‘Ordinary things wear lovely wings’, wrote the Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh. I’d like to think he had a bicycle in mind when these words came to him. Certainly, Kavanagh rode bicycles. He grew up in Ireland in the early part of the 20th century, when the bicycle was a fundamental tool of rural life, a life Kavanagh keenly and often beautifully observed in his poems.
Then, the vast majority of bicycles were sturdy, black, steel-frame roadsters with luggage racks and leather saddles, made by the likes of Raleigh, Rudge-Whitworth and Humber. They were utilitarian machines. They were built to last. They cost ten pounds.
Advances in technology mean that you can now spend £10,000 on a featherweight bicycle made from futuristic materials with electronic gears. Yet for most of us the bicycle remains an ‘ordinary thing’, something we use daily to go about on mundane business.
Because it has ‘lovely wings’, though, the bicycle still plays a unique part in our experience and holds a place in our hearts, as the pages of this magazine affirm.