Saturday, 2 August 2008

My Bikes

Ive had a lot of bikes. Here are the ones that I remember.

No. 1.
The bike I learnt to ride on was small with white tyres, filled with milk to stop them puncturing. I rode for the first time down Quantocks in Braunton. I think I was about 5.

No 2.
After that, I think I had somesort of handmedown from my sister. Dad put somesort of fake cross bar on it to make it look like it wasnt a girls bike.

No. 3.
My first proper bike was a Commando. A brilliant bike, just like an early BMX. Best thing about it was the loudhailer and microphone on the handlebars. It was like being in CHiPs.

No. 4.
A 'proper' BMX. I use proper advisedly because it was from Halfords - called a "roughrider" - and weighed a tonne. I had it for my 10th birthday, but my mum and dad bought it a few weeks before my birthday. They kept it in the boot of their car in the garage, and until my birthday I was allowed to go and sit on it, still in the boot. Years later when I started a paper round, this was the bike that was used, complete with front shopping basket - just like in ET.

Two notable incidents happened with this bike. The first was my face-plant along Pixie Dell. I was riding with Darren Wood from his house on Homer Road. We went down the alley way and then along Pixie Dell. There was a little dip in the road where a gas pipe had been laid and as I rode over it I pulled a wheelie. At this point the front wheel shot out and I landed on my face. Fortunately, Barbara Davey was on her way to the shop and saw what happened so took me home until my Mum returned from Marks and Spencers. The other thing I remember happening with is almost snapping the stem. I'd been doing jumps in the rec and could feel the handlebars rocking back and forwards. I thought I'd better go home to be safe, where my Dad discovered a huge crack in the stem. As the bike got older various bits were updated. In the end it was sprayed white and even had a layback seat post. But it still had a dodgy chainset with cotterpins.

No. 5.
For Christmas when I was about 12 or 13 I received my first racing bike. It was a Harry Quinn - red with 10 gears. I remember my first ride on it was down lower park road. This got used a lot because my school arranged cycling rides instead of PE when I was 15 and 16.

No. 6 and 7
Technically these weren't mine - they were my Dad's but I got to use them. No. 6 was his Amocco racing bike. This had 12 gears and a white saddle. It was too big for me, but I could ride it with the saddle down. No. 7 though took me into the modern era. My Dad was after a new bike and I managed to persuade him to buy a new 531 Raleigh. He got it from Chris Harris Cycles in Cardiff. Chris sold it to Dad at a reduced rate, stating several times that he wasnt a 'greedy man'. The bike had 14 'index gears', but the best thing were the 'aero' brake levers that spelt SPEED. The year must have been 1989 - Greg Lemond had just won the Tour, and this bike was going to take me places fast. At least it would when I could borrow it.

No. 8.
Tired of having his bike borrowed all the time, my Dad helped me buy a new bike. I cant remember who paid for it. I think I must have been about 18 and about to go to University. The bike of choice was a 56cm 531c Holdsworth with a Shimano 105 groupset. It was advertised in Cycling Weekly, complete with Wolber tyres and a fluted seatpost. Great. Some of the equipment on this bike stayed with me for a long time. In fact I still have one of the brake levers on the bike I ride to work on now. This bike really did take me places. It was my first proper training bike. It took me over the Col de la Colombiere, the Black Mountain and around North Devon. Most of all, it was the bike I used in my first ever race - a 32 mile hilly time trial organised by Barnstape Imperial Wheelers. I think I did a 1-32 in freezing rain. Not bad for a beginner. But it met an untimely end a few weeks later: riding along the Strand in Barnstaple I rode into the back of a lorry. I was alright, but the frame was bent. My sister had to come and collect me in her Metro. When I rode my next race, a 30 mile time trial out at Llandovery, I had to borrow a bike from a friend, as my new frame was yet to arrive...

No. 9.
The upshot of crashing the Holdsworth was that it was too big for me - I needed a 54cms frame really. This was the size of the new frame I bought from Orbit - a 531c frame sprayed blue and grey. I transfered the groupset and wheels from the Holdsworth. The date must have been 1991/2 because I was living in Swansea and to get the headset fitted a cycling friend - Barry Williams - helped insert it using a hammer and various pieces of wood. I dont think it was ever fitted properly as it always had a tightspot. But this was the bike that I would do most of my racing on: I went under the hour on it; I went under 2 hours on it; it took me to 4th in the Abergavenny Handicap (my best ever race) and 2nd in a road race in Cornwall. But it was also the bike I broke my collar bone on, as well as its forks, after a mishap down the flats. I cant say much more about that for legal reasons, but the compensation was useful. Overall though this bike was the best. I dont know why I ever got rid of it. And if I could have it back, I would.

No. 10
About this time, I also bought a mountain bike. I'd been using my Dad's old Emmelle ATB to get me from the Student Village in Swansea down to college, usually beating the bus that went the same way. But I needed something better because super cyclists rode their MTBs in the winter. There was that famous interview with Robert Millar in cycling weekly to prove that. So I ended up with a diamond back MTB, bought from the back of the comic. This lasted about 12 months - it was nicked from outside the Natural Science Building in Swansea University. At least the insurance money came in handy

No. 11
As I was doing more and more training, logic dictated that I needed a training bike - one with mudguards to keep me dry in the winter. The first one was another bargain from the comic: a 501 frame with RX100 components. This did me fine until I crashed it. Or rather a woman pulled out in front of the Civic Centre car park in Barnstaple straight into me. I banged me knees a bit and cut my chin but was otherwise alright, but the bike was a right off. It was a nice little bike, just right for training. I remember riding up to the Rhigos when I first had it to watch the Welsh hill climb. On the way back down the Neath valley I blew away the guy on my wheel who was riding his best 753 peugeot. Later he was heard to remark how he couldnt understand how Id dropped him on that bike. Again, though, the insurance money came in handy.

