Me and my bright red bike

By Leo-Jay Black

Leo-Jay Black is a Cyclox member and was one of the volunteer mechanics who gave hours of their time to the Bikes for Key Workers project.

Well, where to begin? It all started in 2007 when I part-exchanged a BMX and £60 for a Kona Yeeha (Steel frame) that was for sale, second-hand, in a local bike shop in Exeter. I liked it because it had big wheels, good gear ratios, 700c wheels, hybrid tyres and flat handlebars. Since then, it has become my trusted companion: it’s bright red, and this year was its 12th year in my company. Who knows what life it had before then? It’s got some dinks and dents but is a solid bike; it’s had a blowtorch applied to melt a seized aluminium seat post out of the steel frame, only for the same thing to happen six months later.

It’s travelled with me wherever I go; cities it has lived in since I became its owner include: Exeter, Oxford, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Southampton, Bournemouth, and Toulouse. Most weekends during my PhD, I’d be back and forth on the train with it between Oxford and Southampton. It regularly takes trains, planes and ferries and I’ve also used it for bike polo, for cycling London to Paris, for visiting Hebridean islands and more cities in the UK than I care to think of. I use it regularly to go camping; it’s my mechanical mule, with two panniers. I’ve used it to go to festivals, to cycle to airports, to go to Pedal on Parliament campaigns in Edinburgh, and even a funeral.

It has also regularly provided lifts for those (when possible) who have the misfortune of not having a bike, including my two housemates; one on the pannier rack, one on the saddle, and me providing the leg power.

It’s earned me income in times of need; it’s been welded back together by the physics workshop in Southampton after some fatigue. It’s been the victim of theft; someone stole the grips, and another time a wheel. Once I woke up on a Sunday morning to a ping; I thought, ‘Either this is my housemate coming home, or someone is trying to steal my bike’. I opened my window, looked out and saw some guy walking off with it – he had cut the lock like it was cheese. I shouted “Oi! What are you doing?” He looked up at me and decided to lean the bike up against the neighbour’s wall and run away.

There’s rarely a day when I don’t cycle. I regularly take my bike to London; it’s allowed me to nimbly see many of the main arteries in the capital that many people only witness at the junctions because they use the underground. I’ve inadvertently given many spiders and snails the ride of their life. I’ve even had a kamikaze squirrel run straight at me and through the spokes in my wheel!

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