My first bike was a Raleigh ladies bicycle that I would grow into, it was little bit too big. My Mum bought my brother and me a bike that we had to share. We got it for Christmas, although it was also part of my birthday present (early December) and Richard’s birthday (late January). We didn’t have a lot of money when I was growing up, but Mum scrimped and saved and Richard and I had a bike to share.
It was a girl’s bike (poor Richard) but it had to be “safe” for me to ride. The bike was blue, Richard’s compensation for it being a bike without a cross bar. Raleigh bicycles were made in Nottingham, from steel, with three speed Sturmey Archer gears and dynamo hub lights. The Raleigh Bicycle Company was one of the largest manufacturing companies in the world.
Primarily I remember it was for Richard to do his paper round and I helped him. He would have been 12 and I was 10 years old. Maybe I am losing my memory but I recall that after a bit of training from Richard he would allow me to do the morning paper round (when it was cold and foggy) and he would do the afternoon round (as the papers were heavier). I am not sure if the papers were heavier in the afternoon – the Nottingham Evening Post was a broad sheet paper and the weekly magazines were in the afternoon papers. Maybe he was right. Anyway, I would often go in the afternoon with him as well. I would sit on the back rack and hop off to run up the paths to deliver the papers. At Christmas we would get extra tips from the people we delivered to. Sometimes it was chocolates often it was money, which Richard shared with me.
I remember failing my first cycling proficiency test, because I could not touch the ground while staying seated on the bike. I had to borrow a bike to pass the test.
I remember being allowed to go to the library on my own and having that first real feeling of freedom of being able to go anywhere.
Why am on earth am I writing about a bike that looks like the bike I rode over 45 years ago. Well, because I found that bike. Not the exact bike because I do believe Richard and I wrecked the original bike. However, I found a bike that in my mind is exactly the same bike as that first bike I had.
I found the bike in a local second hand store. It is a steel ladies bike, very heavy and has three speed Sturmey Archer gears with a dynamo light. Why would I want an old heavy weight like that. Well, I could cycle to work in the spring and autumn, when I don’t want Mrs SweetCheeks to get wet. If I bought a wicker basket I could pop to the local farmers market, shops/LCBO. If friends came to stay they would have something to ride, if we cycled the local Brock Trail together. There are numerous reasons why this would be a good buy. Are you convinced yet? Most importantly that first bike I ever owned (shared) was the reason I love biking now.
I asked several people if they had the opportunity to buy the first bike that they ever owned would they do it. The result was a resounding Hell No. Why on earth would you buy a heavy weight that only has three gears and if those Sturmey Archers fail well you have a single speed bike! Because no one knows how to repair Sturmey Archer gears.
I visited the store a couple of times where this old beauty resided. Am I crazy, I have a skinny bike that weighs less than 14lbs, which I enjoy riding 60 – 100 kms. I have a solid touring bike that weighs 26 lbs that has taken me around the world and I want to buy this old heavy weight that probably weighs over 40 lbs. We all get a little heavier as we get older.
I have been mulling this over for weeks. Realistically why would I buy an old sit up and beg bike, when most of my rides are over 50 kms.
Heart ruled the Head. The unnamed Raleigh is now proudly in our garage, waiting for a little bit of care and attention. She is going to be my winter project.
A good clean, a clean up of the wheels and truing. The Sturmey Archer gears/hub looks good and on my initial test ride changed easily.
I will buy a new Brooks saddle and a wicker basket for the front. She is a beauty. I can’t wait to get her ready for riding the trail. She deserves a good home that will love her. Oh I got her for a deal of $160.00. I know the Brooks saddle and wicker basket will probably cost more than the bike. This could end up being an expensive project.
Any suggestions for names will be welcomed. She comes from Nottingham, is blue and is a Raleigh. Thinking about Big Blue, Rosie Raleigh or Queenie.