A new bike day. But this time with a difference.
I’ve had many new bike days over the years, mostly enjoyable yet uneventful and certainly with no emotions, other than the thrill of breaking in a shiny new frame and set up.
In October 2022, I experienced the best #newbikeday of all time.
My father, now 91, had been unable to continue riding his cherished Mercian bike after breaking his hip the previous Winter. He had slipped on concrete, shattering his hip. The bones were repaired, the hip joint replaced but finally, my father accepted that his years on the Mercian were done.
This was a huge frustration for him and sadness, as he realised his cycling career had come to an end after over 70 years in the saddle.
I spent a week with him last October. On the 1st day, he took me into his sacred garage of bikes and bike parts; and from the darkest corner of the garage, he extracted a fully protected bike inside its dust cover. He handed it to me with the words. “This is yours now,”. And as I removed the cover, I saw this Mercian bike in pristine condition with its lovely Kingfisher blue enamel. I was speechless; it was a joy to behold.
It’s not a very old bike, but it’s a bike which he had toured on tirelessly. For his 70th birthday he took it through France and the Alps. That was his wish for a birthday present that year. It was a hot summer and as he climbed the Alps in the claustrophobic heat (with no water bottle in sight), he ended up in hospital suffering from severe dehydration in Montpellier, south of France.
On his return, he told us of all his adventures, especially the ones in the hospital. He did seem to be more excited about how attentive the French nurses were though, rather than the fact that he had collapsed with heat exhaustion!
This bike had taken him to many places. He and my mother enjoyed a tour of the West Coast of Ireland in later years; this time with a water bottle on board.
He took numerous weekends away all across the UK, combining his love of photography with his adoration of cycling.
He has cycled for over 75 of his 91 years. It has been his passion forever, which is why I got involved in cycling as a small child – there was no other choice, but luckily for me, I enjoyed it just as much as my dad did.
This Mercian bike started life in the ‘90s with drop bars, but as my father’s years advanced, he fitted flat bars, and eventually he moved on to riser bars with the added comfort of centrally-mounted bar ends.
To take the bike from Dad was a mixture of joy and sadness for me. The joy of being able to ride a bike that had bought my father so much pleasure, but also the sadness that this meant my father had accepted the fact he would no longer be riding through the Alps on the Mercian, or being looked after by French nurses!
Bringing it out into the October sunshine, the real beauty of the iridescence within the Kingfisher blue enamel was dazzling.
All it needed, was a quick wipe over with a cloth, and some air in the tyres, and there it was in all its glory: ready for my 1st ride on it. I took a bimble around the village where I grew up, and followed the path of a ride that I had done with my late mother many times over the last few years of her life.
The combination of riding my father’s beloved Mercian that he would never ride again and following the course of a ride that I did with my mother who passed away in September, meant it wasn’t just an average ‘new bike day’; it was so much deeper and more meaningful as it held years of memories mixed with the sadness that as time had moved on, I would never ride this route with my mum again; nor would my father. I rode proudly that day and enjoyed each revolution of the pedal, the sound of the tyres on the tarmac and the Sun glinting through the trees.
As is usual for me, the ride wasn’t exactly as planned. I took a short detour to view the devastation caused by the HS2 construction and back through the woods into the village.
As the weather was so mild for October, I added another local loop: an ancient track much ridden and trodden over hundreds of years taking me to the next village along, where I enjoyed a brief stop at the destination of my last ever ride with my mother before she passed away last year. It was a time to pause, to breathe, sit with my grief in silence, listen to nature’s sounds, and let the long forgotten memories flow through me.
I sat for a while on the bench where mum and I had shared a flask of coffee, her homemade cake, and a good old natter last year.
As I sat on that bench, in fields where I played as a child, I looked at the Mercian glistening in the sunshine and it felt right. It felt full circle.
It was then a ride back through the Chiltern lanes where I grew up. This was interrupted by a surprise meeting with an old cycling friend – so of course coffee and cake were required, as was a big catch up on all things local.
Suddenly my phone rang. It was Dad, wondering where I was… I had obviously been out a lot longer than expected.
So for me, this wasn’t just any ‘New bike day’ – it was one of my most memorable. A magical carpet ride. And that’s how every ride should feel – like a new bike day.
I shall treasure my new Mercian, it’s been my go-to bike this year as it has the wonderful ride characteristics that only a steel frame can deliver.
And after my health issues in February this year, it has encouraged me to slow down and just enjoy the ride. Let the memories come, and make new memories. It was, and is, just what I needed.
Every ride should feel like a new bike day.
So for all you’ve given me, Dad; I thank you.
2 thoughts on “New bike day”
Lovely words Pete, must be tough for your dad but I’ll bet he’s pleased to see you using the Mercian and following your trips
I keep updated on the Mercians latest adventures!