Albert Crimes Tricycle Records

Albert CRIMES was born in 1921 at Crewe. He worked on the railways. He married in 1945 and had two children. Albert was a member of the "Crewe Wheelers" cycling club and concentrated on the riding of tricycles. Present-day Crewe Clarion Wheelers represents a merging of the Crewe Clarion and Crewe Wheelers Cycling Clubs. On their Club History webpage only one person is mentioned by name:
"Albert Crimes was a prolific record breaker and possibly the greatest exponent of the tricycle ever."

This story sets out some of Albert's remarkable achievements, in chronological order, using newspaper articles.

News spreads of Albert's record breaking

In the early 50's news items started to appear in regional and national newspapers of Albert's tricycling exploits.
From The Daily Herald of 8 May 1950:

Albert Crimes of Crewe, who already held tricycle competition records at four distances, added a fifth when he set up new 25-mile figures of 1 hr. 7 mins. 10 secs.

From the Daily Mirror of 27 April 1951:

Minus a Wheel
Albert Crimes, of Crewe Wheelers, the holder of the national tricycle competition records for twenty-five, fifty and 100 miles, will have a change this season. He's going to lose a wheel and compete in some of the national cycling events.

This nod to convention didn't last long, as we don't hear of Albert the bicyclist again.
In 1953 we hear for the first time of Albert's partnership with John Arnold.
From The Liverpool Echo of 11 July 1953:

Albert Crimes (Crewe) and John Arnold (Middleton) made history last Sunday when they rode a tandem tricycle from Liverpool to Edinburgh in 9 hrs, 4 mins. This time beats the solo record held by Ken Joy by 16 minutes and is 18 minutes improvement on the tandem record.

Albert with 'Claud Butler' Tricycle ~ Albert as a young man with his racing tricycle. 'Claud Butler' machines had a very good reputation. He is using a 'Hawkins' axle with a single fixed gear which would date this photo about 1949/50. Courtesy of John Crimes.

1954 - Tandem Tricycle Land's End to John o'Groats and 1,000 miles

From The Daily Herald of 13 July 1954:

Tricycle-for-two fastest in the long run
The tandem-tricycle, usually considered little more than a museum piece, yesterday became the fastest human-propelled machine over the 872 miles between Land's End and John o'Groats. Riding it were Albert Crimes (Crewe Wheelers) and John Arnold (Middleton Road Club, Manchester) who covered the distance in 2 days, 4 hours, 26 minutes. They beat the bicycle record by two hours, the tandem-bicycle record by four hours and the tandem-tricycle record by 18 hours. On the way Crimes and Arnold set up new tandem-tricycle records of 256 miles for 12 hours and 464 miles for 24 hours.

From The Liverpool Echo of 17 July 1954:

When John Arnold (Middleton C.C.) and Albert Crimes (Crewe Wheelers) set off from Land's End on their tandem trike, they had a schedule of 2 days 6 hours in which to ride to John O' Groats. Such an ambitious attempt was typical of these two famous record-breakers and nobody in the cycling world doubted their ability to achieve these figures which aimed at beating the 16-years-old record of J. Letts and S. Parker by 16 hours. In their attempt they suffered three broken wheels and at one time sickness overcame steersman Bert Crimes, and it was feared they would be unable to continue. He recovered, however, and gaining strength the pair reached their goal in 52 hours 26 mins., well up on schedule and beating the previous record by 18 and three-quarters hours. During the course of their ride they beat the 12 hours and 24 hours records and went on to complete the 1,000 miles in 62 hours 1 min. This was 22 hours 4 mins. better than the record held by the Letts-Parker combination.

Imagine, if you can, having spent 52 hours cycling 872 miles from one end of the country to the other, with little sleep or food, then facing the option of carrying straight on for a further 128 miles to reach the 1,000 miles target. I'm not sure I would, even if I could!

1957 - Solo Tricycle Land's End to John o'Groats

From The Penrith Observer of 20 August 1957:

Albert Crimes tricycles over Shap summit
A correspondent writes that as he was approaching the summit of Shap Fell on Saturday evening he caught up with a saloon car with a man's tricycle strapped to the luggage rack on the roof and about 50 yards ahead was a figure in blue jersey and shorts pedalling hard on another tricycle. As the rider reached the summit a companion was standing holding a flask and he ran along-side the rider whilst he had a drink. A little further on was another man holding a small haversack out of which the rider, after a bare minute's rest, took a pear and then set off at a fast pace towards the summit.
On making enquiries from friends of the lone cyclist, my correspondent was informed that he was Albert Crimes of Crewe, who was making an attempt on the record from Land's End to John o' Groats. At that time, approximately 9 p.m. he had covered 442 miles, which is about half way, in 29 hours and had had only three hours sleep the previous night.

