Youth would be an ideal state if it came a little later in life.
or perhaps lasted for ever but that’s not how it works. What departs with it depends a lot on the accidents that befall us along the way and the less wise decisions that we make. Most of us have the capacity to hang on to a lot more for a lot longer. This is the story of Gayle’s Uncle Kel, largely in his own words.
Kelvin was born in 1927. Before he was big enough to ride in the saddle he would ride his father’s bike standing on the pedals with one leg through the triangle of the frame. This was the era when …
For night riding the bike was equipped with an acetylene light mounted from the handlebars using a sprung trapezoidal frame. The light had a lower compartment to hold carbide and a water compartment above to allow a regulated drip through to the carbide which generated acetylene to be burnt in front of a reflector to supply light.
Kel bought his first bike in 1937 …
with money earned from delivering morning newspapers. This was the only time that I can recall my father being angry. He seized the new 24 inch wheel bike and later returned with a 28 inch bike that I would not grow out of. I rode this bike from Westgarth to Preston for school for three years. On wet days I used a waterproof cape which extended over the body and forward over the handlebars.
He joined the scouts …
In the early 1940’s, preparations were made in anticipation of Japanese air raids and the Air Raid Precaution Organization was formed. Various scenarios were practised, using scouts on bicycles as messengers to relay information between headquarters and “bomb sites”. In other scenarios, the scouts were used to play the part of injured civilians who needed first aid and to be transported to hospital. My family did not have a telephone at this time, so a person living in Regent was rung to pass a message to his neighbour (another scout messenger) that his services were required at Air Raid Precaution Headquarters. This scout would jump on his bike and collect me en route to Northcote Air Raid Precaution Control. The Scouts were allocated roles as messengers or the injured.
During these war years new tyres were not available so we learnt to retread our own tyres by spreading a rubber solution over the tyre and sprinkling the tyre with crumbed rubber. At night, the suburbs were blacked out to prevent any enemy aircraft from identifying the geography of the city. Even our car and bike lights conformed to blackout rules by having shields to cover the front light and thereby permitting only a glimmer of light to escape.
About this time, my paternal grandfather came to live with us and he took to riding my Dad’s bike. I was amazed! He was 81 years of age and still able to ride a bike!!
The bicycle is fun for kids but to most adults of Kel’s generation it was merely utilitarian. The motor car slowly took over. Eventually, though, Kel and his wife, Gwen were blessed with grandkids and they seem to have been a catalyst …
Many years later our young granddaughters were given small bikes, our daughter, Helen, received a new mountain bike for Mother’s Day and I was given a hybrid aluminium bicycle for painting their house. I joined a Bicycle Victoria event and along with my five and six year old granddaughters we rode from Carlton for the 50 km over the Westgate Bridge to Williamstown and back through Footscray to Carlton. Then when the girls were aged seven and eight and I was 77, we completed our first Great Victorian Bike Ride from Port Fairy to Geelong and never once walked nor required the sag wagon! I continued to participate in the Great Victorian Bike Rides for a further six years.
After six years on the hybrid, I changed to a Jamis, steel framed road bike, but changed the handlebars from flat to butterfly bars to give me a better hill climbing attitude.
By 2015, my wife, Gwen’s health deteriorated, necessitating her move to an aged care facility and I began riding my bike the 5 km from Eaglemont to Alphington every day to visit her. Looking for a new activity, I signed up with the Banyule Bicycle Users Group (BUG), made up of a group of retired men and women in their 60’s and 70’s. I was then 87. Banyule BUG ride two days of the week, travelling along bicycle paths, roads with bicycle lanes and some minor back streets over distances of 30 -95 km
Arriving home and feeling tired after the Banyule BUG ride, and still with another bike ride ahead of me to visit Gwen, I began to look for an electric bike. I chose a CUBE brand, step through frame with derailleur gears. I ride this bike in the evenings to visit my wife. It suits the hilly terrain when I have a heavy load and I am feeling tired. The ebike is heavy and ponderous and I find my road bike much more responsive so I prefer it for the weekly BUG rides.
At nearly 93 years of age, I enjoy my bike riding and look forward to active, safe riding for the next few years.
Amen to that and thank you Kel for taking the time to contribute this blog.