News reports suggest that since the London Olympics success of Team GB's cyclists, sales of bicycles have increased and enquiries to join cycling clubs have risen. This is good news for the manufacturers of bicycles, and those who like to keep fit in the saddle, and perhaps we're not too far down the road from enjoying a renaissance in the use of the bicycle as a preferred form of transport.
Back in the days before the roads became too congested, cycling was all the rage and Judy Bissell has provided us with a poem written by her friend, former Black Country mon Bill Kelly, who now lives in North Yorkshire. He was a keen cyclist, as were many in the Bissell family, and in last week's story about "Long hot summers, carefree days that grew into weeks", Bill's time spent with Judy and her family on holiday at Borth in North Wales was mentioned.
In 1957 he made the long journey back from the Welsh coast to his home in Wolverhampton with his best mate Mike Bissell, Judy's brother, and this is the story of their adventure: We said farewell to saltspray on the coast, cycling our way past the sands of Ynylas.
Two teens on bikes, my pal Mike and I, dropped 'bars, packed panniers, gears greased.
We set our route, north by north-east, Dovey's burbling banks to the right, Cader Idris to the left.
Chains grumbled and clanked as we changed down, lowest gears grinding the steepest slopes, gulping great lung-fulls of sweet mountain air, and stooping to swig scooped cups of crystal water.
Pushing the bikes up the last few hundred yards to an eagle's eyrie view of the valley floor below.
‘Next time we need a map with contours on it’, said Mike.
Top gears descent with Llyn Tegin in clear view — if you don't speak Welsh that's Bala Lake to you, racing down, brakes’ frantic squeal with friction's fierce force, then bang! swerving, brakes failing as a front tyre burst, right knee grazed, oily chain slipped off sprocket.
A kindly car man stopped and offered help, levered on the spare using mother's tablespoon.
Success! Pump up! Hands black as Merthyr's anthracite, shirt sleeves grimy grey as best Bethesda slate.
Gears purring, tyres humming, we sped across Salop's verdant plain, grey sky, cold wind, a sudden squall surprised us. Yellow-capped, heads sou' westerly, eyes stung by needles of sharp rain, and back to our home hearth, the black, Black Country once again.
Dismounting we were mighty sore — guess where and whither? The saddle maker's stamp declared, ‘Genuine butt leather’