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Thursday, 6 September 2012

Cry Freedom! A boys love for his Raleigh Jeep

Inspired by a thread on my forum YACF here, I got to thinking about my first bikes.

My first bike that I remember was a small wheeled, fat tyred step through unisex thingy in metallic green. I remember neither it’s make or model but, it was this steed upon which I learned the art of riding without stabilisers (training wheels for you furriners).

My first ‘proper’ bike was a Raleigh Jeep, exactly like the one in this thread from my forum.

It was on this bike that I found the freedom of youth. It was this bike that grew as I grew. I received it as a present from my parents when I was 8 or 9 years old and, as is the way with bikes bought for offspring, it was too big for me but who cared. It was new, it was shiny and it was all mine. It went through many incarnations including workhorse after I fitted a rear rack to put my bag on for my paper round, stunt bike in the Evel Knievel hey day after removal of the mudguards (fenders for you furriners) and swapping the handlebars for a set of ‘cow horns’ to combat steed after hand painting the frame a crappy khaki green colour.

Through the years of our partnership my Jeep and I did things that would have curdled my parents blood.

Of a weekend or school holiday I would grab a backpack, fill it with food and pop and hit the roads on the Jeep, meeting my friends and heading for the hills where we would spend hours exploring abandoned chalk quarries and derelict factories. We would be gone all day, arriving home just as it got dark and Mum was about to throw my dinner in the cat.

One year my Mum, who was a toy shop manageress got complimentary tickets to see Evel Knievel try to jump 13 London busses at Wembley Stadium (proper Twin Towers Wembley, not the pale shadow of a replacement). On my return to home, That is when the cow horns were fitted. Ramps were built from whatever bit of discarded timber we could find propped on bricks, boxes- anything. Flying on my Jeep was awesome. Occasionally it went a bit wrong. I don’t think I ever got killed though.

Through the years of our partnership, my Jeep and I became many things. One day I would be Jesse James fleeing the law on horseback, the next I was a Battle of Britain pilot swooping through the skies. Another day I might be Luke Skywalker fighting the evils of the Empire or I could be Giacomo Agostini or Barry Sheen getting my knee down at Brands Hatch. One thing was unchanging though. My Jeep and I were inseparable.

One day however, fate caught up with us. In it’s Combat Bike guise, I was leading a raid against the enemy and had to leap into their stronghold launching off a dirt mound. Mid takeoff the handlebars snapped and we crashed and burned. Being young and pliable I bounced. My Jeep didn’t. It was the end of a beautiful friendship.

A little while later I progressed to my first multi geared bike, a red Carlton 5 speed road bike which saw me from childhood to adulthood. This is the first form of transport I used to get to work in the grown up world and it lasted me until a) a colleague borrowed it and put the rear mech into the spokes shearing off the integral gear hanger and b) I passed my driving test and got a car.

My Carlton was a great bike but it is my Raleigh Jeep that holds all the good memories.

Marc Bolan may have been a ‘Jeepster for your love’ but I had a Love for my Jeep.

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