Wednesday, December 19, 2007

My First Bike

Actually this story isn't about my first bike, but me on the bike in the photo is my first bike and reeee-al cool I look too in my cowboy hat ready to ride the range on my first tricycle.

This story isn't even about my second bike, my second bike was a bigger version of the one in the photo and it had a box on the back to put things in.

No, this story is about my third bike actually.

When I was seven years old we moved from working class terraced house Burley to middle class semi detached Cookridge, newly built, concrete roads rather than cobbles, people who spoke posh, people like my Auntie Doris who you could tell were posh, people a million miles removed from us street urchins with permanent holes in our jeans, the same shirt every day for school, and rubber bands to hold the flapping sole of our shoes from flapping, yes I actually repaired my own shoes with rubber bands, a fine idea unless you actually wanted to walk in them as the rubber bands tended to twang apart after walking on them for more then twenty yards.

So all my posh new Cookridge friends had bikes, one of them even had a sports bike in British Racing Green with five gears, count them, five Sturmey Archer gears, drop handlebars and everything, it was an item to covet and no-one was allowed to touch it let alone ride it, he was a bastard was Stuart Ackroyd.

So I nagged my dad for a bike for I had not one, the second tricycle having been passed, or more likely sold, to someone with small children, I nagged and nagged for a bike but our dad was unrelenting, I had feet that I could use to run alongside my friends when they went for rides on their bikes, why didn't I run alongside them, was I lazy or something ?

I did run alongside my friends on their bikes, for many months I ran alongside them, for the one and only time in my life so far I became adept at long distance running, but still I wanted a bike, a new shiny bike like they all had, one with three gears and white brake cables and mud guards with reflectors on them, a bike that you could stick the cardboard liner from a Bounty bar into the spokes to make a noise like a motorbike engine when you rode it, all of this I coveted, and for nearly a year I begged our dad to buy me one, it still hurts today to think that I even sunk to the depths of promising our mum that I'd run errands for her on my bike and that I could use it to carry her shopping on - thats how low I sunk in my attempt to procure a bike.

The promise of a lacky to shop for her seemed to bring our mum onside and she started nagging our dad to buy me a bike, he relented.

One Saturday afternoon he arrived home from his regular Saturday lunchtime drinking session at his club to declare that he had a friend who owned a bike shop (why hadn't he told me this before, he'd kept this news quiet all the time I was begging) and that he'd sorted a bike out for me, a two wheeler bike just like the bike I'd been nagging for, I couldn't contain my joy even when he admitted that he hadn't seen this bike yet and didn't know if it had white brake cables or gears, still, it was a bike, my new bike.

The bad news was that I would have to ride it all the way from Meanwood, a not inconsiderable distance for a seven year old, but what did I care, it was my new bike and I'd ride it to the end of the world to own it.

We drove straight to the bike shop where his friend, who had obviously been involved in the same lunchtime drinking session with our dad was waiting, sozzled, inside his bike shop. They greeted each other in that smoky, brotherhood way that drunken men do with lots of hand shaking and back slapping and jokes about things that weren't for small boys ears, they shared a cigarette together, prolonging my agony as I wandered around the small lock-up shop wondering which one of the beautiful, brand new, sparklingly-new bikes was mine, which one would I be riding all the way back to Cookridge just as soon as our dad had stopped telling jokes and smoking with his drinking buddy.

The answer to my question was "none of these".

When they'd finished laughing and smoking in the shop doorway our dad and his mate lead me though a door to the back of the shop where, in a dusty workshop that contained the carcasses of dozens of ancient bikes and hundreds of assorted bike parts there stood a bike, which they both pointed to in a "ta-daaaaa" sort of way.

It wasn't exactly what you'd call new.
It was brown and maroon for a start, not colours that had been trendy for at least twenty years.
It had steel rods instead of cables for the brake connections, something that hadn't been seen on modern bikes for a generation.
It had no gears, none at all.
Worst of all it weighed several tons, I could hardly pick it up, how the hell would I be able to ride it ?

"Thats smashing" was all our dad could say, "just the job"
"It is indeed" his friend confirmed, "its a smashing bike is that"

"Its awful" I thought to myself, "they'll all laugh at me" I thought, thinking of my mates.
"Thank you" I said out loud for I was a polite young chap, "could you lift it up and put it on the road for me"

Our dad set off in his car in front of me and the industrial weight bike, our Ned who had accompanied us was in the back of the car and stared out the back window pulling faces at me and laughing all the way back to Cookridge. We held up the traffic all the way back home because I could only push the heavy pedals around at a rate of around one revolution per minute, and Cookridge being on top of a hill it was uphill all the way, to say that my brown bike was of industrial weight is to be kind to it, it most closely resembled one of those big black butchers bikes but thankfully without the basket on the front.

Worse still it had a fixed wheel rather than a freewheel hub, which to the non-technical means that you couldn't stop pedaling the bloody thing, that wasn't a problem normally for you rarely got the momentum up high enough to worry your legs going uphill or even on the flat but when going downhill the sheer weight of the thing came into its own and I'd overtake all of my mates flashy sports bikes as gravity pulled on the thing so hard that my poor legs couldn't keep up with the pedals and I'd have to stick my legs out and let the pedals fly so fast you couldn't see them anymore.

Stopping the bloody thing at the bottom of a hill was nigh on impossible, the speeds that I reached sometimes were far beyond what the brakes had been designed to cope with, and bear in mind again that Cookridge is built on a huge hill, speeds in excess of the road speed limit were not unusual and I wore out the soles of many shoes trying to use them on the road to supplement the weak braking system that had been provided - on several occasions I jumped off the bike rather than try and stop it before it crossed a main road and on these occasions it would continue on its merry speeding way for several hundred yards demolishing bus shelters and brick walls until falling over and taking up huge swathes of concrete road with it.


Anonymous said...

This reminds me of the 70's, my b-inlaw and his mates used to make the most amazing bikes from parts they picked up from the local tip.We had a thousand laughs, but, like you their children were not amused.

Jeff said...

Oh, that's so very sad. Like it would have killed the bike shop guy to assemble a decent bike for you. I hope you eventually got the bike you were hoping for.

Anonymous said...

Jeff..It wasn't like that at all,It was a fun thing, and quite competative too. We tend to forget the make do and mend things these days, and all aspects of a fun childhood. Most kids expect pristine state of the art stuff these days.
I remember my dad making me a dolls pram :) and a dolls house-even though it never did get a roof. It was fun and cost next to nowt.
'Happy Christmas'

Gary said...

Theres a whole new post, nay several posts on the subject of home-made toys and presents :)