Childhood Memories – part four

A guest post from Mark forms part four of a series on Childhood Memories. You can see the rest of the posts by clicking on the ‘memories’ category at the top, under the title.


My closest shave

After my Claud Butler mountain bike was stolen, that’s a whole other story, my Dad arranged a new bike from the house contents insurance.  We went to Halfords together and I picked out a bright red Saracen ‘Sahara Elite’ – complete with front fork suspension and all the trimmings.  By 1993 standards this was an expensive bike at nearly £500, even if it was from Halfords.

My only mode of transport when I was 15/16 was my bike – most of my friends lived 3 miles away or more.  One night, at nearly midnight, I cycled back from a friends house in Oakridge through Popley to Chineham – in those days lights were considered optional, and besides I was careful where I cycled which was usually away from the road – I always had to summon up all my bravery to pass under the railway bridge at the bottom of the Reading Road as it was in pitch darkness; the scene of many sexual assaults and a popular haunt of the flashers. Nothing ever happened to me but there was always that threat.

The Reading Road has a slight ascent, at the top of the hill was the old Q8 garage (no longer there), where we used to steal sweets on the way home from school, 50 or so yards beyond the garage was an alleyway that left the Reading Road to connect by foot to Mattock Way – caution usually made me stop at the end, Mattock Way was a busy estate road and the narrow alley was shielded either side by 6ft garden fences, but on this night I threw caution to the wind…

…as I shot out of the alley, with a bunny hop and half twist off the curb, a Ford Fiesta was travelling at speed along Mattock Way.  I collided with the rear bumper of the Fiesta, tearing it off, and I was hurled from my bike landing 30 or 40 feet away from the scene of devastation, my stunt roll was 10 point perfect.

I was shaking but I wasn’t hurt.  When I got to my feet, for some reason, I picked up the bumper – the young lady, in her early 20′s perhaps, who had been driving the car had stopped and had got out, she was visibly shaken.  I handed her the bumper and she put her arms around me and asked if I was OK - “God, you shit me up” was the expression that she used, she was kind, reassuring and she smelt nice.  Out of embarrassment and guilt I made my apologies and sheepishly collected my bike together; the front wheel was crumpled beyond repair having borne the force of the impact, but the rest of the frame seemed intact.

I carried the bike the last half mile home.  Through fear of my Dad’s reaction I hid the bike in the conifer trees by the side of the house rather than putting it away in the garage.  I didn’t really know what my plan was.  My memory is somewhat hazy about what actually did happen, though I remember having to walk most places for a year or so.

It was a foolish thing to do and almost 20 years later my cheeks still blush with shame.  I was lucky.  I still feel absolutely awful for frightening that poor woman, I doubt she will ever forget the incident.  I sorely regret that I didn’t take her name and details to apologies properly.  Other than the recent incident with a car nearly hitting me from the rear this has been my closest shave with serious injury or death whilst riding a bike – the lessons learnt have been invaluable.


Mark also posts some rather good stuff over at Vélo Morphē.