He Rides…

Well, here it begins…

And his life was without wheels, and frame; and darkness was upon the face of the road. And the Spirit of ciclismo (again) moved upon the face of his chain.

There are many ways in which I could begin and the most strikingly obvious is to begin at the the beginning…

Small town New Zealand was where it all started for me. I don’t remember the year exactly but if memory serves, I would have been around eight years old and on a rather sunny summer Christmas day way back back in  1981 and with all of the attached excitement that pre-Xmas present opening can bring, I was led outside into the garden and there, draped in a bed sheet no less, was  to be my first foray into a wonderful new world, but before I reveal what lay beneath that decadent 70’s bed sheet, I need to fill in the back story…

Something truly revolutionary had happened but a few short years prior. Along with the dawning of what was to be the personal computer craze another cataclysmic event was underway. The arrival of the BMX. It was a truly must have desirable object and to have been without it was tantamount to having a limb removed (but I’m getting ahead of myself).   The BMX exploded onto the scene with such fury, that the light of ten thousand supernovas would have paled in comparison (8yr old hyperbole).

It was obvious what lay under that bed sheet, surely, the object of my desires, the epitome of cool…so without further adieu, I drew back the bed sheet to reveal he hidden gem that lay beneath. What lay beneath was not what my 8yr old heart had been set on and much like any other child, disappointment is not easily feigned.

My new possession was a bright spanking orange New Zealand built Raleigh 20 bicycle (unfortunately I have no photos of the original with me but am sure there are some back home waiting to see the light)


My original shock and disappointment eventually subsided and begrudgingly I came to like it a little. Things greatly improved once I had learned that I was not the only one who had one and slowly but surely I grew to like it more. One of its surprising characteristics was its 3 (in the tree) speed shifter. This, I later found, was what set it apart from the all conquering BMX. On the flat and with enough road in front, you could easily find yourself outsprinting the gearless BMX.

The Raleigh 20 was essentially a utilitarian bicycle and I ended up using it as such but  it was the freedom it gave that I enjoyed and remember most vividly. Riding to far away places only dreamed of before, it opened up a whole new world to explore and explore we did, with no adults to tell us what to do, we enjoyed endless summers in the countryside and down by the river, getting caught  in a deluge and seeking shelter under the trees, it was great to be alive we were free. I have fond memories of those times and along with some painful ones as well (bicycles do not always remain upright)!

Our primary school had bicycle “sheds” and being driven to school was almost unheard of. Dozens upon dozens of bikes took refuge under those sheds and children as young as six and seven would happily pedal to school on them. I am not sure when the decline started but it began not long after I left, fewer and fewer kids started cycling to school until after a few short years there were virtually none, which is a topic for another post.

It was only two years ago that my Raleigh 20 finally left my life after being around for 33 of them. Its last decade or so was spent forgotten, languishing outside under the eave of the garage roof, its days of carrying the carefree innocence of giddily happy child, long since gone and now exposed to the elements, its orange paint had become dull and faded, rust had taken hold where once proud chrome had gleamed, cables and gears long since seized, the only part of the bike which had remained relatively untouched were the solid white tyres, having stood up remarkably well to the rigours of time.

That’ll do bike, that’ll do…







Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s