5 Speed derailleur
Shortie aluminium mudguards
Double brake levers
Aged about 13, I used to go the local bike shop for odd bits and to generally just hang out. I browsed the latest bike catalogue from Raleigh and saw my next bike right there….. it was jumping out at me! I dragged my mum and sister to the shop sometime later, and we were both allowed to pick out a new bike for Christmas. My sister’s was a step-through shopper type bike. Mine was the Raleigh Arena racing bike. A proper 5 speed derailleur, and I loved the shortie mudguards and dual brakes. It cost £75 in 1976. I just remember thinking that’s a lot for a new bike!
I did my paper round on it every morning and went for weekend rides by myself. I made sandwiches and drinks to take with me and often phoned home from a phone box (with a 2 pence coin!) from wherever I was. I remember sending a post card back home from Stratford-upon-Avon on one occasion – 40 mile round trip. It was so exciting to go on an adventure through the country lanes away from cars and just take in the sight and sounds of nature.
I was desperate to join a cycling club and got the contact number of somebody from my local bike shop. Mum took me to this guy’s house where the chap explained about what the club was like, when and where they met for rides. I duly signed up to the junior section of the Coventry Cycling Club aged 14. I’d cycle the 5 miles or so to the meeting point at the Memorial Park and then the group, lead by the junior leader, would cycle out to South Warwickshire, often stopping in Warwick for tea and cake. We’d start 9:30am prompt every Sunday come rain or shine. I’d wear trainers and a track suit. No helmets, no lycra, no cleats – just simple cycling.
In the fifth form, they call it Year 11 now, I’d often cycle to school in the summer term, 8.5 miles across town, anything to avoid two smelly public buses. (I still get travel sick on buses and coaches.) A quick wash and brush-up and get changed in the toilets then ready for the day. It was much quicker than two buses too.