Cycling timetables – L’Hindou

Raleigh deserved my full attention – daily cleaning, waxing and a prime spot in the garage

India opened its market in 1993; the Minister of Finance at the time swept us away with radical and bold measures. It took another decade for the market to take off in IT, after the Y2K debacle. It has taken another few years since then for Indians to realize how much politics has changed in many other areas – to name a few, pharmaceuticals, chain restaurants, vacation homes, fast food restaurants, five star hotels, cars, bicycles and many more.

Bikes bring back fond memories. Around 2011, my youngest asked for a bike and her preference was for the Firefox brand. We visited a neighborhood dealer who was professional and allowed him to try a few before settling on his favorite blue. She was excited as we went through the delivery formalities. We loaded his new bike into our car and drove home. The charm and novelty has since waned, but the bike takes pride of place in our garage — almost hanging on a wall!

Around 1977, my district-level ranking in public exams facilitated a nod of approval from my father. He agreed to buy me a new bike – Raleigh, the gold standard at the time. The Bahusar branch in Mysore was another gold standard for a purchase, and among a bunch of pretty identical selections and not much to choose from, I closed my eyes and hit the one that was destined to be mine, or maybe be not!

The accessories my dad let me choose – thick cushion seat cover, luggage rack, mud flaps, super soft grips, black ribbed brake lever grips, black jacket for the front stem (called the top tube), pedal cover – made me gaga over how it looked when everything was mounted. The real icing on the cake was when my dad agreed to fix a night vision dynamo! The whole package cost him around 750 rupees and indeed it burned a big hole in our middle class pocket.

My bike was extremely seductive and eye-catching. The stares were also accompanied by concern; Dad ordered me to push the dealer’s new bike about 5 kilometers home to perform the puja before I could ride it for fear of falling and getting scratched in case of evil eye. Later, dad revealed that he too was bowled over by the stares; all the scratches I suffered being the least of his worries!

Raleigh deserved my full attention – daily cleaning, waxing and a place in our garage. One night it was unfortunately stolen. As much as I cherished it as long as I had it in my possession, so was I mouthy and unable to overcome its absence.

During the time I rode my Raleigh, I cruised the city with my bike lanes with cheerful abandon. I was skeptical to leave it unattended for fear of you know what? Protective gear was unheard of in the 1970s era and the whole road was our space. A bicycle trip with friends was a luxury and most appreciated.

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Wiley C. Thompson