24 August 2009

My Sheffield bike

When I first came to the UK, as a student in Sheffield in 1989, getting a bike was not in my list of priorities - I had plenty on my plate with coming to grips with the language, the accents, customs, etc.

Eventually, some friends I made lent me a number of items that they knew would come in handy - first among them the TV (black and white - cheaper license!). One day they offered me a bicycle. In Sheffield, you understand, you don't think 'bike' immediately - what with all the hills to climb!. But I figured that I could always walk up the hill, but going down the hill a bike would save me time. I was right. Going from Broomhill to the railway station became much quicker (handy for early morning trains). Where before I'd have spent 45' walking, I could get there in 15'. Going back to Broomhill would take me an hour - but then, it always did.

The cycle in question was an old red Raleigh, a bit rusty in places but on the whole serviceable. There was a catch with this bike loan though: I was supposed to do my best to get it nicked, as my friends hoped that they'd claim it on the insurance and buy a swanky new stead to replace it. I have to say I signally fail to oblige. One day I went to the station and locked the bike using a D-lock I'd borrowed. A couple of days later my friend told me when I saw him "I saw the bike the other day at the station: Jay-sus man, with a lock like that you'll never get it stolen!". Another time it was Friday night and I'd parked the bike at the computer centre (remember, when all PCs where in a single building you had to go to). We all went to the pub afterwards and I "forgot" the bike. The following morning I turned up to retrieve it, hoping it'd be gone. It wasn't. Moreover, as I unlocked the flimsy padlock (I'd learnt my lesson) an old copper on the beat approached. "Young man - he said - if you leave your bike like this you'll have it stolen" he warned me sternly. If only........

02 August 2009

Trailer bike part II: freedom of the city

In the end, the solution was ready at hand: I managed to sort out the trailer bike - used a piece of plastic packing from an old D-lock holder and with some hammering it went snuggly around my seatpost. I tightened it well and presto! the trailer bike was up and running.

And what for? To take part in the Manchester Skyride. I'm no fan of big media, but this was a good event - it certainly was perfect for the family. We all enjoyed the city being turned over to us - roads closed, cars made to wait at traffic lights by diligent stewards. We enjoyed doing a lap round the impresive velodrome, and having a picnic in the good weather (Rupert Murdoch's influence obviously is far-reaching. I liked the free high-viz vests - the way in which they created a sense of shared purpose among the many participants. I liked the oddballs - the relatively few whose rides were unusual - unicycles, Danish-style utility trikes, chopper cycles glittering in the sun, a modern version of the penny farthing, and a telescopic bicycle with a frame that puts the rider six feet above the ground.