Saturday, 13 February 2010

My racer

As a kid in in South Africa I was the proud owner of a 10-speed Raleigh road bike, complete with drop bars & skinny wheels. I absolutely loved that bike!

Having grown up in a small town close to the Botswana border, I was free to roam in ways that my kids would never be. About 10 kilometers outside of town was a dam and I often cycled there and back. I didn't ride to go somewhere - I cycled because I enjoyed it.
We had two off-road tracks where we played with our bikes after school, and I took a fair few jumps with that racer. I'm not proud to say this, but I didn't look after that bike as I should have, or perhaps could have.

Also, I didn't know the first thing about adjusting derailleurs, nor most other things now commonly associated with bicycle maintenance. Instead, I just hopped on and rode, fully expecting the bike to keep working.

People are quick to point out that there must have been far fewer cars on the road in those day, hence my freedom to roam, but actually the town was right on one of the two main routes for freight to be exported to other African countries, and outside town the roads were busy and full of large trucks. Claiming the lane there will serve only one purpose: to get you run over by one or more trucks!

As a result, when out of town I typically cycled on the rough shoulder of the road - not the sort of surface a skinny-wheeled racer was made for! It is a dirt surface full of stones and ruts and certainly never designed to cycle on, but my racer coped with that and more.

Which makes me wonder...

If a road bike coped with all the abuse I put it through without a single mechanical failure (punctures don't count) for several years, especially given how it received almost no maintenance at all, why am I having such a hard time with my current bikes?
Just so we don't start a brand war, my hybrid commuter is a Raleigh Pioneer and the last tumble I took with it was enough to buckle the wheel to the point that I have to replace it. Other than the damage to the bike - which is severe given the low speed at which I fell - I didn't think of it as a serious fall.

Were Raleigh racers of the early 80's that good quality, or did I simply get lucky?