Bike from bygone age gets new lease of life for Giro

The recent Giro d’Italia has given local residents a thrilling glimpse of riders on bikes worth thousands of pounds whizzing past at high speed.

While expensive, a professional cyclist can get through several bikes in their racing career.

But one 80-year-old Larne woman is showing that original really is best, as she proudly displays her first bike, purchased in 1938.

Betty Douglas, originally from Killwaughter, was given the red bike by her father Wallace Crooks at the age of four.

All seven Crooks children subsequently learned to ride on the small Raleigh bike, which Betty’s sister Yvonne Crooks believes was purchased from Meharg’s in Ballyboley.

At the time, Raleigh was one of the biggest cycle factories in the world, employing 10,000 workers and making two million bikes every year.

However, with increasing global competition and cheap imports, the Nottingham factory was forced to close in 2005.

Millbrook resident Yvonne recalls: “We all rode the bike except our eldest brother, who got a blue one at the same time as Betty.

“I was the last to ride it, as I am 16 years younger than Betty.

“When one got too big for it, they passed it down to the next one, so it became a family heirloom.”

In contrast with our modern view of cycling as a hobby or sport, during the sisters’ childhood it was a necessity.

Yvonne explained: “There were no cars at the time so you had to ride to get anywhere.

“We went everywhere on that bike, including using it to get to school every day.

“The bike would have been quite a big purchase at the time.”

As the children grew up, the bike was put into storage on the family farm for safekeeping.

There it remained for many years, until the Giro D’Italia came to town.

Ahead of the Giro’s arrival, the little red bike was given a new lease of life to restore it to its former glory.

Yvonne recalls: “After we outgrew it the bike was put away into a barn.

“I was scared of something happening to it.

“My brother recently spruced it up with new tyres and paint and it looks quite well.

“It is in good order and could even still be used!”

Over seventy years later, Yvonne says that the sisters still discuss the red bike often and have fond memories of this link to their childhood.

While the little bike may not be worth tens of thousands of pounds, its sentimental value means that it is irreplaceable.

Asked whether she would consider spray painting the little red bike bright pink in honour of the Giro d’Italia, Yvonne laughed: “I don’t think so.

“My sister Betty still talks so much about the bike and we have so many fond memories of it.

“We wouldn’t be too keen on getting it painted!”