I wrote a post last week about adding a child seat to my Raleigh Randonneur touring bike. It prompted me to reflect on other bikes I have owned over the years. What follows isn't strictly a list of favourites: all the bikes I've owned have given pleasure, even the exercise bike that was banished from the kitchen when Owen arrived! But these are the most significant. I've written about them in the date I got the bikes.
This was a most unlikely bike for an 11 year old, even in the 1970s. Most would have gone for the Chopper, with its dangerously placed (for boys) gear stick. I quite liked the look of the Chopper, but didn't care enough to challenge my parents, who were even less interested in bikes than I was. So at Christmas 1974 I became the unlikely owner of a shopper bike.
The 20 inch wheels and limited gears made the Twenty hard going in hilly north Cardiff, but I used to pedal it along the country lanes between Cyncoed and Lisvane (before these were overwhelmed by new housing). I also took trips to my aunt and uncle's bungalow in Cae-gwyn Road in Whitchurch. I wonder if 11 year olds are allowed to venture across town and country as I was 34 years ago? Society would be better if they were!
After four years, I had lost interest in cycling, and sold the bike to my 25 year old sister for £10. But when I went to university at Leicester in 1982, I soon realised a bike would give me freedom to get to lectures (and pubs!) without relying on buses. So I got the old bike back - for free! It got good use, especially after we discovered the canal towpath was a very handy way of getting to the Union inn at Aylestone. (The health and safety gestapo would have been horrified if they had known the speeds we cycled along the pitch-black canal after a few pints...)
Ironically, my only accident on the Twenty came when I was completely sober. Cycling back to our student house in Ullswater Street, I took the corner onto Narborough Road far too sharply and crashed to the ground. The left pedal struck the ground in a shower of sparks and fell off. I cut my arm, but happily the bulb I had bought for my anglepoise lamp (well, I was a student) was intact in my rucksack.
When I graduated in the summer of 1985, I realised I had outlived the Twenty. It had served me well. A friend suggested I throw it in the canal, but that would have been a sad end for a faithful friend. I gave it away instead.
This was my first 'proper' bike. In the summer of 1989, London was hit by rail strikes. I was living in Teddington at the time, and after being forced to get up at 5.30am to get a lift to work in Holborn decided there had to be a better way of beating the strikes. I was inspired by my friend Richard, who cycled from Twickenham to St James's Square.
The strikes had been called off by the time I decided to buy a bike. But my mind was made up. I thoroughly enjoyed researching my choice, and went for a stylish Peugeot touring bike, the Camargue, which I bought from Richmond Cycles on 29 July 1989. I still remember the joy of cycling my first 'proper' bike home that sunny afternoon.
I fell in love with cycling that beautiful summer. My early rides were around Teddington, Twickenham and Richmond, and through the royal parks. I devoured cycling maps and books - especially Richard's Bicycle Book by Richard Ballentine - and in September finally became a cycle commuter. I set out on the Camargue for work at Nationwide's head office in Holborn. I went via Ham and Richmond Park (see above photo, posed on a Sunday afternoon!) and simply followed the crowds. It was great fun getting the 30mph limit warning to flash on the entrance to Piccadilly underpass! Nationwide's chairman's PA waved to me as her Routemaster bus overtook me in Piccadilly.
The Camargue was a fast bike, and I found it quicker to get to work by bike than my old combination of train and bus. I also enjoyed cycling in the Meon Valley in Hampshire and other southern counties delights. After passing my driving test in April 1990, I had two Peugeots: the bike and a brand new 205 car. They looked good together! I somehow managed to get the bike into the back of the 205 without taking the wheel off.
Dawes Super Galaxy
The Camargue had done me proud. But rather disloyally, I decided to get a better bike. The Dawes Galaxy was one of the most famous touring bikes ever built and I chose to splash out on its deluxe version, the Super Galaxy.
This was the bike I took on my first two bike holidays: a weekend in the Isle of Wight in 1993, and a nine days trip to the west country two years later. It was a very dependable bike: I didn't have a single puncture in the five years I owned it.
That 1995 holiday was a revelation. Richard and I set off from my then home in Ashton Keynes, Wiltshire on a very wet day in June, aiming in roundabout fashion for the English Channel at Beer, Devon. The weather got better the further we pedalled, and we actually got sunburned on the second day between Bath and Glastonbury. I was rather proud of the fact that we got lost just once in 325 miles thanks to my careful preparation over a few beers and even more OS maps. That holiday confirmed how rewarding a two-wheeled holiday can be - and how good the Dawes was.
Just six days after returning, I complegted my first century (100 mile bike ride) on the Galaxy. The photo below was taken almost half way through the century, on a bridge over the Kennet & Avon Canal in Wiltshire.
Cannondale Road Warrior
When we got married in 2003, Karen's incredibly generous wedding present to me was money to buy a new bike. I spent a chunk of the honeymoon on the internet, researching choices. I went for the Cannondale, which is a very light road hybrid.
It's been a delight, and as a result has become my most travelled bike apart from the Randonneur, as I've taken it on holidays in Italy and between Vienna and Prague, not to mention two centuries (eight days apart!) and a charity ride from Richmond to Windsor. I've found the straight bars far more comfortable than I expected on big rides. The photo below shows me climbing the very steep hill to Todi in Umbria. Up to this point, most of the other people on the holiday thought I was a slow climber. (They were right!) But I earned respect that day for being one of just a handful of cyclists who made it to Todi without walking or getting a lift!
As I mentioned at the beginning, I've not mentioned all the bikes I have owned. One deserves a special mention: a Thorn Tandem. We bought it to get Karen into cycling, and it proved a very good buy. We even got a hydraulic lift to get it onto the roof of our old car, which created a lot of interest!