I’m pretty sure this is where it all began….that’s me with the chunky knees and red striped top hanging out with my little sister Ellie (who is doing a mini fist pump) and my cousin Hugh (sporting the socks with sandals look).
It’s some time in the late 1970s (which probably accounts for us all having the same haircuts) and we’re doing what we loved best – playing outside all day until we were shouted by our mum to go in for tea.
I’ve got to be honest, I can’t remember this pic being taken, nor can I remember that trike, but I can totally remember my first proper bike. It was this absolute classic of British bike engineering….the Raleigh Budgie.
Mine was a lovely deep shade of green and I was so excited by my upgrade from a trike to a proper bike with inflatable tyres. No more solid rubber trike tyres and a seat hard enough to give you piles – I was the proud owner of a green Budgie with its very own front brake.
This was the era of the single speed Fixie, long before they became uber cool like they are now. With a little help from double stabilisers, I was pedalling around the streets of Dalton-in-Furness as fast as my chunky knees would let me. The upgrade to just one stabiliser resulted in my first, but by no means last, bike crashes. Grit in your kneecaps aged six and a half soon reminds you that you’ve only got one stabiliser.
When I got a little older, I became the proud owner of a Sunbeam Champ similar to this…
My sister Ellie adopted my Budgie and I cruised around on this mean machine with solid rubber tyres. Yes, really, solid rubber. I think the cushioned seat made up for the bone-shaking ride, but at least my dad didn’t have to patch up any more inner tubes. This bike was actually responsible for a full on over-the-handle-bars-somersault-onto-tarmac following a speed test down the cul-de-sac that went a bit wrong. That front brake was a bit sharp. Cue the hobble back home with tears streaming down my cheeks and blood pouring from grazed knees and elbows.
Me and my cul-de-sac friends were biking around from dusk ’til dawn in the era of the much coveted Raleigh Chopper. Launched in the 1970s it became the must have bike for all kids my age. Raleigh had produced a bike that is truly iconic, still to this day. My friend and neighbour James, owned a Chopper. Not just any Chopper, a red Mark 2 similar to this…
The Chopper was heads and shoulders above the other bikes that were around at the time, despite many bikes trying to rip off the style. The gear changing lever was attached to the frame – cool. The seat was super padded with a neat white strip – cool. It had a kickstand so you didn’t have to dump your bike on the floor like everyone else – cool. It even had a reflector attached to the rear of its seat – cool (well we thought so). These bikes kicked ass, and James kicked the ass of all of us in bike races. He had 3 gears and we had none. We were in awe.
The next upgrade….wait for it…was a Shopper. I won’t be sharing a pic, and I’ll keep it short. If you don’t know what a Shopper is then just Google ‘the shopper bike’. Needless to say, it was sturdy, it folded in half (easy to take away on family road trips), it had gears, and it had useful front and rear baskets. I guess these were mainly meant for shopping, but I only have memories of Ellie and I transporting our pet rabbits around the local streets*. (*No rabbits were harmed in the making of this childhood)
By this time, it’s the mid to late 1980’s and my next upgrade was a great step up from a Shopper…it was my first mountain bike. The reliable Apollo Aquila, a Halfords entry level mountain bike similar to this took me further afield…
Despite it being a bit of a heavyweight frame, I loved it. With 10 gears, it was my most advanced bike and served me well through my teenage years until I decided it wasn’t that cool to ride a bike any more. By this time I’m riding the bus to College and wishing for the day that I’m old enough to start driving lessons and own a car. From then on, the Aquila gathered dust in my dad’s shed and it wasn’t until I went to uni that I decided I needed a new bike.
Make way for the Alpinestars Al-Mega DX. Tadaaaaa! Bought second hand in 1993 with my student loan from a friend of my sisters, this unique mountain bike has stayed with me ever since. Find out more about this lovely bike.