The story of the restoration of a 1950s classic bicycle for a Land's End – John O'Groats charity ride in aid of Alzheimer's Society
This is a tortoise and hare story. In 1951 (the year of my birth), 66-year-old Gustaf Håkansson decided he wanted to enter a Swedish 1,000-mile endurance event. The organisers refused to allow his entry because of his advanced age (grrr…)
He wasn’t to be so easily put off. He turned up at the start, resplendent in his flowing white beard, wearing a home-made bib with the number 0, and took part, defying the organisers. Unlike the official entrants, who stopped to sleep each night, Gustaf just kept going. He took the lead and stayed ahead of the field, attracting huge national attention as the race progressed.
Despite the handicap of his heavy rusty old bike, laden panniers and a puncture just before the finishing line, he crossed the line miles ahead of the field, to a huge welcome and great fame, including an audience with the King. He even became the subject of a book – David M. Schwartz’s Supergrandpa. He didn’t win the race prize, though.
The “Steel Grandpa” (Stålfarfar) carried on cycling until he was 100. He died in 1987 at the age of 102 – an example to us all.