Cycling gives me an intense buzz! It's a wonderful feeling to achieve your goals, knowing you did so under your own steam, through determination and sheer effort. In 2011, I cycled 12,000km just as a personal challenge. The desire to cycle further afield is now stirring inside of me! From 1st April, 2012, I will embark on a wwoofing adventure along the eurovelo routes of Europe. I will spend the first three months of 2012 planning my trip, as you will no doubt read all about on Twitter. My relationship with the "bike" has been reasonably long and checkered. Here are some of the highs and lows.

I was born in 1974. Specialized Bicycle Components was founded in 1974.
"I'm your density. I mean, your destiny."

Until I was six, we lived in a cul-de-sac, at the front of which was a green with a footpath around its perimeter. It was a time when kids would play together outside. A strange concept, to any younger readers, but it did happen, I have the brain memories and I have photos to prove it!

The only computer game you could buy was Pong on the Atari. This is like the one we had. Although ours was not Ultra-Pong. We could not afford the word Ultra on our one. It had three games on it football, tennis and squash. This felt like the future! I was too young to understand what the future was though at that age. Sometimes I wish the future had remained this simple, but then I could never have acquired three iPods, an iPod Touch, an iPhone, an iMac, a MacPro, a MacBook Air and an iPad.

My first memories of cycling are from when I was about five or so. I had a blue and yellow bike, which I am only remembering from an image I have in my head of a photo we have in an album somewhere of me sitting on it. (I have now found that photo, as you can see below. I wonder if the bike was bought to make the clothes or the clothes to match the bike? Oh, and no, my dad isn't Peter Sutcliffe, aka, the Yorkshire Ripper). I can distinctly remember the day my stabilisers came off. My older next door neighbour (who must have been a teenager, he was so old) spent a Saturday afternoon pushing me round and round the footpath outside the house. Finally, I could stay up without falling off. After that day I didn't cycle for a while. The next time I got on my bike, I had forgotten how to do it. So much for it being "like learning to ride a bike". But I persisted and 32 years later, I am rarely off a bike.

When I was six, we moved to a house in a street, on a block. At some stage the blue and yellow bike was replaced with something, which, if I remember correctly, was called a Trendsetter. I do remember thinking it seemed like a girls bike but, it was 1981, I had long hair and probably looked like a girl, so I doubt anyone even noticed. I used to ride round and round the block. Other friends were involved, I think. They probably had bikes too.

Some years passed. I was about 10. I had a blue Grifter. Everyone else had a BMX. BMXs were cool. Grifters were not so cool. I left it outside the front door one day and despite repeated warnings to put it in the garage, it remained outside. It got dark. It got stolen. A policeman came. The promise of a new bike was mooted.

We were in a shop, shiny bikes were all around. I was probably smiling. I had a happy childhood. I smiled a lot. I was an absolute nightmare for my mum, but I was happy at least. I wanted a BMX, a Raleigh Burner with shiny blue paint and plastic yellow wheels. They were the must have bike of the day. Lots of my friends had them. They were so cool.

Days later I had a red Grifter. I would have to wait some more until I could be cool. My saddle ripped and had to be repaired with tape, just like the one in the photograph below. Looking back, it was probably a design feature. I used to flip the front mudguard under, to rub on the tyre, so I knew what it sounded like to ride a motorbike. Finally I was cool. Raleigh Burner's didn't have mudguards!

Eventually the red Grifter sported a shiny coat of black Hammerite, hand painted by me, no doubt, in a bid to "freshen up" that dated red look. Over time, that shiny black coat became scratched and chipped and its lustre wore off. That once proud, red Grifter probably ended its days being launched down grassy banks, pushed into rivers, jumped over, jumped on, jumped off whilst still in motion until it could no longer sustain its balance and toppled over in a heap on the road, ploughed into a brick wall or into the front of a car. It probably lead a happy life but died a slow, painful death.

More years passed. I was 16. I'd finished school and started college so I needed a bike to cycle to and from college. Several years earlier, mountain bikes had replaced BMX's as the must have bike. I bought a mountain bike from a friend. Finally, I had the bike that every other person who owned a mountain bike had...a Raleigh Mustang! It only came in two colours, apparently. Needless to say, I didn't have the more, cool coloured one, below.

Within a few months it got stolen from the bike shed at college! I then inherited an old, beat up racing bike that belonged to the son of a friend of my dads. I used to flip the handlebars up so I didn't have to adopt that ridiculous looking road cycling position! Cool was no longer an option though, I was 17. I was shy, awkward and probably had poor personal hygiene. I tucked my jeans into my sock when I rode so they didn't get oily from the chain. I wore dirty trainers. When my friends were learning to drive and getting cars, I was cycling. The word cool was never mentioned in my presence.

