Who was Ace?
Lorne “Ace” Atkinson was born in Vancouver on June 8, 1921, the son of a professional cyclist from Scotland. As a boy, Lorne attended six-day bicycle races at the Denman Arena in downtown Vancouver (an inexpensive and popular attraction at that time) and made extra pocket money delivering magazines by bike. After winning a race in Stanley Park, the Daily Province profiled young Lorne beneath the headline: “City ace triumphs in Province Cup”. He was known as “Ace” from that day on. “Ace” Atkinson won four senior provincial titles and two national championships in the early 1940s, emerging as one of the top cyclists in Canada.
He represented the country at the 1948 Olympics in London, but failed to complete the 120-mile cycling race after suffering a puncture. In the 1954 British Empire games, Lorne served on the committee that established the China Creek Cycle Track, captained the Canadian team, and placed 4th in the 10 Mile track event, giving Canada its best cycling performance. His hand-built track bike is on display at the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame, where he was inducted in 1997.
Ace Cycles and Ace Atkinson’s Legacy
Ace opened his cycle shop in 1946, around the time that cars were becoming more affordable and bicycles were falling out of favour as commuter tools. “In those fallow years, Atkinson almost single-handedly kept interest in cycling alive. His shop became a gathering place for the sport’s few diehards,” writes Tom Hawthorn. In addition to mentoring young cyclists and coaching Canadian teams, Atkinson worked tirelessly to ensure the survival of competitive cycling in Vancouver, by organizing races at the China Creek track, the Penticton to Vancouver Three-Day Race, the Kelowna to Vancouver Race, and the annual 25 Mile Handicap Road Race. When the China Creek Track fell into disrepair, he led a campaign to repair it in the early 1970s.
A constant presence at the West Broadway shop, Ace was always available to dole out cycling advice and training tips and he was the “go-to” guy for information on B.C.’s cycling history. At age 84, Ace received a British Columbia Community Achievement Award for his contributions as a mentor, coach and dedicated small business owner. He died in 2010, just months after seeing the Olympic torch carried past his shop.
Evie Atkinson’s Legacy
Ace met his wife Evie at a 1946 bicycle show in Stanley Park’s Brockton Point, coming to her aid after she suffered a flat tire. They were married in 1952 and raised two children in an apartment above the store. In addition to serving as chief recorder at Vancouver’s 1954 British Empire Games, Evie Atkinson made significant contributions to Vancouver’s civic culture and heritage. As a park board commissioner in the 1970s, she was instrumental in installing ramps on Vancouver’s sidewalks, establishing greenways and bike routes throughout the city and supporting small business through her involvement as President of the Kitsilano Chamber of Commerce. In the early 1980s, she founded “The Friends of 374”, helping to raise $500,000 to restore and give a permanent home to CPR engine 374, the first transcontinental locomotive to pull a passenger train into Vancouver. Evie was named a member of the Order of Canada in 1996. She passed away in February, 2017.
- Ace Cycles website
- Tom Hawthorn, “Obituary: Lorne Atkinson kept cycling alive in postwar Vancouver“, Globe and Mail, May 12, 2010.
- Glen Schaefer, “Obituary: Evie Atkinson“, Vancouver Sun, February 6, 2017.
- John Mackie, “B.C. Sports Hall of Fame celebrates Empire Games’ 60th anniversary (with video),” July 28, 2014.
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