Even though I could not ride out of sight on a dark foggy night and my sprint finish was barely detectable with modern scientific instruments, I lived with an urge, perhaps an unstable lust for frame making and racing, I kept finishing second or third until I began to wonder if I was nuts? I trained in all weather, because Sean Kelly would not hesitate to be out training in the Belgium sleet and if the others are at home warm and dry and perhaps cuddled up, I was keeping fit, getting tougher and their form would be slipping……. I did a lot of thinking when training, I think long solo rides are good for your mind, well I convinced myself that it is good thing. No strings in your ears back then, just the sound of the Sanyo Dyno Power rattling on the tyre tread while you squinted to see the pot hole with its feeble 3 watts and that is only when you were going at a decent clip downhill, while the drizzle soaked through your woollen under shirt and your feet turned to prunes, pondering the meaning of life and wondering where and what my school crush, Sonya Housman is……………………………… agh sh-t the Dyno Power is slipping on the wet tyre tread………………… (Some will know what I speak of ?)
A period of time did come when I had my doubts. Is this frame making caper a wise career choice? All my mates were earning 3-5 times what I was earning or they were finishing Uni degrees. I pondered for some months while riding or standing at bench rebuilding a rusty gummed up Sturmy Archer 3 Speed hub for the 1578 th time, I recalled what Susan Wright who sat next to me in year 7 at primary school said, (or was it that I sat next to her?), any how she had a brain the size of a planet. One day she pretended to read my palm and she said, “you will be a pauper” Such was my ignorance I had to ask her what a pauper is?
So the moment came, when all my momentous life choices are made, probably while riding home 20kms from the shop, usually in the winter dark, most likely raining or into the howling westerly, “Susan is right, stuff it, deal with the consequences of whatever happens, I might well be a pauper via the bicycle world and worse comes to worse I will be just a bike shop owner/worker scratching a dollar here and there, so be it”. This was in the time before cycling became heavily commoditised. The tragedy of this makes you weep eh? No? Oh well, I am not making any of this up. Race now while one’s physical powers are at their best, I never wanted to race as a vet (and I never did) This leads to the moment that I can actually recall where I was standing when I thought “one day I want to design and make frame castings and have my own bike shop with the frame building out the back.” I really did have that thought go through my head. I was standing at the left end of my work bench with aching legs from the 2 hours of training before work, doing some mundane task such as rebuilding a Shimano B type coaster hub in some kid’s bike for the 4,000 th time, pondering, day dreaming and needing to sate my desire to do more frame work. My enthusiasm for the frame building, to take it further was far greater than that current situation would or could ever allow. Eric has to make the shop pay it’s way and it was toil, toil and persevere at the toil and I was there to do the tasks, chores, a wee bit of frame work and earn my wages. Eric was a good boss, I was fond of my time at Hoffy Cycles. Meanwhile I was trying to stay sane with the family home situation by shutting out everything but for training, racing, work, reading and anything frame making related while I started to expand my metal working urges via the pages of “Model Engineer” magazine. It was around this time I bought my first lathe, a little Emco Unimat that I kept on a table in my bedroom. I was starting to realise that “a lathe is a beautiful thing”.