My parents refused to buy me one until I could ride, so I had to learn on the fairy cycle which the girl who lived over the road had. She was a few years younger than me… but really! I never was tall, but even my knees came up to the handlebars! After much struggling I managed, and come my 11th birthday, I got my brand-new bike in royal blue and yellow with straight handlebars. Off I went to school in September with my satchel on my back as proud as punch. No helmets in those days, just the wind in your hair, dynamo lights and a 3 speed Sturmey Archer gear system if you were lucky.
All went well until one rainy evening in late November when I was on my way home from school. Harlow, where I grew up, was criss-crossed with cycle paths which was brilliant for keeping cyclists off the roads, however I think it tended to make us all a bit complacent. This misty night I’d had choir practice, so it was a bit later than usual and I was on my own. I saw ahead a group of boys from the secondary modern school coming towards me, one on a bike and the others on foot. They were messing about and the boy on the bike was swerving all over the track. I rang my bell and shouted, but the cyclist was still heading straight for me on my side of the track. At the last minute I swerved to try and avoid a collision, but so did he and we smashed head-on into each other.
Both our bikes were severely damaged and unrideable, and I was bleeding profusely from a gash on my hand, the scar from this you can still see today! My parents were furious; apparently it was all my fault as I was on the wrong side of the track!
Over the Christmas holidays they got my bike repaired, but I had to pay for it with my Christmas money instead of presents. When I got it back, I saw they’d replaced the front forks with silver ones instead of painting them blue, and my bike was never the same again. Nevertheless, I used it for all my high school years until I went to college and by the time I left home, my parents had disposed of it.
I briefly had one again in Leeds when my second child was at infants’ school, but I couldn’t ride with him on the back, so I spent more time pushing it home with him sat on it!
Living at Hard End, Marsden, as I do now, makes it silly to even think of having a bike as I have only to walk up Mount Rd, so I never even thought about cycling. However, about 9 years ago when my granddaughter needed to do her Cycling Proficiency test for Cubs, I bought her a course in Bradford so that she could pass her test. On the last day, her instructor asked me if I could ride. I wasn’t sure after almost forty years whether I still could, but they sorted me out with a bike and while the test was on, I attempted to get around the park on a bike. After a few false starts I managed, although I got a bit stuck with the gears – there seemed to be an awful lot more than the three which I’d had on my own bike.
It did go to prove that you never forget how to ride, but I’m afraid I’ve no intention of cycling outside as I hated the helmet and frankly, I feel much safer and warmer in my car.
I’ll stick to my exercise bike when I can’t go for a jog and BONUS, I can watch TV at the same time too!
United Church Marsden