The other day I found a YouTube video of a 1980s Raleigh Vektar, a BMX with a huge plastic panel on the cross tube containing a series of electronic gismos like a computer and a radio. In the links there was a video of a bike I remember much better, the Raleigh Wildcat, a bike I used to own as a boy.
My old bike was second hand and the plastic panel on the handlebars had ceased to function. This one, however, still worked, so you can imagine what it was like to finally, after 25 years, get to find out what this box actually did. I struggle to fully understand the decision making that put this bike on public sale, because it’s just daft, making noises as though its radar is locking on to a target or something. I suppose the thinking was “what do little boys like? BMXs, sci-fi, and annoying noises” and I admit the young me did feel like Darth Vader riding around on it. The other memory it triggers is of a media scare I was vaguely aware of involving plastic cycle wheels shattering when the tyres were pumped up. Amazing the things a photo can trigger.
The other bike the young me used to ride before the Wildcat was, in restrospect, genuinely pretty nifty. It was a Peugeot racing bike, and I can remember many a race around the garden where I was obviously well ahead of my sister. If we had the same race today she’d beat the pants of me, as she rides a bike every day, but I’m the one with a driving licence so there :-p
Now neither of these pictures show my bikes, they’re just what Google threw up, so I should explain my Peugeot wasn’t quite as fancy from what I recall. It only had the rear derallieur and if I’m not mistaken just three (certainly not more than five) gears, but the paint scheme was the same, topped off with an extremely uncomfortable white plastic saddle, and white nylon bar tape. We took it a year ago to a place that refurbishes old bikes, and I do wonder what happened to it.
After that I had a rather cheaply made mountain bike that did get a lot of use but wasn’t terribly special. It was the standard Halfords fare and it had 18 gears activated by levers on the handlebars, although does anyone genuinely use all those gears? I know I never did. I put a computer on it and would cycle to the top of quite a steep hill and see how high I could get the speedo coming down. I think 34mph was about the maximum I managed.
After that I got a car (also a Peugeot, back when they were decent) and frankly what teenager gives a damn about bikes when he’s got an engine to do the work? That car was legendary, and I stuffed it in a hedge soon after I passed my test, but that’s a different story.