"He Wears Black and Has a Beard"

Bikes: The History

Toby Roworth

Jul 28, 2014

Not my bike, just a warning to those who mess with me...
Way back when I was about 5 I got my first bike. It was small and blue, and what my grandmother taught me to ride on. It took many pushes, many hills and much falling off, but eventually I got there.
After a while I out-grew the bike, so got a hand-me-down from my cousin Ross, an orange Raleigh "Mustang". This taught me roughly how gears worked, although it took a lot of persuasion not to stay in 3rd gear the whole time.
The Ross outgrew another bike, so I got upgrade to the red Raleigh "Scorpion". This served me right up until sixth form, where it became one of many bikes donated to the tech department for A level reasons.
Another donation to our bikes was the great Mr Albinson's old bike. Although the frame never got carved up properly, several parts got used, including the wheels, which later got replaced with whatever we had lying around. As these were too small, the brakes didn't line up, and eventually got disconnected. Of course, this didn't stop me using the bikes for our regular Subway runs - I soon learned how to brake without proper brakes, and probably kept Subway in business single-handedly! This bike was my first crap bike (but not the original CrapBike). On one instance I leant the bike to a certain Mr +Beddow,

The I finished my chopper/Cyclops/Dude Bike, actually! My chopper was really good fun to ride, but the large turning circle and even larger weight make it hard work for regular riding. Furthermore it needs a tune-up.
So during my year out I got a scrap bike from Berkshire Cycles in Reading, which only cost me the £3.30 train fare. I added a pannier, and re-christened it "CrapBike" (the original CrapBike, but not my first crap bike). The bike came without a saddle, so taught me how to do five mile journeys without a saddle. Eventually I got gifted a saddle by Trev, but that did seem to take some of the fun out of it! Unfortunately a couple of weeks later my bike pump got stolen, and they took the bike too!
A month or two later I got lent a bike by Andy, which kept me going for over a year, until it got stolen in West Drayton. Being the gentleman he is, he didn't even bat an eyelid when I told him it was stolen - in fact, he bought me a second pint.

And so, once again, I was without bike. Thankfully, Gemma was getting rid of a bike which, due to the state it was in, got christened CrapBike II (being the third crap bike I've owned). However, despite it's outside appearance it got me 12 miles to work for several weeks.
Then I got bored with it, so turned it into a recumbent. Much fun followed, but these last couple of months have shown up many of it's weaknesses. When I set out to build it, I was never aiming for engineering perfection. I wanted something I could build in a week, without spending any money, and without using much more than an angle grinder and welder. I definitely achieved these goals - I think the total cost, including travel, was about £40.

I definitely didn't achieve engineering perfection though - a quick look at the frame shows several flaws, but that was kind of the point - even a frame with such a stupid shape held up for several hundred miles, and even when it started failing, did so very gently, always getting me home (just). We saw recently that I had to fix a crack in the frame. I started riding to work again the other day, and hit a big bump, which showed up another crack. And this one was a little more serious. Living just below the join between the old seat post and the new auxiliary steering column, it sits on a natural stress riser. But what worsened the impact was that this tube takes tensional stress from peddling, compressional stress from any bumps (of which the canal has plenty) and torsional stress from steering (and peddling, due to physics). All this means the tube needed some serious rewelding to get it safe for everyday travel, and without access to a welder for a couple of weeks that just wasn't practical.
And so, after 8 bikes, none of which I payed for, many of which were pretty ropey to ride, I went to a bike shop on Thursday and payed some of my own hard-earned cash for a "proper man's bike". For the first time in my life I have a bike that changes gear exactly when I tell it to (it has flappy-paddle shifters), stops if I need it to without wrecking my shoes, and weighs next-to-nothing.