Ray Booty RIP

Ray Booty died at the weekend. He is a key figure in the history of time trialling and was also a handy roadman. He is most famous for riding the first sub 4 hour 100 in 1956, beating Stan Brittain by 12 minutes to record a 3.58. He rode a Raleigh Path Frame with an 84″ fixed gear.

the record machine

“It was one of those lovely sunny summer mornings you crave for when you are time-trialling. It was calm, as I remember, and eventually it became very hot. And I was really having to hang on in the last half hour. I remember it was a real struggle. I knew I was on to a good ride if I could hang on. The thing I remember about that particular event was at the finish, and I was absolutely shattered at the finish. And I sat down. And, of course, when I finished I realised just how hot it was. I was desperate for some drink and somebody came with all they’d got, which was a bottle of milk. And it was sour. And he said it was sour. It was all he’d got. It was really sour. But I drank it all. That was the thing I remember mainly about that event”

“The Boot” after his record ride.

He won the 1958 Commonwealth Games road race and the Manx International in 1954. In images he is usually wearing glasses with his face in a sort of faintly comedic grimace, belying his astonishing endurance and flat-out speed. He looks more like an academic rushing back to return some overdue books than an out-and-out speed merchant. 

A dead turn

Ray Booty is a reminder both of how things have changed and how they have stayed the same. Fixed distance and PBs dominate the sport, with the constant desire to improve upon times. But the courses and roads are markedly different. There are no dead turns any more, courses need roundabouts or loops to work effectively. Fixed gear is still used in flat time trials by a number of riders, but the gear sizes tend to be huge – nearly always three figures and often around 110″.

There is some short but great footage of Ray Booty at the Beacon Roads Mountain Time Trial in 1961on youtube.

His legs look powerful and he is tapping out a remorseless rhythm up the climb, but with a fluid style, probably honed through years of riding fixed: pedalling in circles.

National Service

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