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My First Bike

Agreeable Nostalgia

Prompted by a Facebook friend's remark "Get on Yer Bike" I am  moved
to tell a tale about Me; my Dad; and my First Bike, 'Hercules'.

Step 1

I was 10 years old in 1945 and Dad had just been demobbed from the R.A.F.
The War was over. He came home to Stockport and the family beer-shop and was earnng a few extra pennies part-time as an electrician (my birth certificate shows him as an electrical engineer). One of those jobs required the exploration of a customer's basement where he set eyes on a rusty old bike, upside down, resting on its handlebars. It was offered for sale and Dad snapped it up for as little as ten shillings.

Step 2
Inspection and M.O.T.

At first sight the bike was the same style as once ridden by our village Bobbies.
 The brakes were primitive, bell-crank connected, and the tyres were chunky and perished.
As dad supervised the restoration, it was my first experience of being 'the apprentice'.
Our workshop was the customers' side of the beer-shop counter as I learned to clean the bike; remove and replace the tyres; dismantle and grease every ball-bearing cup and cone etc.
But there was a problem - - at some time in the past the bike had been parked with one pedal on a raised kerb (as was the custom) and maybe for stability the front wheel had been stuffed into a slot of a cast-iron grid. Yes  - - it might have lolled-over sideways resulting in a slight kink of the wheel, something I learned live with.
Now in my dotage and on one-or-two units a day, some would say that I still wobble a bit !

Step 3
Extras and road-testing

Dad might have had an ulterior motive, like getting rid of me, as he didn't dissuade me from spending on safari gear such as a saddle-bag and Miller dynamo-lighting. I depended on the blazing headlamp when night-riding around Reddish Vale and Pink-Bank Lane until I ran ran into a stretch of barbed-wire earlier strung across my dirt-track by a farmhand (I suppose). Laid low and on my back gazing at the starry sky I gradually pulled myself together and although wounded by the wire I did learn a bit about astronomy and for the first time recognised the Milky Way. (Nothing to do with inquisitive cows.)

Step 4
The birth of the Iron Man

Still only 10, fast approaching 11, I was already scheming an epic ride inspired as a result of dad's suggestion that I should drop in on my grandparents, after all Moss Side was only 5 miles from our place in Reddish! Enroute I noticed a finger-post which indicated 'Liverpool 30 (plus) miles' and it seemed to me that '--30 (plus) miles' was do-able.

Step 5
A pause for thought

But why Liverpool ?  Well, it was there that uncle Frank and auntie Marie lived and where I had previously stayed during a brief holiday. They had a nice new house in West Derby with a built-in air-raid shelter which doubled as a windowless bedroom.

Step 6
Go west young man

Liverpool was going to be a giant leap. So, a sandwich; a drink; a cycle cape; and a bag of spanners were stuffed into the new saddle-bag and without a by-your-leave I took off.

Step 7
The journey

As for the route to Liverpool I must have found a map in something like our Pears Cyclopedia (sic) and then decided on a sequential list of place-names. I don't remember much about the ride and many kind people must have helped me along the way. Anyway, I arrived in West Derby about 1 p.m. and auntie Marie, seriously taken aback eventually got over the shock and made quite a fuss of me.

Step 8
Homeward bound

Any worries I might have had about retracing my route back to Stockport were soon dispelled by uncle Frank when he came in from a shift at the nearby British Enka. But it was already about 3 p.m. and seemingly concerned for my safety he couldn't wait to show me the door !
We walked together across a local field and he introduced me to a real treat - - the newish East Lancashire Road, then said "Just stay on this road lad, until you get to Salford," and I did. The rest of the trip was easy, and perhaps our old friend the west-wind was on my back.
I do remember the absence of traffic and countless very similar roundabouts leading off to foreign parts such as Astley :) and there was a factory with a giant sewing machine on
the roof, Burtons?

Step 9
Wanderer's return and the happy landing

As I decked off the bike and walked in through our back-door it seemed I hadn't been missed.
Dad was probably in his shop pulling pints, and Mum as usual would have been knitting.
Had my epic ride been nothing but a dream? However I feel that the extra large plate of egg and chips was a kind of thanksgiving for my safe return.
I was still only 10.


By the way : -
The above hardback Pears Cyclopedia (sic) was already an old edition in 1946 and unbelievably it included 'recipes' for stuff like gunpowder and nitroglycerine ! !

Last but not least : -
1955 - 1962 My favorite bike was actually a single cylinder '500 Norton'.

Progress to : Bikes with Engines

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