There’s no doubt I was co-ordinationally challenged, I was hopeless and it suppressed my physical and social development in my younger years. I have previously mentioned my lack of skill with a ball, or any object that had to be thrown, caught or kicked, but it went further than that and extended to anything that needed skills of balance – my bicycle for example.
As a young child I never had to think about the time it would be necessary for me to master the art of balancing on two wheels, my tricycle was my transport and I used this as my everyday vehicle for years, from about the age of four until at least seven or eight. My trike was of the usual cheaper variety, probably acquired as a hand-me-down from an older cousin or purchased locally, it was of the solid-tyred type with 14″ wheels. This provided many hours of fun and there are a number of photographs taken with me in the saddle including this one obviously taken on a warm day. Just down the road lived another lad and he had a superior version tricycle, with pneumatic 16″ tyres and a large luggage boot, but the tyres were its downfall as it spent much time waiting for punctures to be repaired and although I was very envious of the luggage boot, I was glad my trusty trike was always available and puncture-proof.
Then came the time to upgrade. My parents felt it was time I should have a two-wheeler and I was taken to the local store to try some out for size. They settled on a red Dawes with 24″ wheels and at eight years of age I could only just touch the floor when sitting on the saddle. It also came with outrider stabiliser wheels which I felt looked a little juvenile. Needless to say, the bike and I never got on well together, I just couldn’t get the hang of balancing the thing and the stabiliser wheels didn’t help as once you’d gone past the point of balance the whole thing tipped over at a crazy angle and generally deposited me on the ground far harder than if they’d not been there. I guess the bike lay unused for a year or so until my brother had his first two-wheeler, a smaller frame with 18″ wheels, his was second-hand unlike mine which was new, but that’s another story for another day.
Anyway, my brother was soon whizzing round on his bike and I was still struggling with mine until one day when he wasn’t using it I sat astride his. As I could easily put my feet on the ground I could propel my self with my feet pushing on the ground and soon got the hang of the balance until I was brave enough to attempt pedalling. Needless to say I soon graduated onto my own bike and at last was able to use it, I must have been about 9 by then though!
In 1962 when I was thirteen I requested a new bike for my birthday so Dad and I went to Halfords in Bridgend town centre and looked for a suitable purchase, we had a budget of around twelve to fifteen pounds so a lower to mid-range bike could be afforded. The one I liked was £15 with butterfly handles and a three-speed hub, but Dad said if we had it without the three -speed he had one in the garage we could fit to it, so we purchased my new bike with single speed which cost £12/10s. The three-speed he fitted was not the usual Sturmy Archer used in those days, but a BSA which had slightly lower gearing on the two lower speeds and higher gearing on the third speed. Why am I telling you all this? Well, umpteen years later that bike is still hanging up in my garage, restored twice, about 1976 and again in the early 90s, it is still useable and in reasonable condition, the red one in this picture.