Reconnecting the past…

Its been a few days now since I sucked that cold air into my lungs on a midweek ride, the final part of the puzzle to kick start a chest cold that had been lingering since the weekend. A few days of doing nothing but moping about coincided with poor weather, so they were tolerable (just) but today dawned bright and shiny, too good a day to miss.

Conscious that my chest is still vulnerable after a few issues earlier in the year I dragged the single speed out of the cellar and set off at a steady, slow pace to explore the local trails that I’ve been neglecting for a long time, I reckon its over forty five years since I first dragged a bike around these woods.

A tracker bike as we called them then, essentially a single speed roadster bike with the full metal mudguards removed and short silver aluminium ones fitted, wide cow horn bars also if you could find some (this was the bike of choice) although back then there really wasn’t any choice, you rode the secondhand bike your parents bought you or one that had been inherited from an older brother.

The bike I’m riding today is essentially the same, but not the same, its only got the one gear like my bike back then but apart from that everything else is superior in terms of quality, the brakes are amazing, the tyres grip, there’s no rattling.

For a brief moment I wonder about how it would feel to ride that old bike again, of course this is ridiculous, I’m a foot taller now and considerably heavier, and I’m pretty certain that I couldn’t spend more than five minutes on that old saddle, the overriding memory though is of the white plastic grips that my dad had to araldite onto the chrome handlebars, they were tough old things !

Dropping into devils drop made me laugh, that drop was a rite of passage back then, when you are ten years old and being goaded into doing something you aren’t sure of was pretty scary, now of course it doesn’t even register on the fear scale. There’s evidence of dirt jumps around, mounds of earth with logs sticking out, no tyre tracks though, its been a while since these were last used.

The tracks through the woods were spectacular this morning, autumn colours and low sun make for a memorable experience , stopping now and again to take a photograph and just look around, I can almost hear the whooping from back then, I do eventually spot some tyre tracks which suggest that there are still kids riding in these woods, thats a good thing.

After about forty minutes I head to the cafe to warm up with a brew, its only just warm enough to sit outside now but that sunlight on my face feels good, my chest is tight but I’ve been riding slowly, I figure a bit more is okay so head out further, into another wood and I’m looking for the perimeter singletrack, when I recognise the entry point I see that its all fenced off now, what a shame still its been a pleasant ride all the same.

Heading home along familiar trails I divert to ride the devils drop one more time, and of course this time I hit the bottom of the drop and find the boggy bit hidden under a carpet of leaves, the best tyres and brakes in the world aren’t good enough to stop me from stopping dead and falling into the mud, jumping up unhurt, first thing is too check if anyone’s seen what happened, dusting myself down and laughing at the thought that some things never change !

Words & pictures – Steve Makin

5 thoughts on “Reconnecting the past…

  1. Jeremy Derby

    Lovely to hear about `tracker bikes´ after so many years. Although living in Denmark now I was brought up in the Chesterfield/Dronfield area of England. Luckily for us, as kids, there was no shortage of woods or slag heaps in the area which made for perfect tracker bike country.
    I remember that a true sign of a quality tracker bike was the handlebars, the wider the bars the better the bike, even if it meant you were virtually lying on the top tube to hold the handlebars.
    I suppose tracker bikes must have been the forerunners of mountain bikes long befeore the Canyon Band on their modified cruiser bikes and Repack Hill races in California.
    Has anybody told that to the Americans?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow! The first entry I read on the blog and it brought back so many memories to me of my days spent ‘Tracking’ in the woods as a young scruffy Herbert on my single speed bike (no Speedway style bars for me though unfortunately, I had ‘Granny’ bars and rod brakes that were lethal to the thighs in a prang).

    I too think we British should lay claim to inventing mountain biking with our trackers!

    I’d love to revisit those woods (on the Berkshire/Oxfordshire border, so some way from me now in Cornwall) and this post has just inspired to me to see if I can get up there and go for a nostalgic hoon!

    Thanks for the memories!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Googling ‘Tracker Bikes’ brought me here. In the 70’s I had a Raleigh Chopper, but desperately wanted a Tracker like the big boys had. Fast forward 4 decades and I’m finally scratching that itch, building a Tracker from an old Elswick Hopper frame, big cowhorn bars, and the knobbliest touring tyres I can find. This blog parts the mist on my own similar memories, and made me smile.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jeremy Derby

      I converted to my first tracker bike in about 1965. The bike I converted was an ex police bike so everything unnessecary was strippped to make it lighter. Saddle and handlebars set as low as possible (it was an adult bike) and new knobbly tire bought. I remember that the lightened version still weighed what felt like a ton but it was rideable.
      I work at a school for kids with behavioural problems . Together with some of the older boys I have built four tracker bikes which are extremely popular. They look good, weigh very little, are easy to maintain and have very few parts that can be damaged. Most important is that they are very cheap to build as most parts can be found at recycling centers.
      I have just started a facebook group called Tracker bicycles. You are very welcome to post pictures of your Elswick Tahiti project or share any tracker memories.
      Remeber a tracker bike has to be ridden hard and fast. They were´nt built to be ridden slowly.

      Liked by 1 person

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