Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Mark Charlton, A-B rider, reflects on his love of bikes

[caption id="attachment_361" align="alignleft" width="200" caption="Mark Charlton, Company Secretary & member of the Exec, wonders which bike to choose..."][/caption]

Yesterday, as I completed the details required for the A to B ride, I paused at the question, what type of bike will you be riding?

After all I have a garage full of them; fourteen in all - though in truth half of them belong to my sons and the others have seen little action in years. Nonetheless, it's still a lot and it got me thinking about where this obsession began...

My mother bought my first bike for me from the bin-men; I'd spotted it hanging from the back of their cart as they passed our house. She paid them ten shillings and told me to share it with my brother. It was purple and red with a step-through frame and a white sprung saddle. I learned to ride with stabilisers, removing one, then the other. When I first rode without them, I peddled straight into the back of a parked car and knocked myself out.

That bike gave me my first taste of freedom. I’d cycle down our tree-lined avenue to the cul-de-sac by the station, where I’d watch the children on the other side of the line, laughing as they sledged down the railway sidings on wooden boards.

Later I was given a green Hercules that had been left standing for years. I spent weeks taking it apart, scraping off the rust with brillo-pads, polishing the chrome. It had a three speed Sturmey Archer hub, but only two ever worked. Not that it mattered; to my eyes it had a cross bar, thin wheels and, most important of all, drop handlebars. It was a racer!

[caption id="attachment_364" align="alignright" width="400" caption="Mark cycling in the Alps. Will Aberystwyth offer similar challenges?"][/caption]

I soon learned that my Hercules was no racer at all, and that Sturmey Archer gears were considered naff. Ten speed derailleurs were the right stuff; Raleigh Choppers were acceptable too, the best for giving ‘backies'.

You’d find it hard to buy a junior racing bike nowadays, though the Chopper is making a comeback, re-launched as a retro alternative to the mountain bike. My boys don’t see the appeal. One wheel’s smaller than the other. It’s like a girl’s bike, they say. I think it’s marketed at Dads like those who, years ago, longed to ride on the other side of the tracks.

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