The Simple Things
WHAT I TREASURE
My mum’s GPO tyre levers By Jamie Britton
When my mum was working for the GPO (the General Post Office, or what we now know as the Royal Mail), the bright red post bike was the default transport for its men and women. With the bike came a standard-issue coarse, brown canvas mailbag and various bicycle repair tools. They accompanied my mum on her rounds well into her pregnancy, until she could no longer cycle up the hill and the mail was instead delivered by van for sorting on our dining room table.
Mum’s days as a postie were over when I was born. The bike went back and the mailbag ended up at the back of the garage. But tools have a use and so became everpresent companions to my dad’s commute, rattling around in the bottom of his saddlebag for the next couple of decades.
At some point, I inherited the tools. On a modern bike, spanners have little use for roadside repairs and now live in the depths of my toolbox. However, the tyre levers ride on, and accompany me on every ride, affixed to my spare inner-tube with rubber bands. Dependable and sturdy, there’s no chance they’ll break – unlike their modern, plastic equivalents – even when faced with the most unyielding of tyres. Forged and polished (I like to imagine in a hot Sheffield foundry) with function the sole aim, these levers somehow feel exactly right in the hand, as if they were made just for me. Age and use have honed them further, with countless puncture repairs and tyre changes.
Each time I carry the levers or I’m unfortunate enough to have to use them, some small detail is added to their story. Though safely stowed in my jersey, weather, sweat and road grime conspire to further evolve a half century of patina. I sometimes muse on how many miles these tools must have travelled and whether they’ve been carried along the same roads by my parents before me? Or how many punctures they have helped to fix? Irreplaceable and loaded with history. Yet, a few years ago, I managed to lose one following an abortive attempt to fix a puncture at a cyclocross event. Returning to the park the next day, more in hope than expectation, my son somehow spotted the lost item trampled into the mud, more than making up for my ruined race.
I think my GPO tyre levers – sturdy, dependable, functional and with faultless form – will be with me forever. Or at least until I can no longer cycle up the hill. Then I hope they will accompany my son on his rides, and enjoy another 50 years of use. What means a lot to you? Tell us in 500 words; firstname.lastname@example.org.