PAUL NEWELL: Life on two wheels – I spent hour upon hour riding my bike as a kid in the 80s

My life on wheels commenced with the humble tricycle (Pixabay: Labelled for reuse)
My life on wheels commenced with the humble tricycle (Pixabay: Labelled for reuse)
A steam car at Bishops Waltham station about 1910. It was the terminus of the 4.5-mile branch line that connected it to the main line at Botley. It closed to passengers in January 1933.

NOSTALGIA: Hampshire’s long lost branch lines

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Our estate was fairly big, so a lot of time was spent playing out on our bikes. The first bike I remember was a heavy old tricycle which was then swapped for a thin two-wheeler to which stabilisers were attached.

This bike actually broke in half when I was riding it as the central frame had rusted so badly. It instantaneously became a unicycle so, as I was not adept at circus tricks, I ended up in a heap on the ground. I had to carry both bits home one in each hand. It was just before the BMX craze so the kids on the estate fell into one of three camps; those who rode Strikers, Choppers, or Grifters.

My partner in crime and I both had Strikers. We placed card between the spokes attached with a peg and pretended we were the two motorcycle cops from the American TV show “Chips”. The bikes were green so we stood out a mile.

The bigger boys had Grifters which were the same style but larger and red in colour. We had to pedal frantically to keep up with them. The rest had Choppers. I didn’t like those because they had a gear system on the frame.

If you stopped suddenly you would slip off the thin, slippery, seat and be singing a few octaves higher!

There were various games we played on our bikes. One was to time each other racing around the green.

My friend failed to brake on one of the corners and had to apologise as he careered onto the front lawn and came face to face with the woman washing up at her kitchen window!

Another game was manhunt. This could be played on foot or by bike.

All of the kids would split into two teams, the hunters and the hunted. There would be a time limit of a few hours and the hunters would have to wait whilst the hunted scattered throughout the estate.

If you were seen you had to be tagged and then you would race your opponent back to the green. It was a wonder no one was injured as nobody took any notice of the cars. I suppose there was not as many around back then.

I remember my dad telling me that he played the same game when he was young in the 50s except the boundary was the whole of Southsea!

The final game that my friend and I played came to fruition due to the fact that there was one long and winding road connecting the two entrances to the estate in London and Copnor road.

We would start at the London Road entrance and pedal furiously until we reached the entrance to his close before putting our feet up and seeing who could free-wheel the furthest. Again, this was down the middle of the road, but we never came to any harm.

This game lost its appeal when I traded in the Striker for a racing bike which meant I could go quicker and therefore free-wheel twice as far!

I had the racer for years but couldn’t get on with the curved handle bars so changed them to the normal type. For some reason I had no interest at all in the BMX craze.

We had no mobile phones so came home when the light faded. We went everywhere on our bikes, even up to Cosham and around Foxes forest along the Hilsea lines.

Free-wheeling down the curling Peronne Road bridge was fun, as long as you remembered to brake at the bottom!