This film is part of Free

Wheel in Britain

Speeding round Britain by bike: taking in the scenery in a 1,600-mile competitive tour.

Documentary 1953 27 mins


A vintage treat for cycling fans, this film of 1953's 1,600-mile Tour of Britain (later the Milk Race) includes valuable footage of Europe's leading competitive cyclists of the day, plus tantalising glimpses of many English, Welsh and Scottish locations. The Tour was then sponsored by the Daily Express, and the film by Dunlop. It's more extended newsreel than advertising - an ultra-soft sell.

Significantly, no director is credited: the film was clearly put together in the cutting-room, from footage by four cameramen covering different sections of the route. It's an interesting example of filmed sport in the period before live TV coverage took off, with lots of good close-up travelling footage of the cyclists and even the odd overhead shot from a helicopter. Dunlop commissioned the film from Verity Films, the busiest producer of sponsored films in the postwar years. They turned in a solid, 'mid-market' production boasting skilful photography (filmed silent) and a very informative commentary, albeit slightly undermined by grating canned music. For no good reason, the chief narrator, a typical Received Pronunciation type, hands the baton to a colleague with stage-Scots voice when the race crosses the border...