Be Jim.

My uncle arrived on a Sunday morning. I was delighted at his approach as it got me out of mass. The tall, thin, moustached figure was an uneasy wonder. He had big motorbikes and small cars. He loved war movies, but shunned confrontation. I was 11 and stood beside my converted, rubbish-Christmas-present-bike which was now nearly a racer. That prick Santa had delivered a secondhand, blue shopper- when all I wanted was the white and blue Raleigh BMX in McCabrey’s window. I road it upright with shame until my birthday, when narrow tyres and drop bars transformed my source of local abuse, to a single speed racer. I waited for him, beside my bike for 30 minutes and the front gate. When he arrived, he looked at me, then at the bike and back at me. He took a 5/16 spanner from his decades old saddle bag and raised my seat in silence. He squeezed my front tyre and methodically took a silver pump from underneath his top tube and on one knee, gave 40 breaths to each end of the hand-painted blue wonder. My life on a bicycle had begun. Our spin was 43 miles of hedgerows and advice. 35 miles longer than I had ever done before. Try and pedal with your toes……

Do you see if you drop your heel…..

…..put your hands near the brakes and when……

At Crumlin train station, from the bottomless saddle bag, he produced a stove and pan and thickly made Jam sandwiches for the ‘drum up”. We shared a cup of strong tea in the sun. I arrived home pale and full of wonder. I told stories of distant lands, 15 miles from the house and slept all afternoon in a chair. Everything I NEEDED to know about cycling, I gained from those weekly spins in the summer of ’85. How to fix a puncture and avoid being run over. How to approach a junction and a hill and a gravelled bend.

Jim taught me.

If you think back to your own entrance into our wonderful sport, there was a Jim. He may have been without a moustache, with a smaller saddle bag or he may have been a she or a collection of faces, but someone showed the way. A friend learnt the way from the shouts of his father, berating every mistake with a high volume correction. He didn’t stay in the saddle. I think we should be a Jim this winter. Pick that person who goes out in your street or you pass on the way to work and after a few days of “Hellos” offer the hand of fraternity. No orders or shaming. 

Have you thought of raising your bars to make it more comfortable? If you attach the cable to the front brake it would help slow you down. Do you want to try these shorts that don’t fit me? I can show you a flat route, avoid the hills until you get the fitness up. 

If they enjoy cycling more, that new friend will stick at it ’cause it is mighty. Your experience can increase the joy. Small offerings that would take an hour of your weekend, but could introduce someone to a lifetime of joy behind the saddle and you will be their hero. Jim.

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