Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Legend of the Three Silly Junk Bikes : Part Two

The Legend of the Three Silly Junk Bikes

Part Two

A brief history of the ‘Made in Rhodesia’ bicycle as recalled during a Police Anti Terrorist Unit patrol, Gokwe Tribal Trustland, Rhodesia, 1977.

Here is Part Two of the incredible story of how I got done-over by my bicycles. Please scroll down a bit if you are a late entry for Part One of this excruciating tale.

Me and Alan G. - Sengwa Base Camp, Gokwe TTL, New Years Eve 1976/7

I had been a ‘real policeman’ for almost two weeks! Please note ultra-cool digital watch.

‘Hello, I am Middle Silly Junk Bike, and your father bought me as a surprise present for your eleventh birthday.’

Surprised? I stared in horror at the thing.

‘And - I am Made in Rhodesia!’ it added proudly.

Well that was understandable. I really couldn’t imagine countries like Germany and Italy manufacturing such a contraption. Perhaps it was a French design based on the hunch-back of Notre Dame de Paris. Something was seriously wrong with it. Granted, the handle bars were quite cool, almost perfectly straight, and it had cable brakes, but I just couldn’t get my head around it. It was like looking at a cheated cheetah; the one that lost out at the back of queue when the creator ran out of legs, and stuck on some spares left over from the elephants. The bike was a freak! The owner of Manica Cycles must have laughed his head off -

‘Quick, here comes that Troll who bought Lockwheel for his son! He never misses a bent bargain. Bring out the Quasimodo, I have a hunch my till will start ringing again.’

A quick ride around the block established the problem. With an amazing ingenuity the manufacturers had, just for a laugh, attached 24-inch wheels to a 22-inch frame. This meant that within a year, my knees would start to hit the handle bars and the saddle would have to be raised so high, it would resemble the French bell ringer with a padded cripple’s crook sticking out of his back. I would soon be forced to ride with my knees sticking out like a butterfly’s spread wings.

The little silver bell on its horns had been moved on the first day, after its fixings managed to slice through my kneecap, whilst turning right. Besides the ridicule from my ‘friends’, at least it didn’t suffer from lock-wheel. But when Middle Silly Junk Bike decided to have a go, it waited until my thirteenth birthday, when for once, my pitiful bleating took fruit and Quasimodo got geared up - in the shape of a Sturmey Archer internal hub, three-speed gearbox.


I stood up, uncoiling my frame as lazily as a puff-adder reluctantly reacting to the warming sun. I needed a wazz. At this darkest of hours, the land was at its coolest. The dew made damp patches on my trousers as I cautiously moved towards a nearby tree. As I struggled to pee silently, I recalled looking at a blow-up schematic of that gear box’s innards and concluding the inventor should have stuck to Cuckoo clocks. There was a wire leading from a gearshift on the handlebars to the guts of the contraption, which made strange ticking sounds as you peddled. That was the flaw in the scrambled egghead’s machine. As the gear-wire stretched over time, it needed to be periodically checked for the right tension. Failure to do so could wipe out a dynasty.


Twelve year old Me and my Monkey. And my late brother Michael. Salisbury, Rhodesia, 1970.

It was on the way back from school when Quasimodo decided to try and castrate me.

At a furious pace, I left the flat stretch of Second Street Extension, and hit the steep cycle path on Upper East Road (later to be renamed) that goes up to my suburb of Mount Pleasant. Standing up on the pedals, with the momentum well timed; I flicked gears, each time doing the little reverse pedal that engages them. Three - Two - One. Down came my legs with awesome thrust - into nothing. Nothing at all - the gear had not engaged, a phenomena known as freewheeling, or to be more accurate; ‘neutered on neutral’.

My feet slipped off the pedals and I came down crashing onto the cross bar, my full weight cushioned by my little pack of tenderly maturing genitals. The forward momentum continued. My head just missed having its teeth removed on the ‘L’ shaped bracket for a torch (we had advanced further than the candle holder), the front tyre did manage to shave my chin. Up went the legs in an automatic counter-balance.

Contrary to the rumours, my life didn’t flash before my eyes; instead I saw torturous images of euphemisms:

Crushed nuts

Pressed olives

Sad Sack

Unicorns (I couldn’t remember the word for eunuch at that time.)

The pain was so intense, I couldn’t even scream. My hands, now crushed against my chest, had Quasimodo’s horns in a grip of death. My elbows jerked spasmodically, and the crazed machine now wandered off the cycle track, and onto the main road. Gravity took over, and I collapsed under the bike. Cars desperately swerved around me. Kids peered out the windows as I vomited out my crushed family jewels. Preservation made me crawl to the small grassy strip between cycle path and the main road and curled up foetidly. I retched for what seemed an eternity.

Finally, still bent double, and with tears streaming down in sympathy, I lost the plot.

‘You piece of shit,’ I screamed, and in an adrenalin rush of pain and pure hatred, I threw the hunchback onto the cycle track, and jumped all over it, kicking it whilst it was down, smashing-in spokes, buckling its wheels and snapping the gear’s wires.

I really taught it a lesson. I cleverly told father that a bad boy (unknown) must have done the terrible damage to Quasimodo whilst it was parked in the school’s bicycle shed.


I punched the button again. Another forty minutes before I could officially awake the others and make a well deserved cup of chicory, with just a hint of Inyanga Mountain’s coffee. I just couldn’t wait to spend the first half hour of sunrise crunching floating islands of milk powder against the aluminium cup.

Bored to distraction, I decided to tie my shoelaces. I slept with my boots on. They weren’t really boots, just canvas tackies, designed as basketball shoes, with no treads. Great for fooling gooks, according to ‘Be Smarter, Wear Bata.’ Their ability at subterfuge was equalled only by an elephant with red painted toenails hiding in a strawberry patch. They were also about as clandestine as a corpse wandering around asking for directions to the cemetery. They were comfortable enough and dried out rather quickly. A mangy odour permeated the air as I strapped my soggy meat in. I wriggled the right foot. It still worked, but it had been a close shave. There was still visible scar tissue shining dully under the half moon, where just above the ankle, Die-Swiftly, the third and largest of the Silly Junk Bikes, had attempted a narcosis free amputation.

End of Part Two.