RIP Andrew Ritchie

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66TigerCat

I live for the CABE
Just found out that Andrew Ritchie, the author of the Major Taylor, The Extraordinary Career of a Champion Bicycle Racer passed away on 8/13/2021. His contribution to Taylor's legacy was immense. I never met Andrew but we traded emails a few times after the second printing of his book was published. He was kind enough to sign my copy. Sad news.

Below is a tribute that was posted on another email list I'm on -

ANDREW RITCHIE 1943-2021
Andrew Ritchie died in Truro, Cornwall, on Friday, 13th August 2021.
The three great passions of Andrew Ritchie’s life were cycling, music and photography. He was also a talented writer and historian with a fine aesthetic eye. He combined these abilities to produce seminal works on cycling history.
John Andrew Ritchie, a proud member of a family of Presbyterian Scots, was born in Edinburgh on August 21st, 1943, but grew up in south London. His musical life began when as a young boy he attended Westminster Abbey Choir School. He went on to Dulwich College and then studied the history of architecture at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge. He took up cycling in a serious way when he was sixteen, doing time-trials around London, road racing in France and touring much of Europe.
“From its very beginnings cycling… has been defined by a kind of defiant enthusiasm – the mark of the fanatic, the rebel, the individualist. Perhaps this explains why I took to cycling with a passion at an impressionable age, when music, literature and the history of art were supposed to be my main direction. But there it was – the freedom, the independence, the physicality, and the bewitching fetish of the machine itself!”
A restless and romantic spirit, Andrew was never one to settle for a nine-to-five job. He tried his hand as a journalist and photojournalist, freelancing for magazines and agencies in Europe and the USA. He got a job as an announcer and reporter for Radio Prague in the late sixties and, based on this experience, he co-authored Czechoslovakia, The Party and the People, about the Spring uprising of 1968. In the early seventies he cycled across the United States and when he arrived on the west coast he attended the San Francisco Conservatory of Music: he was a fine cellist, performing in quartets and amateur orchestras throughout his life.
He returned to London and embarked on the project of researching and writing one of the finest cycling history books ever written: King of the Road, an illustrated history of cycling, published in 1975. Highly readable and thoroughly researched, the book is lavishly illustrated with historic photographs scoured from a wide range of sources. Thereafter he spent time in the UK and in Berkeley, California, and travelled widely, working as a photographer for The Tenderloin Times in San Francisco and visiting El Salvador, Nicaragua and the Sudan in the eighties.
His most notable contribution to cycling history was his work on the life of Major Taylor, the black cycle racer who overcame prejudice and discrimination to astound the world at the beginning of the twentieth century. A major coup for Andrew was interviewing Major Taylor’s daughter, Sydney. His Major Taylor “The Fastest Bicycle Rider in the World” was published in 1988, and a second edition, updated, expanded and illustrated, came out in 2010. Andrew’s work was the primary impetus behind a revival of interest in the life of Major Taylor, who today is celebrated with a fine monument in Worcester, Massachusetts, and the establishment of the Major Taylor Association in 1998. Andrew, rightly, believed that the story of Major Taylor would
make excellent movie material and it is regrettable that no such project came about in his lifetime.
In the 1990s Andrew was a key contributor to and editor of the proceedings of the International Cycling History Conferences. He continued to give talks and write articles and books on cycling history including The origins of the bicycle (2008) and Flying Yankee: The International Cycling Career of Arthur Augustus Zimmerman (2009). Later in life he earned an M.Phil. at Edinburgh University, then a Ph.D. in cycling history at the University of Strathclyde in 2008. Subsequently he adapted his thesis to write his largest book, Quest for Speed: A history of Early Bicycle Racing, 1868-1903, published in 2011. Andrew ensured that his books were well illustrated, often with rare and unusual photographs.
When it came to matters important to him, Andrew showed the passion and rigour of an artist. His fellow orchestra members remember his gruff insistence on excellence and his publisher fondly remembers him with a certain amount of exasperation. His well crafted prose is occasionally spiced with trenchant opinions: in The King of the Road he briskly dismissed Raleigh’s promotional literature for Chopper bicycles in the late sixties as ‘rubbish’. Even so, his talks were delivered with disarming charm and humanity.
Unfortunately, researching cycling history is a poorly remunerated activity so Andrew Ritchie led an unconventional life: in later years he drove rattling old vehicles, earned a living in carpentry, rescued stray cats and tinkered with bicycles in El Cerrito, California. Diagnosed with congestive heart failure in 2016, he returned to England two years later. On the night of Thursday 12th August he went out into the Cornish countryside to observe the Perseid meteor shower: probably his last moments were spent gazing at the heavens. He is survived by his daughter Sophia and his sister, Elizabeth.
 

Jesper

Look Ma, No Hands!
Thank you @66TigerCat for submitting that post; I will attempt to find some of those books. Some I've heard of, but have never read any of them.
 

lorne-shields

Look Ma, No Hands!
EXCELLENT SUMMARY. Thanks for the posting. I was friends with Andrew for many years and enjoyed his company at many cycling venues, conferences, emails, his home and social get togethers. As indicated in the Summary, he left his mark as one of the greatest of cycling's historians. You are and will always be missed. Au revoir.
 

juvela

Cruisin' on my Bluebird
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thank you for sharing this most sad news

first met Andrew in Berkeley, California about 1973

have visited him in his home in that city on several occasions

also visited his publisher on several occasions, Phil Wood (not the hubs and bottom brackets one)

he bought a vintage La Caille bicycle from me at one point

purchased some vintage fittings from him

ran into him just two or three years back at a thrift store in El Cerrito, California

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