Let me take you back.
The year is 1990. New Kids on the Block top the charts. England are cheated out of certain world cup glory (once again) by the Germans. Mountain Biking is ‘cool’ in the same way Yo-Yos, skateboards, BMXs and rubiks cubes were before. A callow 13 year old is promised one of these mountain bikes for his upcoming birthday. He duly receives a year old 23″ Raleigh Mirage – just the ticket for a growing lad. The bike is collected and several months of fun riding round the Cotswolds are had until a collision with a rather large and firm tree permanently steepens the head angle of that first Raleigh. A spiralling upgrade path ensues (and stalls around 1995) which ultimately leads to the youth setting up a certain website dedicated to his passion.
Fast forward 19 years.
The aforementioned young man (me if you hadn’t guessed) is now in his mid 30s. A vague idea and a quick trip to eBay nets a replacement (and straight) 1989 Raleigh Mirage complete with Biopace and Cheng Shin centre ridge tyres. This one fits a little better being a 19″, almost looking ‘small’ compared to normal Raleigh sizing from that era.
On the day of the 20th anniversary of my first MTB ride I set out to repeat that exact ride. Same trails, same rider, identical bike, 20 years difference. The ride started with a couple of miles on the road to reach my old local stomping ground of Leckhampton Hill. The bike actually felt well enough. The biopace was soon forgotten and the exage components seemed surprisingly competent. About the only thing of note was the steering which felt unusually stable and slow, assume a combination of head angle and fork rake – ideal for long stints on the paper round no-handed. Soon the flat roads gave way to the hill proper with a mile and a bit rough climb up the scarp edge of the Cotswolds. Back in 1990 it felt akin to riding up a real mountain, I recall that particular seemingly never ending purgatory very well. This time although the legs (and Cheng Shins) weren’t quite willing to clear the entire climb the Raleigh made it most of the way to the top.
Most of the way to the top
It was only necessary to push Nottingham’s finest 501 framed cycle up the final loose, steep section.
The final push
Once the climb had been bettered the Raleigh easily cruised the familiar trails along the edge of the hill, past the Iron Age fort and trig point to the dreaded ‘Lecky Bombhole’. It had taken a couple of rides before I plucked up the courage to ride the bombhole back in ’90. This time I piked it once again. 20 something years of dragging back brakes had left a couple of rocky drops which I didn’t fancy – maybe next time.
There be monsters – Lecky bombhole. Piked in ’90. Piked in ’10
The final section of the ride was the best bit then and the best bit now. The descent. Staying true to that first ride I followed the path of the old tramway. Down past ‘Devil’s Chimney’ to another highlight of those first rides, ‘Rock Step’. Like the bombhole this section had been refused first time out. This time it was cleared with ease despite the Chen Shins – if I’m honest due to the fact the rock step bit of ‘Rock Step’ was removed 10 or so years ago rather than any skill on my part. The Raleigh was pointed down the remainder of the tramway to the final part of the descent, ‘Daisybank’. This was formerly one of my favourite trails anywhere, a fast and relatively short path down a grassy rolling bank onto the road. Once again time and 1000s of wheels hadn’t treated the trail well, it was cut up bad although still fun enough. No danger today of beating that max speed I’d registered on my Avocet 30 back in around ’93. And so with that it was back home on the road for a spot of lunch and cake. Excellent.
The view from the bottom
So how was it 20 years on? Great, although it seems almost unfeasible that two decades have passed. I’ve ridden and owned quite a few bikes in the intervening years, all of them with more ‘pedigree’ than the Mirage. However I can honestly say I enjoyed the ride in 2010 as much as I used to on that same old Raleigh back in 1990.
What next for the Raleigh? Doubt it’ll be a regular rider but it has a place in the garage for sure. Maybe I’ll dig it out in 2030 for the 40th anniversary
Same trails, same rider, identical bike, 20 years difference