After I left Bristol University, my first job was at Great Baddow, near Chelmsford in Essex. I worked there for 5 years and I didn’t own a car for much of that time.
The first year, I lived in the village of Writtle, so I would commute the 4.6 miles to work by bicycle each day. Cycling in and around Chelmsford could be quite hazardous, particularly as I was usually in a hurry. On one occasion I was cycling up the Baddow Road when an oldish lady in an oldish car crept past me and then turned left across my path into her driveway. I flew across the bonnet of the car in a most graceful fashion. Another collision involved a motorbike on a roundabout, and there were several other crashes as far as I can remember.
Unfortunately, although I was more-or-less unscathed in these incidents, my beloved Peugeot bike did not fare so well. As I was cycling in all weathers, I decided that something a little more practical was needed to replace it. I bought a Carlton 531 touring frame and 27x1¼ wheels, mudguards and a rear rack and panniers. The rest of the parts came from my Peugeot.
I have no idea how many miles I rode my Carlton bike; well over ten thousand, I guess. It served me well for most of my time in Essex, including my holidays in France and Ireland described in the next two pages. The incidents continued. One of the funniest was when, emerging at speed into a gap in the traffic on the Army and Navy roundabout, the strap of my pannier caught on the old-fashioned hooked chrome bumper of a stationary car. I shot past the car, halted abruptly and twanged back again. I’m not sure who was more surprised, me or the car driver. I waved an apology, unhooked my pannier from the bumper and rode off as fast as possible.
For a couple of years, I lived some distance from Great Baddow, first at Felsted, and then Great Totham, both about 13 miles away. Although I mainly drove to work during this period, I did cycle sometimes in the summer. On one occasion, I remember a sharp pain in my heel about half way to work. When I arrived at my desk, I decided to investigate. Upon removing my sock, a wasp (by this time quite dead) fell out, thus explaining the earlier sensation.
When I was living in Springfield, a short-cut on my route to work took me through a car park. At the entrance, there was a steel barrier with a pedestrian gap to one side. The barrier was always open, so I would shoot into the car park at some speed. That is, until one morning, when the barrier was closed. Concentrating hard to avoid the oncoming pedestrians, I did not notice the horizontal steel barrier across my path until it was too late. My bike just fitted underneath the barrier, but I did not. The horizontal barrier caught my forearms and the momentum of my upper body caused me and the bike underneath me to pivot comically around the barrier and land with a big thump on the other side. To avoid undue embarrassment, once again I rod off as quickly as I could. The incident did not go unnoticed, and, for a few weeks, I was taunted with quips like “Been into any good bars recently?”
Some of my friends from university were now living in London. Occasionally I would visit them for the weekend, cycling down the A12 and into London on a Friday evening. I wouldn’t recommend that route nowadays. (In fact, it probably wasn’t all that sensible in the late 70s or early 80s). Once or twice I went to parties in West Ruislip, so my journey involved the A12, North Circular and the A40. Hairy! On one occasion I even caught myself falling asleep at the handlebars during my ride home late one night. I thought it best to have a snooze on a roundabout before continuing my journey home.
A crash finally bent my Carlton frame, so, in 1982 I purchased another 531 touring frame, this time a Holdsworth Mistral, again fitting the parts from my old bike. Some of these were the originals from my Peugeot, including the Mavic 700c clincher rims. Despite the Carlton frame being intended for 27” wheels, the 700c rims just about fitted, with the brake shoes set at the very bottom of the adjustment slot. The Holdsworth frame was also for 27” wheels, but the fork must have been slightly longer, requiring me to file the slots to make them longer. Sounds a bit dodgy, but the brakes worked perfectly for many years and many many miles. In fact, I only replaced
Messing around with Graeme and Annie on the Bristol to Bath cycle path, August 1982. The picnic was at Saltford. Photos taken by Jayney, whose Hercules 3-speed (right) I had lovingly restored whilst in Chelmsford.
the modified brakes with some long-reach callipers (designed for 700c rims on 27” wheel frames) in 2010 after I had had the Holdsworth frame re-sprayed. I still use the bike for enjoyment, but it no longer has any of the original parts from my 1977 Peugeot.