In 1990 I went off to Canterbury School of Art in Kent as a fresh faced scrawny twenty year old taking my Raleigh Scirocco racing bike with me. Not only would the bike let me explore my new environs but as I lived ten miles from college on the coast at Whitstable the bike was the cheapest way to get to and from college. Towards the end of my first term my head was turned by a bright red Trek 820 mountain bike in the window of Herbert’s Cycles on Whitstable High Street. I flogged my Scirocco to my landlord and topping up the money, probably with some student loan, unless I’d already spent it all on records, purchased a sparkly new MTB. I took my new pride and joy home that Christmas but it was promptly nicked out of the shed one night by some lowlife scum. In the local bike shop in Camberley there was a 1990 Marin Palisades in the January sale. I was instantly drawn to the matt grey frame and fluoro yellow bars and forks. It was way cooler looking than the Trek. Oh fickle me, how soon I moved on. I borrowed some money from Dad on the assumption he’d get it back off the house insurance and by the time I got back to Kent I had another new bike.
On Monday mornings Chris (Muddy Fox), Matt (Saracen) and I skived off Cultural Studies lectures to bomb around the woods up the hill outside Canterbury. I rode it hard and bounced it off trees, crashing it more than once. I found new ways to ride between Whitstable and Canterbury that didn’t involve the A-road. I rode it along the coast and over the cliffs as far as Broadstairs. I have a vivid memory of sitting on it on top of a hill overlooking Canterbury one beautifully sunny morning listening to Saint Etienne’s Nothing Can Stop Us taped off the radio on a Walkman. When I left college it got smashed around the woods back home, the same ones I trashed my BMX around as a kid.
There were a good few years when I bloody loved that bike, but then I was distracted by a few Vespas (150 Super, two Vespa 90s, T5, PX200) and then a Lambretta (LI 150 Special). Having motorised two wheeled transport I rode the Marin less and less. I lent it to my brother for a couple years and moved away. Visiting my parents one weekend I saw it in the shed with a ripped saddle, a bent rear wheel, and the rear mech hanging off. The front wheel was nowhere to be seen. I have no idea what he did to it and I didn’t dare ask. Knowing what I do now, and the things he was getting up to, I’m lucky to have got it back at all. It stayed in my parent’s shed in that sorry state until they decided they no longer wanted it taking up space. It was delivered to me in Brighton one weekend, unceremoniously piled in the back of Dad’s car along with a load of boxes of other stuff my parents decided they no longer wanted to look after. Most of it ended up at the tip soon after but I didn’t have the heart to scrap the Marin. Every scuff and chip told a story. So I rebuilt it with (really) cheap parts and rode it to and from the studio and locked it to lamp posts outside pubs. It was enough to reignite my interest in cycling. No longer fresh faced or scrawny I eventually decided to get a road bike again in an attempt to get fit. My first love of road riding was rediscovered on the very first ride. The Marin got ignored again.
It languished in the hallway in a state of slow entropy. I thought about fixing it up but never found the time or inclination. Then I started to acquire other bikes including another mountain bike, so the Marin just seemed to be redundant. Yet I still couldn’t bring myself to chuck it out so it quietly sat there rusting under the gathering dust. After walking past this sad sight one too many times my friend Jo finally broke. He could bear witness to my neglect of an old mountain bike no longer.
“Just leave it with me, I’ll fix it.”
With bits dug out from the dark recesses of Jo’s shed – other histories, a multitude of stories – and a few new parts it has been resurrected as a different bike, re-invented as a singlespeed. The first bike I’ve had with only one gear since a BMX (Prolite) when aged 14. It’ll probably make me hurt and swear but commutes over the Downs should be interesting. However having just ridden it home I reckon it’ll also be a hell of a lot of fun! It’s nice to have you back Marin.