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Charles Arthur Rhodes left an indelible mark on Yorkshire, and indeed upon national, cycling affairs, more especially in the field of time trial sport.
Born at Headingley, Leeds, in 1895, he pursued a career as a skilled craftsman in the working of wood, subsequently rising to a position of responsibility in the practical field of building and contracting. As a young man he found in the bicycle not only a useful form of transport but a means of participating in a pleasurable pastime which he was to pursue continuously for the best part of half a century.
His introduction to organised cycling came in 1914, when he became a member of the Yorkshire Road Club. After World War I (in which he served in the Royal Engineers) he eagerly resumed his cycling activities, and since he was a serious and thoughtful young man, capable of expressing himself lucidly, explicitly and sometimes forcefully, he quickly came to assume a prominent position in his club, to the committee of which he was elected in 1921. He served for several years as General Secretary, to which position he was first elected in 1924. At various times he discharged the duties of practically every office, and in due course was honoured by elevation to the Presidency. In his early years of membership the Yorkshire Road Club had a particular interest in road time trialling, the peculiar fascination of which made him a firm devotee. Despite a physical disability (resulting from a cycling accident at the age of 18), he had his share of enjoyment as a competitor, riding his first time trial (a 50 miles event) in 1922. He was interested in the organisational side of the sport – he had undertaken course measuring duties in 1921 – and in 1925 he graduated to timekeeping.
It was in the role of timekeeper and handicapper that he became known beyond the confines of his own club, serving other promoting clubs in the same assiduous and painstaking fashion, punctilious in the highest degree himself and demanding equally high standards of others if they were to be privileged to enjoy his esteem and rank as his peers in the pursuit of his chosen sport.
By 1931 interest in time trial sport had increased considerably; new clubs had come into existence and events had become so numerous that unavoidable confusion began to arise in the use of recognised courses. It was largely because of this that Secretary Rhodes, with the authority of his club, sought to establish a basis for co-operation between clubs with a view to bringing order out of what threatened to be chaos. As a result of his approaches to a group of clubs which had already embarked upon a series of joint activities, including inter-club trials, steps were taken in November 1931 to invite all Yorkshire clubs interested to meet to discuss the formation of a county body. Thus was created the Yorkshire Cycling Federation, of which he became the first Vice-President, and served in virtually every possible capacity at some time or other for the next quarter of a century.
In 1938 he advanced from the office of Vice-President to that of President, when it was written of him that he had proved a sheet anchor for the Federation in all the storms it had to face; who had remained true to it when criticism was strongest, and who had filled many breaches caused by limitations of its officers and executive.
During 1937 and 1938 he was to be found among the keenest opponents of proposals to set up a national Road Time Trials Council, which he saw as a “schedule of rules, instructions, standing orders and the like, more suited to a public service than to a diversion in which folk may pleasantly pass their leisure.” Yet his standing was such that he was one of the three representatives chosen to speak for the East and West Ridings at the inaugural meeting of the R.T.T.C. in London on February 6th, 1938.
Subsequent developments resulted in some modification of his attitude towards the new body, and toward the end of World War II – during which he played a significant role in keeping intact the structure of organised cycling in Yorkshire – he had considerable influence on the restoration of the very body he had formerly criticised so strongly. The revival of the national Best All-Rounder competition in 1944 under the R.T.T.C.’s own direction originated on his initiative in the Y.C.F. Council chamber. For a time during the post-war period he served as a member of the National Committee of the R.T.T.C. He was proud that the first R.T.T.C. championship, at 25 miles, was won by a Y.C.F. member; that the first 50 miles championship was organised by the Y.C.F., and that the name of his own club was the first to appear on the team shield as 50 mile champions.
In post-war developments he remained staunchly, indeed stubbornly, devoted to his chosen form of cycling sport, time trial activity, and to many who knew him only in his role as timekeeper, handicapper and administrator, he might have seemed a man devoted to a narrow field of interest.
This was not a true picture. He had a great love of the countryside; his particular joy was the Plain of York. Proud of the fact that he was largely self-taught, he was widely read on subjects which interested him. He could write knowledgeably on such diverse subjects as the history of the City of York; road measuring; the wind and its effects on cycling speeds; food and energy. He showed marked skill and artistry in wood carving, horticulture, sketching, painting, photography. He wrote precisely, in impeccable English, in a style instantly recognisable for its elegance and clarity.
Since he was an individualist and a man of definite views, which he saw as no reason to conceal, he not infrequently appeared as a controversial figure. His power in debate made him respected by his contemporaries; sometimes his juniors stood in awe of him. Yet he expected none to follow him blindly. He sought less to lead than to point the way as he saw it. A practical man in everything to which he turned his hand, he was ever ready to work actively in furtherance of whatever purpose or objective he advocated.
It was typical of the practical application of his enthusiasm that he served as event secretary for the Andy Wilson 50 miles event from 1926 until 1955.
An able and unusual man, he played a part in the growth and development of cycling activity, and more particularly of time trial sport, in his native county especially, as any man of his day and age.
His last conscious hours were spent in the fellowship of the body to which he had devoted so much of his leisure time. He was the honoured guest of the Y.C.F. at its annual dinner in Leeds on Friday January 13th, 1961. His death took place, the result of heart failure, a few hours later at his home in Leeds.
It is to his memory that there is made the C.A.Rhodes Memorial Award in recognition of outstanding accomplishments in the realm of Yorkshire cycling.
For 47 years a member of the Yorkshire Road Club and sometime President thereof.
Founder and sometime President of the Yorkshire Cycling Federation.
Sometime member of the National Committee of the Road Time Trials Council.