Stuart Ackroyd had an ace bike, mine was rubbish.
His bike was new, it was a sports bike in British racing green, it was a Raleigh bike, a name everyone knew, and it had gears, three of them, selected by a little thumb lever on the drop-handlebars.
My dad had told me that my bike was new but I had my doubts. One of his mates at the Con Club ran the bike shop in Meanwood and one Saturday afternoon amid their beer fumes and sozzled eyes he and my dad introduced me to my so-called new bike, the bike that I’d been nagging my mother for for years, for before I got that bike I had no bike and I had to run alongside Stuart Ackroyd whenever we went out anywhere, he on his ace bike, me running alongside.
So I stood in the shop all excited that Saturday afternoon only to be ultimately let down when the bike shop owner wheeled out the dowdiest looking ancient old velocipede you’ve ever seen, if it was a new bike then it would be called “retro” these days for it was modelled on something from the 1940s, I suspect that it was a trade-in that the bike shop man knew he’d never sell or the last of a huge shipment he’d had in 1948, either way no-one else was going to buy it unless he was drunk and fancied a bargain and my dad qualified on both counts.
I couldn’t help but notice that under no circumstances could this bike be described as a “sports” bike like Stuart Ackroyds was, my bike didn’t have drop-handlebars it had those big round handlebars in true butchers-bike stylee, handlebars that were a hazard to passing traffic, so far did they stick out.
Nor did the bike have those nice white cable brakes like Stuart Ackroyds bike did, my brake levers were huge and attached to the actual brakes themselves by means of steel rods rather than snazzy white cables, thinking this through properly I’m going to re-date my “new” bike to around 1920.
Nor did the bike have three gears like Stuart Ackroyds, in fact it had no gears, worse still it was fixed-wheel which meant that you could not stop peddling the bloody thing as you can with all normal bikes, my “new” bike had no free-wheel hub at all, the pedals turned the back wheel and the back wheel turned the pedals and when you picked up speed going downhill you had to take your feet off the pedals or you’d do yourself a mischief with your legs whizzing round like that.
Nor was it lightweight like Stuart Ackroyds bike, my “new” bike seemed to have been manufactured from lead, or maybe concrete, as an eight year old I could never pick the bloody thing up, if I needed to lift it up over a kerb I couldn’t even manage that and had to lay it on its side and then with the aid of a friend slide it up over the obstruction.
It was a nightmare to pedal uphill, like trying to pedal a car, just imagine for one moment that your own car runs out of petrol tomorrow and the AA turn up and fit two pedals to it and tell you to ride it to a garage – well thats what riding my bike was like, I developed the most incredible calf muscles for an eight year old, women would often faint at the sight of them as I struggled by on my heavy bike.
Going downhill was a different matter though, going downhill I could beat Stuart Ackroyds sports bike hands down, every time, for the sheer weight of the bike meant that gravity provided all of the propulsion that I needed, that bloody bike would often overtake the buses as we flew down Green Lane and the only way to stop at the bottom was to jump off onto the grass verge and let the bike demolish several yards worth of wall and fence.
And of course it was on this bike, this heavy monstrosity of a bike, that I crashed into Escritts coal wagon one day, causing more damage to the coal wagon than to my bike – thats how hard that bike was, it fought with a coal wagon and won.
I’d been to my posh Auntie Phyllis’s house at the top of the biggest hill around these parts, struggled and huffed and puffed up the hill until I reached her posh house, had a drink of pop and a piece of cake in her kitchen and then set off back home with a big Beano annual that she’d given me.
The one advantage to those huge heavy handlebars was that you could open up a big book on them and read it as you rode along, and so thats what I was doing when I ran smack into the back of Escritts coal wagon, its not hard to notice a coal wagon parked at the side of the road but I missed it somehow, the bike went under the high back of the truck and my head hit the tailgate with a loud “smack”.
A coalman on his deliveries, blackened with coal dust, came around the back of his wagon expecting to find the huge vehicle that had just collided with his wagon and instead found an eight year old kid with a bruise as big as an egg in the middle of his forehead struggling to pick up a bike that didn’t seem to have a scratch on it.
“Are you alright son ?” he asked as he helped me pick the bike up giving me a strange look at the same time, a look that read “Jesus Christ, is this bike made out of concrete or something”, I nodded my head, which hurt, picked my Beano annual up and climbed back on the brown bike to scurry away leaving the coalman stood in the road scratching his head at what had just happened – luckily he didn’t notice the two planks of wood that had splintered off the tailgate after meeting my head in combat, or the fact that his wagon number plate was lying in the road now after my brown bike had bitten it off in retaliation.