What sparks memories for you? For me it can be all kinds of things – smells, feelings, music, photographs. But also random emails, like when I got one of those marketing emails Halfords a few weeks back talking about iconic bikes and how they change with the times. I don’t often open those, but I was intrigued and it sparked something that buried my mind deep in a pile of cycling memories. I turned to my friend who was sat with me at the time and went into great detail about my awesome red bike with white wheels and basket on the front. I might not have had the Raleigh Chopper or a BMX, but as a kid I loved that little red bike.
On my little red bike with white tyres on a camping holiday.
I have a distinct memory as a young child at infant school in Essex – Ardleigh Green Infant School to be precise – of rushing out of the door at the end of the day, and around the corner where I hoped my mum would have lent my bike against the wall ready for me to ride it home. She would push it to school (along the path by the railway) because I just loved to be on it, and when I saw it I would giggle with glee. I was definitely happiest when I was playing outside, and the fact I was allowed to ride my bike home from school was the absolute best thing ever! The opposite was also true; if I rushed out of school and my bike wasn’t there, either because we were being picked up in the car or walking home, I would be hugely disappointed.
I also remember having my bike when we went camping. My sister and I were given relative freedom when we were on holiday, and our routine included an opportunity for us to go and explore without being closely watched by our parents – what child doesn’t like that?! We’d arrive at our campsite, park up by our pitch, the bikes would be un-strapped from the back of the car or the top of the trailer, and off we’d go tearing around the place (in a calm and sensible fashion, of course). Meanwhile, mum and dad would put up the tent and get the kettle on. I am pretty sure now that this was more about us not getting under their feet during the relatively stressful task of putting up the old heavy canvas frame tent (orange and brown), than it was about finding out where the toilets, shop, water and playground were. But it made me feel all grown up from aged six or so and was always a very exciting start to our holiday.
My actual first bike, a little plastic ride on. Awwww.
As I write about it now the memories keep coming. I remember cycling around the New Forest, somewhere I’ve returned to quite a lot recently and recognised the route we took all those years ago. I would race my friends down the road outside our house when we lived in Devonport – a quiet but steep hill with a T-junction at the bottom and a pub car park opposite that we could skid to a stop in. Oh, and I went over the handlebars on a rocky trail and had a fight with some barbed wire (yes, ouch, I can show you the scars if you like!). I remember the feeling inside each time I was given a new bicycle as I grew up; after the little red one it was a folding bike so it was easy to take wherever we went, then a purple mountain bike that I had for years. Gotta love a good bike!
The cycling memories continue in adulthood. I absolutely LOVED my experience riding at the Lee Valley Velodrome, the one that was built for London 2012. Track cycling is probably my favourite sport to watch, and the thrill of being on that track (my first ever time with clip-in pedals and no brakes!) was so exhilarating. Seriously hard work but the most fun I’ve ever had on a bike for sure. Read about it.
Track cycling at Lee Valley.
These days I ride a basic mountain bike, a Carrera Vulcan, which is small and fun to ride with disc brakes to help me stop when I’ve arrived at a junction a bit sooner than I thought. It’s actually my second of the same; my first got stolen from right outside my office one October lunchtime a few years back, just my second or third day of cycling to work after moving close enough to no longer need the car. I replaced it with the new season version of the same bike. I love to ride it to work. Actually I lie, I love to ride it most of the time, other times I hate to ride it.
Sherwood Pines mountain bike trails.
I fall in and out of love with cycling all the time. My heart lies in riding the trails, but we don’t really have anything in Lincolnshire to explore and I very rarely make the effort to bundle my bike into my car and head further afield to ride the fun stuff. As for the commute, well I love the idea of cycling to work every day; it’s good for me, gets me outside, means I’m not stuck in traffic, and means I can eat more food(!). Sometimes I will do it very happily, and then I don’t for whatever reason – rain, cold, ice, snow, can’t be bothered – and then it takes me ages to get back on my bike again. I thought I’d set myself a bit of a challenge this year to see how many days in a row I can cycle to work before I find a good enough excuse not to, and then try to beat my commute by bike streak. But I didn’t actually start it yet. Well I did, I think I managed a couple of days in a row. I guess it’s something to work on!
Commuting by bike. In the frost.
I often wonder if my beloved mountain bike is really suitable for cycling to work. Maybe that’s the problem?! I have toyed with the idea of buying a touring bike more than once in recent years, in fact I very nearly bought one around Christmas but in the end decided to spend my money elsewhere as I’m so bad at riding regularly enough to make it worthwhile (I argued with myself that a new bike would mean I cycled more, but we all know how those things pan out). Maybe if I manage a whole month of commuting by bike every day I can warrant spending some money on a new one?! I might be clutching at straws there!
That little red bike with the white tyres and basket on the front has a lot to answer for, don’t you think?
If I’ve sparked any deep cycling memories for you, feel free to tell me the stories in the comments below!