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THE FIRST ROAD BIKE

“Following the arrival of lycra and the first proper racing bike on our lunch time escape ride, funny things started to happen to the group.

Firstly, and most importantly, there was always someone to go riding with at lunchtime. This was the biggest plus as if you were not prepared, forgot your kit or the bike wasn’t with you you were letting the side down, and a rather dull hour in the canteen was your future. This was originally arranged as a solution for shedding the excess weight and supporting each other to get fit, well fitter.

Secondly, the racing bikes seemed to be breeding with another being found in the back of a garage somewhere after each weekend that passed. It would seem there was a few of us with a naturally competitive nature, it was just starting to shine though.

This left the group in two halves, those with their trusty mountain bikes, already in commuter mode now with faster slick tyres for ‘serious’ lunch time riding. Kitted out in sensible loose fitting sportswear and non of that bizarre lycra stuff and then the other road group who were now rocking up with some rather nice, but somewhat dated ‘serious’ kit – 80’s mid range bikes, skinny tyres, garish lycra and clippy cloppy shoes. There was even what seemed to be Italian fair in the mix, but none of us as far as I knew were Italian. Strange.

The banter continued, and the mountain bike riders kept up for sure. No one could deny there was a simple elegance of the guys with the right kit and the skinny wheeled bikes. It looked easier. They looked faster. The mountain bikes were looking cumbersome, amateurish – just think how much faster we’d be on the road bike, we’d be winning for sure!

There was just one thing for it.

Returning back to Ebay, the home of the hobby obsessive, retro fan, bargain hunter. The standard start point if you’re looking to get a bike for as close to the price of a cup of tea as possible. Its been said in the past that my hobby is in fact the process of ‘Ebaying’ itself – not the items purchased. The palaver of the collection only item, the rapid resale of that super rare collectable that you then need to part with as before you even have it in your possession as there is another ‘must have’ already in the watch list with just a few days to go… The search was on.

And then late that night, there it was. The bike. The bike for me. An old Raleigh in bits, in boxes for the princely sum of £125. A new listing, a ‘buy it now’, it was a timely lucky spot.

It ticked all the boxes. Cheap, yes. Retro, yes. In bits and a hassle to go and collect, yes. Perfect. The hobby that is Ebay continues…

With a couple of clicks of the mouse it was bagged at the buy it now price, and that evening under the guise of, ‘lets go out for a nice drive and get something to eat over this way – I’ve just got a little Ebay mission to do on route’ we were heading off to collect the bike.

A few hours later the back of the car had boxes of bike bits in, a smart looking frame and a surprisingly light wheel set with hairy sticky gunk all around the outside, but no tyres. Well chuffed, just wait to the guys at work see this.

The previous owner seemed to be pleased that I was taking a keen interest in the fact he’d apparently spent a long time gathering all the ‘correct’ items and that the bike although in bits was complete. He was going into detail that I didn’t really understand other than the fact it sounded about right and I was at least getting an item of interest, potentially a collectable it seemed the main thing was that it seemed to be bit of a bargain.

When I asked why he was selling, it was to ‘cover some of the costs of his new Colnago’ this was just more mystery to me, but it sounded important and the smugness exuding in my direction spoke volumes. Little did I know the implications of this as I started my journey along a well trodden path…

Back home, getting the cardboard boxes off the back seat of the car, each component seemed to be of high quality. I’d not played with building bikes for a long time, but still remembered from my teens the key things, for my budget I’d done well – all the components carried major names, Reynolds frame, Mavic wheels, all the gears, hubs, everything in fact was all Shimano 600, even the handlebars were Dura Ace – a name I knew for sure. Even the seat post was a Shimano one. There was nothing on the bike that screamed of cut corner. It even had a skinny blue aero water bottle, that had the smell of 20 year old plastic.

And the size, a classic 23.5 inch Raleigh – perfect no? Wasn’t the rule that you rode the biggest frame you could hop on?

Sunday was spent building the bike. Easy quick and therapeutic, I knew what I was doing. To a point. The truth be told years earlier I’d built a lot of bikes for a well known high street chain. They’d given me their usual training (which was nil) before releasing me to sell, build and repair a steady stream of customers bikes. I’d survived my first job, built hundreds of bikes over a busy Christmas period and most importantly the customers had survived too. My new bike was built, safe to ride and looked fab.

Monday I rolled up to the office. There was a flurry of activity as the bike was looked over and approved by the others.

I couldn’t wait for lunch to arrive, out we all went. Sods law meant it was raining, and teetering around on the big bike was getting some getting used to. Looking back the 19c bargain Continental tyres I picked up months before were looking possibly a little too skinny. And then there were those forks, surely they are so thin they were going to just fold, they certainly seemed to be vibrating a lot over the potholed country roads.

The bike held together just fine. As the pace picked up round the usual loop, the systematic overtaking was in full swing. The pace as usual just seemed to go up and up until thankfully it was time to head back. I would have been grinning all the way if it hadn’t been so damn hard to get up the hills. The bike felt fast for sure, but I certainly wasn’t dropping anyone with my new speedy steed.

When we got back to the office, times were checked whilst I concentrated on not throwing up. The bike felt totally different to the mountain bike I was used to riding, the lunchtime ride transformed but the time told us it had made no real difference at all. The same. No improvement at all.

What the clock didn’t tell us though was that something major had happened and things would never be the same again. I’d made the jump to the other side, I’d become a ‘roadie’ and cycling fever had just claimed another victim.”

until next time…

Simon