This long article from Cycling Weekly published in 1999 gives a few interesting pointers straight from the horses mouth...
------------ WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ERNIE CLEMENTS by Martin Ayres
³Life has come full circle for Ernie Clements. Back in 1938 he opened his first cycle shop, at Telford, Shropshire, with the help of £40 'start-up' money from his father. Later he headed the successful Falcon Cycles operation before retiring in the mid1980s. Today, at 77, Clements is back in the retail trade and once again has two shops, but he first made his name as one of Britain's top road racers.
Blessed with a good sprint and a canny racing brain, Clements rose to prominence in the BLRC events which broke the ban on road racing in Britain in 1942.
He missed the historic first race on open roads the Llangollan-Wolverhampton having suffered a dog bite while training. "But I won the second one, the Wrekin RCC event, a few weeks later," he recalls.
Over the next few years, Clements' successes included the first BLRC Road Championship at Harrogate in 1943. He also won the first road race in the London area Barnet to Biggleswade and back, and the Bastille Day race in Battersea Park.
"They were super times because everyone was so enthusiastic about the sport, and there weren't the cars on the road that we have today," he says.
The return of peace in 1945 saw the first British stage race contested over 483 miles from Brighton to Glasgow. Clements won the first stage, to Putney, and next day rode through crowd-lined streets in London.
Things turned sour at Newcastle-upon-Tyne where Clements quit the race, protesting that the race leader, a Frenchman, had actually retired from the race at one point. Now he wishes he'd stayed in:
"I realised later it was always better to complete the course and argue afterwards," he says.
In 1946, Clements switched back to the internationally recognised NCU so that he could race abroad. "They welcomed me with open arms," he says. "My first race was the NCU Championship at Finsbury Park which I won."
In 1947 there was talk of British riders competing in the Tour de France, and Clements says: "A cycle manufacturerI won't say which one was offering contracts. They would pay £8 a day while we stayed in the Tour, but if we abandoned that was the end of the contract. So if you pulled out after three days you'd end up with just £24. I didn't sign because I wanted to ride the Olympics."
He was duly selected for the 1948 Olympic road race at Windsor Great Park, where his hopes were ended when somebody rode into him, wrecking his rear wheel. "There was no spare and I had to walk home," he says.
Clements was one of the first Britons to try his luck on the Continent, basing himself at Mons, Belgium. Clements payed his way in these post-war years by trading in Brooks saddles and jars of coffee.
"My best ride was the Grand Prix Laeken which went past the Royal Palace at Brussels. The Belgian champion was riding and I didn't have much chance against the big teams but I still finished third.
"After 1948 I decided it was time to concentrate on business," he says. "I had two retail shops and I was making frames. Eight years later I joined Coventry Eagle as works manager and then decided to make bikes using the Falcon name."
The Falcon brand quickly became associated with quality lightweights. This image was boosted by the professional team launched in 1959. The Falcon sponsorship continued until 1984 and over the years Clements employed some outstanding roadmen, including Albert Hitchen, Bill Holmes, Bernard Burns and Keith Lambert.
Clements became a director and in 1971 acquired the company. He recalls: "We concentrated on making racing bicycles, a lot of them going abroad to the US. I used to go to the States four or five times a year and eventually went to Taiwan and Japan. It was a very interesting timeI went to Giant in Taiwan when they had just started making bikes for Schwinn of America, now it's the largest bicycle manufacturer in the world."
He also dreamed up Mediterranean training camps for British cyclists, setting a trend that continues to this day. The first Falcon camp in 1966 offered two weeks in Majorca for just £33.
In the early 1980s Clements suffered a reversal in fortunes. "The business proved very successful so successful that I foolishly sold it in 1982 to a public company whose shares dropped through the floor and I lost a lot of money."
In 1986 he retired from business and moved to Malvern. "After sitting at home for two or three months I got fed up and opened a shop, so I was back in the retail business, where I'd started in 1938."
Now he runs Cycles Clements with his son Edward. They have shops in Malvern and Ledbury, and are agents for Simoncini frames. He still follows developments in the sport and trade with keen interest, and says: "I've no plans to retire, I wouldn't know what to doI couldn't just sit at home." --------------------------
Bob Reid Stonehaven Scotland