The Joy of Cycling
Until I was around thirteen, I never owned a bicycle.
At that age, my father bought me one and taught me how to ride, although I didn’t know how to stop. Thankfully, I learned at a park a few streets away from our home, where I found that falling into a bush alongside the pathway worked best.
After a while, I was able to ride by myself. And using the money I saved from my paper rounds, as well as exchanging my old bike, I bought myself a new racing-style bicycle. If memory serves correctly, the brand was Wearwell.
It was on that bicycle that, as a young man of fourteen, I decided to join my parents at their visit to an uncle’s home in Cardiff, Wales. Whereas they had gone by train, though, I decided to cycle there.
Seeing as we lived in Plymouth, Devon, England, and I had to ride via Gloucester, instead of across (what was then) the Aust Ferry, it was quite an undertaking that represented 150 miles. It was also the first time I had ever attempted to ride such a long distance. Even more so, I faced the challenge on my own.
After successfully joining my parents and enjoying a lovely holiday, I rode the train back with my parents. Upon our return, my mother wrote into our local newspaper about my journey, which was published and titled Young Energy.
While riding with two friends one Sunday, we came across another group of other cyclists who turned out to be members of the Dartmoor Cycling Club. As a result, I joined the club.
A short time later, while on another Sunday outing, our group stopped for a break on Bodmin Moor, near the Cheesering. I found this an incredible sight, with its round rocks piled on top of each other, and the smallest at the bottom. I later drew this scene at school, and my art teacher thought it was so striking that he pinned it on the classroom wall.
Because I wasn’t old enough, though, I couldn’t go into the pub with the rest of our club when we stopped. Instead, I huddled up against a wall shivering from the cold winter wind while waiting for them to come out. Fortunately, after someone spoke to the landlord, I was allowed inside. A few years later, I became the club captain.
I loved it. Between riding as much as a hundred miles in a day during the weekend, along with cycling to and from work each day, I used to bike more miles each year than many motorists drove their cars.
Around the age of sixteen, I rode from Exeter to Edinburgh (450+ miles), where my brother lived. As this was my first time traveling such a long way, I felt a bit apprehensive. For accommodation, I stayed at Youth Hostels that were both cheap and plentiful.
Although I’d planned on a six-day journey, I ended up completing it in five days, as the last place I planned to stay didn’t have any vacancies. As a result, I cycled through the hills and across the Ranouck Moor, which I later learned is classified as one of the loneliest in the world.
Overall, I enjoyed the trip and passed through a variety of places I’d previously only read about. But, when my brother arrived home and found me at his girlfriend’s apartment, he was not pleased. Instead of welcoming me, he said, “You’re a day early.
Given this tension, I left his apartment the next day and cycled up and around Glen Coe and viewed some fabulous scenery at several destinations. Only afterward did I return to my brothers’ apartment in Edinburgh at my original scheduled time.
I enjoyed meeting many other cycling enthusiasts and visiting numerous places of interest during my years spent cycling around Devon, Cornwall, and Somerset.
I rode in several 25-mile time trial races, which were excellent, although getting up around seven o’clock in the morning wasn’t so good, in my opinion. Plus, at that time of year, it was quite cold. Despite not winning any awards, I enjoyed the thrill and experiences.
One night, while attending night class during my apprenticeship as a joiner/shopfitter, our teacher made an announcement: “Last night I saw an amazing sight,” he said. We all waited to hear what it was. I had to grin when he replied, “I could not believe what I was seeing. A couple was kissing as they rode along on their bicycles.” I smiled because it was my girlfriend and me!
Unfortunately, the recently-purchased Ephgrave bicycle I rode when commuting to and from the class was stolen from outside my house one day. I eventually recovered the frame and little else, at which point I realized the importance of insuring expensive bikes.
Soon after that, I also learned the importance of watching my speed (on a different bike, of course). While riding home from work one evening on my 10-speed, I descended a steep hill and overtook several cars. Once I’d stopped at the bottom, a police car stopped by my bike, and the officer inside asked, “Do you have a fixed wheel?”
“No,” I replied, “I have ten gears.”
“I see. Do you know that the police can now charge cyclists with dangerous riding just like car drivers?”
“No,” I answered.
“Right, in that case, remember what I said and don’t go so fast down that hill.”
To my relief, he then let me go.
Over the years, I’ve owned quite a few bikes, enjoyed meeting people in the community, and visited a great variety of places. Given this, I recommend getting yourself a bicycle. Apart from getting you from place to place, it will help keep you fit.
Many thanks for posting this. Should any of my old fiends see this, please get in touch. It would be good to talk with you.