Thursday, January 6, 2011

My Childhood Bike


Bombing around the estate on bikes in their flappy trousers and snorkel parkae!

Ride like the wind, the whoosh of Hai Karate, you Teenage Rampage rebels!

For truly, thou art bionic. Or as my friend used to say, “bijolic” (which I never understood: he wasn’t deaf).

Not for me the trendy Chopper, with its ridiculous seat so unnervingly generous in buttock placement options. Chris the Twat had a Chopper, and when he clambered aboard, his overall level of twattiness quadrupled.

Not for me the stylish racer. Even at the age of nine I’d figured out these were Hunchback Manufacturing Machines. Plus, before he got his Chopper, Chris the Twat rode one – and it was a right spazzy effort.

Not for me the ordinary boy’s bike, seen in every street, every park and every TV show (including The Double Deckers and How Meaningless Is My Life?).

Nope. No way. Nopey Nope.

For I was the boy who inherited his Grandad’s Raleigh Twenty.

That’s right, I drove rode a girl’s bike.

According to the story passed down to me, it appealed to my Grandad for three reasons.

Firstly, it was perfect for riding short distances, like to and from work, the shops.

Second, it had colour-coded gears built into the handgrip. Perfect for an OAP with no sense of smell.

Third (and most important), it had a basket on the back for his sandwiches. And that, my friends, was the clincher.

If this seems the worst kind of inheritance a 70s hot rod could be lumbered with, my other grandad left me two sets of false teeth which my Dad insisted I kept in a jar of water by my bed. “Pray to God you’ll never need them, son. But if the worst comes to the worst, they’re there for you.”

So, let’s skip the years of childhood trauma and cut to the time I’d finally accepted my lot as a pre-pre-op transvestite, and cut (again – like a slasher) to the park, the ‘adventure playground’, where gangs of biker boys from neighbouring streets zoom and swerve and race, and girls from Special Girl Land lounge on swings and roundabouts looking like the phwooaaar ones from Jackie, eager for incredible stunts.

There goes Chris the Twat with a magic skidder. Nearly comes off, but he’s such a twat he somehow doesn’t.

Cheers of adoration ring out from the roundabout as my mate with the bijolic hearing aid performs an almost gymnastic feet-off-pedals splits that would have had future generations of even the most spartanly talented BMX Boyz howling with derision. But these were the days before brand names, when you could get away with anything (and I should know, because somehow I survived them).

Now it’s the turn of Stu From Dahn The Road. He fixes the muddy embankment in his eyes, juts forth the unwhiskered chin of resolve and valour – then introduces one and all to another rude word for ‘willy’ and sparks up a Rothmans with a blowtorch from his dad’s shed.

My trick? To be honest, the best I could manage was to pedal for more than a few yards without my puncture repair kit falling out of my basket. As for my bike, it wasn’t exactly “stunt”.

But I’ll say this for the Raleigh Twenty: it was the perfect bike for a boy with fledgling you-know-whats stuffed down his nylon Y-fronts.

To demonstrate why this is the case, let’s run an imaginary race as a thought exercise.*

*For the uninitiated, this is an act of visualisation midway between lateral thinking, guided meditation and three pints of Special Brew with a meths chaser.

Let’s have a boy on a boy’s bike and a girl on a girl’s bike. If you like, since this is a 70s themed post, you can call them John T and That Skinny Tart From Down Under. Name the children as you wish.

They rev up, they pedal – and they’re off!

As the supersonic kids approach their maximum speed, a mongoose races out from a nearby bush and they must brake hard to avoid injuring it. (Some rules, to prevent the thought exercise being scuppered by clever cloggses: killing the mongoose means they won’t be allowed to stay up and watch The Sweeney, and we’ll assume they can’t swerve to avoid it on account of the yearning pit between the soon-to-be-swept-away terraced houses and the soon-to-be-built hypermarket/carbuncle.)

So who is travelling the fastest?

