Saturday, May 17, 2014

Steel is Forever

It was the first real day of summer in Derbyshire today and so off I went for a tootle around the local lanes.  There are many beautiful lanes in the countryside of Derbyshire but today's route is one of my favourites.
About halfway round the loop one comes to the bridge over the river Hilton in the  picturesque village of Longford. Next door to the bridge is the old cheese factory.This was the first cheese factory ever to be built in England and was opened on May 4, 1870 under the management of Cornelius Schemanhorn, an American cheesemaker. and the bridge itself is a favourite stopping place for cyclists.
As I pulled in there was an old lady , an OAP like myself, already present and soon we got talking. She had been a cyclist for decades and in her youth had, with her husband, climbed many of the Cols made famous by the Tour de France. In her case, loaded with panniers, and intent on enjoying the view, the ascent of these legendary peaks had taken her a day in stark contrast to the elite riders of the peleton.
As we chatted, a variety of bikes whizzed past, their pilots intent on getting the last ounce of speed from their carbon steeds. These bikes were in stark contrast to her bike

This Hetchins had been with her since the beginning, constructed from Reynolds 531 though modified now to have straight bars and a little mirror fitted as turning her neck was now problematical. With a double chain ring and just 5 cogs on the cassette it still did her proud and the friction change gears still sufficed.  No cleats for this lady as she still relied upon toe straps. The pump itself was also still original and the wheels with their 36 spokes were built to stand the ardours of touring.

As we went our separate ways I thought about her real steel as the young racers of today sailed past me on their lightweight frames with just enough spokes to stop the wheels collapsing.  Being warm I obviously needed to find a place for tea and as I cycled down a shady lane to the local tea shop I espied another vintage machine whose owner was also in need of a rest. What caught my eye was that it was a Mercian

Again constructed from Reynolds 531 and again with just a double chain ring. This bike had also been modified to have straight bars with the shifters on the bars though you could still see where the bosses had been on the down tube.

I did not find the owner so do not know the bike's history but it made me think that these old bikes both had a history, a story to tell and I wondered if the modern machines constructed from Aluminium, Titanium or Carbon would ever be loved in the same way.

And, still wondering, I mounted my Mercian and pedalled off home.