The start of my cycling days.
By Arthur Cox
I had no bike of my own and when in 1940 and aged about 11, then living in Castledon Road, Wickford, I used to “ride” my father’s bike. He had used it to get to work and cycled from South Woodford to the docks on the Thames – Tilbury mainly. This bike was a very old and very heavy machine with a huge leather saddle supported on massive springs. One of old “roadsters” and the brakes operated via lots of rods and levers – no cables. The rods pivoted on little brackets welded to the frame and had several adjusting points. The brake blocks pressed on the wheel rims right next to the spokes and not on the edges of the rims. As the blocks wore down all the rods had to be adjusted to shorten them a little. The rods for the rear wheel went under the frame and the main chain wheel – just the place to get covered in mud. I said that I rode this bike but it was far too big a frame for me so I used it as a scooter. Right foot on the left pedal and left foot pushing on the road. I used it that way to get up to Downham church area and enjoyed the fast ride back down the hill. Then we moved to Nevendon Road and I explored southwards – along the Nevendon Road (the old road) – past Borwick Lane, Bromfords Hall, the Post Office and to the crossroads with the Arterial Road (A127) and the Jolly Cricketers pub. Thence to Pitsea and Vange. There was no Basildon then except for a small village. Other trips were along the old Cranford Park Road from Tye Corner. That was a very bendy road as it went round the fields. I got to the pub on the Arterial Road (The Harrows) and then on to North Benfleet and so round back to home.
My first bike that I called my own was one that we found shoved into the front hedge at home. We took it to the police station in Wickford after it had been abandoned for some days. Later I was told I could have it for myself. It was a bit more of a sporty type with a frame that I could use and ride properly. With that I explored further afield. To Billericay, Brentwood, Ongar, Epping, High Beach, etc. Once I went that way and into London City from where I got home on the train.
Later, when in the army, I bought my first brand new bike – from a shop in London where I was then living. I think the place was called Grose’s and was near the north end of Great Portland Street. That bike lasted many years. Trips overnight to Worthing and Brighton to see my sister and cousin there. I took that bike to Devon and had trips around north Devon with my elder brother – camping out in fields and on beaches. Also used it to get to work in the newly opened Basildon telephone exchange. And overtime duties at Laindon and Billericay exchanges. I headed this the “start” of my cycling so I will end now.
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