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Still flying

If you’re a cyclist, like me, you probably spend a lot of time looking at bikes and bike reviews, drawing up mental shortlists of which models you would buy if you had the cash. I’m also fully aware of which sports car I would buy if I suddenly became rich. In the meantime, the bike I inherited in 1970 is still the only one I’ve ever owned.

Flying Scot bike - Mark Nicholson

It’s a Flying Scot, built in Glasgow in 1954 by Rattray’s. Those too young to remember Flying Scots should have a look at Bob Reid’s website for the history of this classic marque.

The frame is made from Reynolds 531 tubing, which is reasonably light and obviously very durable. My complete bike tips the scales at about 22 lb (10 kg), although I dare say it could be lightened a little if I spent more on the wheels and groupset.

It originally belonged to my Auntie Margaret who, along with my Mum (Jennifer) and my Auntie Betty, was a keen cyclist – as was my Dad, Colin Nicholson, who raced for the Tyne Velo club in Newcastle. In fact it was through cycling that I came to be, as my Mum and Dad met as members of the club.

Sadly, my Auntie Margaret died in the early 1960s. The bike was used by my cousin Michael for a while, before coming to me when I was ten years old. At first I had to stand on a kerb or some other raised platform to get onto it.

Mont Ventoux - Mark NicholsonMont Ventoux

I’ve never trained hard enough or consistently enough to cycle competitively but my Flying Scot and I have enjoyed many thousands of miles together in the last 43 years. The high point of that journey – quite literally – came in 2006 when I accepted a challenge to climb Mont Ventoux.

Approaching the summit

The frame has been re-sprayed twice. Its original colours were two shades of metallic purple. In about 1987 M Steel Cycles in Newcastle applied the current colour scheme, along with transfers as original, and at the same time brazed gear hangers onto it so that modern gear mechanisms could be attached more easily and neatly.

Various components have been replaced over the years – some of them several times. Today most of the equipment on the bike is Shimano but it still has the original brake levers and back brake mechanism, as well as a little metal clip that holds the two brake cables together in front of the handlebars. The seat post is original too, although annoyingly someone stole the leather Brooks saddle in the 1970s.

Flying Scots were particularly popular in Scotland and the north of England, but for the past 26 years I’ve lived in Cornwall and in all that time no one has ever recognised the name on my bike – although a number of people have admired its beauty and workmanship.

I don’t know if I will ever buy a modern bike. I’d be tempted to go for a lighter one, if I could easily afford it, but at my age I don’t expect to be breaking any records.

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