Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Back in the day... my 1980s bicycles

I got my first bike, a second hand, one speed, coaster brake boy's bike, from my grandparents' neighbours when I was seven. I was a tomboy so the fact that it was very plain and didn't have ribbons on the handles suited me fine. It was rusty red. My mother, as a surprise, painted it purple as that was my favourite colour. I rather liked the red. I got laughed at a LOT with with purple. Still, it was a lovely gesture of Mum to do that, unknowing of how cruel kids can be when you have something that's 'different'. Anyway, I grew out of it in a few years and didn't get another bike; going to high school in town, a ferry and bus ride away I didn't need one. At weekends I went horse riding not bike riding.

Then in the late 80s my then boyfriend decided to start cycling, and I wanted to get back on two wheels too. However, having overbalanced and fallen off while trying his men's racer, I decided I wanted a bike like my little old purple one. Sturdy with wide tyres. Only with lots of gears to get me up hills. The only choice, in those days when comfort bikes hadn't been invented (let alone eBay) was a mountain bike.

Like most beginners I got a cheap K-Mart type bike. In the photo below, when you've stopped sniggering at the jeans, my first bike is the one on the right. It cost me about $250 I think. 15 speeds, and good enough for a while. Then, as often happens with those of us who start researching the new interest we have, I decided I wanted something with better gear on it. More upmarket equipment. Lighter weight.

Thus, the frame I am holding - yes, the purple one! - was my second bike.Better quality Shimano gears, better rims, better most things, CroMoly frame. 18 speeds. $450.

This setup lasted about six months. I then decided I wanted even less weight and more stability. So my boyfriend, who had by then modified his own bike and liked tinkering with mine, went shopping with me and we found this wonderful 80s neon-coloured CroMoly diamond frame, just right for my height. It was made in Italy, and cost me, I think, in the region of $600. We put all the gear from the purple bike onto this frame, and suddenly I had a lovely little bike I was happy with for many years. I swapped the knobbly tyres for city slicks and it went like a bomb on tarmac after that. What I'd built up was essentially a comfort or city bike, I guess, in an early incarnation.

The first bike I sold to my boyfriend's flatmate. Nobody wanted to buy the frame so years later it went to a charity shop.
Here's me with my final two-wheeled incarnation:
Yes, I do see that the saddle is way too low for me when I look at this pic now, but it seemed OK at the time. I think I gradually put it up as I gained confidence and rode longer distances. I hadn't ridden it for many years until a couple of years ago and the saddle was certainly a better height then.

This bike is now in the hands of one of my oldest friends, who wants to get back into riding and wants something sturdy and comfortable like she had when she was a kid :-). Only with lots of gears to get her up hills.

So there... a gentle cycle down memory lane on knobbly tyres.


  1. Oh I love the 80's pictures!
    The bicycles remind me of my poor High School Bike, right down to the too-low saddle.

  2. Hi Velouria, I remember reading your post on your high school bike, and testing it as a winter bike.