I bought my second bike at the age of 14, having saved up money I’d earned working Friday evenings and Saturdays at a greengrocers (yes, child labour was alive and well in those days!). The bike shop I went to was Don Farrel’s on the Edgware Road in NW London; it was a second-hand black racing bike (having been repainted it had no name on it) with four gears and cost me the princely sum of £7. Fifty-five years later, I still have it! It became my touring and commuting bike for many years and is now my back-up bike if my main bike is not available. It’s also fun just to pedal around on a quite venerable yet stylishly simple bike.
Anyway, finding the cycle commute from home in Plumstead to Avery Hill College over the top of Shooters Hill every day a bit of a challenge, I decided in 1980 that I could use a few more gears, so lashed out and bought my first NEW bike from the London Bicycle Company in Covent Garden – a Dawes racer with 351 frame and TEN gears! And this is still my main bike which I use for touring and odd local jaunts. It served me well during my working time in London from 1980 to 1991, during which time I was only knocked off my bike three times. On one occasion, to their credit, the police did actually prosecute the driver of a white van(!!) with driving without due care and attention when he hit me broadside at a junction. And a wonderful Asian gentleman who was driving right behind me stopped and gave his name as a witness, and duly appeared to give evidence at Woolwich Magistrates Court when my case was heard. Sometimes, there is justice in this world!
The Dawes bike continued to serve as my commuting bike from 1991 to 1996 when I lived in Guildford and cycled to work at Merrist Wood College. Since moving to Cornwall in 1996, I got all my exercise from smallholding, and didn’t get in much cycling, except for several touring trips. More about that in my next installment!