South West London DA: Sou' Wester Archive
Profile of Simon Legg

Profile: Simon Legg - (May/Jun 2004)

Like many of us, my first bike was a fifth birthday present - red with solid tyres and an elegant slim frame. The second arrived on my eighth birthday - from a cattle market on Hayling Island - a blue girl's bike as ugly as it was heavy, from this I went to a second-hand Raleigh RSW16 - chic sixties small-wheeler with hub gears. By this time fate had taken an interest. I fell on a garden path. Infection set in to my knee and persisted on and off through my childhood. In time the surgeons took off my left kneecap, I now manage with three muscles in my left thigh rather than the more usual four.

'Racers' came from Claud Butler and Holdsworth - the latter being the big name in South London Cycling. We bought them from Don Louis in Herne Hill - who might have been Italian. His mechanic was Welsh and spoke Welsh and Flemish but very little English. When I say 'we', I'm referring to the four Legg brothers. We used to zip down to Brighton together on the days when the London to Brighton Run was a hundred or so strong. In the days before the M25 you could ride from the family home in West Dulwich, down through Beckenham or Bromley and out to Knockholt, Shoreham or Bat and Ball and put the Great Wen behind you.

The three younger brothers went off to college and I went travelling to Canada and the United States - I did take a bike and cycled from Jasper to Lake Louise, through the Columbian Icefield, but when I moved to Los Angeles I became for the first time, and the last time, a car driver. When I returned to Britain, newly married, my brother Martin gave me a Holdsworth and we would set off to Leeds or John O'Groats.

I followed Martin into farm work and spent six years labouring on a pig farm in Buckinghamshire, before starting work at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. Fate came knocking again in 1987 - returning home from work I was hit from behind by a driver who didn't stop. The bike turned into a figure of eight and I slid down the road before hitting a kerb some thirty metres on. It was midnight on a country road and my chances were slim but I fetched up in the only lay-by for a mile in either direction and the next motorist to pass was a friend who didn't see me stripped and covered in grime, but recognised the bike. He stopped, picked me up and hailed the next motorist who turned out to be a doctor with a car telephone.

When I came to, possessed with millennial thoughts, it occurred to me that life should be meaningful and that things had to change. Never make big plans after you've been whacked by a Volvo. Six years of college later, divorced and close on penniless, I crawled out of Architectural College and started into my present line of work - designing blocks of flats.

One should not complain about long hours and sleepless nights - the salary has bought me the best bike in the world, and with that the luxury of whizzing up and over Surrey hills with the absolute minimum of effort. The bike, if you haven't seen it, is a Colnago C40 bought from Tavistock Cycles (which is owned and run by my brother Martin) and is an essential stop on any tour of the South West, with a range of parts and accessories that cannot be bettered, combined with excellent mechanical servicing.

I've had to put up with some gentle ribbing from DA members, but the look of the thing has won people over. It took me to John O'Groats last year in five and a half days and in great comfort - it's a bit like having your butler go out before you and iron out the bumps. When I'm out with the lovely Susie we have 'his' and 'hers' Dawes Discovery bikes which are glorious testaments to the great reliability and efficacy of modern bikes.

I joined the S.W. London DA last year. The Sunday rides are inspiring in two respects - the ingenuity and charm of the routes, and the very, very, very, very, very great age of some of the riders. Riding with Ed and John isn't just a pleasure for its own sake - it's an inspiration and an example for any middle-aged man who wants something more than middle age spread and a sofa to rest it on. This summer I'll enter my sixth decade - so I m determined that it's going to be a good one and I'm quite sure that the DA is going to be part of it.

Picture of Simon Legg Simon Legg in the Hilly 50km Raleigh RSW16

Tavistock Cycles
Paddons Row
Brook Street
Tavistock
01822 617630