I have no idea what became of that old, beat up racing bike. We didn't stay together for long. The following summer, I acquired a knackered old mountain bike from another friend of my dads. I guess we were no longer as well off as we had been in the days of the red Grifter. I got a full-time, summer job earning a heady £60 per week. I decided to spruce up the knackered old mountain bike. Every Saturday I would spend almost all of my wages on parts for the bike. All I could afford though were Shimano GS parts, but they were shiny and new and I had a goal in mind. I stripped the frame of every part and binned the lot. I removed the paint and re-sprayed the thing fluorescent pink! I covered it in the obligatory Oakley Thermonuclear Protection stickers, that were popular in the day and it was complete. For all the money I spent, I could have bloody well bought a brand new bike at the end of the summer! But my bike was certainly unique!

Over the two or three years we were together I treated the bike to a few upgrades. The original flexi-stem had snapped whilst I was negotiating a busy roundabout one rush hour morning. That was fun! I had brake mounts welded onto the seat stays to allow me to attach a rear brake. A novelty! I also added some tri-bars, I don't know who I thought I was kidding! Big chunky mudguards completed the look. I had also treated myself to my first set of lycra for the extra speed and apparently I was cycling an awful lot more as I appear to have lost quite a bit of weight! A year or so later I rode that pink bike into the sea "for a laugh" and within a few weeks it was a seized up, rusting mess. I believe it drew its final breath at the local tip.

Time marched on. It was 1995. I had finished college and now, like everyone else, I had a job in an area completely unrelated to what I had studied. I was working in a supermarket, whilst I decided what I wanted to do long-term. But, it was great fun and I tried to make the most of it. I also had more money than I'd ever had. I saved some this time and bought myself my first "expensive" bike an Orange C-16RS for £950. My friends had bought cars for less than that. A fact which they felt compelled to point out to me, each time I saw them. But I didn't care, I had no interest in cars or learning to drive. This was the best bike I'd ever had and it did everything I needed it to. I rode it everywhere. The day I got it I fell off it and ripped the saddle. I had failed to consider the dismount after setting up my cleats. I only did that once. After that, I raced it. I crashed it. I fixed it. I cleaned it. I lived it and I loved it. After a few years in the wilderness, my love of cycling had been rekindled. I even got myself the Orange team kit which was black with Orange spots all over it. I think I looked cool!

Time did its thing again and in 1999, I moved to Ireland. The Orange came with me and I cycled some more. A housemate sold me his road bike, so now I had two bikes. I had never experienced such luxuries. I chose to leave the handlebars in the drop position. I got married and I cycled less. I got lazy and I got fat. When I did cycle, spokes would break and I would get annoyed. A photo I saw of me, shocked me. I weighed 17 stone! Something needed to be done. I started walking to work. Halfway in the mornings (5km) but all the way home (10km). In five months I had lost 3 stone! I was addicted. I changed jobs and I walked some more, all the way in and all the way home, for over a year. The company relocated. I kept on walking. I was now walking 14km each way, five days a week, 28km per day. I did that for two years through winter, spring, summer and autumn. And, as anyone familiar with the Irish seasons knows, that actually means two and three quarter winters, half a spring, a quarter of a summer and half an autumn. Sometimes it was bleak. Then I got bored. I wanted to cycle again but I wanted something shiny and new. I sold the Orange and the road bike and got myself a shiny new Specialized Sirrus Sport. My passion for cycling was again rekindled and my love affair with Specialized began.

As happy as I am to ride Specialized, I will always have a soft spot for Orange. To this day I regret selling that Orange. That bike made me fall in love with cycling. That Orange is as special to me as a first (human) love. We shared experiences and created memories together that I will never forget. Seeds which were sown by that Orange have lead me to a point where I am about to embark on a cycling tour all over Europe, possibly indefinitely.

Mum. Dad. I'm sorry I left the blue Grifter outside all day.

I still don't drive.


  1. enjoy europe. guess that means no abel sitting this year!!!! Be happy x jm

    1. If he wants the exercise he can come with me :) I would love to be travelling with a canine companion.

  2. don't think he would be able to keep up with you!

  3. This is a cracking read. Love it.


  4. You could have had my bike brother. It was light weight and would fit into a carrier bag. Good luck on your travels. I will be following you.

  5. Raleigh Burner....how I yearned after one of them...my mates had them but I didn't. I then gravitated to a Raleigh Winner racer...how I wish I still had that bike, was contemplating buying an old Raleigh Winner frame and building a single speed. Good luck with the tour and if you are in the Essex Riviera, I can accompany you on your ride.

    1. The Burner was a thing of beauty. I still one those colours!

  6. If you'll ever want to sell your Specialized Rockhopper, please give me a mail or a call ;) Just got my bike stolen, and new a new ride