Reid Between The Lines
THE TRAGIC TALE OF A DREAM BIKE – AND THE FIRE THAT TURNED IT INTO A GARDEN ORNAMENT.
With all the new shiny steeds coming out in 2018, James Reid takes time out to reminisce about the bike that started it all for him.
IIt was maroon and had 16 gears – eight more than my current machine. ‘Nishiki’ was emblazoned across the down tube, and I had been eyeing it out for months at the local bicycle shop.
My older brother had been lending me his bike, but this was the ultimate. I simply had to find a way to make it my own; but I was young, and dependent. Still, with the confidence that only a nineyear- old could muster, I quizzed the shop owner about the price.
“Twelve hundred,” he said gruffly. I was devastated. R1 200 was far more than the R20 I earned a week, doing dishes, washing cars, and cleaning up around the house. I had budgeted for R800, but this was 50% more.
All my friends had their own bikes; but if I ended up with this one, I would be that guy on the block – and I could race on the weekends. I daydreamed; about the possibilities of riding down to the shops whenever I wanted to, and visiting William and Jeremy (my friends, who lived on the other side of Hillcrest) without having to rely on a lift from my parents…
As the possibilities grew, I snapped back to reality, and focused on how I was going to get my hands on it.
Naturally, one’s first bike is accompanied by a process of dependency reversal. I needed my parents to help me with the purchase, and I remember sitting them down for a serious conversation about the benefits of me owning my own bike. Eventually they agreed; but their condition was that I had to spend the weekends teaching my younger brother to ride.
I agreed wholeheartedly, and the following weekend, pure joy accompanied me out of the shop.
It’s hard to overstate the sense of freedom that Nishiki gave me. It went through everything – plenty of trips to school, nearly every street in the small town I grew up in, and even into the first car that didn’t indicate, much to my mother’s horror. Thankfully, both the bike and I emerged relatively unscathed; my exploration continued unabated, and my sense of independence grew.
After a couple of years, my neighbours and I decided to build a small mountain-bike track in the forest below our houses. We spent months digging the course, while furiously consuming the cycling magazines that detailed the international exploits of our newfound heroes – Greg Minnaar and Burry Stander.
They were who we wanted to be – and, I told my friends confidently, it starts with building technical tracks and doing hill repeats.
Late one afternoon in the school holidays, I left my beloved Nishiki on the side of the track, ready to resume work the next morning. That evening, the farmers who owned the land below the forest burned their sugar cane fields; a lapse in concentration, and the flames grew out of control and travelled up the hill to our handcrafted track. It’s difficult to describe the emotions I felt, as an 11-yearold, watching a wall of fire consume both bike and track. The next morning, I looked longingly at the remains of my first bike, now hissing in a hot mess of steel and plastic.
Years later, my mother decided to turn the burnt (and eventually rusted) frame of my old bike into a garden ornament. To this day, that Nishiki sits in the garden of my parent’s home – albeit in a different form to when it was my first love.
It’s hard to overstate the sense of freedom that Nishiki gave me.
Retired pro James Reid is currently studying at UCT’s Graduate School of Business, and exploring cycling as a non- professional.