This article reminds us that a cyclist record breaker doesn't just set off on his own and hope for the best. A considerable support team is needed - like we see in the Tour de France today - but probably quite innovative in 1957. Readers may not appreciate the significance of Shap summit. Before the M6 motorway, the only way from north-west England to Scotland was on the A6 over Shap Fell. This was a notoriously difficult stretch of road, especially in winter. Once you were over the top, you felt a major sense of achievement, and Penrith, Carlisle and Scotland were getting nearer. This from a motorist's perspective - what must it have felt like for a cyclist?

From The Liverpool Echo of 19 August 1957:

Tricycle Record
Albert Crimes, 36-years-old Crewe railway worker, to-day completed a new Lands End -to- John o' Groats tricycle record by covering the distance of nearly 900 miles in 2 days 12 hours 37 minutes. He improved on the previous best figures by 7 hours 32 minutes.

Albert did not attempt to extend this 1957 End-to-End success to 1,000 miles. Even if he had wanted to, the schedule for such an extension had not been lodged with the Road Records Association and so would not be ratified.

1958 - Solo Tricycle 1,000 miles

In August 1958 Albert made a successful attempt at the 1,000 miles solo tricycle record. He followed a pre-determined road route radiating out from mid-Cheshire, the Road Records Association having been notified of the route in advance.

Albert and John's achievements are summarised in the Tricycle Association Handbook of 2015:

Probably two of the most talented record breakers we have had in our Association are Albert Crimes and John Arnold. In addition to their individual achievements they formed a unique partnership and established the following RRA [Road Records Association] records on Tandem Tricycle: 50 miles in 1hour 49 minutes 55 seconds; 100 miles in 3 hours 46 minutes 30 seconds; 257.75 miles in 12 hours; 466.25 miles in 24 hours and, 1000 miles in 2 days 13 hours 59 minutes. In 1954 Arnold would team up with Crimes to set an End-to-End record on the tandem tricycle which may perhaps never be beaten. Albert went on to set a new tricycle End to End Record in 1957, and in 1958, a 1000 miles tricycle record that still stands today.

Click here for a full list of Albert's record achievements [contributed by Martin Purser].

Albert racing on his white 'Higgins' tricycle in the Anfield Bicycle Club '100' time trial in the Shrewsbury area, 25th May 1953. Photo by F.W. Loasby. Courtesy of John Crimes

Albert at speed on Brock on blue 'Higgins': a more mature Albert still racing on the A6 road north of Preston. He had raced on this course many times including the successful single and tandem tricycle Land's End to John O' Groats records and other records. Courtesy of Chris Thorley

Death at an early age

Albert died in 1985 at Crewe, aged just 64. His Land's End to John o'Groats solo tricycle record had been beaten by then, but several of his other records detailed here remained intact. Sadly, although there were lengthy obituaries following the death of his cycling partner John Arnold in 2013, there seem to have been none for Albert, or at least not on the internet. Hopefully this story will go some way to redressing that balance. Readers are referred to John's obituary for additional insight into Albert and John's partnership (this is a single large file containing several obituaries - search for "Albert Crimes").
I am now pleased to report (August 2021) that a book detailing the lives and cycling achievements of Albert CRIMES and John ARNOLD has been compiled by Martin Purser on behalf of The Tricycle Association under the title "CRIMES AND ARNOLD - The Story of Two Great Racing Cyclists, Friends and Rivals" ISBN 978-1-910181-85-0 This book was published in December 2020 with a small print run and I am fortunate in having secured a copy.

Current status of Albert's records (2020)

From the Road Records Association website at this date:
Land's End to John o'Groats
Albert's solo tricycle record of 1957 has since been beaten, most recently in 1992 by R Dadswell, beating Albert's time by 7 hours.
Albert and John's tandem tricycle record of 1954 is unbeaten.
1,000 miles
Albert's solo tricycle record of 1958 is unbeaten.
Albert and John's tandem tricycle record of 1954 is unbeaten.

It is perhaps surprising that any of Albert's records remain unbeaten after 60 years, as modern technology would surely enable a much lighter tricycle to be built than was the case in the 1950's. All the more credit to Albert and John.

Revised August 2021
With thanks to Martin Purser for contributing photographs and captions, courtesy of John Crimes
David Chrimes


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