Christmas morning. Early 1980s. Every boy across the UK has asked Santa for a Raleigh Burner BMX. Young Rob - known at the time as Robbie - Spedding creeps downstairs to see if his dreams have come true...
Opening the living room door, lights still out, he can make out some handle-bars. SKILLFULL - Santa's bought me the ultimate British-built, stunt machine!
Hold on a minute? Those bars are a little high, and there doesn't seem to be a padded top-tube. And they aren't mag wheels. Light on. Waaaah - I'm going to look a right wally riding that. "Daaaaaad! Muuuuum! Nooooo!"
Yep, I still haven't completely forgiven Mr and Mrs Spedding for thinking that the best bike for a pre-pubescent schoolboy was a Universal folding shopping bike.
Now, I've nothing against these - they're probably really useful if you need to a) fold your bike or b) go shopping, but as I didn't want to do either, and instead wanted to bunny hop, get some trick nuts - stop sniggering at the back - and, maybe, impress girls it was a disappointing present. Ungrateful? You bet!
Actually, I should have seen it coming as my first 'proper' bike with pump up tyres and everything was a second hand ladies' bike with a step through frame. I loved it until the boys from the posh houses, with their Choppers, laughed and pointed and said I was a sissy.
Anyway, fast forward a couple of years and I still wanted a Burner - a White Hot Burner if I remember rightly - and mum and dad still wouldn't budge. Instead, they took me to Geoffrey Butler Cycles in South Croydon and forced me under some duress to choose what was known in the good old days as a 'racer'. I didn't like it, but I had to go along with it.
Thing is, it didn't take me long to fall in love with my Raleigh Sprint, forget all about being Andy Ruffell - look him up - and instead spend hours making decisive attacks in the Tour of Bletchingley.
And the moral of the story? Erm, if you've got kids and want them to fall in love with road cycling, then buy them a shopper....
This post was first published in Cycling Plus magazine in 2008. Nine years after I wrote it and 23 years after I got a Raleigh Sprint I've been reunited with my 'first love'. Thanks to the internet - and eBay in particular - I managed to track down a grown up version of the Sprint. So, as any man having a mild mid-life crisis would, I drove from Bristol to Carlisle and handed over £50 to someone I'd never met before. And then drove back to Bristol with a pretty fine specimen of gas pipe and chrome in the back of the car. It needs a bit of work, but me and the Sprint are going to be back riding together very soon.
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