The next time a bike entered my life I was around 10 years old. I’d often ride my brother’s bike when he wasn’t around, careful to make sure it went back in the exact same position as I’d found it so as no to get caught! At the back of our house was a little brook which ran for miles into town and all the local children hung out down there after school and at weekends. One day, I found an abandoned bike in the brook a few miles away from home. This was not an unusual occurrence; all sorts could be found in the brook from time to time. Most of the parts were there – frame, rear wheel, chain, pedals, handlebars, saddle, but no front wheel and no brakes. I got it home and found a spare wheel for the missing front one – I don’t remember how I found that? With the help of a friend, I stripped the bike down and cleaned it - that’s when I learned about roller bearings and grease.
My friend and I would cycle off for miles at the weekend, often to go fishing in the canal under the bridge at Knowle, a 16-mile round trip! Not bad for a 10-year-old. My mother never knew! I took my brother’s fishing rod and one day dropped it into the canal, lost forever – oops!! I never got found out, as he never used it anyway.
At this time, my brother was into cycle speedway at Hearsall Common, Coventry, and indeed, I believe he was a founder member. We regularly used to go to Coventry Brandon Bees Motorbike Speedway at weekends with our father. I wanted my own cycle speedway bike. So, with my newly found and cleaned bike and no brakes (not necessary for cycle speedway), off I went to the local church car park, which just happened to be suitably laid with gravel for the ultimate experience of marking out a cycle speedway track and practising ‘broadies’. [A broadie is a method of stopping a bike without brakes by turning into the bend and skidding the back-wheel round so the bike either slid round the corner or stopped]. Great fun!! The other way of stopping when not on gravel was to wedge the sole of your shoes between the back of the frame and the rear wheel, pressing on the rubber of the tyre until you stopped. Shoes didn’t last long and as we each only had two pairs of footwear; one pair of shoes for school, one pair of plimsoles, it didn’t go down too well at home!