Everyone can remember their first bike…
No matter how shabby or shiny it was, everyone can remember their first bike. Whether you’re a full time pro or a weekend warrior first bikes are a big deal. It’s not just your first race bike or the first bike that you won a race on – they come and go with the years – but that first ever bike will be the one that sticks in your mind, along with the adventures that it made possible.
In the 80’s Bicycle Moto Cross was an exciting new sport and was made glamorous by the fact that it came from America, where everyone had crazy blond quaffed hair and some kind of sponsorship deal! At least that’s what the TV ads may have suggested, either way they definitely had cool bikes and so when it came time to trade in my little red trike for a real bicycle my Dad made the truly brilliant decision that BMX was the way to go.
In America the battle was raging between Mongoose and Diamondback, but the Raleigh brand from Nottingham, England, was at the peak of its power and was ready to take on those pesky yanks! The fact that Jonny Tomac had just started racing XC and Downhill and Road and just about anything else you could through at him, for Raleigh was enough to seal the deal and I became the very proud owner of a stunning team replica Raleigh B’mer.
To tell the truth, it wasn’t quite team spec, but the important thing was that it had the right paintjob! White base coat, with a blue front end and the classic red and yellow Raleigh stripes, I still think that it looks good today, especially with the five spoke mag wheels. Luckily it also had a super thick gel coat, because this bike was going to see some action!
It had some chrome training wheels to start with, but these were quickly swapped for some Goodyear stickers on the front forks (I have no idea why, but they looked pretty trick and were much cooler than the training wheels) and I recall getting frustrated with it when I couldn’t balance and not trusting it for weeks. One day though I remember my Mum coming running out of the house half scared, half excited – she couldn’t believe that I was just riding around the garden with no help. I guess I’d got tired of looking at it, stationary in the garage and decided that that was the day I was going to learn how to balance – so I did!
My Dad had already helped a lot with teaching me and comically it was my Grandpa who’d put me off. He really tried, but was not good as a bike tutor! But the overriding feature of virtually every stage of my riding development has been that if anyone is going to teach me to do something it’ll be me! Once I get an idea in my head, I become pretty bloody minded about it and that has pushed me to fulfil practically every challenge in my bike riding life including amusingly learning to ride.
Over the years that BMX took me from the garden in South London, to two other gardens in Kent and then Sussex as we moved house. It took me down to Devon and Somerset on holiday and once to Holland and Denmark. It helped me complete my first lap of Bewl (a lap that I now use for training in the evenings, albeit I now get three laps and the ride there and back done in the same time) and conquered Bedgebury, before anyone had even heard the term singletrack! All the time with just one speed and a whole lot of leg spinning!
There have been lots of firsts over the years. My first “big” bike was a Raleigh Lizard in Lizard Green, which I did my Cycling Proficiency on. My first “proper” bike was a Scott hardtail with full Deore 9-speed in 2000 and was followed up in 2003 by my first “winter” bike – never before had it occurred to me to have more than one bike! The same year I treated myself to my first road bike, which gave me a very similar experience to my BMX – after a rocky start I really started to love it. Most recently I built my first Cyclocross bike which I’ve raced on this winter, but if you were to ask me which bike was the most important to me, there is only really one answer. That little white BMX was the envy of all the other kids in the street and was definitely the mutt’s nuts!