Years ago, in the old garden shed my Dad had built from a Nissen hut (post-war luxury…), amongst all the other old stuff like pre-war lawnmowers and old trunks covered with labels from faraway places like Lagos or Kaduna, he used to keep the two bicycles that he and Mum used before they were married.
Mum’s had no gears - my sister used it for years, and I believe it just fell apart in the end.
Dad’s was a ‘Sun’, which again had no gears, but it did have one bit of kit, which I’ve only recently discovered to be a very popular innovation, and has a huge following.
A fixed rear wheel.
In fact, there was also a free-wheel gear on one side of the wheel, and if you took the wheel out and turned it round, you had the fixed wheel cog in the same position.
Dad used to race bikes when they lived in Hertfordshire, and he often regaled me with tales of bikes being made with cane wheels, solid tyres etc, but this fixed wheel riding seemed to me to be an impossible task – I never got the hang of it!
Now I read that courier riders in London prefer these bikes, and there is a genuine preference for using them in traffic. This explains quite a lot, but not the absolute agony I remember while I went up and down while pedalling, totally out of control, and with great bruises and scars forming on both short-trousered legs…