Saturday 13 June 2020

Two Wheels Good by Sheena Wilkinson

It is very unlike me to be in the fashion. I am either a late adopter or, more often, a non-adopter of trends. But my new hobby, which is really a rediscovery of an old one, is very zeitgeisty right now. Like millions of other locked-down people, I have taken to two wheels.

For me, it’s not about finding a healthier, non-germ-ridden alternative to public transport: living in rural Northern Ireland, public transport isn’t much of an option at the best of times. Nor is it really for exercise – I’ve always walked miles every day and for the last year I’ve been running too. 

my first trusty steed, circa 1977
No, I’m cycling for fun. Just for the craic. After not having been on a bike for almost thirty years, I am rekindling a joy in speed and freedom which I haven’t known for years. I remember going on rides as a child on my trusty Raleigh Amber with Vicky, my friend, on her Dawes Kingpin. There was something transgressive about taking these bikes out of our estate, sometimes even out of Belfast. Our mothers never knew how far we went and we never told them. Often my bike was a pony, sometimes a motorbike, sometimes a flying carpet – for a child, having two wheels as well as an imagination made the world a much bigger place. 

My partner is a ‘real’ cyclist and for the first few weeks I was content to puff along behind on his son’s mountain bike – for the loan of which I was very grateful. I was surprised at how easily I got used to being back in the saddle. In lockdown, we’ve been able to get much further on two wheels than on two legs and I’ve been able to get to know the countryside around his home, where I’ve been staying, more thoroughly than when I was only walking the dog or running the very local roads. And it wasn’t long before I started to covet the sleek lines of a road bike, and so my new trusty steed came into my life. 

my new trusty steed

The heroine of my (adult) work in progress, Stella, has also just bought a bike. It’s 1933 so her bike is heavy, and black, and she is wondering if she can get used to these new-fangled gears – three of them! Like me, she's part of a boom: cycling for leisure, as well as transport, was very trendy in the thirties. Like me she hasn’t cycled since she was young, though at  30 she’s much younger than I am, but it’s been fun imagining that we’re sharing the same joy in an old hobby rediscovered. 

Stella's trusty steed would have looked something like this 

Has anyone else used lockdown to rediscover an old passion? 


Helen Nicholl said...

Happy cycling Sheena! My old African bike used to look like Stella's - I look forward to reading about her x

Mel McMahon said...

It’s just now that I’m reading this that I realise that I’ve missed your posts from when you were out walking. Happy cycling, Sheena!

Anonymous said...

We used to call the old one "a sit up and beg !"!
I loved whizzing down hills and going round corners with no hands !!happy days Sheena !x!

Paul May said...

I've just spent the last three weeks of lockdown restoring a 1966 Dawes Kingpin so I really enjoyed seeing your post. Let's hope the new cycling boom lasts! And my mum used to cycle all over Norfolk in the 1930s on a bike like that, but without the gears.

Penny Dolan said...

Envious of those bike rides, Sheena!

I find the narrow bike lanes, damaged tarmac and busy traffic don't encourage me to cycle now, though loved the freedom when I was at an awkward age.

Suddenly remembering how much my mother loved her bike, until the day when a wheel got trapped in a left-behind tramline. She came off at a very busy junction and ma have been concussed. Her arm was broken - not good for a typist - but fortunately the bike seat was empt. She was on her way to work after dropping my young brother off at nursery, not the other way round!

Looking forward to more about your Stella!