When I was somewhat younger and fitter than I am now, I used to cycle the six miles to work each day. It was enjoyable, cheaper and quicker than using the bus except when it was tipping down with rain – then it was just cheaper and quicker. I had a secondhand Viscount Sebring with Reynolds 531 tubing which was a very capable bicycle. The journey into work took around 20 minutes – an average speed of 18mph including stopping for traffic lights and at road junctions. The return journey used to take around 45 minutes – an average of 8mph. Why the descrepancy? It was mainly uphill going home and the traffic was heavier. Whilst I was never a superfit, racing, cyclist I didn’t get passed by many other cyclists in either direction so I was probably above average. I surprised one of my workmates one lunchtime. We went out for a ride together: Him on his BMW motorcycle and me on my Viscount. He clocked me at a steady 25mph along the Finchley road on a slightly rising gradient – Not Tour de France performance but pretty good!

Times moved on – I sold the old Viscount and bought one of those new-fangled Mountain Bike thingies. I bought big as well – a frame that was too large for me. At the time it was a decision based on road conditions – sitting high above the traffic made you more visible and able to see a lot more of what was going on around you. With the increasing traffic levels it was a safety precaution rather than anything else. The bike I bought was a Marin Bear Valley and it was an imposing bit of kit and a very pleasant ride – especially after I replaced the knobbly tyres with ones designed for road/off-road use. Some evenings I would deliberately divert from the road and follow some footpaths on Hampstead Heath (against the byelaws put in by the Corporation of London).

Work moved on too – I left Lords Exchange in the late 1980’s and my next few work places were not bicycle friendly for a mixture of road and parking reasons. So the bike fell into disuse. At one time I was working south of the river and it was just so much more convenient to jump on the tube and get to where I was going.

This year was a hugely successful time for British Cycling with Bradley Wiggins becoming the first Brit to win The Tour de France. Bike shops in the UK are reporting a huge increase in cycles being bought as many new cyclists take to the road in what has been dubbed ‘The Wiggo Effect’. Now, it’s fair to say that I have been trying to get back into cycling from a fitness point of view for the last 5 years. I had the Bear serviced and suspension added to ease the ride for my old bones and I did my best to get back in the habit but it just wasn’t happening. It took me a long time to get to the bottom of the problem – confidence and age. I was no longer fit enough to leap on and off a bike that was a couple of frame sizes too big for me with any sense of confidence. I was always dreading having to put my foot down if there wasn’t a kerb available – I always felt that I was risking falling off.

So 3 weeks ago, with my son about to do a cycle training course at school, I bit the bullet and took my old Bear Valley on its last ride to my local cycle shop – Bike & Run in East Finchley. I got a very sympathetic reception and having ascertained my requirements Tony recommended a Trek 7 series FX of the correct size as a suitable replacement for someone who is trying to get fit again through cycling. I have to say that I am very pleased with my new bike. It handles very nicely and accelerates well. I’m also confident to stop without worrying about falling off! In fact the only issue is that my bum doesn’t enjoy being back on the saddle – so I’ve started wearing padded cycle undershorts for the first time 😉

Me and Trek 7.5 FX
Me in my old Deutsche Telekom shirt on my new Trek 7.5 FX bike. Photo by Alasdair Addison.

This post was prompted by Donna’s post The color of running.

I have had the good fortune to be able to watch some of the final test against South Africa this pm. With defeat staring them in the face an England side of the 1970’s would have tried to bore the South Africans to death or should that be Boycott 😉 Instead they provided a spectacle in which the lower order batsmen hit out to make some very quick runs and to bring the outstanding total within range. The South Africans were sweating and it wasn’t because of the weather. In the end they came through to win but the good hit comment to Matt Prior from the South African Captain after he was finally out says it all – a great game for all the spectators, which is what test crickect should be about.

Given the recent furore about Kevin Pietersen – a South-African born player who moved to England because he wasn’t happy about the Racial Quota selection process, I thought a look back to some of the ‘G’s of the past might be of interest. Pietersen’ mother was English, by the way, which makes him eligible to play for England – on that Basis, my Son can play for England, Scotland and Zimbabwe should he ever drag himself away from the computer games and really take an interest in cricket or rugby.

Back in the early 1970’s though it was a different South African born player who was destined to make all the headlines for the wrong reasons. Tony Grieg qualified to play for England because he had Scottish parents – quite how that works given that Scotland have a Cricket team that plays in the Cricket World Cup (when they qualify) I’m not entirely sure. In those days I used to travel to work by bus or bike. In the test match season I always went by bus so that I could listen to Test Match Special on long wave with my transistor radio and a pair of headphones. So, in 1976 as I wandered through the side streets of St. John’s Wood towards Lords Telephone Exchange I was horrified to hear the BBC replaying a speech by Tony Grieg in which he expressed his intention to make the West Indies Grovel. I cannot think of a worse public relations gaffe. If Grieg had delivered the speech in a Scottish accent… It might just about have been acceptable but in a world where the apartheid regime in South Africa was under attack for its racist values the delivery in a strong South African accent was guaranteed to incense both the West Indies players and dismay England supporters such as myself who were championing the cause against aparthied. It was both morally wrong and guaranteed to add a couple of yards of pace to the West Indies bowling attack. England duly paid the price and were hammered.

Move forward some years and we have Mike Gatting as England Captain. Gatting was a surprise to many of us because he seemed to have come from the wrong school to be an England Captain. Clearly, for once ability was considered more important than having gone to the right school. Gatting had been a budding footballer… Gatting proved to be a good England Captain but was a bit too pugnacious – prepared to argue with Shakoor Rana in Pakistan over a decision that he felt was wrong and it was probably the closest thing to a genuine diplomatic incident that cricket has ever had to deal with. Sadly, when you read up about what went on, both men were probably at fault. It didn’t help that Pakistan at the time had a reputation for cheating – we all remember the television shots of the wicket keeper dropping the catch, picking the ball off the ground behind him and then shouting Howzat as if he had caught it – no names , no pack drill. The rules changed after that (maybe not immediately but soon afterwards) – home umpires were no longer allowed for test matches. But Gatting’s days were numbered and the ECB just needed a whiff of scandal – cue a barmaid and he was gone!

Gooch – where do I go with this… Graham Gooch was an Essex player with Boycott like abilities. He could bore the opposition into submission. I hated watching him play – Daniel Gooch was more exciting when he was designing the Star Class for the Great Western Railway than Graham Gooch was on the cricket field! However, I suspect he laid the foundations of the hard-work ethic that England players now have to accept – gone are the Fred Trueman days of cricket between pints 😉