This isn’t a bike model but rather my first memory of cycling. I was probably five or six and it was a hot summer day and so I was just wearing shorts. My stabilisers were removed and I was let loose on our opposite neighbour’s lawn which was large and hazard-free. Well apart from the circular bed of roses in the middle of it. The circular bed of roses which probably seemed ideal for me to cycle around and around. The circular bed of roses I inevitably ended up veering into. 35 years later I made sure my daughter learn to balance on a clear, hazard-free stretch of quiet road.
My first bike was a blue Raleigh Raleigh Budgie and I am sure it was my first ever bike and the one which carried me merilly into the roses. I think I had it until I was about 7 or 8 but I don’t really remember riding it much but maybe I wasn’t let loose one the streets unaccompanied much at that age.
Bike number two was a Raleigh Grifter. It must have been a MK2 model which I would have been given for Christmas in the early 1980s. I remember my dad and his best friend putting it together one Christmas Eve (and in retrospect I’m amazed it was ever safe to ride because neither of them were terribly practical).
I loved it dearly and remember going for some great adventures on it. My aunt, uncle and cousins used to drive from Rome to England each summer to visit my grandparents and Theo, my elder cousin, and I used to cycle a lot.
My third bike was a Raleigh Burner which I must have been given around the age of 12. They were the bike craze of ther time but for me it was a big mistake because it was no fun to ride compared to the Grifter. I think I only had it for a year or two but I do remember struggling to keep up with my cousin on our rides one summer.
The BMX was replaced with a black Peugeot racer. Which I loved. It was fast and looked great and much more fun than the BMX had been. The first summer I had it I remember that the tables had turned and this time my cousin was the one lagging behind.
And then it was stolen. From the garage belonging to the former neighbour whose roses had played such a large part in me getting going. I’d left it at their house for some reason and it, along with a mower and some tools, was stolen. And because it wasn’t his bike it wasn’t insured. It wasn’t replaced and it was the last bike I owned as a child. Home computers had become my passion so when I had to choose between computer stuff or bikes for Christmas I always chose the former.
The London Hybrid
In 1999 I was living in London and had a girlfriend who lived a few miles from me but it was a nightmare getting to her flat by public transport so I bought a bike. I have no recollection about what it was and I didn’t own it for long. My girlfriend’s grandmother had to give up driving and her parents gave us her old Vauxhall Nova at which point the bike was sold on to a friend (and stolen weeks later).
Looking back now, rather than a five mile bike ride, I endured a one hour commute each way to and from work via busses and trains. I should really have used the bike to get to work. But I’m also pretty sure that the cycling infrastructure in London was pretty much non-existent back then too so it was probably a teriffying prospect.
By 2007 I was living in Somerset and was given a clunker of a bike by a work colleague who was moving house. I can’t remember why I wanted it or even going for many rides but at some point I signed up for a 35 mile charity bike ride and with almost no preparation I had a fabulous few hours on the Somerset levels with a couple of hundred other people. It was a huge amount of fun and rekindled a love of being out on a bicycle.
However the bike itself was awful and heavy and was probably marketed as a mountain bike back when that just meant a bike was heavy and had knobbly tyres. I wanted something nicer to ride.
By this time the Government had launched a Cycle to Work scheme where employers could buy bikes for employees who would then, over a few years, essentially buy it back from them. Using the scheme I bought a gorgeous Dawes Galaxy. The only problem was that the local bike shop I bought it from had gotten the sizing wrong and it was too big for me and because it was uncomfortable to ride I didn’t ride it as much as I should have done. However it did get a fair amount of use, partly thanks to a work colleage who was a keen cyclist and used to encourage me to go out with him. However the bike was never one I loved and it ended up being given to a friend a few years later.
In the spring of 2012 I still wanted to find a bike I would fall in love with and I bought a Trek FX 7.5. The bike was the right size and comfortable to ride and I enjoyed using it. However by now I was living in a small village in the Mendip Hills and working from home. Rides were restricted to me choosing to go out for exercise but the hills restricted my range. I never seemed to get fit enough to find the hills easier and over time the bike’s time in the shed grew longas and longer. Eventually it was donated to a local bike charity.
In 2017 a friend in the village let me have a go on his electric bike. This was a bike he’d converted himself with a kit and it was great fun. Hills suddenly seemed much less intimidating and I started to do some research and ended up buying an Oxygen S-Cross CB from a local dealer. The Oxygen is a nice bike but, like the Galaxy was, it is too big for me. I enjoy riding it but it is not comfortable and therefore not as much fun as it should be. To compound my problem, in early 2020 I started having knee problems and an overly-large bike with a crossbar was really not something I wanted to battle any more.