Childhood Bikes

Like most children in the UK in the 70s, I had a bike. The one that really got me my independence was an orange Raleigh Commando, which lasted me from Christmas day of 1977, up to the spring of 1981.

I only lived 400m from school, so I didn’t use it for “commuting”. But after school and every weekend… we’d ride for miles! Pretty much anywhere within about four miles of home was within range, and I’d spend all day every day out with friends in the school holidays. (Rose-tinted glasses alert).

Two things happened in 1981 – I was going to be moving up to senior school, which meant a journey of six miles each way, and my dad had got his own bike a few months earlier.

Dad’s bike was a Dawes Lightning, which was a lower-price version of the Dawes Galaxy. Basically it was the same frame, but with cheaper components. It had ten gears, 27″ wheels, drop handlebars and cloth handlebar tape. The frame was painted “sunburst red”, and I Wanted One Too.

Dad had bought the bike on our doctor’s advice – he was smoking and drinking, and driving to work in a sedentary job, and this was starting to affect his health, even though at the time he was only 36. Over the summer of 1980 & 81, he rode to work in Rochester, and I’d sometimes ride from home to meet him on the way back, waiting at the roadside a mile or so from home.

Around Easter 1981, my dreams came true, and my grandmother bought me my own Lightning for that long school trip. It was just the same as dad’s, but a child’s / adolescent’s size, with what I suppose must have been 24″ wheels and just five gears. It was absobloodylutely brilliant.

We did things like riding to the Sheerness on 28th July 1981, neatly avoiding the TV and doing some proper father-son bonding.

Dad pretty much stopped riding in about 1982 when he got a new job 30 miles from home. So when I reached 16, and was big enough to move up, I adopted his bike. I reckon I was riding to school about 30% of the time (more in the summer, less in the winter), right up until I passed my driving test.

Dad’s bike came to university with me, and was my transport-of-choice for the whole of my first year, right up to the point at which it got stolen. :o(

But by that point, I’d got the habit… but more on this later.

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Posted in Bike Culture

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