Prosperity and the bike

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Geoff Farr and his JODEL D150 Mascaret

Local aviator Geoff Farr considers another form of transport which has been important in his life in this Feature article:

The other evening I watched a re-run of the old film called 'Genevieve'. Two or three things occurred to me as I watched. The film, (if you remember,) was a story woven in to the London to Brighton run of the vintage cars and was made about sixty years ago.

It was filmed in what was then called Technicolor which was quite spectacular to our war-dulled sense of colour. Another striking feature was to see and hear Kay Kendal letting loose with a trumpet solo.

We know now of course that it wasn't Kay who actually played the trumpet but that doesn't rob anything from the spectacle.

Triumph Speed Twins

The third thing that struck me were the techniques, clothes and equipment of the police motorcyclists who appeared in the film.

They rode solid rear framed ( un-sprung )Triumph Speed Twins which were the standard police motorcycle of those days.

They were quick and dammed uncomfortable without rear springing. But perhaps the most surprising thing when memory was re-visited was that they wore standard Police caps and not crash helmets.

Lastly, there was no suggestion, gesture or action of that pernicious evil 'political correctness.'

Short Step

It was a short step of memory to cause me to think of my own transport of those days and of course it was a peddle bike. It further occurred to me that my personal prosperity and indeed the prosperity of the nation runs a complete parallel to the bikes we have all ridden.

I grew up at Wybunbury and we lived at what was then called Bridge street though Granddad Williams always called it Grub Street. I never knew why, but he was convinced that was the correct name.

My first introduction to the bike was at age about 4 or 5 being carried upon the crossbar of dad's bike. To make this possible (though not comfortable ) a cushion was tied around the crossbar, though the cushion had to be located behind the Sturmey Archer gear shift or dad couldn't change gear, and their were no foot rests. The 'Elfin Safety' would have had a field day.

Joiner

At this point perhaps I should explain that dad's calling was that of a 'Journeyman Joiner'. This meant that his bike was as important to him as his Saw & Hammer. It was therefore cared for with the same attention to detail and lubrication. The bike was a 'New Hudson ' and of it's time was quite sophisticated and came equipped with a Sturmey Archer three speed hub and a Miller dynamo.

When he was called up into the army during World W 11 the bike was dismantled, oiled and hung in Granny's shed to await his return. In due course,he did return to be re-united with his bike and after the war it did many year's noble service before being pensioned off in favour of an old Ford van. But that is another story!

Tricycle

My personal introduction to peddling came with a tricycle purchased from the local wheelwright (Mr Clarke). This machine came second or third hand and brought with it my first encounter with mechanical problems. The front wheel spindle was not original and it was not quite 'fit for purpose' ( I do enjoy these ridiculous modern phrases).

Anyway, every so often and without warning the front wheel abruptly stopped turning and pitched me over the handle bars...usually with the trike ending on top of the heap, which was mainly me.

I fell out with the trike when it performed its trick when I was half way down the church bank (at Wybunbury) going full tilt past the 'Red Lion car park. On that occasion the bruised and grazed heap declared he would not be seen upon it again.

Riding a two wheeled bike came when a School pal pushed me down Bridge Street on his mother's bike. Soon after hurtling round the Delves school corner I realised he had withdrawn his support and loosed me. So, as you might expect I promptly fell off.

However, after a suitable interval, courage or skill returned and I mastered the art.
Now, my other Grandma lived at Willaston and though it was a long walk, during school holidays I walked to see her. She lent me her bike to return home on.

So of course I was obliged to ride the bike back to her to return it. This was a self defeating exercise as I invariably came back home on grandma's bike and by these means I eventually adopted it.

Extremely tall

The bike is worthy of description as it was one of those extremely tall bikes with a curved lower rail, a single gear and was far too tall for me to sit upon the seat. So, I stood on the peddles Willaston to Wybunbury. What would the 'Elfin Safety 'have made of that I wonder.

