Yesterday I drove to the North West of England to pick up my latest bicycle. This one is a Raleigh Wisp in lovely original condition—including the original dark blue handlebar tape and saddle. I bought this bike for what seems like a good reason. I have signed up for Eroica Britannia in June 2016. My plan had been to ride my Infra Red Mark 2 Chopper which by then will have been repainted and rechromed and will look gorgeous. Having never ridden in a sportive—although I’ve driven Erik to loads of them—the thought of riding 30 miles in Derbyshire—with the hills that are bound to be just around the corner from Bakewell—worries me a little. The thought of doing those hills on a gorgeous but massively heavy Chopper fills me with terror!
Therefore, I decided that I will take two bicycles with me to Bakewell—my beautiful Chopper—to swan around on and another bicycle to do the ride on. So, that set some requirements for my new acquisition – it needed to be light-framed and have a good enough set of gears to get me up the hills but have been built pre-1987. Oh the world of choices that eBay offers! I toyed with lots of bicycles but eventually stopped considering bicycles with drop handlebars (I find leaning forwards for a long period uncomfortable) and lots of other entirely unsuitable bicycles that just took my fancy, including 1950s bicycles that needed complete restoration, old bicycles with a single gear and bicycles that were simply too big for me to ride. It actually took me a surprisingly long time to rule these out of the running!
I did have a number of 1980s Raleigh mixte frame bikes on the list and a bit of research by Erik made my mind up. He found that the Wisp, one of the ones on my list was the creation of Yvonne Rix, a product manager then marketing director at Raleigh. Rix had studied in evening classes and on day release to gain her diplomas. She argued that women needed bicycles that were designed with them in mind and that they were neglected in Raleigh’s offering. The Wisp and two other 1980s bicycles aimed at women (Cameo and Misty) were her concepts—see Raleigh and Fashion and The Heron Evolves: Raleigh from 1975 to 2002 for further information about Rix and Raleigh history.
We collected the bicycle from Preston and then had a lovely ride along the promenade from the pier at Lytham St Anne’s to Blackpool’s North Pier. It was pretty breezy so the return trip was faster and much nicer than the outgoing one. Still, I did just over 10 miles, so around a third of the Eroica Britannia total. No hills of course!