Here are a couple of pictures of me on my early bikes. It was blue and shiny and it had streamers. It kept me on the road for years But even before that cycling was in my family’s blood.
This is a picture of my grandfather in his bike store – Seagull Cycles. He built the finest custom hand built racing and commuter cycles in Melbourne and then in central Victoria in the 50s and 60s, and before that his father did the same. It’s not called Seagull Cycle Works any more…but if you’re ever in Beechworth and cruising the main street, check out Beechworth Cycle and Saws. That’s where my earliest memories of cycling were forged.
Even today when I walk into a bike store and smell the peculiar mix of rubber and grease I am instantly transported back to the times when I would visit grandpa’s shop where children were seen but never heard, and I marvelled at the shiny bikes in the front, and the greasy bike skeletons that littered the workshop out the back. As we sipped hot sweet tea around the little cast iron wood-burning stove, I’d listen to the talk of truing wheels, the virtues of hand-crafted bikes, hand-brazed joints and the numbers of tourists visiting the little gold rush town.
These days I find myself wondering what grandpa would think about me and my riding. He never did talk much about a particular passion for cycling itself (to me at least), but his perfectionism in building beautiful bikes showed a love of the sport that spoke louder than anything. And again I wonder that I have not made the connection between my passion for bikes and the bike grease that has coursed through the veins of my family for years before now.
I remember hearing about my uncles (when they were in their early twenties) riding from the middle of country Victoria down to Melbourne and back on the steep and windy high country roads, and being fascinated….and horrified. I remember thinking that I could never do that, but now I reckon I’d give it a try.
I may never ride 3000kms in three weeks like Cadel Evans nor at the pace that he did it, but like our Aussie low-key hero of both mountain biking and road cycling, I hope the love of all things two-wheeled and pedal powered will continue to bring a smile to my face for many years to come. And I am more than chuffed that my son Shel has caught the cycling bug too and will carry on the legacy.
I would love to have one of grandpa’s Seagull Cycle bikes one day. A little while ago I found a guy on an online forum that had found a Seagull Cycle that was in need of some TLC, but unfortunately it was unsalvageable, and just yesterday I heard of someone with a beatup old Seagull frame in the US (long way from home, and the description isn’t quite right), I’m sure it’s not going to be easy to track down a 50-60+ year old steel bike. Until then I will keep riding my sweet dualy mountain bike and my sweet roadie and enjoy the wind in my face (and the frost on my nose in this crazy Canberra winter ) and the freedom of almost flying.