Along for the Ride with the Veteran Cycle Club of Northern Ireland
Veteran Cycle Club of Northern Ireland, and am still re-living the experience. To say that there were rare bikes, stunning scenery, and a charming group of riders doesn't do it justice. Put it this way: It was certainly my most memorable group ride to date. The Veteran Cycling Club is a world-wide organisation that promotes riding and conservation of vintage bicycles, and the Northern Ireland section has been around for 3 years under the leadership of Chris Sharp - a vintage bicycle collector who is known worldwide thanks to the jaw-dropping contents of his flickr account.
here and also from Chris Sharp over here.
The bicycles did not disappoint, though after some time my head began to spin from exposure to too many rare and never-before-seen bikes at once. I am easily excitable, I need small doses!
Highlights included an all-original Lapierre Porteur, which I even had a chance to ride very briefly. It was so strange to see a real French 650B lightweight with original components, having gotten used to contemporary tributes with Velo Orange parts!
The owner of this bicycle (also named Chris) is gradually restoring it and trying to locate a couple of original parts - not easy with French threading and 650B.
Keith enjoyed riding this bike very much, despite his racing background and penchant for roadbikes. I believe there was even a sprint finish involved.
Then there was the mystery bike - notice the peculiar frame construction.
The frame is unmarked and the owner, Andy, does not know anything about its origin. He built it up beautifully. Any ideas as to what this frame could be? I seem to recall seeing pictures of German or Austrian frames in this style, but can't be sure.
This seemingly normal-looking Humber is pretty unusual as well if you look closely: It has twin fork blades! Presumably, this was done as an experimental suspension fork, to dampen vibrations from bad roads.
Let me tell you though... Riding bicycles on loan from Chris Sharp is not without its consequences. By the end of the day both Rose and I were referring to the bikes we were riding as "my bike." Chris almost began to get nervous, reminding us gently that we would be returning them after the ride. Thankfully, that is the only problem anyone in the group had with their bikes all day. All the bicycles present were impeccably well maintained by their owners!
The scenery we passed was out of this world beautiful. With green jagged hills ever present in the distance, we rode along the river Roe and to Lough Foyle - the body of water that separates the western part of Northern Ireland from County Donegal in the Republic of Ireland.
This cottage has remained unchanged through the centuries, which is a rarity nowadays. There was no heat or electricity, and so water was boiled on the open fire.
Also as if by magic (my God, I can only imagine how much work went into planning this behind the scenes...), a gorgeous and delicate tea service awaited us inside the cottage.
Delicious pancakes with butter were served to the hungry riders.
I had considered dressing up, but the morning was such a freezing one that my body just said "no" and I wore about 20 layers of wool instead.
Once we were back from the ride, there was a great deal of trying out each other's bikes and discussing bikes, as well as discussing why and how we collect vintage bicycles. At this point, I am pretty sure my conversational skills had deteriorated to an incoherent babble as my eyes darted from headlamp to chaincase to porteur rack, to the beautiful green hills and baby lambs that surrounded us, unable to process it all as real.