Monday, March 20, 2017

Farewell to a neighborhood bike shop

I learned to ride a two wheeler quite late, actually my first bike was just a little smaller than a full size man’s bicycle. I might have been about 8 or 9 I suppose. 

My first bike
Me on that old bike, with my sister and neighbor kid, I have no idea where they found training wheels to fit. (circa 1977)

The bike was handed down to me from my cousin in South Australia. Back in the 70s new bike were still fairly expensive, at the time I got my first bike it was a reasonable proposition to restore an old bike, including re-painting rather than to buy a new one. That's how I got my first bike, a hand-me-down farm bike with great big skinny wheels and a leather saddle when a lot of my mates were riding brand new dragsters with high handle bars, fat tires and a sissy bar on the back! 

There were no department store specials back then. Unbeknownst to me, my cousin's ancient but trusty old farm bike with the leather saddle which proved to be a literal pain in the arse (and embarrassment) to me at the time, was taken down to the bike shop in the back of the Kingswood station-wagon and checked in for a full overhaul. 
The 'bike shop' was Watsonia Cycles in Greensborough road, Watsonia. This was a real workshop where 'wheelmen', (serious cyclists) and hardcore bicycle mechanics (cross between a fitter and a blacksmith) tooled around with greasy bearings and hand made frames all day. This is the place where my first bike was re-born. Watsonia Cycles the place where bicycle guru's (who I believe even back then were slightly arrogant experts in their field) lovingly restored a seriously rusted clunky old piece of farm machinery (possibly belonging to the dawn of the safety bicycle) into a slick and gleaming piece of slightly dated, daggy, too big for a kid to learn on, bike! 

I'm not sure how long I owned that bike, or how long it took me to learn to ride it, but I do know that as soon as I could get rid of it and onto my brand new Malvern Star Dragstar with the extended frame I bloody well ditched that old bone rattler!

Watsonia Cycles (Later called Super Cycles) must have existed in the same place for more than 40 years. On a recent trip to Melbourne I discovered that the shop had closed.

In the 1980s Watsonia cycles played a pretty big part in encouraging the new era of BMX. I recall the time they set up a small circuit on the vacant land across the road which has since become the railway car park. They organized a demonstration day and kids came from all over Watsonia, Greensborough and Macleod to see the best of the best in exciting world of elite sports, Bicycle Moto Cross, do their thing! I have no idea who the guys were but their bike skills were mesmerizing and ensured that every kid in the neighborhood would be nagging their parents for the latest chromolly framed, plastic wheeled, knobby tyre'd over priced dragster usurping machine by, if not before Christmas! (Of course that was the year I finally got my dragster!)

Watsonia Cycles special
Virtually exact replica of my very first bike, on display

In the early days of my cycling life I have to admit I was only an occasional customer at Watsonia Cycles, I rarely had money to spend on bicycle repairs, the stripped threads on my axle nuts and bodgy attempts at puncture repair will attest to that! Actually as time went on nothing much changed, even when I wasn't broke I avoided parting with my hard won cash! However I did spend some money in the shop from time to time and I am very happy to say that I was expertly set up with the Shogun Katana I bought there nearly 30 years ago and still love to ride today. 

Super Cycle Bicycle store (Watsonia, Vic)
Super Cycles, used to be called Watsonia Cycles. Shopfront 365 Greensborough Rd.

A lot of stuff used to revolve around that old bike shop, but I haven't been able to find any references online. It's likely once they re-paint it, the shop will pass out of memory. 

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