Monday, July 28, 2008

Our favorite hero: Spike Rhiando.

"Whether by design or not, Alvin "Spike" Rhiando is something of an enigma. Much of his life was surrounded in doubt and confusion, but he was certainly a well-liked character in the early days of the 500 era.

Spike was probably Canadian, born in Saskatchewan, though he was also reported as both American and even Mexican – others would suggest he had got no nearer Canada than the Greenford cinder track! He claimed that his parents were trapeze artists, and that as a child he was part of the act. He also claimed that he was scheduled to come to Europe on the Lusitania, on its fateful journey in 1915.

In 1933, he did move to England, with the aim of establishing American-style Midget racing on the existing motorcycle cinder tracks. Although certainly more dramatic than the existing British alternatives on the long tracks (such as Crystal Palace, Lea Bridge, and Greenford) and stadium-based short tracks, the idea never really caught on. Contemporary reports all appeared to suffix Spike’s name with “the American dirt track racing ace”, although there is little evidence to justify this title.

Through the war years, Spike apparently worked for the British arm of the Caterpillar company. The post-war government of Clement Attlee initiated the notorious Tanganyika Groundnut Project, and Spike saw the opportunity to make good money from his knowledge of earth-moving. He lasted nearly two years, returning from the fiasco with a comfortable nest egg.

Spike’s mind was now on other things, and his racing programme reduced. He had become interested in the new glass fibre material. He came up with a very neat scooter concept and built a prototype.

To prove the concept, he decided to ride it from London to Cape Town. In typical Spike-style, preparation basically involved packing a small bag and setting off! Somewhere in the Sahara, he was found in a very poor state, resting in the shade of a large rock, by a patrol of the French Foreign Legion. The scooter had worked fine, and may still be by that rock.

For all the stories told about (and perhaps by) Spike, there is little doubt that he was one of the characters of the movement, and was fondly remembered by all who knew him, especially for his taste for lurid shirts most out of keeping with austerity Britain.

Alvin "Spike" Rhiando was, and still is, a mystery."

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