No. 12
With no. 11 in bike heaven I needed a replacement for training purposes. And again, CW proved a reliable source of cheap bikes that no-one else wanted. It was another Raleigh 501, but with the most appalling tyres ever - those were soon changed. But so were the inner tubes: on my first ride I had about 6 punctures by the time Id got to Port Talbot. I thought it was the tyres, but it turned out the rim tape wasnt even covering the spoke nipples. Great. At least Sheffield Cycles agreed to send me some inner tubes to make up for it. I have no idea what happened to this bike in the end. I imagine it ended up with some Maindy Flyer.

No. 13
Im not sure what happened to the Orbit. I think it was sold to a Maindy Flyer when I was helping Debbie establish the most successful Welsh Cycling club ever, producing talents like Geraint Thomas and the like. Anyway, I ended up buying an 853 Graham Weigh. A nice bike, and I had a Campag chorus chainset - although Ive always been more of a Shimano person really. The frame was very stiff - I remember that. But the main problem with it was that it had horizontal dropouts - I wanted vertical ones - and the rear brake cable was routed across the top tube - not very elegant. I think this ended up with the Maindy Flyers too.

No. 14.
By this time I had moved to Cardiff and had started to ride the track. One night at the CC Cardiff club dinner I was asked if I wanted to ride the track at Manchester the following day. I was supposed to be riding the Cardiff 100 milers 100 in 8, but instead found myself in Manchester riding on fixed for the first time, around a steeply banked velodrome for the first time. I didnt crash or wipe anyone out, and even beat Sarah Phillips who rode for Scotland in the Commonwealth Games in a 'race'. Oh yes, I was flying. All this was on a borrowed bike, so I needed a track bike. As a student, I needed the cheapest, and that came from Ribble. They took a long time to send the frame down. It was 653 and came with a 'sprinter' stem - i.e. it sloped downwards - but I was no sprinter, even if the wheels that Id got from Chris Williams Cycles in Grangetown were tied and soldered. The hubs were campag, but the chainset was Miche which restricted my gearing options to 81, 88 or 94: everyone else's chainrings were for Campag chainsets, and I was too tight to buy any others to alter the gear by a couple of inches - it didnt matter that much did it? With the Ribble I rode the Maindy track league with distinction, one night even winning the warm-up race with an attack 2 laps out. I also rode the nationals. But the real claim to fame for this bike was that it ended up as Geraint Thomas' first track bike. Yes thats right. If it wasnt for me, Geraint Thomas would not have ended up as an Olympic Gold Medalist. No doubt about it. After all, where else could he have got a track bike from?

No. 15
When I sold the track bike to Geraint's dad, I only did so because I knew that it would result in Wales first Olympic track gold medallist. Otherwise I would have kept it. To replace it I bought another frame from Graham Weigh - 853 with the same colour scheme as the road bike. I also got a new campag chainset. I still have this bike but it hasnt been used in ages.UPDATE - the frame and bits from this bike were sold on Ebay in 2011. The frame went to someone in london, nd the chainset to someone in Holland.

No. 16
This one should come earlier in the list really. When I thought I was going to be a tester, I decided to get a proper time trial bike - a lo-pro. I duly purchased a 653 time trial bike from Orbit. I even rigged up some tri-bars with gear shifters in the end. When it came down to it, I think I only ever raced it twice. I did a prety good time for a 10 in Barnstaple, but my testing days were already over - I was destined for the track and so the bike went in part exchange for my new Graham Weigh road bike.

No. 17
About 1996 I decided I wanted a really decent training bike. One that I could ride Lands End John O'Groats on if I ever wanted. Something I could panniers on. That bike turned out to be my Thorn Audax. I still have this bike, it takes me to work everyday, and it is the most comfy bike I have ever owned. I remember driving down to Bridgewater one saturday afternoon to pick it up with Debbie. The bits I got with it are now wearing out, but its a great bike if a little old fashioned to look at.

No. 18
By 2002 I'd got tired of the Graham Weigh. It had taken me up Alpe d'huez and to other places cyclists can only dream about, but I wanted something that looked cool - one of those new aluminium compact frames. I ended up with a Terry Dolan. I dont know much about aluminium. So all I can say about it is that its white and black. Its alright, but I think Id prefer something real, something made of steel. I still have this bike and I'll be using it in preparation for the Ventoux.

No. 19 and 20
About 5 years ago I was provided with a new Trek mountain bike. I liked it so much, I got another one and gave the old one away. I dont do much mountain biking, so this one's for ebay. UPDATE: this one definitely was for Ebay and went to someone up north.

No. 21
My first bike bought from ebay was a cyclo-cross bike. Of course, Im not going to do any racing. This one is for taking Evan out in his childseat up the Taff trail. Its also my first bike with 10 gears (on the cassette).

So far then, twenty-one bikes. Not bad, but maybe a couple more to come yet...


2010 saw some new equipment being added to bike No. 18. Of course Id have preferred a new bike - one of those nice Cube Agree GTCs from Chain Reaction Cycles looked good, and reasonable price too. Instead, EBay was my friend and provided me with some new 10 speed Ultegra STIs; a new compact Ultegra Chainset; and some nice silver Ultegra brake calipers to replace my old ultegra 600s. I managed to sell the old stuff on Ebay too for a tidy sum so it didnt really cost me much.

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