My Dad, A Cyclist
My Dad, a cyclist
My Dad was born in a very different era. He was born in the thirties and was used to getting on a bike from a very early age. People generally didn’t travel as far as they do today and in many circumstances a bike was the perfect form of transport.
As a youngster he would tear around the streets where he lived in London with his mates. It was probably a lot safer then, in terms of traffic. As he started to grow up he decided that he wanted to see more of the country where he lived and so he and a couple of friends would take themselves off on touring weekends. They would travel out of the capital maybe a couple of hundred miles over their weekend rides, staying at boarding houses or youth hostels.
Bearing in mind that he and his friends at the time were only fourteen or fifteen years old, it does seem quite amazing. I’m not sure I would want my daughter, who is of very similar age to do that these days.
When he was a little older Dad was living in Loughton in Essex, but worked in the City as an insurance clerk. So he would ride to work and back every day on the bike. This was a trip of around 20 miles each way. So, 40 miles a day just to do your day job. Sometimes he would do an early morning training ride before he went to work, of maybe 60 miles. On a good week in total he could clock up 350-400 miles a week, including weekend rides.
He was a member of The Viking Road Club back then and would be out with the guys at the weekends, either touring or time trialing or whatever was on their agenda. Cycling was what he did and enjoyed.
For his 21st Birthday his Dad bought him a Holdsworth. He loved this bike. It had a large 25” frame, hand brazed with 531 tubing and beautiful lug work. It was a single speed fixed wheel with Stronglight cranks.
Dad rode this bike for years, up until he got married and had children. Like many of us when you start a family your priorities can change and maybe you don’t get as much time as you would like to do the things you love and gradually he stopped riding.
As a teenager who built many bikes in his spare time, I used to look at his bike hung up in the shed, covered in dust. I knew it was special and occasionally I would take it down and study it closely. I’d heard so much about it but had never seen it in action. Then one day he announced that he was going to start riding again. I remember being quite excited about this. His plan was to first rebuild the bike. So, he stripped it down, repainted it red, his favourite colour and applied new transfers to the frame. This was not easy as he had to prove to Holdsworth that his bike was a genuine one. He had to send them a copy of the frame number so they could check it against their records. I can’t imagine that happening these days, when you can order stickers over the internet for any make of bike for just a couple of quid without any problems.
Finally he was up and running. However there was a problem. He didn’t really like riding a fixie anymore, so it was back in the workshop to refit his machine with a full set of gears (ten that is, not a complicated as it sounds). Back on the bike he was really enjoying the old familiar feelings of being out on the road again and was starting to do some serious mileage. This is a man that was born to ride a bike. At 6’4” and weighing a tad over 11 stone he had the perfect shape for it. Plus the more he rode the leaner he got.
In 1997, my parents made a big decision. They were moving to the South of France. For dad this was perfect as they are all cycling mad down there. He quickly made friends and was a member of a club for the first time in around 40 years. The terrain was very different to the flat Suffolk countryside that he had got used to and the poor old Holdsworth was a bit outdated with its limited gearing and old narrow bars. Another big decision was made and he went off to his local bike shop in Draguignan to buy himself a Trek. He was amazed at the difference between this bike and his old one and he was now fully entrenched into the lifestyle of a French cyclist.
I hope he won’t mind me telling you this but, in 2003 we lost my Mum to cancer. Dad was at a loss as the love of his life had gone. He had no family with him and we could only visit when work permitted. He could so easily have sold up and moved back to England but he didn’t. He stayed and everyday was out cycling. He said to me that cycling saved him. It was a way to deal with his thoughts and feelings and also a way to meet people. He was in a good club and they all had a great time.
One day out of the blue, whilst at a social event, Dad met someone. She was not a cyclist but came to the club via a mutual friend. Slowly they started to spend more time together and eventually, she got the cycling bug.
This brings me to the end of the story. Dad now lives with his Friend Julie and they spend a large part of the week cycling the hills and coastline around the Frejus area, having a lovely time. My Dad has been an inspiration to me and I hope he can live this lifestyle for many years to come.
By the way, if you want to see what my Dad looks like then you can check out his photo on the Facebook page.