Fashions come and go, but most of us at one time or another will have received a bike-shaped gift under the Christmas tree. So, if everyone needs to start somewhere, where did these well-known riders first start the cranks spinning?
“Well my first bike that I’m told about was a little tricycle when I was two,” he told us.
“It is remembered in my family as we used to have my Granddad living with us, who had an upstairs room. You can probably guess where this is going – I rode the tricycle down the stairs. I still have the scar above my eye.
“My first bike that I raced on was when I was 14. As kids did in my time, we made our bikes out of bits and bobs we could get our hands on. The frame was some sort of road frame that I re-sprayed – I think it was a Carlton. It had straight bars and 26″ postman’s wheels with cycle-speedway knobbly tyres. I think it had five gears. Who said mountain biking came from California? I raced this in a local kids’ cyclo-cross for a couple of years.”
Tracy Moseley is the reigning elite women world champion downhiller, after winning at Mont Sainte Anne in the UCI Mountain Bike Downhill World Championships in September. Despite competing for Trek World Racing aboard the rather tasty Session, Tracy – who had been taking a pop at the rainbow jersey since competing as a junior in the mid-90s – started out on a rather humbler ride.
She sent us a picture of her on her first BMX, accessorised with fetching bobble hat and wellies.
“Here’s a photo of my first BMX bike!” she enthused, adding: “My first proper mountain bike was a Trek 950 which I started racing downhill on!”
Charlie Kelly is one of the original members of the fabled ‘clunker’ movement which began in Marin County, in the San Francisco Bay Area, and developed into mountain biking.
He pointed us in the direction of Fat Tire Flyer for his earliest memories. Here, Charlie says: “Even when I was a kid I assumed I’d outgrow bicycles” – adding that he was “one of the last kids in my grade to learn how to ride a bike”.
Charlie, who wrote that he span his first pedals on a friend’s 20in wheeler, added: “I never had training wheels or a parent running along holding me up. I just had two friends my age who told me in their own way what to do and I learned in a couple of afternoons.”
Writing in his autobiography, Chris Hoy says he started cycling as a sports obsessed seven-year-old – adding that while Olympic gold medals were a long way from his thoughts back then, bikes were not. In fact Sir Chris goes as far as saying that bikes “were in my thoughts all the time during my childhood, in Edinburgh; they occupied every waking hour, with the evidence plastered all over my childhood jotters and detailed drawings of my ‘dream machine’”.
It has been reported many times in the press that the Olympic gold medallist was inspired to take up BMXing after seeing the bike chase scene in E.T., when it came out in 1984.
“It’s true. So thank you Elliott, thank you Steven Spielberg, though I suspect my love affair would probably have blossomed anyway, sooner or later,” Sir Chris added.
Whether it would have started without BMXs is another question. “All I know is that – thanks to what I saw in E.T. BMXs looked like great fun. What’s more they were the epitome of cool for a seven-year-old,” he wrote.
And as for Sir Chris’s first bike, it seems it had a pretty prosaic beginning – bought from a church jumble sale for a fiver.
“My dad went to work upgrading it – pimping my ride, you could say,” he wrote, pointing out that his burgeoning enthusiasm for cycling allowed his father to indulge his own passion for the sport.
“As I got better and better bikes – having broken the original one doing jumps on a home-made ramp in the garden – my dad’s role as mechanic became even more important.”
Finally, BBC Radio Six Music DJ Chris Hawkins shared with us his childhood memories of BMX biking in Shropshire.
“My first real bike was my prized BMX Burner,” he said.
“I grew up in a tiny village in North Shropshire and we rode our bikes everywhere – it was our only way of getting around.
“I remember a friend got a BMX with plastic spokes and the rumour was, if the spokes ever bent, putting them in the deep freeze would straighten them out. He tried it but was grounded for a week when his family’s food was left de-frosting on the kitchen floor.”