Daredevil.

I have several old orthapedic injuries that cause me problems.  None stop me riding outright, but they can limit my endurance and how well I power up steep hills.

I’m having treatment next week which will liable keep me out of the saddle for a week or 10 days.  I’m not looking forward to it – the treatment or the enforced cycling lay off – and my growing apprehension at the coming inevitable pain and discomfort set in motion a train of thought about pain thats actually caused by cycling.

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My experience with pain and cycling started off early in my two wheeled career.  It was the early seventies when I learned to ride, and if I’m honest there wasn’t much going on.  The bright and colourful swinging sixties had passed my remote part of the world completely by.  Music was limited to what we might hear on Dad’s car radio. I was puzzled because the Beatles were telling us that there were 8 days a week, but my little backwater still had only 7.  TV was black and white and had only 3 channels. There was no internet, mobile phones or video games.  Hell, I was lucky because we had central heating – some of my mates didn’t have indoor lavatories.  Aside from the flares and wide collars it may as well have been 1930.

Beyond the the obvious scrapes, bangs and tears that a young sprog endures while learning to ride, my experiences with bicycles and pain began early.  Because there was nothing to do we inevitably started to arse about with our bicycles.  This sometimes involved stunts and tricks, but we soon turned our attention to modifying them.

By the end of one afternoon we all had playing cards held on the seat stays with clothes pegs, which made a nice thrumming motorbike sound.  Someone then hit upon the idea of using fence wire to make rakish looking aerials affixed to the back of our bikes.  I was riding round looking like a five year old hybrid between Peter Fonda and Evel Knieval, but in my mind way cooler.  Sadly, this brief moment of awesome wonder came to an abrupt and screaming halt when I managed to poke myself in the eye with the ragged end of the ‘aerial’.  Cue one rather hasty trip to the Daredevils, War Veterans, and Generally Cool Kids Hospital in my Mums Mini to have the damage repaired.  Fortunately I suffered no lasting damage, and went on to new heights of cycling coolness, and new depths of embarrassing pain.

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Fast forward a few more years and I became a strapping and rather dashing young fellow.  Tight Gary Glitter T shirt (yes, I know, I know), flares, platform soles, I was so cool I could stop ice cream from melting in the heat.

And hot it was, seeing as it was the summer of 1976.  It was so hot Bryan Adams wrote a song about it, although he couldn’t rhyme “seventy six” with anything and changed the song title accordingly.  Lightweight.  Anyway, you think the summer of 2018 was long and hot? It was nothing.  I laugh at the summer of 2018.  I spit upon its lack of heat and turn my back upon its short duration. Ha!

By this time I’d been bought a Raleigh Chopper by my Dad.  It was one stylish looking monster and as soon as I saw it I knew I was going to be a hit with the chicks.  It as the MkII with the T shaped gear shifter.

But for all its style it was also one unstable sonofabitch.  So bad that the police wouldn’t let you use one to do your cycling proficiency test, so I had to use my sister’s pink bike with the flowery decals and basket, an experience that left me deeply traumatised.

I’d also become obsessed with speed.  The antics of the likes of Craig Breedlove made my chest swell with a testosterone pumped manly pride, and I was determined to follow in my hero’s footsteps.  In order to achieve this I took my Raleigh Chopper out of town to the biggest, baddest hill I could find, and readied to launch myself off the top.  I mean, this hill was steep.  Word was climbers preparing to tackle K2 practised here, and even the SAS wouldn’t attempt it without a team of sherpas.

Off I went, faster, faster, fassttteeeerrrrr! That is, until the inevitable Raleigh Chopper wobbles set in. Then the wobbles quickly became full on transonic buffeting that would have left Chuck Yaegar’s Y fronts badly soiled.

The bike spat me off at about 680 MPH (the police told my Mum it was about 25 MPH, but what do they know?), and I landed very badly, injuring my leg and hip.  Cue another visit to the Vets, Daredevils and Cool Dudes Hospital for treatment.  Afterwards I was deeply upset by the damage to my beloved Raleigh Chopper.  How would I emulate Jon and Ponch with such a battered machine?  I immediately placed my hand upon the bible and vowed never to do anything stupid on a bicycle again.

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A few more years passed and I soon forgot my vow.  I’d grown into a strapping young man and a paragon of style.  Tight jeans, denim shirt slashed open to the waist, medallion, mirrored shades from the market, and so much Brut aftershave people’s eyes watered if they came too close to me.

I needed a bigger bike, but my Mum couldn’t afford one.  In the end she got me an old Raleigh 3 speeder that I think may have been pre-war vintage.  It even sported rod brakes.  Still and all, it was in good nick and if I was to get out there and continue my career desperately trying to attract the chicks then I needed wheels.

I, a beggar, definitely could not be a chooser.

Alas, this situation was disrupted a few days later when I got a visit from the puncture fairy on the rear wheel.  I really couldn’t be bothered to repair the tube, so set my fertile mind on working out another solution.  While pondering the problem my eyes fell upon my old Chopper gathering dust forlornly at the back of the garage.  Then I had a monent of genius – I would take the rear wheel from the Chopper and fit it to the rear of my new bike.  It fitted well, and even the 3 speed gears hooked up and worked.

However, there were a few tiny little problems.  The rear wheel of the Chopper was much smaller than the one it replaced, meaning the bike leaned back dangerously.  I thought it looked cool and racy.

Then there was the reduced ground clearance.  Pedalling in a dead straight line was ok, but the slightest turn caused the cranks to smack on the floor.

Oh, and don’t forget the brakes. Or lack of them.  The smaller wheel meant the brake didn’t reach the rim and didn’t work.

But I wasn’t the sort of young daredevil about town who was worried about details – I was a big picture man!

For a few days things went well.  I rolled around town looking cool, and doubtless impressing loads of girls who would surely want to snog me very soon.  This blissful situation soon came to a crashing halt.

Riding along one day I went to pull out to overtake a parked car.  Considering the slightly dodgy nature of the bike I was going a bit quick and pulled out too sharply.  The right hand crank hit the ground, causing the bike to lurch and wobble. I yanked on the brakes, but with no rear brake the bikes retardation abilities were almost halved.  Out of control, unable to brake, going too fast I smashed into the back of the parked Vauxhall Viva (a metallic bronze 4 door HC model, as it happens) and suffered an immediate Class 1 scrotum-handlebar spatial incompatibility incident.

My loves plums seemed to explode, and I lay on the floor clutching at my space hoppers which were bleeding alarmingly though my Erik Estrada tight jeans.  A passer by called an ambulance, and the crew – who by now were on first name terms with me – tried not to snigger too much as they scraped me off the floor and took me to the Exploding Scrotum Ward at the Vets, Daredevils, and Stupid Idiots Hopsital.  One small saving grace was having a nice young lady nurse tend to my bruised spuds, which was better than I was to manage with a girl until I turned 17.

I vowed to go straight, and properly repaired the Raleigh and fitted the correct wheel.  The Viva owner didn’t seem bothered by the testicle shaped dent in his boot lid, so I escaped having to pay for the damage.  A year or so later my Mum scraped the cash together and bought me a gorgeous Triumph 10 speed racer, my first proper bike.  I was in love with this bike, and fell in love with cycling, which from that day forth became a serious and solemn undertaking.

They say a wise man learns from his mistakes.  Rubbish.  A wise man learns from someone else’s mistakes.  Learn from mine.

Chopper.

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