My early memories of cycling are tinged with mixed emotions. I was already in the huff over having to wait til my 9th birthday before I was allowed a bike (my mother was convinced this was the earliest age at which cycling became “safe”) and to add insult to injury I had to buy my sister’s cast-off for a fiver. In those days a fiver was worth something and it took me ages to save up and meant the sacrifice of significant quantities of chocolate. Very galling when most of my friends were getting gleaming brand spanking new machines for their birthdays or Christmas. The bike in question was a Hercules Jeep and it was everything its name suggested. It took a superhumanly strong man to lift it as was built of best Birmingham steel (it probably wasn’t but it certainly felt like it in terms of weight), and it was single speed, for which read unstoppable on a descent and unstartable on even the slightest of inclines! It really had only two things going for it: it was a lovely shade of British Racing Green and… it was mine. Well actually it had a third thing going for it which was it wasn’t the hideous small wheeled “shopper” bicycle my friend Liz’s mother had inflicted upon her but that was another story. I have a clear memory of going away for the day with some pals who all had 3-speed jobs or more and being dismayed by the thought of the rendezvous point which was at the bottom of Larkfield Road in Greenock. Now this is probably a gradient 10 at the very least, so by the time I got to the top (some cycling, mostly pushing and having incurred the loss of several vital organs) the rest of the gang had long since disappeared. Even more irritating was the fact that when I eventually caught up with them up at the Greenock Cut, the buggers had eaten all the Cadbury’s Chocolate Mini-Rolls! I did however get my own back by whooping their asses well and truly on the return leg back down Larkfield Road (at around Mach 2 I think) and being in the Bluebird Cafe with my ice cream long before they were.
Ah! halcyon days! That bike remained in the garage until I moved away from the family home. I did make several attempts to sell it but strangely potential buyers would take one look at it and, once they’d stopped laughing, make suggestions about which transport museum might like it. It was deposited in the Gourock Civic Waste Amenity site in 1994, and part of me hopes it was chanced upon by some dear old lady who took it in like a stray kitten, and who loved and cherished it until both their departures from this world. I suspect the truth is that it lies buried in a landfill site somewhere in the west of Scotland along with sundry other similar machines which remained unrecognised as priceless cycling memorabilia simply because they weren’t Raleigh friggin’ Choppers! Let’s hope a team of archaeologists dig it up midway through the 23rd century and hold it up as a wonder of its time.
Just as long as they don’t try to get up the Larkfield Road on it!