Why the boy, of course. D’oh. Boys are made of speed, zest, get-up-and-go; girls are made of knitting and generally being useless. And this is reflected in the design of their bikes. Allied to a sportier bike frame, the superior pumping action of the boy’s legs carries him farther and faster than that of the girl. To be honest, it’s a wonder she’s agreed to this race at all – she should be at home polishing her ballet slippers.

Fine. So who brakes first, Whirl?

John T again. No Brainer. His lightning reflexes far outstrip the stumbling, almost paraplegic, efforts of his female counterpart. In ten years’ time he’ll be careering round the Med in a speedboat while she’s stuck at home ironing slugs from the garden to turn into curtains – or children.

So does this mean John will fly from his seat first? Especially if his bike is a Chopper and therefore in no way designed to accommodate a backside anywhere along its foot-and-a-half of useless Ford Escortesque vinyl?

That’s right! And for any girls checking in today who might be getting hot under the collar about the potentially sexist nature of the observations made so far, let’s move swiftly to the killer question, in which the boy gets his just desserts in the name of equality.

You mean, John T?

Better than that. Any boy.

So what’s the killer question?

Why do boys’ bikes (ie bikes designed specifically for boys (the sex designed specifically with vulnerable globules of gristle dangling between its legs from nerve fibres connected to the part of the brain responsible for REGISTERING SENSATIONS OF AGONY)) have solid metal crossbars directly in front of the seat upon which it is possible to slide, slide, slide until – THWACK! – you reach the handlebars?

In a universe of balance and harmony, the best boys can hope for during such a Mongoose-Brake-Flight scenario*, is to have their differences split equally. ‘Two to the left’, ‘two to the right’ and ‘one either side, but the wrong way round’ don’t bear thinking about – let alone Chris the Twat’s speciality when he owned his spazzy racer: ‘both dead center, tied in a knot, while flying from an Knievel-style ramp’.

* For reference buffs, this is yet another term coined by Hans Eysenck that’s been picked up and misappropriated by the NLP fraternity.
I admit, long ago, on my bike, in my parka, I cut a truly risible figure. Especially when my dad raised the seat for my 21st with a broom handle. But as I walk the high street of adulthood, resplendent in my lack of wheels, I'm proud to have owned my Raleigh T.

Call me the lucky one, but I'm the only man of roughly my own age able to negotiate the rat run between Poundland and Cash 4 Offspring in anything like a straight line...


Old Kitty said...

It'd be more poignant and pertinent if your grandad's bike was pink.


Take care

fairyhedgehog said...

I never did understand the whole boy/girl bike thing.

I loved the snorkel parkae. So do you say octupuses or octopi? (I say octopussies but that one is definitely not in the dictionary.)

the eternal worrier: said...

I can’t remember how I got to your blog but here I am. Very funny post. I had a new racing bike at just about the moment when all my mates had BMXs. Oh and Rothmans... we could just about afford a packet of 10 and a plastic bottle of Woodpecker cider with our pocket money.

the eternal worrier: said...

By the way. That bike looks cool. Love the red tyre on the front wheel.

Whirlochre said...

Old Kitty
Ok, this is down on my CV RIGHT NOW as proof that I'm no gaylord...

Yule Hog au Nuit Douze
Only just realised I say octupi. So whup my ignoramus buttocks with the slipperiest of tentacular specraculars.

the eternal worrier
Glad to see you new here twice. If it helps, this is a Red Tyre On The Front Wheel kind of a site.

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Robin B. said...

Well, I can't remotely compete withe the 'latvian love doll' chick, mainly because I don't have the patience to be all lovey-cooey-bullshit-artisty with men. And there's John...but I digress. The bike adventures of young Whirl gave me a smile! Plus, I think sadists musta designed the boy bar on boy bikes. I rode a friend's boy bike once when I was a kid, can't remember why, but I CAN remember the exquisite, total pain in my penis-free zone when I tried to climb off that damn bike, and landed on that bar. I'm telling you. Sadists thought that shit up.