Although cycling is filled and saturated sometimes with stories of romance, panache and epic adventures, I feel sometimes it's worth looking a little closer to home. At what keeps the wheels turning day after day, week after week.
I've been riding on and off for around 6 years, not all of that properly of course. And what I mean by properly, is riding for ridings sake. Not for commuting, or to the pub or in flat shoes heaven forbid, but PROPERLY: Lycra, cleated shoes, helmet etc.
In that time, like most, i've had a variety of bikes, each of which, in the moment, seemed perfectly adequate and certainly holding the promise of a long and committed relationship. However as time moved on (and this anecdote is related to bikes only may I reitorate!) the luster of the a new bike begins to fade, it gets stratched maybe, or the paint scheme is no longer en vogue, or perhaps your mate just happens to have something a little bit shinier. Whatever the reason, anybody who says that bikes are forever is certainly lying to you, and though they may not be aware of it, lying to themselves.
My first proper bike, again by proper i'm talking road bike (I am a roadie after all) was a aluminium Specialised Allez, 9 speed. I look back on this bike with rose tinted glasses i'm sure, because it was, and as is common with your first, incredibly memorable, fun and beautiful. I bought the basic build second hand from a chap I met outside Kings Cross station in London. I found him on Gumtree no less, and met him with £200 stuffed in my jeans pockets. I didn't check the thing over beyond a cursory glance: Did it have wheels? Yes. Did it have a chain? Yes. Was it red as in the photo? Yes. All checking out, I wheeled my first proper steed onto the train and whisked it away to a life of servitude, disappointment and poor treatment.
It's important to note that there was absolutely NOTHING wrong with that little red bike, It allowed me my first 10 miles, my next 20 and even up to 60, riding round London for charity and ultimately it was the catalyst to what is now this project, as without it, I may not be the bike nut that I am now. Though I now count my distance in kilometers, as the Europeans do, and I wear my socks high, my legs shaven and jerseys tight. Not an awful lot has changed. I still ride for many of the same reasons that lead me to purchase that bike in the first place. Chasing freedom, unadulterated head clearing potential, adrenaline and challenge.
I kept that bike for a few years, 2 maybe three and it changed its garb over time. Shimano Sora to Campag Centaur (gearing options for those not in the know) new wheels, endless tinkering with positions and pedal types, but the essential core of the bike remained the same. Sure the frame, chipped and the go faster black stripes lost there cutting edge appeal, but that bike was solid and important to my journey, my road. In a lot of ways, I wish I had kept the frame, like i've kept my first club cycling jersey or my first pair of proper road shoes. A piece of my own memorabilia, forever archived in the anums of my cycling history.
I may now be a carbon convert through and through and looking to the next plastic speed machine, but I'll always remember that first bike.
God speed Allez, wherever you are, god speed.