.

While British Cycling is currently enjoying something of a golden era, the 1990s saw tough times for the organisation. In-fighting threatened the future of the then British Cycling Federation in the middle of the decade, a conflict that also risked bankruptcy for the BCF. After the intervention of the Sports Council and a resultant major restructure, the organisation put its problems behind it in 1997.

The mid-nineties also saw the organisation move to the National Cycling Centre, Manchester (in November 1994).

The reorganisation saw British Cycling incorporate the British Mountain Bike Federation, the English BMX Association, the British Cycle Speedway Council and the British Cycle-Cross Association.

Chief exec Peter King and president Brian Cookson headed up the restructured organisation.
Cookson went on to receive an OBE in 2008, while King became a CBE in 2009.

In 2006, British Cycling president Brian Cookson famously stated that a British cyclist could win the Tour de France within the next 25 years.

Cookson vocally stressed British Cycling’s anti-doping stance in the wake of doping scandals at the 2007 Tour de France.

British Cycling is funded through membership, Sport England, UK Sport and BSkyB.

British Sky Broadcasting began its partnership with British Cycling in July 2008, a move that performance director David Brailsford called a ‘step change’ for cycling and a sign of the sport’s increasing relevance beyond the traditional cycle world.

The mass-participation traffic-free Sky Rides were a huge success last year. Following in the footsteps of the London Freewheel event, the central London Sky Ride saw 65,000 people take part including bicycle bonkers Boris Johnson, Kelly Brook and cycle hero Chris Hoy.

This year Local Sky Rides are taking place in London and Manchester, all aiming to get Brits in the saddle.


A first ever British Tour team, backed by Sky, looks set to make its debut in 2010.

British Cycling currently employs over 200 staff.


British Cycling is the fastest UK-based growing cycling organisation, with over 30,000 members at the last count.

1974 saw the appointment of British Cycling’s first full time director of racing (national coach). Jim Hendry took the reins of the new role.

British Cycling has its very own YouTube channel. The current most popular video in the channel is a video of the British Cycling UCI Track World Cup in Manchester (with 32k plus views). Top rated is a reel of the Dalby World Cup Course.

As governing body for cycle racing in Great Britain, British Cycling operates with Scottish Cycling (Scottish Cyclists’ Union) and Welsh Cycling (Welsh Cycling Union).

Strictly speaking, the organisation is 51 years old this year, having formed in 1959. However, British Cycling’s commemorative dinner took place in February this year (see fact 1), so if it’s good enough for them, it is for us too.

Beryl Burton won the first of her seven World Championships in 1959.

British Cycling looks after the full gamut of cycling disciplines, including road, track, mountain biking, BMX, cycle speedway, and cycle cross.

British Cycling was associated with a whopping 3,000 affiliated events in 2008.

Fiat is one of British Cycling’s latest commercial partners. The environmentally-conscious car manufacturer had the lowest emissions in Europe among car firms for the last three years, according to Fiat.

Sport England doubled British Cycling’s funding from 2009 to 2013, distributed between the 46 sports, including all 2012 Olympic and Paralympic sports.

Helmets became compulsory for all British Cycling (Federation) road, track and MTB events in 1992.

Not even volcano dust could get in the way of the 2010 Dalby UCI Mountain Bike Cross-Country World Cup earlier this year. Riders got priority on P&O Ferries in the heat of the transport meltdown.

British Cycling provided support to Davina McCall, Fearne Cotton, Jimmy Carr and a host of other celebrities riding John O’Groats to Land’s End on the Sport Relief Million Pound Bike Ride in March 2010. The ride smashed its target, raising a whopping £1,337,099.

The organisation represents Great Britain at UCI, the International Cycling Union.

British Cycling is also a member of the European Cycling Union and the British Olympic Association.

British Cycling has been tackling the disparity in numbers between male and female cyclists, highlighting that just two per cent of British women cycle each week, compared with 6.8 per cent of men. The organisation created a survey to raise the topic.

Dave Brailsford was appointed director of the World Class Performance Programme in 2003.

British Cycling names stole the show at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards in 2008 in the after-glow of the Olympics; the British Cycling Team won Team of the Year and had a victory parade through the 9,000 members of the audience, while Hoy picked up the Sportsperson of the Year accolade.

In the seventies, Barry Hoban notched up a record number of stage wins in the Tour de France. His record held until the recent exploits of Mark Cavendish.

Everyday Cycling was created by British Cycling’s Ian Drake, an online cycling community designed to give leisure riders info on what, where and when to ride.


British Cycling may be half a century old, but the National Cyclists Union – a predecessor of the organisation – was formed in 1882, an amalgamation of the Tricycle Union and the Bicycle Union.

On its formation in 1951, British Cycling (Federation) replaced the National Cyclists Union and the British League of Racing Cyclists.

A couple of decades before, in 1933, the first modern style road race in Britain took place at Brooklands.

Manchester-based CNP Professional has teamed up with British Cycling to develop a new energy gel.

Ian Drake took on chief executive duties at British Cycling from the start of 2009. Drake has worked with BC since 1996.


Drake backed BC’s campaign to save road cycling, warning that grass roots events are in decline and under threat by growing police charges and archaic legislation.

British Cycling backs the leisure cycling sector by providing a wealth of guides for recreational cyclists online and a local club guide.

Go-Ride is British Cycling’s Club Development Programme, aimed at improving young riders and clubs. Go-Ride aims to improve coaching standards and increase young rider’s access to coaching activities.

Happily for the bike trade, BC’s aim is to inspire participation in cycling as a sport, recreation and sustainable transport through achieving worldwide success.

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