Sunday, June 2, 2013

RIP Richard Ballantine

This is how Richard Ballantine's wonderful book should look like, oily, battered, dog eared and loved. I got my first copy in 1979 as my book gift at the school speech day. I'm sure I should have asked for Tess of the d'urbervilles or 1984 but in so many ways Richards Bicycle book coloured my life.

There's a nice tribute to him in the Telegraph (of all places, how the world has changed, not least by Ballantine), including a couple of classic quotes, the first to the simple joy of turning the pedals;

“It’s immediate and direct. You pedal. You make decisions. You experience the tang of the air and the surge of power as you bite into the road. You’re vitalised. As you hum along you fully and gloriously experience the day, the sunshine, the 
clouds, the breezes. You’re alive!”

Whilst another I remember from the first time I read the book. A shocking account of how to deal with dogs, which seemed so alien to a boy growing up in rural Yorkshire. Maybe the dogs are wilder in the US (though he spent much of his life in the UK). In fact, going back to the telegraph article to pinch the quote I see they've removed it from the original story. Shame. 

Ballantine, despite guiding my early cycling exploits always seemed a bit potty, in an extremely endearing way, much like another hero of mine and cyclists generally, Mike Burrows. Both were leading lights in the Human Powered Vehicle community, which often seems to attract the more alternative personalities. Despite that he was obviously also very in-tune with the wider cycling world and in fact was the first person to import mountain bikes into the UK.

Mr Ballantine, I'll be getting my Bicycle Book out tonight and thinking of you. Thanks.

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