Monday, 2 November 2015

Cutaway lugs

A chance encounter with a Claud Butler bike has untapped a torrent of memories.

I learned to ride a bike when I was about nine (which was rather late for me).  I have no memory of the bike on which this took place, but I do remember the process.  My father insistently taught me, and I doggedly refused to be taught, until one day when I was on my own I got onto the thing, in the back garden, and taught myself.  After that there was no stopping me.

For my twelfth birthday I was given a proper bike, or at least my parents’ notion of proper.  (They were overprotective of me, I now know.)  There was some subterfuge involving, I think, a cricket bat, which somehow couldn’t be unwrapped until I’d been taken down to the garden shed under some pretext, there to be unveiled this gorgeous Raleigh, in a colour I’d now call magenta but then saw as very displayable red.

It wasn’t, of course, my dreambike.  That would have entailed full drop bars, alloy rims, 10-speed Derailleur gears, many other features I can’t remember:  all mounted on a Claud Butler racing frame with, crucially, cutaway lugs.  These latter were supposedly designed to reduce weight, which was ridiculous – they were an early manifestation of teenage designer bling, and hence heavenly.

I didn’t have any of that.  My bike had semi-drops, chrome-plated  rims which rusted if not oiled weekly, a sprung saddle, three-speed Sturmey-Archer, old lady mudguards and, most dreadfully, a chain guard, in matching colour trim!  But it was still near the top of the local game, and I loved it.

Customisation rapidly followed, of course.  The chain guard was the first to go.  I can’t remember the other tweaks I snuck in behind my parents’ backs.  I do remember the parentally approved water bottles, and can still taste an aluminium-tinged warm sip through a plastic straw.  We discussed the feasibility of taking a hacksaw to those clunky lugs to make them look like cutaways; even, I think, drawing fantasy designs. 

It was never going to be the racing bike I craved.  But I can remember, quite vividly, the short and long expeditions it carried me on.  That was my first taste of real freedom, granted me, intentionally or not, I’ll never know, by my parents. 

I’ve no idea what happened to the bike.  



  1. I remember the colour of your bike and I was very impressed. I thought it had drop handlebars but I'm sure your recollection trumps mine.
    My own favourite was my battered old thing with cowhorns and a fixed wheel, that I rode until I got the BSA Bantam, followed rapidly by a succession of Lambrettas.
    You should try an electric bike now - they're wonderful!

    1. I am still resentful about your being permitted motorised two-wheel transport when my requests for same, a few years earlier, were rebuffed with scandalised horror. But I expect I'll get over it eventually.

  2. But that was in the swinging sixties Tim. You're talking about the frugal fifties.
    I think you win the four-wheel transport stakes now though.

  3. My bike was blue (still my favourite colour - "spell check" tells me that should be "favorite color"!). I had semi drop handlebars. I wish I was still allowed to ride a bike but I'm told it's too dangerous - or was it that I'm too dangerous?