Sixty Years. The brief autobiography of no ordinary bike.

My life began on 16 March 1953 when I was collected from my builder, L H Brookes in Fallowfield Manchester. My 24 inch frame was a fairly sober grey, with red panels on the seat tube and head, and lugwork picked out in red. I cost 14 pounds 14 shillings. During the week I aquired a new set of wheels and many parts taken from a Raleigh Lenton which had been my owner's first real bike. I joined the rest of the bicycle family in the hallway of 19 Repton Avenue, Denton, and found them all to be a well used crowd. A shining 25 inch Sibbit, also of Manchester origin, pencil stays and new campag gears, and a lady's frame Hill Special , both with a silver finish and splended equipment, also a black 'shopping' Raleigh with full chain guard and sturmey archer 3 speed. In the shed outside was the black Pemberton Arrow tandem with raised kiddy chainwheel and cranks on the back. His claim to fame was that he had taken the old Moseleys in their younger days on honeymoon up to Scotland, and that my owner had learned to love club riding on his back saddle, which had now become the seat of the younger brother. All these were cleaned and maintained in the living room, in front of the warm fire, on a special rug stored and kept for that purpose. I had obviously been born into a keen CTC family, who regularly met at East Didsbury Station for Sunday rides with the Loiterers section.

David, my 17 year old owner, had already begun riding on his own with a faster group, the A section and then a CTC offshoot, the Saxon Road Club, and had ridden several time trials, but now with my help he was ready for his first 'track riding', though still with old Raleigh steel bars, and chainset, with a 'fixed wheel'. He had saved his paper round money for a pair of 'sprints and tubs', with airlight hubs and bronze wing nuts. These were carried out to events on my front wheel nut carriers, and strapped to my bars. Afterwards, Sunday club runs during the day were fun training rides, which we also took on several week day nights, "round the triangle" they called it, about 32 miles. My first time trial was the Coronation Day Manchester & District 25 and I won a medal with a 1.7.42 so we were very pleased.

Great excitement was my first ride on Fallowfield track, where the great Reg Harris rode regularly and where he set lots of his National records. Cyril Bardsley was the local hero too. I first raced on Friday 26 June, but with not such success, as we came last in double harness pursuit, however the second meeting I came second in the sprint. I rode most Friday evenings during that summer season, before David's girlfriend lent him a maroon Holdsworth Track bike, with smart gold box panelling, and who had a much shorter wheelbase, and all the best aluminium gear. My headset was quite put out by this obvious desertion, but it was noticeable how many times I rolled along the route from Denton to Prestwich and back where this girl Julie lived. She rode a stunning black and white hand built James Harrison, who had really fancy cut curly lugs and chrome forks, which I admired right from my first sight.

Life was just settling into a happy routine of training, road and track racing, when everything changed rapidly. David left home and we went to college at Loughborough. Wow, quite a shock! I now knew how well off I'd been previously, cosseted in a warm hall. Now I had to live in a cold outbuilding and never knew the warmth of a house again.

Another shock was 'massed start ' racing, all the rage with the College racing team, and I even had to be fitted with 10 Simplex gears. I aquired another friend, a Viking, which was used for 'cyclo cross' racing. David and I used to ride from Loughborough to Manchester 83 miles, on a Friday after lectures finished, then ride round Cheshire all weekend, with fancy lugs Harrison and her new club, and then back again on late Sunday night, right through Derbyshire, very hilly. We certainly clocked up the miles during this time, all noted and added in David's leather covered CTC diaries which he still has, recording a total of 9,081 in 1953. These College three years passed quickly, and then followed another drastic move down even further south.

This was really all my fault, as David had noticed that my red tubular treads were red all week, riding into college, but mysteriously, during the ride back to Manchester on Friday, they turned black and remained black all weekend. Then on the ride back south they regained their bright red colour. He realised that the atmosphere of grime and fog of the north was not the best place in which to live.

So it was that David, Julie, me, the Harrison and the Holdsworth Track bike, together with a truck load of beds and belongings, went to live in Odiham, a small village in Hampshire where David was to teach. They were married, but no one thought that we bikes should be similarly joined, though we had exchanged our parts on several occasions. We lived very briefly in the living room again, with a sewing box, a tool box, and an old kitchen table, but soon they brought in new furniture, and David built a wooden lean-to shed down the side of the house, where we lived with all the firewood logs. Later he built a fine brick garage with cavity walls. It had to be very dry and warm because he spent time building a model railway all round three walls, so we bikes were quite happy.

Soon after our move south, a baby joined the family, followed by a new Watsonion sidecar which arrived in a wooden packing crate, and I was most disappointed that my chain stays were too thin, so it was affixed to the track bike with fat stays. What a comedown for him, from a high and mighty racer to a nanny in one big drop, but he did get to go on a few club rides with the Basingstoke CTC. It seemed like no time before that baby was on a small seat fixed to my crossbar, and a new occupant was born into the sidecar, but the rides got shorter and shorter, and soon I was used exclusively for the ride to work, only five minutes each way. Poor old Harrison was left to gather dust, finally in the loft, while 'Tracky' was stripped of his sidecar and passed on to a dubious existence in London with David's much younger brother, still in the racing scene. There were soon four small people around the house and garage and other small three and two wheel bikes were temporarily lodged alongside me, but often getting left out in the rain and snow, and never cherished. We did get to ride once or twice as a true family but other things always got in the way, mainly a large Bedford camper, which always got more use than it should have, and more fun too, with long holiday trips all over Europe. I was certainly the poor relation in the household and yearned for adventure and a new lease of life.

