Cycling was so different

By Star Comment | Readers' letters | Published:

When I were a lad, the greatest gift that could be received was a bike, it was every child’s dream.

At age six I got my first three-wheeled tricycle, care of my late paternal grandfather (who many years later I found out was the son of one of the suspects of ‘Jack The Ripper’ Joseph Levy). As us gang of East End kids got bigger we progressed to two wheeled scooters, not unlike those you see whizzing along the pavements today, as they say, what goes around , comes around, but I digress.

Then along came secondary school, and thoughts turned to proper bicycles, and eventually this school boy became the proud owner of a brand new bike, purchased for the princely sum of £21.10/-, paid from my evening paper round money, 10/-, That’s 50p a week.

I had now joined the ranks of the elite, and God knows why, but the rite of passage was to cycle from London to Southend and back, a round trip of some 70 miles, I got as far as Gants Hill in Essex, and we all turned back, thinking about it, I don’t think any of our scruffy east end gang made the round trip, but it was the perceived effort and willing that mattered.

Today some 55-plus years later, my teenaged grandson arrives with his mountain bike, and wants help to adjust the brakes, and as I point out it needs a clean, this is a foreign concept, and I have to show him how to use a rag and cleaning fluid, I kid you not, this lad can access the Mars probe and, break into the CIA’s mainframe computer, well you know what I mean, but cannot get his head around cleaning a bike.

Today in the school holidays groups of lads on bikes will be out and about, mostly on the pavements, thinking about it, we always used the roads, I suppose then way back, the roads were quieter, and speeds were slower. Today bike technology has advanced in leaps and bounds, what with multi-gears and double clangers – don’t ask – the speeds bikes can do are phenomenal, and the suspension settings on the more expensive models defy description, the best I could hope for was a three speed Sturmey-Archer hub.The rolls Royce of bikes was a Pat Hanlon model, handmade by the lady herself, her shop was in Tottenham only a mile or so from our manor, and we gang of snotty nosed young east enders would cycle down just to stare in the window, and dream of the day, alas it would never happen. Today my biking days are over, I leave it to the lycra clad gladiators on their super light weight frames and spaghetti thin tyres that clog up the bus lanes and cut up the traffic. My little granddaughter has just turned up, and mum says can I adjust her training wheels, bless!

Tony Levy, Wednesfield


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