65 years riding the same bike

By Kathryn McNicoll

How long do you expect your bike to last? Maybe 10 years? 20 years? How about 65 years? Jan from Jericho has had the same bike since she was 9 years old. It is a heavy green Phillips bike with no gears: Jan calls the Phillips bike the Rolls Royce of bikes. It was second-hand when she got it so the bike is even older, probably nearly 70 years old.  

She got the bike in order to cycle to school in Hampshire: later, in the mid-1970s to 1990s, she worked in London and used it to cycle to work and to meetings in and around London for years. Was she considered odd? Jan seemed a bit surprised to be asked that question: the bike was a workhorse, her normal mode of transport and, besides, cycling around London then was not a problem as there was so much less traffic. She recalls going home late one night by taxi with the bike in the back: when the taxi driver was helping to get the bike out he noticed it was a Phillips and got very excited. ‘Oh girl it’s a Phillips,’ he said.  ‘I had one when I was a boy.  You look after her, she’s gold dust.  She’s a real antique.’ This was really the first time she realised it was something special.

The bike was stolen once in about 1991 (she had already had it 35 years by then) – and then miraculously reappeared chained to a lamppost outside her daughters’ school. She was working full-time then, but happened to have taken that afternoon off, so was on pick-up duty – and there was her bike. No doubt as to whose bike it was – it was her bike all right: the front wheel was buckled but that problem was quickly made good.  

She was given an e-bike when they lived in Steeple Aston as the hills there are so steep, but now she lives in Oxford she doesn’t need it any more to cycle round the city: her Phillips seems to handle all that Oxford can offer. Once you get on it, it ‘goes like the clappers’ she says. She tends to keep to safe places to cycle: she can get to Botley for shopping pretty much off road. However, the Woodstock Road is not pleasant where it narrows, and the Iffley road is nasty with cars parked in the cycle lane. And why, Jan asks, when there was lots of space to do so, were there no cycle lanes in the new housing developments around Bicester to make it safe and convenient for the new home-owners to cycle around? 

Jan is rightly very proud of the fact that her bike is all genuine Phillips – except the pedals. A kind mechanic recently changed her old worn pedals, but she kept the originals and carries them around in her basket – they are still with her. 

The whole family cycles: her husband and her two daughters are all dedicated cyclists too. Perhaps this dedication is down to the faithful Phillips that started it all.

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Comments

Rich

My tourer’s now 25 years old – young by Jan’s bike’s standards – but I hope I’ll be riding it for another 30 years. The relative simplicity of a bicycle means they can last to tell these wonderful stories.

Richard Barrett

The Sturmey Archer 3 speed hub for bicycles wold have been available when your bike was made, but they were heavy so all racing cycles were fixed wheel such as yours. Possibly your bike had gears from new but was modified during repair?

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