Nostalgia is a funny old thing. You can go for ages without thinking about the past and then something can bring it all flooding back. I’ve been reminiscing about a lot of things recently and I started thinking about bikes I have owned. I expect lots of people have a similar list.
I can’t really remember much about this except I remember at the age of 3 or 4 being absolutely thrilled when the stabilisers were taken off and I learned to ride it. The hill on the street where we used to live was a gentle slope not very big at all, but back then it was perfect for riding down as fast as you could. There weren’t many cars about either so the street was fair game for bike riding, football and all manner of other games. In those days, we knew pretty much all the kids from the local area, and much like pet dogs, we were kicked out of the house in the morning and told to go and play.
I really, really, really wanted a Chopper but I wasn’t big enough. In the early 70’s if you weren’t big enough for a Chopper then your choice extended to a Chipper or a Tomahawk. The Tomahawk was like a miniature version of the Chopper so I went for that, and mine was purple if I recall correctly, and my next door neighbour had a red one. It had no gears and was basically a deathtrap, which coupled with my lack of sense as a child would lead to my first real bike crash. Inspired by Evil Knievel a group of us built a ramp in our cobbled back entry. The ramp consisted of a pile of bricks we’d scavenged and a plank of wood maybe 4 inches wide. The ramp was too narrow, the bricks were unstable and the angle was too steep. After several attempts where we rode at it and missed (knocking the bricks over) I managed to hit the ramp perfectly! Up the ramp I went and the tiny front wheel of the Tomahawk rolled almost vertically down off the end of the ramp sending me over the handlebars. Physics was clearly not our strong point (along with construction and health and safety). I don’t know what I landed on but I had an H-shaped imprint cut into my leg which scarred and was visible for years afterwards. After a while, and possibly after being left out in the rain, the chrome mudguards started to rust and I either tired of the bike or outgrew it or both.
This was my first bike with gears. I think it was a 3 speed Sturmey Archer hub activated by a twist-grip mechanism. It was fantastic. For about 10 minutes, and then became difficult and unresponsive. That caused my second crash. That and riding no-handed whilst eating a bag of crisps. Anyway, I was riding no-handed eating a bag of beef and onion crisps. I think they were Golden Wonder, but they could have been Smiths. I don’t think Walkers had been invented then. The Commando, complete with army markings (black paint with corporal stripes), was not the most stable bike and it should have come as no surprise to me that the front wheel turned suddenly to the left. Holding my crisps in my left hand I grabbed the handlebar with my right and accidentally shifted the gears. This resulted in going from a hard gear to an easy gear which threw me forward as my legs spun quicker. The bike hit the kerb and I went forward and off knee-first. The resulting cut took ages to heal and I still have the scar to this day. Happy days.
Peugeot 5-speed Racer
My first “proper” bike, it had 24 inch wheels, a 5 speed derailleur and was purple with tan-wall tyres, and we used to race around the streets, the cobbles and the back entries. It was de-rigeur to pull a back-wheel skid when stopping and puddles were meant to be ridden through
Peugeot 10-speed Racer
This one had 26 inch wheels and was a silver colour. I loved that bike and it used to get me all over the place. I even remember carrying a full set of golf clubs once, whilst riding from my house to the golf course. I don’t know what happened to that bike.
Motobecane BMX Cross Bike
Around this time (late 70’s/early 80’s) BMX was becoming something and I saw this bike in our LBS. I’ve no idea how or why they had it but it was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. It was bright red, had front and rear suspension, a big front lamp with a rally style grill on it and DRUM BRAKES! I remember my dad asking what I wanted for Christmas and me saying I’d like that bike. I still had my Peugeot so I thought he’d just say no, but to my absolute surprise he didn’t. So I got a second bike. We lived in a terraced house and the bikes went in the hall, so there wasn’t much room! This was a fantastic bike – it was heavy and agricultural but the suspension was brilliant! I used to ride it over as much bumpy ground as I could find. I was still lacking in common sense and a fundamental misunderstanding of mechanics and physics though, which lead to another crash. One the routes I used to ride to visit my gran and granddad involved three steep steps in a narrow guinnel that immediately turned 90 degrees right. I rode my Motobecane down the steps and was somewhat surprised when the front suspension compressed at the bottom and my momentum took me head first over the bars and into the wall that formed the 90 degree turn. There was no wearing of helmets then so I simply rubbed the large bump on my head and got back on. Probably explains a lot. It was when I ruined the bike that I lost interest in it. The drum brakes squeaked so being an idiot I squirted some oil in. That solved the problem but unsurprisingly stopped the brakes working, and they were never the same again.
There followed a long gap until my next bike.
Kona Lava Dome 1993
I decided I would re-establish my relationship with bikes and bought this mountain bike to ride to and from work and at weekends. I used it primarily to do a 14 mile commute and then assorted rides up and down hills at weekends. I stopped using it when a) I changed jobs and b) the kids came along. It would be over 10 years until I next rode a bike and started this blog…