My name is Andrew, I'm now 30 years old and I am a gamekeeper from Berkshire.
I guess I fall into the born-again cyclist category.
As a kid, my bikes were my toys, my transport, my hobbies and an expression of my imagination all wrapped up into one.
Miles were no obstacle but they were covered without analysis. No average speed, no cadence and certainly no heart rate. Speed was measured from poorly calibrated speedos and we took great pride in our 40mph top speeds obtained on the biggest hills in the area at huge risk to both ourselves and anyone else on the roads!
Our bikes too, were truly universal. Leaping over three of my cousins laid underneath a ramp one minute, bouncing down flights of stairs the next and churning out the miles on the back road to get home again.
My Nan's house was often a focal point and depending on who else was there, the loyal and humble bikes would be pressed into service as Harrier jump jets for our Falklands War based dog fighting games or John Deere tractors for our grain hauling games where they would tow imaginary trailers back to fictional grain stores and tip enormous loads of invisible corn into the wet-pit.
On other occasions, they would become Moab-style rock crawlers with tyres deflated to 10psi as we scaled steep slopes and slid down through home made trials courses. In our minds eye we were in the coolest Land-rovers and Jeep Wranglers ever built.
I actually found a picture of my first bike the other day and what a machine it was! Swept back bars and a nifty basket for supplies I was rocking a serious biker look back then:
I can't really remember that one I have to admit. I can't even remember the day my stabilisers were removed.
My next one was a blue BMX. I can vaguely recall that one but no real adventures spring to mind.
Next up was an Apollo Atomic. I remember it having five gears and I remember doing some cycling proficiency on it at school.
They kindly tied this in with the bulk purchase of a load of sexy Tuff-tops helmets which should have been enough to put anyone off of cycling:
I can remember outgrowing this bike and not being allowed another. Luckily, my nan stepped in, but only with a £99 special from Halfords. Despite my feeling that it was false economy, in the face of no other options, I did my best to be greatful.
It was another Apollo and one of those bright orange ones that has spoilt that colour for life for me! It was a rigid 10 speed with awful non indexed gears and caliper brakes- a retrograde step compared to the mighty canti's on my Atomic!
Anyhow, it was wheels and that's what counts. Unsurprisingly, I have no recollections of anything remotely interesting happening on that bike!
Next up, was another Halfords job, but this time a nicely specced Carrera hard tail with 21gears and good brakes. I was so pleased with that bike because I had earned the money to pay for it from my first job- a weekend job on a pig farm. The bike helped maintain my freedom to ride to and from my new job and I even treated it to some nice Michelin mud tyres. I think once again, I thought it was a Landy.
I can't find a picture of this one either but it was a kind of tasteful brown I think.
My next bike was a bit of a legend in its day and was the decidedly average yet cleverly marketed Raleigh Activator. I can't for one minute imagine that the spec was better than what I had but I became a bit obsessed with it. Freed by my small income into making my own mistakes, I palmed my Carrera off on my step brother and bought the bike of that weeks dreams.
I don't have many good photos but do have this one:
It was silver and purple and once again received the Landy-a-like treatment. In my fantasy world, bar ends were bull bars, pumps were air compressors and pannier-racks were giant roof racks. I even later furnished it with a CB Ariel to really complete the look.
Whilst not a natural athlete by any means, I did complete a cool feat on this bike. One Friday in September, it was the school sponsored walk. The best thing about this was that we were allowed to go home as soon as we'd finished. I hatched a plan to enable me to go 'beating' on the shoot where I had grown up.
Bright and early, I rode my bike to school which was a heady 7 miles along the back roads. I then ran the sponsored walk which was 14miles. Finally, I rode the 10miles to the farm where luckily everyone was having lunch! I'm not sure I could get the logistics right these days but when time had no meaning and the days felt longer, I never once considered the plan may fail.
To be fair, the Raleigh suited my needs. It was fast enough, comfy enough, stopped well enough and was tough enough to withstand some ham fisted bunny-hops, jumps, ditches and a few drowned ford crossings.
Unfortunately for the bike, I was reading a few more magazines now and lusting after nicer machinery.
Slowly, I was becoming a teenage mountain biker. I was wearing Rox shorts, Oakley copy sunglasses and pricing up some SPD shoes.
I have no idea where the Activator went but in its place I bought a rather tasty Carrera Banshee. Brakes were fairly generic V Brakes but the chain set was not too bad Shimano. It had an Aluminium frame and RST forks. My accessories were a little more mtb'ey than faux-Land Rover this time although even the downhill style bars couldn't tempt me away from bar-ends.
It got twin bottle cages, crud catchers, Shimano SPD's and accompanying suede green shoes and an awesome set of LX VBrakes at great expense.
I can only find one picture of it and it's got my step-dad riding it:
That one was to last me until I was 16 and whilst I didn't race or anything too exciting, I did cover vast areas of Wiltshire on it including miles of great single track around Longleat and Shearwater close to what is now CentreParcs.
The fad was coming to an end and I had my eyes set on a moped to enable me to widen my horizons. I do remember vowing never to pedal a bike again as I explored farther and wider than ever on my Piaggio Typhoon moped. The Banshee was sold for a pittance to a friend and it would be 14 years until I rode a mountain bike again.......