Time passed as it has a habit of doing, and in the summer of 1989 I realised I had been out of the saddle since the Hercules’ final outing in 1971. Now this was not surprising given the traumatic nature of the last voyage of the Jeep. For some bizarre reason I had opted to cycle to school by the “high road” of Finnart Street (a boy I fancied lived there if I’m honest). This meant that I had to then negotiate my way back down the vertical incline that was (and still is) the Greenock Academy playground – the bike shed being conveniently located at the very bottom and round a corner. The usual tactic was to sit back and enjoy the freewheel and hope the brakes worked before you made the corner turn. Mine did, but I hadn’t counted on the Janny having put the bins out, and the massive swerve I had to effect (marvellously well accomplished it has to be said) carried me into the bike shed sideways. Now as is the case with schools the world over, the main function of the bike shed was not the parking of bicycles; oh no, that was merely incidental to its main purposes of providing shelter for the puffing of a few illicit Embassy Regals and/or sucking the face off the paramour of one’s choice (or, whoever was up for it as the case may be). On this day I’m afraid I probably flattened several packs of clandestine ciggies and wrecked the romatic intentions of a number of suctioned together couples. One of whom was of course the boy I fancied from Finnart Street who was superglued to Shona Ramsay at the time. Serves the bastards right!
Moving swiftly on. In that summer of 1989 a friend lent me a Thompson mountain bike when he went off touring Australia. Mercy! 21 gears! What the hell are gears for? I sailed up hill at speeds I didn’t know existed. Coming back down was in fact probably slower on the Thompson – possibly something to do with less momentum. It did however, make me realise that the world of cycling was a whole lot different to my past experience, and pleasantly so. The Thompson was a heavyish machine but it still felt like a jet compared to the Jeep, and I eventually ended up buying it from the lender. I was fortunate in that friends from the tennis club and some colleagues were also into cycling and I was able to tag along on excursions, albeit quite gentle, “family” type rides. The experience paved the way for my purchase of a Claud Butler MTB when I moved to Elderslie in 1994 and discovered the wonderful Sustrans cycle network on my doorstep. At that point it was all cinder track with lots of exciting bits off to the side. Sustrans tracks are usually constructed on old railway routes and because of this they are fairly flat. There are however, still some interesting steel structures which were brilliant for bunny hopping over and/or along. The little Claud did me proud for four years until a 5-year battle with ME put paid to most fitness activities, but in 2004 I bought myself a new Claud – this time the Cape Wrath – in an attempt to recover the fitness I had before the illness and to lose the weight I had put on as a result of it. The Sustrans tracks had mostly been tarred at this stage but were still quite suitable for the gentler rides I was doing. I had the occasional foray into woodlands but did little more adventurous than that. Still, it was fun. Pity I came home and ate large curries and the like afterwards though.