My ‘Original’ Viking – A tale of wanton abandonment

I wish I could get closure, perhaps writing it all down can bring that about, this page can be the psychiatrist’s couch and you can be Sigmund Freud.

The key I believe is regression, so we will go back to nineteen eighty-two. The charts were full of ‘New Romantics’ Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, The Human League and similar. I’d love to say that I was listening to The Clash and The Jam instead, but unfortunately I discovered the true worth of these two uber cool bands long after they had both split, when I was in my twenties. The late Rik Mayall was making us cry with laughter (and our parent’s shake their heads in bewilderment) at ‘The Young Ones’ and a Task force sailed to the South Atlantic to retake the Falklands.

One Sunday afternoon (in early nineteen eighty-two, remember) on a visit to my uncle’s house we ended up rummaging in his treasure trove of a shed (which somewhere within its mysterious walls housed a 1932 New Imperial motorbike….. but that’s another story not this one) My uncle gave a cry of excitement and pulled from the mess, a bike frame like he was playing game of shed ‘Jenga’

“What’s that?” I asked, only half knowing the answer.

“This is a 531 tubing Viking from the late fifties and you can have it. I bought it so I could be the next Reg Harris…..” he explained.

I must admit I was rather underwhelmed, it wasn’t love at first sight and I’d never heard of Reg Harris. After turning it over and over in my hands I started to admire the delicate lugs, unfortunately it had been sprayed with a thick coat of light green primer, but the quality of the hand built frame from a few miles down the road in Wolverhampton, began to shine through.

It made its way back to our house in the back of my parent’s Morris Marina estate.

Before the days of Google I didn’t track down any replacement decals or check its original colour scheme. I did work out it had once been a metallic mid-green though. I didn’t want a bike that colour so I had it sprayed bright red and used transfer lettering from a stationers to re-badge it.

I worked Saturdays as a butcher’s boy and every five pound note got saved and gradually it got built up using whatever I could get at the right price, it had Weinmann centre pull brakes, large flange 27 x 1.25 inch wheels and Shimano gears, an unwanted crank was scrounged off a mate. A Brooks seat and the original handlebars with the stem were located in ‘the shed’ It ended up a bit of a mongrel. But it was my mongrel and I loved it.

Over the two summers of eighty-two and eighty-three it carried me hundreds of miles all over the Midlands, with my mates Neal and Mark. Neal had a brand new Falcon and Mark had an old bright Orange Eddy Mercx from a friend of his dad, my Viking completed the trio.

Over the next few years it came out occasionally, when I needed to get somewhere. Roll on to eighty-eight and aged nineteen I thought ‘racing’ bikes, as they were known then were no longer cool and old slightly odd looking ones with a ‘Letraset’ badges were doubly un-cool.

What happened to it? Did it get stolen? Was it written off in a crash that left me clinging to life by a thread? No worse than that, I betrayed it. I sold it for thirty pieces of silver, (sorry I mean thirty quid…) and put the ‘Judas’ money towards a shiny new mountain bike.

When I reached my early forties and wanted again, what are now known as road bikes I thought longingly of my first love and began to regret the hasty sale of the bike decades before. I hadn’t thought of it much in the intervening years as I had owned a constant stream of cars, some of them quite interesting like, a Mark one Golf, an Astra GTE, an Impreza, a soft top jeep were scattered among the boring Sierras, Citreon AX’s, etc.

I looked for an entry level road bike and spotted the new Viking range no longer made in Wolverhampton but well within my price bracket. I ordered a Viking Clubmaster.

It’s budget was decided by family finances at the time, but the brand was chosen by nostalgia and an attempt to recreate those carefree days of the the early eighties (I must get some new glasses, the ones I have seem to have a distinct rose tint to them). The new Viking was a capable and reliable purchase if a little unexciting.

Has this therapy session helped? Perhaps it has. The Defy 2 I now have is a far superior machine to my original Viking (in some ways, but inferior in others? discuss……) I have a wife who also enjoys cycling (not to the obsessive extent I do though) and a 7 year old who wants a road bike as his next one. So my cycling life is pretty good.

I did toy though with idea of getting a vintage Viking frame, I even found one the right original colour on Ebay. It took considerable self restraint not to bid on it when in the last few seconds it had only reached twenty quid. I didn’t bid for two reasons.

Firstly, It would have been a pale imitation of a different bike.

Secondly, the build done with sympathetic retro parts would have diverted possible future funds from the idea of a carbon build that is beginning to form on the distant foggy horizon of my mind, If you are on speaking terms with Mrs E, please don’t mention this to her, as I don’t want THAT conversation just yet….. in fact I might use a unique combination of ‘The under the radar’ and ‘Plausible deniability’ approaches for that one (see the ‘Relationship Help’ article for further details.)

I wish I could show you a photo of it, but unfortunately I owned it in the days when the family camera only came out on high days and holidays, before everyone carried a phone that can take and then broadcast the pictures complete with sarcastic comments across the world in seconds, so as far as I know a photo of it doesn’t exist.

If I saw what I thought to be my teenage bike at a car boot sale or on Ebay, would I buy it back? Too bloody right I would and then we could grow old together gracefully.