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Let’s Get Retro

As with many of these things the idea started with a few conversations which led to something, which led to something else which ended up with me coming up with an excuse to ride my bike, as though I need one!  The acquisition of an old 1970’s Coventry Eagle rescued from my uncle’s garage was the starting point I suppose.  I needed to justify having it and so organised what I thought would be a ride that would attract about half a dozen or so Wheeler’s riders.

I didn’t bank on:

  1. Getting carried away with the idea and devising an ill thought out points competition based on what I thought were perfectly sensible and logical criteria, but what were in reality were way too complicated.
  2. Dave Kirton plaguing me by text/Facebook/phone/email for a month asking me for points for his homemade frame.
  3. Having to make a trophy.
  4. 29 people turning up
  5. Me not actually getting to ride my Coventry Eagle!

I am stressed and this is supposed to be a relaxing social ride and we haven’t even set off yet.  I am trying to work out the points for the combination of bike and rider while the wind is doing its best to blow away the form I’m trying to write things down on.  What a stupid idea!  People are asking for points for all sorts of things, Kirton inevitably is moaning on about his frame ‘surely it’s worth at least 2 points, it took me a year to make it!’ he drones on for the hundredth time, others are asking for things as obscure as bar tape, tyres and pumps.  Eventually though I have done all those who wish to submit their machine and attire for rigorous inspection.  Shaun Joughin’s retro tights actually lose him a point, much to the relief of the other riders, we don’t want to encourage this sort of thing in future.

Once I’ve had time to survey the scene and take it all in I realise that it’s an impressive display that has gathered in Stokesley car park.  A wonderful range of marques: Woodrup, Mercian, Dawes, Peugeot, Olmo, Stallard, Gios, Coventry Eagle, Falcon, Gillot, Graham Weigh, Concorde, Viking, Ellis Briggs, Geoffrey Butler, Moulton and of course Kirton’s own brand.  Some of these bikes were beautiful examples of 40’s 50’s and 60’s machines, wonderfully restored and maintained, others were well used, but by no means less worthy steeds.  It’s a good mixture too of Wheelers riders and other friends of the club who have turned out.

People have also gone to town on their apparel too, caps, old jersey, gloves, shoes, goggles and even tyres around the shoulder.  We make an impressive sight as we leave the car park, so much so that a local Bobby stops the traffic to let us out, wish I could take credit for that but it was totally spontaneous, simply a wonderful gesture befitting of the intention of this ride.

So now all we had to ride these old beasts for 27 miles including the steep side of Clay Bank.  The crunching of gears was a familiar sound as most riders had to reacquaint themselves with friction shift.  I had the luxury of indexed bar end shifters as I was actually riding my 1990’s Olmo, having loaned the Coventry Eagle to John Kelly Senior.  The annoying thing is that he scored more points than me, in fact if he had dug out some retro gear he may have well have won the trophy.  I meanwhile was third last in my own points competition with 4 points (2 for my steel frame, I point for my gears and a discretionary point, awarded by me, to me, for my rather splendid 7 Eleven cap) only Dave Kirton and Shaun O’Shea (on a bike loaned to him by Dave) scored less than me.

Quite early on we had to tackle Clay Bank, overcoming the challenges of weight and, for many, gear ratio, especially for those on fixed!  A couple of riders claimed that they had to dismount because they were riding behind Shaun Joughin and his tights and it all got a bit too much for them!

Once rested up the rest of the ride went surprisingly smoothly as bikes and riders worked remarkably well with few mechanical gremlins.  A really great feature of the ride was that not only did it bring out a few old machines who rarely see the light of day but it brought out the old bikes too!  In all seriousness though there was some great banter on the day with many stories told and useful information shared.  What shone through were two things, classic bikes are still very enjoyable, if a different experience, to ride and that sometimes people simply enjoy just riding bikes with no emphasis whatsoever on performance.

I really enjoyed pulling it together and intend to make it a regular fixture as long as people want to ride it.

So who won?

The first prize awarded was for ‘best in show’.  There were some great contenders but I think everyone was agreed that Ian Jones’ combination of his restored 1950’s Stallard built by his granddad, combined with a chocolate brown retro kit, turn of the century style goggles, shoes etc. was a worthy winner.  He even made life harder for himself by having to operate rod gears and deal with a stem that flexed alarmingly.

The inaugural trophy for top Wheeler went, rather appropriately, to top Wheeler himself Bryan Bevis.  Bryan presented a Moulton machine that tested out my point scoring system but he narrowly edged out John Carr and his Dawes.

The final award for best effort went to club newcomer Owen Taylor (in the yellow top in the bottom right picture) who put a great deal of time and thought into his retro kit and Dawes single speed.

Paul Christon

September 2014

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