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…. 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 learnt to balance on a clear, hazard-free stretch of quiet road.
My first bike was a blue Raleigh Budgie and I think I had it until I was about 7 or 8 but I don’t really remember riding it much. Looking at pictures of it now it was probably a fairly grim experience.
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 on a 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 think I got around the age of 12. They were the must-have bike at that time but for me it was a big mistake because it was no fun to ride compared to the Grifter. I only had it for a year or two and I remember struggling to keep up with Theo on our rides over the summer.
The BMX was replaced with a black Peugeot racer which I loved. It was fast and looked great and it was 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 and it, along with a mower and some tools, was taken one night. Because it wasn’t their bike it wasn’t insured and so it wasn’t replaced and it was the last bike I owned as a child.
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 more than a few months because my girlfriend’s grandmother gave up driving and we got her old Vauxhall Nova. The bike was sold on to a friend (and stolen weeks later).
Back then, 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 cycling into central London in the late 1990s was not for the faint of heart.
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. It was heavy and was probably marketed as a mountain bike back when that just meant that a bike 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, over a few years, rent it from them and then, after a few years, buy it 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 colleague who was a keen cyclist and used to encourage me to go out cycling with him. However the bike was never one I loved and it ended up being passed on to another 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 the bike spent longer and longer undisturbed in the shed. 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 did a bit of research, found a local dealer and ended up buying an Oxygen S-Cross CB. The Oxygen was a nice bike but, like the Galaxy, it was too big for me. I enjoyed riding it but it was not comfortable for more than a few miles and that made it less fun that it should have been. Added to this, I had started to have knee problems and an overly-large bike with a crossbar was really not something I wanted to battle any more.