The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

New wheels


Photo: My new recycled bike

Photo: My new recycled bike

My first independent mode of transport was a red fairy cycle with cream wheels and a bell. This was my horse, my chariot and even my wings. At five years old I swooped about the park and relished the freedom and excitement of speed for the very first time.

Jalopy is still snoozing in the drive. She has been there for the last eleven months. Her battery is flat and she needs a service. But we’ve decided to let her sleep on until I’m back to work again.

She attracts a lot of attention. Every few days someone drops in wanting to buy her. The last man mentioned stock car racing. I was shocked as I think of Jalopy as an old lady now. She’s a good car and reliable if a bit heavy on the gas – I’d hate to think of her filling her final days as a stock car.  If it comes to it she will fade away surrounded by flowers and frogs.

For months Danny and I have been sharing his company car. This generally works out fine but there are times when he is away for the day and I need wheels. Remove the access to a car and suddenly the need to have one becomes pressing. Recently I’ve been thinking of getting a bicycle and have been on the vague lookout for a second hand one. Greener and cheaper than running a car.

Yesterday, gliding into Newmarket, I spotted two bikes clearly put out for sale. At a glance I could tell that they were big boy’s mountain bikes but as long as my feet could touch the ground, one of them might be perfect for me.  The lady that was selling the bikes said that she wanted £10 for each bike.
“Although the smaller one has flat tyres it’s a really good bike. Much better than the other one, which is ready to ride away now.”

With the help of a generous spirited passer by we loaded the better bike into the boot of D’s car.
“Are you taking it to the dump?” He enquired.
“No way. This is my new set of wheels!”
“Oh. Let’s handle it delicately from now on.”

After close inspection at home D announced that the tyres were worn and a bit flaky. So I sped into Newmarket and invested in a pair of new tyres (combination on and off road), inner tubes and various biking essentials. Including one of those hideous Child of Darth Vader helmets.

I remembered how my brother would mend punctures as a child and his method came flooding back. I stood in the sunshine and replaced the inner tubes and tyres without a hitch. However putting the rear wheel back on a bike with Derailleur gears flummoxed me completely. Thank goodness for the Internet – here I found videos and diagrams and even instructions on how to use the gears properly!

Having not cycled for over 30 years, I suddenly felt a bit quaky giving the bike its test flight. But all went well and we shot along. The Shimano gears are wonderful and hills are a doddle. The ten quid bike is and old Concept mountain bike and must have been a very special Christmas present for one of the lady’s boys. No wonder she recommended it as the better choice.

I’m as excited with this bike as I was all those years ago with the fairy cycle. Freedom, speed and independence. Even though I look like a prat in the helmet, I can’t see myself and I’m in love.

  Leave a reply


  1. I so agree with you about Jalopy. I’ve always followed your references to her and she just couldn’t end up in stock car racing!!! I like the thought of her having a good rest surrounded by flowers. x

  2. danast

    Guess you will be wearing a helmet then Fiona after all those stories and advice! Better safe then sorry.

  3. Tamar@StarvingofftheLand

    I have to ‘fess up that, being American, I don’t know what a prat looks like. I assume not like Gisele Bundchen.

    I envy you the ability to use a bicycle as actual transportation. One of things I loved about living in Manhattan was using the bike path to ride to where I needed to go — it seemed so much more constructive than getting exercise by running for the sake of running. Unfortunately, where I live now the roads have no shoulders and it scares me witless to ride on them.

    Get one of those nice wicker baskets to carry home the groceries, and you’re all set.

  4. Echo all the sentiments about the cycle helmet – the bigger prat is the one not wearing one. I still have a husband thanks to one

  5. Jo@LittleFfarm Dairy

    I attended a Road Traffic Accident whilst on the way home from work one day, when a cyclist pulled out directly into the path of the car in front of me. I immediately called the Emergency Services & then spent almost 30 minutes giving him CPR until the ambulance arrived; although it was clear he was already dead.

    His head had impacted with the driver’s door pillar. If he had been wearing a helmet he’d have probably survived. Ironically he was riding an extremely expensive racing bike & was wearing “all the gear”….except the helmet; perhaps because he thought he looked a prat wearing one? So the moral of the story is – the bigger prat is evidently the person who does NOT wear one…! Good for you.

  6. Pamela

    Cycling is great. My brother-in-law had great plans to cycle to work in Geneva, sold his folding bike and bought a super expensive new bike. He started his new job last August and has so far cycled zero times! However, as he is soon to start a 1 month driving ban in Switzerland for speeding, he will have no choice. What you need to know, though, is that they live in France, can see Geneva from their house and they live 2000 feet up an Alp! It’s not a great distance and an easy coast down into Geneva to work but an unpleasant uphill graft to get home again.

    Don’t those Danish bikes look great? If you were ever going to go the rented land route you would totally need something like that.

  7. Carolyn McNamara

    I love cycling I have a mountain bike and a racer and the spare room has a couple of my OH’s racing bikes hanging off the walls. Literally ! Now he is really into his bikes. Check out my blog for some funny stories about participating in duathlons (running and cycling) like the time I braked sharply forgetting my OH was right behind me and turned to see him flying over the handlebars. During a triathlon he once came off his racing bike at speed and oh my, what a mess ! He’d fallen on one side and you could see where every joint had scrape the floor – shoulder elbow, wrist, hip, knee and ankle. Not pretty.

    On the subject of wearing a ‘lid’.. ALWAYS wear one. I watched a chap cycle off the pavement into an oncoming car, smack into a lamppost and land in the gutter. He was so lucky it wasn’t his head that hit that lamppost, and no he was not wearing a helmet.. I always wear my cycling helmet, I know how much it hurts to fall off and your head is delicate. It only takes a split second.. Just be very careful cycling on the roads, it’s not you it’s the other road users you need to watch out for. Enjoy it !

  8. Joanna

    I echo Paula’s sentiments, my hubby collided with a car that pulled out in front of him (don’t worry he was going a lot faster than you probably will) but the helmet definitely saved a very nasty bump to the head.

    You will have to look up one of these sorts of bikes We bought one in Denmark and it served us as our car for three years, took a week’s worth of shopping for 4 no problems. Sadly ours is languishing in the cellar at the moment but I have plans :o)

  9. Gosh! I guess it’s been thirty some odd years since I was last on a bike too. Glad they don’t say ‘it’s like riding a bicycle’ for nothing!

    Just remember that a prat in a Darth Vader helmet is much better looking than brains all over the street.

    My brother in law commutes across San Francisco by bike to the BART station and took a tumble over his handlebars one evening on the way home. He hit a grate with his face and got cut up pretty badly, but the helmet he was wearing kept him from smashing his head in on the curb. It’s thanks to that helmet that my nieces still have a dad who knows who they are. Now all he has is sexy scars….but no brain damage. Wear your helmet with pride; it means you are serious about getting on a bike.

  10. Toffeeapple

    Fiona, I’m so pleased that you’ve found an alternative mode of transport and that you are enjoying it. Don’t forget, my OH owns a professional bike shop so any time you need advice just e-mail me and I’ll pass it on to him. Happy cycling! (I agree with your thoughts on the helmet – eek!)

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