Merry Christmas from all at RCUK! Over the 12 days of Christmas, we’ll be reposting an existing article from this year – one from each month. Here RH asks, is this the perfect pub bike?
I had occasion to cycle to a pub in Croydon last week. Getting there by public transport is a pain; the bus takes forever and the two train stations nearest the pub – well, bar to be precise – reachable from my own nearest station are both a 15 minute walk from said bar. Nope, unless it is raining, the bike is the only way to get there without wasting valuable drinking time.
For the purpose I have several candidate machines, each of which has done the job at least once. There are important criteria: the bike must be rideable in clothing suitable for wear in the bar, which implies, to my mind, something with flat pedals, and it must be the kind of bike that can be left locked to a lamp post in full view of the bar.
This latter is important. No bike is truly safe if left locked out of view while an obviously expensive machine is tempting even if locked in full view of its owner. The trick seems to be to match the desirability of the machine to the conditions in which it must be left.
My fully-rigid Fuquay mtb works well enough, lacking as it does the suspension and disc brakes that the better-informed cycle thief might see as desirable to a potential buyer, but it is a bit of a faff to swap the mtb pedals for flatties and the knobblies aren’t great on road.
Ruby, my Longstaff tricycle, made the journey a few weeks ago and was a great success. Not only was the trike unlikely to get nicked, but it seemed to deter the average Croydon motorist from coming too close However, a trike is an awkward shape to park without causing an obstruction on a busy pavement and to lock up without leaving the rear wheels vulnerable.
So, the other night, I dug out Cyril from the back of my garage, pumped up the heavy-duty 26″ tyres and set off. Cyril is a 1932 Raleigh Record in original condition throughout with the exception of a few parts such as spokes, chain, saddle and tyres that had failed to last the 70 years between its manufacture and my acquisition. It was on this machine that I rode the Eroica in 2004 and, despite its great age and extremely retro everything, it is a pleasure to ride on the right journey.
Something of around five miles with barely a rise in it and a pint at the end is that journey. Recently, annoyed at the way the toe clips dragged when starting off, I removed them. Riding fixed wheel without feet firmly attached to the pedals is normally frowned upon, since losing a pedal at speed is easy while regaining a footing is not, but in this case it is not a problem. If anything, Cyril is nicer to ride without the toe clips and bikes of this vintage would have been ridden that way by many owners when new. It’s a great chance to practice good ankling technique…
If there is one disadvantage to Cyril, it is that the sight of an ancient bicycle being ridden fast around Croydon seems to enrage many of the borough’s motorists. Perhaps it is the sheer effrontery of the act, but for whatever reason, my ride to Croydon was marked by several close calls. The closest involved a Jaguar saloon, the driver of which took expection to being overtaken in heavy traffic and attempted to get back in front on the approach to Duppas Hill by using the inside lane.
One thing about Cyril, however, is definitely in the rider’s favour in such circumstances. The wheels are held on by large wing nuts, in cast bronze as it happens and in the shape of a capital R. Anyway, they stick out menacingly and pose a clear threat to expensive bodywork; clear enough, in any case, to enable me to hold my line with confidence.
I did need that pint, mind…