Leon Meredith (or Jack as he was mostly known) was one of the most versatile riders I ever saw, winning races from a quarter-mile to six hours. Usually when thinking of motor-paced riders, we regard them as ‘specialists’ who, once they have adopted the little front wheel, reversed forks and big gears, are somehow never able to show good form in normal competition. Meredith was an exception. He mixed his racing most successfully, and in 1910, when he had already been world champion five times, astounded the cycling world by becoming the first rider ever to beat five hours for an unlaced, out-and-home ‘100’ on the road.
…As a younger man, Jack used to work for an uncle, William Boyer, a building contractor with a canal wharf in Praed St, Paddington. He started work very early in the morning and, after calling at the wharf, would then ride his bike all over London visiting building sites; winter and summer he would do this, and it must have helped his racing.
In the early days of cycling there were Cycling Academies, where cycling was taught, like a motoring driving school but indoors, and a relative of Jack’s ran one at the Porchester Hall, off Queensway, London. When interest dropped off, this relative asked Mrs Meredith to take it over for her son, Jack. She did – and just at that time the roller skating boom started. Jack was ready for it, and never looked back. Three sessions a day, packed every time. He could not take money fast enough. Later, in partnership with Bill Skuse, who used to be one of his pacemakers on the motors, he built and opened another rink at Cricklewood.
Jack was a good roller-skater himself, winning the national one-mile title in record time at the Holland Parl Rink (now a motor showroom) and the five-mile at the Maida Vale Rink (now a Carlton Ballroom). I used to roller-skate a bit myself, but not seriously. One night when ambling around the Porchester Hall Rink, Jack came up to me and said: “Bill, I’ve just bought a tyre company for a hundred quid.” I nearly fell on my back.
It appeared that Jack had a skating instructor by the name of Bain, whose brother Joseph was with the Constrictor Tyre Co, and Meredith was approached for financial assistance. Before long, Jack was installed as managing director in place of Mr Hubbard, the inventor of the original Constrictor tyre, and Joe Bain remained in charge of production.
…After a while, Jack Meredith turned his attention to cycles, and imported Bastide machines. Bastide at that period was ‘the’ maker of France, and all his bicycles were made with BSA fittings. The rear hub, a standard narrow flanged one, did not suit his requirements, so he removed the flange on the opposite side to the cog and fitted another one at the end of the hub. This built up into a much more rigid wheel.
Another French builder, Caminade, just knocked the flange outwards, which was cheaper, not so good and rather crude.
Meredith found that to re-import these converted BSA hubs was too costly, so he approached the BSA company to make them. They eventually came to terms on Jack giving them an order for 1000 rear hubs stamped ‘Constrictor.’ This move by Jack made the wide flange hub available to the public.
– ‘Leon by Bill’ article in ‘Sporting Cyclist, March 1964, by W.J Bailey
Meredith’s introduction of the 1912 Bastide to the British public inspired a generation of frame builders. This particular machine, with frame number 548, is the earliest known example.
1912 Bastide ‘Meredith’ Road-Racing Model
Frame No 548
BSA Fittings Throughout
I bought this historic bicycle ‘blind’ in an auction. There was no illustration or description, and I was bidding from 5422 miles away over the internet. I was delighted when I eventually collected it. The machine has been quite nicely restored, using some later parts, which I’ll replace with period items in due course.
1912 BASTIDE CATALOGUE
1891 PARIS-BORDEAUX ROAD RACE:
PLACE DU PONT BASTIDE
This famous race started at 5am in the Place du Pont Bastide in Bordeaux. So the name Bastide was already known to cycle enthusiasts even before the cycle manufacturer made its first iconic bicycle.
BROOKS B19C CHAMPION FLYER SADDLE
The first replacement item I have found suitable for the Bastide is this early Brooks racing saddle. It’s a B19 Champion Flyer. According to the 1914 Brooks catalogue, the B19 is designated a ‘C’ when it is fitted to the frame illustrated below.