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An early biking adventure

At age thirteen I got my first brand new bike; a Hercules Roadster with a three-speed hub gear. (Picture left.)

It had dropped handlebars so to me this made it a racing bike.

Everything on the bike was steel, even the mudguards; It must have weighed at least 40 lbs.

One weekend my mother took my younger sister and me on a long bus trip to visit relatives.

On returning, we discovered my sister had left a sweater behind.

This was not important but I decided to ride my bike over to my Aunt’s house, the following Saturday, to pick up this item of clothing. I did not tell my mother of my plans; mothers have a habit of saying "No." So I decided I would surprise her.

I had no idea how far the trip was; all I had to find my way there was a little pocket diary that measured about 3 1/2 inches by 2 1/2 inches. It contained maps of the whole of England on about five or six tiny pages.

Plus I had remembered that the previous week we had caught a bus from Luton (30 miles north of London, UK.) to Aylesbury, where we caught a second bus to Buckingham, where my aunt lived. This was the only way I knew and looking at the map today, I must have ridden over 80 miles, round trip.

Had I known better I could have taken a more direct route through Houghton Regis and Leighton Buzzerd that would have been much shorter. I actually lived in a village called Streatley about five miles north of Luton.

I set out very early in the morning and took some sandwiches with me in my saddlebag, along with a glass bottle filled with water. I remember stopping in Aylesbury on the way out and again on the way home, to refill my water bottle.

I did this in a public toilet, and the faucet in the wash basin was too low to get the bottle under. I had to cup my hand to catch water, and then transfer it to the bottle; it took forever.

I ate my sandwiches on the way there, and my aunt made some more for the return trip. I also stopped and dug up a turnip from a field. Not very appetizing, but it got me home.

I made it back just before sunset that same day. I proudly walked in with my sister’s sweater; my mother just about had a fit when she realized what I had done. Instead of thanks for my effort, I was severely chastised



Reader Comments (7)

Just goes to show that the old adage; 'No good deed goes unpunished', has been around for a while....

June 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRalph

Dave, I bet that at the time you really weren't too nervous about setting out on such a ride, but later had second thoughts about what all could have gone wrong. My first long ride was very similar on a very similar bike, a 3-speed Hercules with drop bars. This was when I lived in England I was about the same age (13) and rode from London to Brighton and back. As well as sandwiches, I had a handlebar bottle containing milk, which turned out not to be very refreshing. I got a flat tire on the way down, but had the tools to fix it. However, I need not have worried because a couple of cyclists stopped to help me. When I got there, I went down to the beach and lay in the sun for a few minutes, then headed straight back.

June 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJohn B

A heroic ride for such a young boy ... well done!

And you look dashing in the pix, Dave.

June 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRider

Great story - enjoyed it. Nice adventure for a kid of that era.

How many kids would try something like that today?

June 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDan O

Memories, Hercules with a three speed hub gear. I received mine, also new, in about 1957 or 58 at the age of 11 or 12. It replaced a single speed "light weight" narrow tire bike that would probably be very fashonable now in the right crowd. In the US the Hercules came in one size with upright bars. Drop bars were rare at the time. I grew up in an urban area and my adventures were of much shorter distances. After a few years, riding was no longer fashonable amongst my friends so the bicycle was rarely used. I occaisonally used the bicycle well into my twenty's. It was finally stolen from a car rack along with my wife's bicycle. About 10 years later at age 35 I bought my first good quality modern road bicycle and have been at it ever since. Unfortunately I have never been able to get my wife interested in riding again.

June 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGary

wow 80 miles with that steel bike. once in mexico i borrowed my brother's bike to go with him on this park ride they had. i must have been 8 or 9 and rode his bmx. all i remember about that ride how much my rear end hurt the day after, was worth it though i got to hang out with such cool 'old' teenagers :D
thanks for sharing this post, very visual (sink>hand>waterbottle) !!

June 27, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermeligrosa

Fantastic story! Just made me smile.

It's incredible what sticks with you, many years later. I hope in a few decades' time, i can still remember many happy rides.

October 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterpj.mcnally

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