Reid Be­tween The Lines


Bicycling (South Africa) - - INSIDE - BY JAMES REID

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.

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