It seemed an age before things picked up for the better. I got regular work use, though my destination and journey length varied through the next 30 years and general maintenance was limited to a quick squirt of oil on my chain and the odd puncture mend. But they say old bikes never die, and finally I got to see more adventure than many bikes four times my age.

The small people grew up and moved out, and David got disenchanted with his situation in school, with me carrying home more books and marking than I could endure. The final straw was when David reached a veritable age of 40 years, and vowed that life was too precious to waste on work. He turned his back on the series of model railways, and spent all his spare time building a boat, just big enough for two people and two bikes, and after a four years trial sailing, when David reached 50 we were loaded on board the boat in Southampton and off we all sailed to search the wide world for adventure.

The next ten years were almost complete bliss. Harrison got a single free wheel, and I went back to single fixed, with new stainless spokes in my wheels, both stripped of our mudguards, and we lived in the side hulls of 'Trixolar', a sailing trimaran. Together we rode hundreds, and sailed thousands of miles, and got to ride in almost all the exciting places we stopped. First France, Spain, Portugal, down to Gibraltar. Here we circumnavigated the whole island including a long tunnel through which bikes were not supposed to go. That day I remember, there was panic when we returned to find our home had sailed away on its own, dragging its anchor the whole length of the long airport runway.

The long sails were sometimes a bit rough, but we all got accustomed to the strange motion and I was very pleased never to be sick, though both Harrison and I suffered terribly from the rust bug, being carried to shore in a small dinghy, and often landing in breakers or on a sandy beach. We were always in a salty environment, though we were snug and dry, stored in our outrigger.

On to the 5 Canary Islands, with rides on all of them during one whole year, up mountains and across sandy desert features. One island had a really strange landscape with black volcanic rock, another had a huge long extinct crater in the middle which we cycled up to see. It was always very hot, and the sail from one island to another always had the boat pitching and tossing about.

Next down to Africa, with one special ride to Denton Bridge in The Gambia reminding me of my early roots in Denton Manchester. Senegal too was pretty, with people still living in very primitive grass huts with chickens and goats running about everywhere and dusty poor road surfaces which gritted our chains and shook us to pieces.

Then the long sail over the equator and across the Atlantic to South America, followed by a year and lots of adventures in Brasil. Salvador Bahia, was our main centre, with rides round the historic city and up to the massive cathedral on the hill, in a square with all sorts of fruit and cooked food vendors and a crowd of happy and friendly schoolchildren who each rode me proudly round the square with wobbles as they rocked from side to side over my crossbar, barely reaching the pedals. A few hundred miles farther down the coast, Rio de Janiero, where David spent a very memorable day riding up every inch of the cobbled twisty mountain road up to the Corcovada, a massive statue of Christ with arms outstretched. Here we were both really upset as he was determined to get me in the photograph with the statue, but the guards would not allow me inside the gates at the top, in spite of David's pleadings. I distinctly heard him say in his best Portuguese, "This is my very best friend, which I love as much as my wife". They both laughed, but even this would not soften the guards. They knew he was crazy, riding up there with no gears and in that heat or perhaps they thought I carried a bomb in my saddlebag. Other days we rode along the Copa Cobana, and Ipanema beaches with David eyeing up all the beautiful young Brasilian women in their bikinis nicknamed 'dental floss'. The trip up to the Sugar Loaf Mountain was by cable car and I was locked and left with the lift operators at the bottom. On Sundays the huge 6 lane motorway round Rio was closed to traffic and the public used the space for social events, model car and plane racing, flower displays, private parties, skate and roller blading, and of course cycling. It was on these occasions that I was able to meet other foreign bikes and compare living conditions. Some lived in complete hovels and others in huge mansions. One old bike I met was the only object that his rider owned. They lived under a motorway bridge and washed cars for money using a rusty tin and water from a burst main.

Sailing north then, with the sun, up to the Caribbean Sea, with a multitude of islands to visit and compare, some with almost impossible roads and mountains. When we rode away from the coast and the tourists, David was welcomed as a local and soon invited to join in the boisterous domino games in all the bars along the way. On to the Bahamas, shallow glittering water with flat islands, the highest of which is 220 feet, no problem using my single fixed gear there.

In to Florida, up canals and rivers, riding at every stop, a flat and empty place but with signs of great wealth at every corner, hardly any other road bikes and lots of shopping bikes with curvy frames, big wide saddles and back pedal brakes. One stroke of good luck here however, was when David and Julie hitched a ride to town in the back of a pickup truck. There, to David's complete surprise, was a brand new Brooks leather B47 saddle. My swallow saddle had suffered a broken back support, and the rivet was quickly rubbing holes in his shorts. An offer of $5 was quickly accepted by the driver, "I'd never be able to sit on that thing, but it looked too good in the Flea market" he said.

