Even as a young boy I was prone to lustful thoughts about bikes.
If you’re familiar with the phrase Raleigh Burner you’ll know what I’m talking about: “Raleigh” as in one of the UK’s most historic bicycle brands, and “Burner” as in flames down the side of the bike frame and, “whatcha riding there …is that a Raleigh BURNER!!”
Cue jealousy, admiring glances, and an elevated status in the primary school classroom.
As a child in the early days of BMX my two-wheeled pride and joy was the centre of my universe. The greatest day of my life was undoubtedly my 9th birthday, where I became the proud owner of a pair of bona fide BMX racing trousers: blue and red, with hefty knee pads and flames down the legs!
It’s fair to say that as a look good this was my peak. Never in the intervening 30 years have I come closer to being king of all I survey.
As a grown up there have been other defining moments, of course – my marriage and the birth of my kids spring to mind – but had I been wearing trousers with flames down the legs on either of these occasions they would only have been improved.
The thing with being 9 years old and riding a Raleigh Burner wearing flame legged trousers is that it fills you with a kind of invincibility. Add a healthy dollop of peer pressure into the mix and it’s inevitable that at some point you are going to do something really stupid.
I did lots of these things.
I would line up as many friends as I could muster, build a ramp using a pile of crumbling old bricks, and a sheet of plywood or a couple of old floorboards, and get them to lie together like sardines. Then I would assure them with a cocky wave of the hand that I knew exactly what I was doing and ride at them on my Raleigh Burner to see if I could clear them.
In hindsight THEY were the ones doing something stupid, and yet again it’s evidence of the fact that I peaked early. Never since has a group of people showed such confidence in me based on such little evidence. Adrenaline is a powerful thing.
So were those trousers.
Over time my list of willing volunteers dwindled until the point where just a friend and I would challenge each other to complete ever more ludicrous stunts.
We eventually abandoned the BMX element altogether following an incident with an ill-advised four foot high ramp and the low branches of a cherry tree. Instead we concentrated on rolling each other down a hill in a wooden barrel, perfecting a home-made high-wire act across the local river, and deliberately provoking a bull in a farmer’s field to see if it would chase us.
It did, and our escape was far from convincing.
Shortly after this near death experience I stopped wearing the trousers with flames down the legs and have since found myself involved in fewer and fewer scrapes. This suggests a clear link between the wearing of flame legged trousers and a reckless adrenalin fuelled existence.
Occasionally I’m tempted to buy myself a new pair and wear them to work just to see what would happen. Who knows what wild behaviour would ensue in the office: Reckless photocopying? Spontaneous use of the tea and coffee making facilities? Wilful disruption of the internal mail system?
There is an obvious conclusion here. If you ever worry that you life has become dull, you’re not cool or popular, and your friends seem reluctant to lie down in a line whilst you jump them on your bike, then help is at hand: just buy yourself a pair of flame legged trousers.
They never did me any harm.