Some of these bikes answered to their own name. This one was 'Boadicea.' She eventually was relegated to giving service as my paper round bike and finally succumbed to an accident in 'Jerusalem ' wood when we both collided with a hidden tree stump.

I wasn't aware of it at the time but my apprenticeship to cycling was being served during these years.

Post-war

Next came the war's end and new bicycles were being made again for the civvy market.
Raleigh at Nottingham were the premier makers of cycles and they decided to make a cheaper (down market ) version and called it the 'Robin Hood'.

Christmas 1946 and Father Christmas came up with one of these for me. No Chrome Plating. No Gears'. No lights. In fact nothing but a black, heavy, frame with two peddles, two wheels, Two cogs, a very hard saddle and a chain. Not a lot to commend it and it cost £11 but it was transport and more than anything it was freedom! I was ten years old.

It meant among other things that Les and I could ride through Audlem, then Market Drayton and on to Ternhill, to watch the training of pilots in their Harvards doing circuits and bumps, what bliss!

Next came my apprenticeship to Carpentry and Joinery. This, of course, was real work for real money, Beginning at one shilling and tuppence halfpenny (7.5 pence ) an hour for a forty eight hour week. Yes £3.60 a week.

Sophisticated

After about a year I had saved enough to buy a really sophisticated bike...well, I thought so anyway.

It was a splendid plumb coloured Rudge Pathfinder with down turned (drop ) handlebars. The gears had by now been improved to Sturmey Archer four speeds and as an added appurtenance they were operated by means of a trigger switch. The lights were powered by means of a front wheel mounted hub dynamo.

This splendid machine did not of course peddle itself though I did feel that I cut a dash whilst thus mounted. And of course my horizons were widened to the extent that I could now engage in the activity that used to be called 'courting'.

Chosen one

The chosen one lived rather a long peddle from Wybunbury to Worleston, but young Lochinvour was quite up to cycling to work and back and re-fuelled by one of mother's stews was willing and able to peddle back to Worleston as duty and convention demanded.

My erstwhile business partner used to contend with great conviction that on that particular errand a grown man would peddle at least to Nantwich against the wind and on a burst tyre! My experience convinces me he was right.

The bride (though I didn't know her as such just then ) enthusiastically embraced the idea of cycling (without much choice ) and subsequently purchased with her father's loan a magnificent Raleigh 'Lenton' sports bike in metallic green with all the bells and whistles of my Rudge and off we went at every opportunity.

Bliss

This bliss lasted a good two years,by which time I had ( by acquiring improved skills) made myself a more valued member of the community and as such was paid a little better. I had (to boot) my fill of peddling and had reached an age when a person became old enough to drive.

Not for me the wonderful and efficient motor cars that we now have though I did aspire to be propelled by an engine and give my legs a rest. So, a BSA Bantam was purchased.

Now, I always thought that there was a bit of rough justice after the war when many nations took possession of German industry and carried it back home. The Yanks took the huge maritime cranes from Hamburg Docks and used them on the Panama canal. The Russians took home machine tools and patterns for BMW motorbikes etc.

I had believed that our people did nothing of the kind, in fact, they restored the Volkswagen works for Germany and caused it produce again and to our ultimate disadvantage (they now own Bentley at Crewe).

DKW to BSA Bantam

However, I some years ago came across, in a museum, a German despatch rider's DKW 125cc motor cycle and it was instantly recognisable as the forerunner of the BSA Bantam. So I discovered that we did bring a few things home. (But not much).

The Bantam made it possible to make week-end trips to North Wales which broadened our horizons yet again.

Inevitably I needed more power and, after more expense, I became owner a 197cc engined DMW with strange looking but effective front forks, then a BSA 350cc upon which I nearly came into contact (you may remember) with uncle Joe. Then came a BSA 500cc Star twin 600cc BMW and then a 1200cc Harley Davidson. But by this time we all had cars and the bikes and motorbikes were not now basic transport, they were toys!

As I wrote earlier, our prosperity seems to have closely followed in direct parallel with our bicycles. Or was it the other way round?
Bye now
Geoff Farr