Saturday, 2 April 2011

Maiden Voyage.

My Moulton MKIII

In the last 7 years, I have had 3 bikes stolen whilst living in London. I have never been a particularly keen cyclist due to being too scared to cycle on the road but I always like to have the option of cycling to the end of the road and back if I wanted to. I did cycle into Soho once and it took me over 2 hours. It should have taken 45 minutes.

Since my last bike was stolen back in 2009 whilst in The Wig's care (thanks Wig . . .) I had been bikeless for several months and wanted a replacement. I thought that since it would probably get stolen eventually I wouldn't spend too much on buying one, so I decided to get an old second hand one from the internet. Therefore, one day last February I was sniffing around for old bikes on ebay and stumbled across some strange looking ones who's design I had not seen for many years. I recognised these particular bikes immediately as similar to one that my Dad had once bought when we were kids, the Moulton. Ours was a mustardy gold colour with tiny white wheels and as a small red haired child cycling around in the 80's it was impossible to blend in whilst riding this bike. It looked very peculiar and old fashioned compared to the BMX's and Rayleigh's that most kids in the village owned. In short, it was an absolute embarrassment. However, when I saw these bikes on eBay I was amazed at the price of them, some of them were selling for up to £500! Maybe my Dad didn't have such dodgy taste after all, he was a pioneer and I have since learned that these bikes are now considered collectors items and even been featured in an exhibition at the Design Centre. Wonders will never cease.

Dr Alex Moulton invented his small wheel bike nearly 50 years ago and they are still being made today ranging in price from £900 - £15,000!! You can read about the heritage of these bikes here:

So nostalgia kicked in and I decided to get one of these bikes no matter the cost or the possible impracticality of it. (They are not light and I live up a flight of stairs). So after missing out on a few on eBay I thought I'd focus my attention to Gumtree. I'd never used Gumtree before but thought that maybe some old dear would be selling one and not realise what a gem it was. And lo and behold, I found one.  An old blue one for £80. Bargain! Ha! I thought, I'm having that! Maybe I could even barter the owner down if I was feeling cocky. So, I made contact with the seller, arranged an appointment to go that night after work and got the cash out. However, on arrival to the address I knew I hadn't made a date with a clueless granny. The man who owned the bike might as well have answered the door dressed in a yellow jersey with Lance Armstrong's face tattooed onto his. The hallway to the flat was full of bikes, leaning along the wall, hanging from the walls, they were everywhere. Damn it.  But when I saw the blue bike, I wouldn't have even given him 80p for it. It was in a really bad state, rusty, scratched and not in good condition at all. However he also had a red one for sale, that was in great condition. The chrome was shiny, it still had its original pump and bag on the back and the chap said he would "reluctantly" sell to me for £240. By this point I was so obsessed with getting one of these bikes that I said I'd buy it without even test riding it and agreed to return the next night with the cash. Which is what I did, and the lovely red Moulton MKIII, to give it its full name, has sat in my hallway for over a year until today when I attempted a ride from Hackney to Ware. And not only was today its maiden voyage but it was also the day I realised the importance of a test ride when purchasing a bike.

The Wig and I were invited for lunch with friends today who live in Ware in Hertfordshire. This is a very straight forward place for us to visit despite not having a car anymore. We hop on the overland train at hackney Downs, 1 minute walk from the flat, and the train takes us directly to Ware. However, today we decided to cycle all the way, door to door along the River Lea, a journey time of approximately 3 hours. I did wonder if this was a tad ambitious since I have not had any physical exercise since the I ran away from a rather aggressive cow on a shoot in Glastonbury back in 2001, but thought it would be fun nevertheless.

The journey started off really well, the weather was bright without being too sunny, and warm without being too hot. We got onto the cycle path alongside the river by Clapton park and cycled up past Millfields, Springfields and the Lea Rowing Club. We saw daffodils and crocus' along the cycle path, swans and even a Heron by the river. We passed people in canoes, loads of canal boats, several locks and some horses! It was great.

And then, after about 45 minutes, we hit Edmonton. The only place in Edmonton I've ever been to is Ikea, which I love, but lets not forget when it opened a few years ago someone got stabbed in the scrum to get in and buy one of the half price beds in their Opening Day promotion. Its a bit of a dangerous place to buy a bed and also very unattractive to cycle through, I think The Wig referred to it as looking post apocalyptic. I'm not entirely sure what that means but it doesn't sound good. It had turned into the bike ride from hell. There was nothing to look at except for factories, big round metal things, a lot of rubbish and some very shifty people fishing and trying to touch the swans. It was horrid and seemed to go for miles. The Wig promised that the next cafe we came across we could stop for a drink and a wee (we stupidly hadn't taken any water) but the cafe never came. Then we were in Waltham Cross and my saddle broke and came off my bike.

The saddle had been rather uncomfortable ever since leaving home but I thought it was just because I wasn't used to it. But it turned out it was properly broken and the back part had been slowly tipping backwards for the entire journey meaning the front part had been getting higher and has probably done irreparable damage to my under carriage. I had been so preoccupied with trying to get to a cafe I hadn't noticed the discomfort. But we stopped to take a photo and I saw the angle of the saddle, which when I tried to correct it, completely came off in my hand. The foam inside was so old it crumbled out onto the ground. I had been sitting on a metal saddle covered in black vinyl for 1.5 hours with no protection. Tomorrow I will understand the meaning of real pain. Damn you Moulton MKIII!!!

So, the ride had come to an end. We had managed 31Km according to my Km counter although The Wig thinks this might be slightly off, but still not bad for a maiden voyage. Luckily we were only 3/4 mile from a train station so we finished the last leg to Ware by train, which was rather disappointing. And to add insult to injury, so to speak, I don't think certain bits of me will ever be the same again.

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