Excerpted from
TWO WHEELS TO THE TOP by  REG HARRIS with Gregory Houston Bowden

1976 W.H. Allen & Co. London
ISBN 0 491 01957 2

Taken from Chapter 9, "A New Way of Life"

     "It did feel very strange for a while to have ceased to be a professional racing cyclist, but at least I was still in the cycle business. I have always been a very active sort of person and so I found that I did not really have enough to keep me occupied. Moreover, I had grown used to, a certain standard of living which my income from racing easily provided, while my retirement pay was down by two-thirds from that figure. After about a yearof this new life, I arranged to see George Wilson (Director of Raleigh, who employed Reg at that time..ed.) again and asked if   I could possibly have a lot more money and a little more work. He was very sympathetic about this and came up with an idea which could have made my request a reality: that Raleigh should  produce a range of   Reg Harris bicycles and that I should be directly involved with all aspects of its design and marketing."

    I was very happy about this and for several months we worked on the scheme.Space was found for this new division of Raleigh in the old Sturmey-Archer gear shop, and I travelled all over Europe examining different kinds of specialised cycle components and getting inspiration for designs, colour schemes and so on. Unfortunately, just as we were getting close to making the scheme a reality, Raleigh merged with Tube Investments and a new policy was adopted which caused the Reg Harris cycle division to be dropped. The new group de-cided that it was already suffering from having too many different brand names, and that far from wishing to add another one to thelist, it would gradually aim to make Raleigh its only brand namethroughout the world.


     Naturally I was very disappointed, but there was one redeeming feature in so much as it was then no longer necessary to move down to Nottingham. This was something that my wife had absolutely refused to do. She suggested that I could rent a small flat in Nottingham and stay there midweek, returning to be with her for week-ends in the country. After so many years of living out of a suitcase, I found this idea quite unacceptable and besides, it did not seema very satisfactory way to run a marriage. So, for the moment at least, the collapse of the idea saved my marriage.


But what was I to do next? The Raleigh people were still telling me that my home was with them and that they very much wanted me to remain on their payroll.  The only trouble was that they did not really know what to do with me. Eventually they said they would like me to go on the board of one of the subsidiary companies with a view to eventually becoming a main board director.  But which company should it be?


     After the Reg Harris cycle idea had been thrown out, I suggested to Eric Baker, the export director of Raleigh, that the company should consider a new plan. The whole point of the Reg Harris' division was that it would hand-build small numbers of really superb specialist machines for both amateurs and professionals.  To attempt to cater for this sort of market from within the main Raleigh factory was obviously an impossibility, as nothing causes more chaos in a highly mechanised production-line than the need for one-off special parts. On the other hand, if Raleigh was to remain in the forefront of cycle sport, it seemed to me that some sort of hand-building division was an absolute necessity.  Even if  it did not make a great deal of extra money, its value in terms of prestige could be incalculable. I suggested that Raleigh should look round for a small firm that was already making hand-built racing cycles and buy it up. Two names immediately sprang to mind, Viking and Carlton. Baker listened to all this with very great interest, and it was not long before the directors had officially approved the idea. After an investigation, Viking was ruled out   because its production of four hundred-odd machines a week was getting too close to mass production, but Carlton seemed just about right. Although the O'Donovan brothers who owned it were only  producing one hundred machines a week in their small factory at Worksop, they had already made quite a name for themselves all over the world. Detailed negotiations went on between the two firms, and in the spring of 1960 the deal went through. Very soon after this, Baker told me that he was putting me on the board of Carlton and asked me to go and see the O'Donovan brothers, taking with me all the material I had prepared for the Reg Harris cycle.  I was to spend an evening discussing with them how all these ideas could be incorporated into the Carlton cycle.

     I spent hours talking to them about measurements, angles of bottom brackets and new types of lugs.  I had some particularly interesting suggestions to make on the latter topic as I had only recently returned from a visit to Fischers, a most important rnanu-facturer of lugs at Schaffhausen in Switzerland.   Later I told them about my ideas for names and colour schemes and went on to the topic of some quite significant innovations that I had worked out that would make the bicycles lighter and cheaper as well as more attractive. Finally I returned home feeling that it had been a pleasantand valuable meeting.

     Early the next morning I received a call from Eric Baker. 'I am astonished,' he said. 'I always thought you were the soul of tact and discretion."Is there any reason to suddenly doubt that?' I asked quite innocently.
'There certainly is, I have just had the O'Donovans on the tele-phone and the deal is almost off! What the devil did you say to them last night?'
     Gradually, I realised that it had not been what I said that had   annoyed them, but the fact that they had never been informed that I was being put on their board.  It was an unfortunate start, but we soon got over that hurdle and then I embarked on a whirlwind tour of all Carlton dealers and of those Raleigh dealers who were to be offered a Carlton franchise.  My job was to inform them that Raleigh had acquired Carlton and that all the old traditions of theWorksop company would continue to be respected.  I thoroughly enjoyed that tour, partly because it gave me a chance to put my new Jaguar through its paces, and when it was over I heard that it had been a great success in drumming up enthusiasm. Unfortunately this success caused resentment in some circles which finally led to my being very politely asked to resign.
  

      This was a very sad moment for me. I had always had the greatest possible affection for Raleigh and had got to know everyone at   Nottingham from the night-watchman to the chairman. It was almost unbelievable to realise that this very special relationship was suddenly over. When I look back at those years now, the only little grain of satisfaction I can derive from them is the knowledge that Carlton did gradually adopt almost every single suggestion I putto them, although at the time everything was greeted with strong objections.

     The impossible had happened: Raleigh had turned its back on me so what was I to do now?  Given the benefit of hindsight, I know I ought to have returned to racing. I was still extremely fit and I know that with even a few weeks' training I could have  returned to a condition in which very few people could have beenable to catch me.  In any case, the standard of world professional sprinting was already in a decline.  But hindsight always distorts the picture, and at that time it did not seem a very feasible idea.  I was left with a serious problem: I could not very well begin toapply for jobs offered in The Times or The Daily Telegraph becauseI had had a rather unique background which would have'made it impossible to fill in the necessary application forms.   Besides, I felt rather shy about doing that anyway: many people suppose that when a well-known sportsman retires and seeks a normal job, he is really looking for a sort of pension that will give him the opportunity to be seen around and to give and receive drinks and other perks here and there. They think he is really incapable of earning his own living.  I had no intention of joining that category myself.

Next part: Reg starts his own Bicycle Company...

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