Yesterday I cleared a way to the back of the garage to drag out my venerable Moto Guzzi T3. Built in Italy in 1979 it weighs in at 240 kg and the 844 cc V-twin air cooled engine originally kicked out 68.5 bhp at 7,000 rpm. I bought it from a friend in 1994 with about 49,000 miles on the clock and have only done about 12,000 miles in 18 years. Having been confined to the garage for six months I knew it would be a bit reluctant to start so I used booster cables and it eventually coughed into life with a familiar throaty roar before settling down to a lumpy idle. I inflated the Avon Roadrunners to about 30 PSI front 35 rear, donned helmet and gloves and set off to clear out the cobwebs. At one point the engine started to die and I thought the worst before realising that I was low on fuel. I was glad I had fitted the cruciform fuel hose a couple of years ago because it meant I only had to turn one tap to reserve to get both cylinders firing again before finding a place to fill up with fresh petrol. I have this crazy dream of riding it over the Alps to the Guzzi factory in Mandello del Lario. Maybe one day.
I have had many bicycles over the years but most of them were old scrappers which were either given to me or which I found abandoned. Until recently my primary bike was an Apollo hybrid that has served me very well for a few years considering it cost me nothing (though I invested £50 in pair of new Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres last year because I was fed up with getting punctures). I have often thought about getting something less utilitarian and I am a bit of a minimalist so when a friend said he was thinking of selling his Create fixed gear/single speed bike I asked if I could try it out for a while. The rear wheel has a flip-flop hub with 16 tooth sprockets on either side, one fixed and one free. My friend had been riding it free and the first thing I did was flip the wheel to turn it into a fixie. That meant that the rear brake was no longer required so I removed it. It also meant that if my feet slipped off the pedals I would have trouble getting them back on so I dug out a pair of SPD pedals and shoes that I bought a few years ago. I am quite tall so I had to raise the saddle to the maximum height, which was just right. The bars are not height adjustable but it looks like I could flip the stem to raise them a little – though I actually find the riding position comfortable as it is. On my first outing I was hooked so I bought it for £120 and have taken every opportunity to use it. One of the things I love about this bike is that it is almost silent compared to ones with derailleur gears (and certainly compared to the Guzzi which has a habit of setting off car alarms when I ride past slowly). I had also forgotten how nice it is to ride with feet firmly attached to the pedals and the SPDs are so easy to clip in and out compared to old fashioned toe clips. The 44 tooth chainring in conjunction with the 16 tooth sprocket gives a gear ratio that seems about right for me – I measured it at 72 gear inches. With its narrow bars, short frame and light weight (about 11 kg) the bike is highly responsive and fits through small gaps so I am looking forward to trying it out in London traffic.