One of the most enjoyable things about riding fixed is when you spot a ‘chap of age’ eyeing up your bike, you look at him, he looks at you then looks back at your bike, you smile at him, he hesitates but then finally comes over and talks to you about riding a fixed wheel. You probably know this scenario well, if not then you will sooner or later. One guy told me that he used to ride from Swansea to Cardiff (40 miles), race at Maindy track all day then cycle home again, that was back when men were men and not like us crazy kids.
The following is a guest post by Lewis Campbell, an ex-pat, who is now 70 and refers to his bikes as ‘fixies’ which I think is great!
The bike is a Hercules which my parents bought me as a reward for passing the ’11+ exam’. It was purchased from Baldwins, which was a Mum & Pop type of store in our little town of Potters Bar, Baldwins sold things like lawn mowers, hardware, bicycles etc and also did repairs and maintenance on things he sold. As far as I remember, it was just Mr Baldwin and his Mum that worked there.
The bike had a derailleur on it, as well as fenders and both brakes and I was really proud of it. All I knew about bicycles at that time didn’t amount to much because, during the war years, we didn’t have a whole lot of any kind of toys. However, I was fortunate enough to be naturally inclined to mechanical things and by the time I was about 10 I would scrounge for bicycle parts and was able to put a bike together that was rideable.
There was a farm about a mile from my house (mostly across fields) and I would ride my bike to it as I had a friend who liked bikes and lived just a little past the farm. Around this time a Turkish kid named Adil Gultikin (I’m not sure about the spelling) showed up at school. His older brother, who spoke good English, brought him but Adil hardly spoke any English. For whatever reason, he and I seemed to get along well and he began picking up the lingo and mixing in well. I had no idea where he and his brother lived but, after a while, he moved into a home where there was a boy named Pongo Barker. Pongo was probably 3 years older than us (which was quite a lot at our age) and was really ‘into’ cycling. He showed us how to ride, how to tape handlebars, etc. and explained about Claude Butler frames, Campy gears, etc. and also how ‘real’ cyclists rode fixed gears in the winter, so my derailleur had to go, along with the rear brake and fenders.
Pongo would lead us on rides to little cafes, out in the countyside and where cyclists would hang out., that was in the days when cyclists would ride to where they were going to have a race, then they’d take off their fenders, stash them in the hedges, take off the wheels, stash them in the hedge, then install their ‘race’ wheels, which they had been carrying on special brackets attached to the front fork.
I never forgot the good times I had during this time and I never forgot how much fun I had riding a Fixie.