Sunday, 9 September 2012


Crashing my van had started it all. I was fed up with markets, fed up with travelling , fed up with driving and fed up with vehicles. Prop shaft, head gasket, wheel bearings, blah, blah, blah. You get the picture. Always something.

 As I drove, I listened to Turin Brakes, and read The Sun, spread out on the passenger seat as always.

'Imagine getting caught by your wife in her underwear, aroused on the marital bed, when she came home, unexpectedly early from work!' Nevermind. Deirdre would sort it.

 I saw the tractor and trailer up front, and too be honest, didn't mind going slow. No rush. However, as the road bent round and a long straight appeared, I decided to go for it. As I increased speed and pulled  into the incoming lane, it occurred to me.

' Fuck! He's turning!'

And indeed he was. I'd not seen the sign displaying the turn to the right. I'd not seen his indicators- they were covered in mud. I braced myself, knowing any second I was going to crash. Which I did. The heavy metal trailer behind the tractor compressed the entire left, front side of the van. I came to a stand still on the grass verge. Depressed and demoralised, I got out the van, had a go at the driver of the tractor, realised I'd left my mobile at home, locked the door and walked to the other side of the road, where I waited an hour and caught the Lincoln-Skegness bus home.

I'd not disclosed points when taking out insurance policies for years. I found out from the police that I was in the wrong, and I'd only ever taken out Third Party insurance. The next day I got the van recovered, and went to bed content that my market trading days were finally over.

I was a partner in a new business with my brother manufacturing kids colouring boards, so the next day waltzed into the factory, told Chris my tale (honestly Chris, I was nearly killed!), waited for sympathy, and accepted the offer of working at the end of the packing machine. Chris was top man down there, he made clear. I was supposed to be a sleeping partner, as in a business environment we don't exactly gel, but, if I kept my mouth shut and did what he said, I had a job.

The problem was that I lived 12 miles from the factory, the bus services were shit, and I now had no vehicle. I did have a bike though.

' Thirty five quid?' I asked. 'Is it nicked?'

'Yes- Chesterfield.'

'I'll have it.' I replied.

'Den- do us a favour. Don't ride it round here for a month or two.'

'Thought it was from Chesterfield?'  I queried.

'Don't stress mate.' he said, walking off and popping the money into his back pocket smiling.

I'd put on abit of weight, now relatively content in my married life. I'd been 11 stone for years, but was now 15. Biking to work would do me good I thought, until I bought a car.

The funny thing is that once I started biking to work, I quickly discovered that I loved it. I relished the exercise, but savoured the simplicity more. No petrol, no breakdowns. I resolved to give up looking for a vehicle and stick to the bike. The wife wasn't happy- she couldn't drive.

 ' Get yourself a bike,' I implored.

Within weeks I had a new obsession. I spent tea breaks searching the web, developed plans to operate a market trading business by cargo bike and trailer, and bored everyone senseless. I'd bought a steel framed Raleigh racing bike from my elder neighbour, and attempted a cut price single speed conversion ( single speed and fixed wheel bikes fitted the simplicity model exquisitely). This worked to a point, but my 24 mile round trip ride to work was regularly hampered by problems. I needed something different..


Sheldon Brown is a cycling legend. If you want to know how to attempt any repair or alteration to a bike, then Sheldon is there with the information on the web ( he is now no more, but his site continues). Sheldon loved cycling. But Sheldon loved cycling, not in the ' I'll get the racer out on Sunday way', but in a way that I too share-the bike as everyday transport. Sheldon loved single speed / fixed gear cycling. He also loved  the Raleigh Twenty. I was intrigued.


                                                  Original 60's Moulton.

                                         1975 Three Speed Twenty

The man responsible for the original small wheel bikes was Alex Moulton. In the 1960's he developed a revolutionary bike design for its time - a unisex, step though frame, with 16 inch wheels and front and rear suspension. It was an attempt to take cycling to the masses, to make a short distance commuter cycle, ideal for men going to work and women going shopping (or the other way round in more liberal 60's households!). Raleigh responded to the popularity of the Moulton design by producing the RSW-16, another 16 inch wheeled bike. By 1970 sales of the RSW-16 had fallen, so Raleigh decided to aggressively market another small wheeled bike. This bike was the Raleigh Twenty. This used the larger 20 inch wheels, which made for a smoother ride and less rolling resistance. In 1974 the RSW-16 was discontinued, leaving the Twenty to  become Raleighs main small wheeled bike in production. In 1975 140,000 were manufactured in the UK, which equalled the entire sales of the Moulton from 1963-1974. It was Raleighs biggest selling bike in 1977, and continued in production until 1984, giving it a 16 year lifespan.

I liked the idea of the Twenty. It was an idea that I now shared. It was a bike to do everyday things on - go shopping, ride to your mates house,bike to work, bike to and from the pub on. In short, a bike which would become an intricate part of  your everyday life, to make that everyday life easier, get you out in the fresh air - ultimately make your everyday life, and life in general, better.


I found mine on ebay- £15 from a house in Lincoln.

'Who's it for?' asked the nice lady selling it .It had been sat in her garage for years.

'Err..... For the wife,' I lied.

I handed her twenty pounds and told her to keep the change, and looked round for my son and my bike. Smiling and laughing, he had taken off down the street aboard the Twenty.

' Dad! Why do you want a bike like this?'

The look on his face answered the question.

It's my companion. It spent two years on a daily twenty four mile round trip to the factory. A puncture was the worst thing that happened. It's done 50 mile round trips to Boston. No problem. But its main use is the simple things- it gets me to the beach, to town to do the shopping, and to work. It's a tool. It's got abit of rust where it stands out in all weathers, and it looks abit stupid. (haha.. Nice bike Jesus!). 

I love it.


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