My first bike...


Looked very much like this. A Peugeot Equipe racer that cost £109.99 from Halfords in August 1983. The price was burned into my brain by a whole years worth of delivering the free paper and thinking about this bike. I saved up 95 quid and my Mum made up the rest. It was only 3 years after my dad had died and we were skint, so it was a big deal to us. My mum came down to the shop to look at the bike. She disapproved. There were skinny tyres, no mudguards and a saddle like a razor blade. To her credit she let me have it instead of forcing me to buy a boneshaker.

It was light years ahead of anything else out there - well anything else out there costing £110 anyway. There were two bikes I could affford and the Peugeot was the supermodel to the frumpy Sun Solo for sale at £89.99 at the Raleigh dealers. The Sun was 10 speed, had 27" rims and looked like a bike from the 1970s. The Peugeot had 12 gears (twelve!), 700c rims with quick release hubs and skinny, skinny tyres. It looked superb. I was too tall even at the age of 12 for a BMX so this was the only option for a self conscious soon to be teenager. Well ok, there was the Raleigh Grifter, but I hated grifters and it was a bit of a hardnuts' bike that would probably let to a career of gluesniffing up the park.

Riding it home was an incredible feeling - it was so light and sharp steering...and so fast. So fast in fact that on the secong day I had it I was involved in an accident. I got a bit carried away and put it in 12th (top) and went tearing off down a hill. I overtook a bus on the inside doing what felt like 75mph before a van indicating to turn right suddenly changed his mind and turned left...just as I was passing him up the inside. I ended up 100 yards down the road with my head in the gutter and the soles of my feet flat against someones front door.

Before I got up the driver of the van was standing over me giving me a ton of verbal abuse before storming off. I'd ridden like an idiot but so had blue van man. I had gravel rash up one arm and my shoulders were like raw porkchops, the shirt I'd been wearing was just rags. The police were invloved, the school were involved, some 'witness' reckoned he's seen it all and would say so in court if needed; turned out he was the local racist pillock who was just desperate to see the van driver (an Asian man) go down for knocking poor innocent white boys off bikes. It wasn't the best start to my career as a racing cyclist.

The bike was never the same. I had trashed the rear wheel and despite the best efforts of my mate's dad it never ran true again. Still, it was my bike, my only bike, so it was pressed into service for the daily roadrace to school. After my accident I was a far more cautious rider but my main rival in this race, Stephen Dumbrell had no such worries. He used to do suicidal moves he knew I'd never follow. He also had the slight edge over me on the main climb, Buckland Hill, but I was always able to claw back the gap on the long drag that followed for the next mile all the way to the school gates. There was one other rider in this race, a kid called Gavin Redmore. He was as strong as an ox and stockily built, if he'd wanted to he could have been the school hard nut but fortunately for me had no interest fighting. He was a demon sprinter but he ran of steam on anything with a hill. The contest was between me and Dumbrell with Gav giving it everything to stay in contact. We used to have some epic battles on the way home and I'd arrive with my schoolshirt drenched in sweat.

One day another of my 'friends' pointed at the sticker on the frame that said 'carbolight 103' and said that my bike was crap, as it didn't have a sticker that said 'reynolds 531'. He was right of course, but this was 1983 and 531 was still hot poop, and a racer bearing that legend would be £250 or more. Anyway the sod went and bought a Raleigh Record Sprint for the heady price of £200 that came resplendent in metallic black with bling bling gold cranks and brakes..and Reynolds 501 tubing and a sticker that said so. Ok, so it wasn't 531 but it was clearly a much better bike than mine. Then another mate got a Peugeot, a 'premier' which was the same bike as mine except it was red, had only 10 gears and no quick release hubs. It might as well have been a Sun Solo...

For my sins gentle reader, I rode my little peugeot into the ground. I bunnyhopped it, I endoed it, I locked the back wheel frequently for spectacular stops like a frustrated BMX'er. I think I oiled the chain once and used to put a whiff of air in the tyres when the felt a bit squidgy. I rode it in all weathers and I used to ride it for miles without even carrying a puncture repair kit or spare inner tube! The bike opened up a whole new world to me. I was a bit of a loner and used to take off on rides around the north downs and the lanes that seperate Maidstone and the Medway towns. One day I rode for what seemed like hours and arrived in this strange town I'd never seen before. I stopped and asked this woman where I was; 'Luton' was her reply. Blimey, I'd ridden to Luton!...not quite, there was an area of Chatham called Luton and I had ridden maybe 12 miles to get there. I asked an old codger how to get back on the road to Maidstone and home, 'no idea son, I've only left Luton once and that was to fight the Germans'...yeah if I lived in Chatham I'd never want to leave either.

I was a total idiot and feel a bit guilty even now as I type this, but its a testament to that little French bike that it kept on going. In fact it kept on going until 1990 when I hamfistedly stripped it down to the frame and put it in a load of bags down the bottom of my mums garage. Some bloke up the hospital where my mum was a nurse said he needed a bike and my mum being a charitable sort (as well as someone keenly aware of the growing mountain of rubbish her 7 children were accumulating in her 3 bed semi) she suggested he took a look. The cheeky sod turned his nose up at the little peugeot. Then maybe a year later - things were a bit hazy at this point because I had discovered rave music and things generally were (ahem) a little hazy for most of the early 90's - one of my mums' friends son needed a bike, and he too the little peugeot away and fixed her up to ride. I never saw it again, who knows, maybe its still out there...?

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