Over to Cuba, a land with hundreds of Chinese black bikes, with large wheels, but they had forgotten to send any pumps with them and there were queues of bikes at all the garages with working tyre inflators. All the cars were older than me but polished until the paint had rubbed away, and lovingly mended with wire and string. It was in Cuba that Julie decided that she and her Harrison were going back to civilised living, washing machines, houses, real kitchens and hair washes in hot water, David and I left the boat and soon followed them to home. My goodness, how grand Harrison looked after her refit and respray by Frank Herity up in Manchester. Gone were the chipped paint, the rusty spokes and chain. She looked a million dollars, re-sprayed a gorgeous deep blue, with chromed front and back forks and her old lugwork picked out in gold. My only disappointment was the new transfer which read Jim Harrison in bold capitals instead of James Harrison in script, quite a lowering of class I felt. She was completely fitted out, flash Japanese gears, new brakes, bars and saddle, with not a bit of fifties equipment in sight, truly a modern girl, and fit for a queen.

Though David appreciated the improvement he is a bit more of a sentimentalist, and a short time later, when I was re-sprayed, it was in the same grey and red apparel, with the original GB brakes and extension buffed up, AND with the original re-chromed steel drops, retained from his old Lenton of years ago. He even tracked down a new pair of Bluemels guards, with quick release wingnut stays, and a brand new leather Swallow saddle, from an advertisement in the CTC Gazette,( now with a new name). Another addition to the family was Freddy the Golden Grubb, a track frame that David bought from a Manchester friend, and fixed up as a fixed wheel bike for lone short rides, but poor Freddie never got a lot of use, as David found it quite hard going with only the one gear, either too high for hills or two low for normal riding. He quickly found out that his youth was further back than he had imagined!

So there we were living back in Fleet, Harrison and I, and looking forward to regular rides with the Midweek fellowship, slowly coasting down the lanes as befits our old age. We were joined by a newcomer, a black Raleigh, bought in order that Harrison’s glistening paintwork would not get spoiled by dirt and grit on winter rides. One cold day in January, riding with a good friend Jack towards Andover, we were all involved in a tragic accident. Raleigh and I were OK, but the other bike suffered damage. Raleigh did come back home, but was soon given away to a very old friend back in Manchester.

That Spring of 1997, I was almost ridden into the ground, David going out almost every day, in the cold, often on our own, almost aimlessly round quiet lanes, but also with other club bikes, while Harrison, one the other hand, never saw the light of day, and began to wonder what had happened to change her life so much. Then, suddenly, no action for either of us, neglected and dusty, but dry.

Some time later, maybe even a couple of years, I started riding again, along with a strange bike, not quite in our class, and on shorter rides than had been normal. Then eventually I got to ride out again, with Jack, and the Midweekers Group. We were joined by a brand new Tandem, a Trek, silver and black, quite a racer, and definitely in our high class. When Trek went out, Harrison and I were left behind, but occasionally Trek stayed home and we were joined by much smaller bikes, sometimes riding through woods to the beach, often with wobbly noisy riders. Sometimes I got to tow a strange one wheeled contraption which uncomfortably rubbed on my seat pillar, and we went camping too.

David is occasionally attracted to the new brightly coloured carbon frames or aluminium with clumsy welding and no lugs at all, with hundreds of gears and ergo levers, but he stays loyal to me as always, even with my few paint chips. In the winters they leave us bikes here, snug and safe, while they dash off back to the sun and a new boat, now in the Caribbean. I have it on good authority that they have on board two Japanese folding mountain bikes to ride while they are away, but Harrison and I are well pleased to be away from all that salt in our old age. I have suffered equipment change to make my riding easier. My only original Raleigh Lenton steel drop bars were replaced with aluminium ones of shorter reach, my 4” GB extension changed to a modern 2” reach, and GB original brakes and levers changed to a new type that David could more easily use with his arthritic hands and fingers. On one lone trip to the sun, David brought back an unusual blue folding frame bike, with 26” wheels who is able to fly in a bag, far beyond my capabilities, and he has taken this Dahon on several lone jaunts away from the cold.

When I reached the big 5 - 0, David did promise to wrap my frame with the gold tape he bought in Trinidad Carnival, but he never actually got round to doing it, a general failing in his advancing state of senility. However, we do continue to enjoy riding together, with even an annual short jolly off to France for wine, bread and cheese, the New Forest Camping week, and a Birthday Ride or two. The hills are where we now suffer, with Harrison and I each getting a third chain ring, a granny and grandad gear, and we still enjoy our lives, mostly riding during the warm summers.

This year 2013, on March 16th I celebrate my 60th birthday, and I believe that a set of new L H Brookes transfers have been bought, but knowing David as I do after 60 long years, there is every possibility that my planned re-spray will be only a promise. But goodness me, in our old age, what grand memories we have to warm our 531 tubes.

David Moseley. CTC A7122557.