Recently, I waxed nostalgic about my beloved first bicycle, a cherry-red Raleigh three-speed that went missing (temporarily, I still insist) on an August day in 1953.
But another bike held just as big a place in my heart for the 19 years or so that I owned it.
It was a Twiddle. To translate: it was manufactured by the W.G. Twiddle company on Lawrence Road in Liverpool, England. Not as famous a name as Raleigh, but highly-respected among racing bike enthusiasts since the 1930s.
This particular bike, a homely blue beauty with a magnesium alloy frame that weighed in at just 22 pounds, came into my possession sometime around 1964.
Its previous owner, Anthony Somebody-or-other, was a Grade XIII classmate who had brought it with him when he emigrated from England. I can’t remember what it cost me, but I had to have it, because there was nothing like it anywhere around.
The model was Lancaster Special, and the company’s yellow decal bore the cryptic number 22. Possibly (or so I chose to believe) that meant it was the 22nd bike of its kind that Bill Twiddle had made.
It had an impressive total of five (or, was it nine?) speeds, most of which I never used.
More important, it had ram’s-horn handlebars and impossibly skinny, rubberized-canvas racing tires, which made me the envy of my peers and confirmed my status as an ardent nonconformist.
When I bought it, the paint was already fading and chipped, the decal had started to peel, and the handle grips were spongy and split. I didn’t bother decking it out in finery, or adding anything non-essential. This was a work horse, not a show pony.
It was also my best friend and companion on one of the most memorable adventures of my life.
In the late summer of 1965, after university and I decided we weren’t meant for each other, I set out on my Twiddle from London, Ontario, determined to ride to Vancouver, then talk my way aboard a freighter and take up residency in Australia.
Day after soggy day, I pushed myself against the prevailing wind, sleeping in ditches and under picnic tables, with neither tent nor tarp between me and the elements.
It was hell, and I loved it. I even grew resigned to the fact that a hard, narrow Brooks B-17 saddle is definitely not a friend of the male anatomy.
After 17 gruelling days, I had reached Winnipeg, where I decided to stop and struck Australia off my list of future homes.
My Twiddle #22 disappeared sometime in the 1980s, tossed out by a bitter ex-girlfriend. But I savour the notion that some stranger still rides it high and fine, somewhere beyond the boundaries of Geezerville.