This is my bicycle. We have been together a long time and shared a great adventure. It has been with me through various moves, local and long distance. My current project is to de-clutter. I am a hoarder and I have challenged myself to sort through everything and be absolutely ruthless. So now, I turn to the bicycle, it has long been consigned to the attic. It’s time to say goodbye.
I love this bicycle, apart from the big adventure. I have cycled round Hyde Park corner in rush hour on this, I frequently carried it up and down 200 steps under the Thames at Greenwich, but before all that we shared 10 days together in Ireland.
Nearly, 25 years ago I brought it for £10, from an Australian who was returning home and no longer wanted it. At the time I was unemployed, and the furthest me and the bicycle went was the job centre, to sign on. I was listening to Van Morrison and developed a romantic notion of travelling round Ireland, and that the bicycle was the perfect vehicle. I got a new job and had a couple of weeks free before starting. I decided I would go to Ireland. I reasoned if the bike fell apart I would sell it to tinkers. I brought panniers. Collected a guide to cycle routes from Irish tourist information. I got the train to Hollyhead and the ferry across. One woman and her bicycle. It absolutely, did not occur to me that I had no cycling experience.
On the first morning, I got on the bicycle and headed off. It seemed that the Irish tourist board was giving the same route information to articulated lorry drivers. I saw a variety of road kill. It wasn’t as romantic as I had imagined. At the end of the day I found a B&B. I got up the next morning and repeated the whole process, punctuating some of the journey with a train ride to save time. The lorries got less and the roads got empty. I remember two blokes hitch hiking, who laughed at me when I told them where I was headed; on the, now creaking, bicycle. Hours later (noisily) I cycled past them stood at the side of an empty road, it was getting dark and I waved regally. I headed for the West and had planned to stay with a friend’s parents. Luckily, they came out looking for me, I had completely misjudged the distance. Initially, they drove straight past; they had been looking for someone on a drop handlebar road bike wearing a “tour de france” sort of outfit. Not a woman in a sheepskin hat (it was a fad at the time) and a flowery dress, creaking up the road on a ‘sit up and beg’ with a basket on the front. We stashed the bicycle behind a wall and they took me home. I walked like John Wayne for the next two days, my in experienced muscles went on strike. Meanwhile, the bicycle was collected from behind the wall and repaired by a lovely Uncle. On rest day number 3, it was tied to the top a Ford Fiesta and driven to the top of the Connor pass. I freewheeled into Dingle. My legs had adapted. I cycled all day everyday. I was travelling light and packed only two Van Morrison cassettes for my Walkman. It didn’t matter, Van provided the perfect sound track. Travel is so different on a bike, you see more, you can smell the world as you pass it by, people speak to you.
On day 4 I got up early and cycled to the end of Dingle peninsular. The Atlantic stretched for a thousand miles, the hills were emerald green, the mist was low, Van was singing his heart out and I cried because it was all so beautiful. I covered nearly 300 miles on the bicycle during my 10 days in Ireland. I was on my own, I had total freedom, I went at my own pace in the direction I wanted to go.
When I was waiting for the ferry at Holyhead an old Welshman asked me how old my bike was. I said I thought it was pre-second world war. He laughed and said “pre-first”. This was on the outward journey, and I didn’t really want to consider that I was heading off on something so ancient. So I put the comment to the back of my mind.
In preparing to sell it, I’ve dated the bicycle from the frame number, and it was manufactured in 1909. I am saying goodbye to a dear old lady, but she has lived in the attic for too long. Years ago replaced by a shining mountain bike. This old bicycle gave me a passion for cycling, and helped me develop the physical strength to become a regular cycle commuter.
Hopefully, the bicycle will be equally as loved by someone else, maybe for different reasons. This is my tribute to her.