My first bicycle. I mean, I’ve grown up with bicycles. I measure the timeline of my life thus far by aligning it with which bicycle I was pedalling at any given point in time. But which bicycle do I count as my first real bike? The purple and yellow, 18inch wheeled Christmas present that soon shed its stabilisers must surely be recognised as a pivotal moment in my life. Maybe the red Raleigh Grifter that I attached homemade race number plates to with zip ties around the handlebars, like a real Moto-X bike. I raced on it against my friends and lads from the neighbouring streets near my estate around disused ground, over dirt tracks and jumps built by our own hands, after school. The BMXs, meticulously stripped down and re-built with my first toolkit, accessorised with the best Dia-Compe brakes and Skyway wheels could offer in the way of componentry. These brought an aesthetic appreciation & love of the bicycle’s form.
Or my first racing bike; super thin tyres, drop handlebars, chequered flag electrical tape fastening brake cables to the frame. This was a labour of love for my dad, a present built up from parts and sprayed with metallic silver paint in secret before the giving. Blue bar tape and correctly positioned Peugeot decal set, the top continental pro team of the day – this was the era of Robert Miller!
I’d ride it around the local avenue, a 4km circuit, my head full of the Kelloggs city centre criteriums that lit up the mid week TV screen in the lull between the Tours de France. Plimsoles and grey towelling jersey on a crisp winter’s day. Attacking the climb on this loop like my life depended on it gave me my first taste of burning in my lungs and pleas from my body to stop- but you don’t stop. Robert Miller doesn’t stop. Cyclists –Real Cyclists- don’t stop. And so I didn’t stop. I can recall that wrenching effort up that hill, gasping beneath the trees, leafless under the watery sky, vividly even now some thirty years on. And now, out of the saddle and pushing through the pedals on my computer-assisted design, carbon fibre Italian frameset with components crafted from featherweight alloys, the sensations are just the same . Heart pounding. Just like on that bicycle my dad built for me from steel and salvaged parts.. my first ‘Real’ bike.
In very loving memory of my Dad, Charles Roger Bladon, 1940-2015