|Day rider: Lycra free on Mersea Strood|
I didn't have that bike for that long after he died. It went missing during one of the first summer holidays that I ever took on my own. Well, with a mate actually. Tim Higgins and I cycled 40 miles to Billing Aquadrome with rucsacs on our backs and various bits of camping equipment strapped to our frames. It was the summer of Freeez's top smash AEIOU* and we planned a week away from home in a two man tent before cycling home.
It didn't quite work out like that as both of our bikes were nicked by a couple of other lads. A bit of detective work from Tim ensured that they were soon bang to rights, and for the next couple of years I would receive intermittent cheques for a fiver through the post to cover the cost of my bike, which they'd chucked into the nearby river. After that I was bikeless for years.
On moving to Essex, I bought a second hand bike from Re-Cycle which I've used ever since, firstly to tow a child trailer when the kids were younger, and now they're older and can cycle themselves, on excursions around the area.
|Pulling wheels: pre-Mamil set up|
So this is what it's all about. It weighs about half as much as my old bike, and its tyres are about a third of the width. Combined with cleats and that childish conviction that you run faster in new shoes, it has been an eye opener how much more performance you get. I think the turning point for me was when I was struggling up a hill during the summer and a portly chap on a racer breezed past me. Now I'm not the fittest person in the world, but I wasn't having it that his less than lithe frame disguised an Olympian only slightly gone to seed. Lance Armstrong might have pointed out that it wasn't all about the bike, but he didn't have to ride my Raleigh Max.
Now there are no excuses, apart from laziness, and the nights drawing in, and the lack of Lycra...
Actually, there's always more gear you could have it seems. I'm not even in the foothills of Mamilia yet. No Garmin, no Go-Pro, no Oakleys, not even much Lycra to be honest. The bulk of my riding kit has come from Aldi's bike week. No Rapha here yet. Oh well, Christmas is around the corner.
I can see how this can become addictive though. I'm looking for excuses to hang out in Halfords to check out what I might need, or just to chat to the guys who work there - I bet they get a lot of bike pests. It's like that stage in a man's life when you suddenly start to find B&Q to be an Aladdin's cave of possibility - there's stuff in there you didn't know existed, let alone desired.
I'm actually a bit guilty about buying the bike from Halfords as there is a great local bike shop where they are unfailingly helpful and polite. It's also very near me. However, I was swayed by an entry level Boardman - local bike shop didn't have a massive range, and I didn't spot anything that attracted me.
To add insult to injury, I took out a three year service plan with the chain - at £40 it was too good an offer to turn down. Please forgive me god of independent traders. I shall bring the kids' bikes to you for service and repair - and my clunker!
I shall try to get over the guilt I feel as I set my eyes on a challenge for next summer - the Dunwich Dynamo. I've been aware of it for about 10 years, although bizarrely I never saw it set off from London Fields despite living there for more than a decade. Next year I'm hoping to be one of the hundreds setting off into the sunset to cover 200 km overnight towards the Suffolk coast. I'm a long way off that yet, but a few other would-be Mamils have expressed an interest, which should mean that I don't back out. I want to do this. Just need more gear, and possibly a TUE.
* Freeez's video has some great shots of Eighties London inner city cycling culture. No Raleigh Grifter required.