Restoration Man

Gerry is one of those guys you don’t meet every day. He’s unique in a good exceptional kind of way. He’ll never jump on the stage coach heading for the big city ….6 horses blazing through the canyon…dust billowing up to be seen for miles…the crack of the whip from the stage coach rider, his trusty sidekick sitting next to him with a loaded rifle to ward off bandits!!

No No NO …Gerry will be riding along on his pack pony with a mule carrying all his essentials…food and supplies…cooking utensils and ammo…a warm blanket and clean socks just in case!!! He is an understated man of the world who can be surprised or surprise you with his accomplishments. Just as Jimmy Stewart famous guise as a hangman in “Bandalero!” all those years ago…he can fool you into thinking he is a simple man but the opposite is the fact….there will always be a project waiting to be completed to high precision and accuracy. Take for example his 1987 Peugeot 5 speed bicycle that he purchased when he was 15 years old…..

…the bike had been neglected for years and was nearly for the scrap heap. The word scrap or heap are words that Gerry neglected to learn at school. These are words that were not used in the 80’s …The late 80’s in Ireland saw a resurrection of the cycling phenomena thanks to Sean Kelly and Stephen Roche…and like many young teenagers of the time Gerry craved a bike like the Irish heroes of Le Tour De France 1987…we all wanted to be zipping around the roads on our racing bikes. Money was hard to come by in those days and the purchase of a racing bike was a rare occurrence in many households. For Gerry the day had finally arrived……the long awaited journey home from the bike shop in Tuam…Gerry in the trailer holding onto the first real tangible new gift he ever really cherished so far in his life….the wind gently blowing through his hair…knuckles gripping the Peugeot 5 speed for dear life…the anticipation of showing this magnificent piece of engineering off to his family, friends and neighbors.

Every teenager needed to have a bike to enable them to escape at a moments notice…it’s like a golden ticket to get away from the drudgery of life for the 1st time. A bike can satisfy your need to show off your skills to prospective females and wow them with your speed and bravado. Like all teenagers of the time…if you didn’t have a bike you couldn’t join the gang….you were left at home while your comrades zipped off into the blue yonder like “The Magnificent Seven” but the sound of horses hooves were substituted by the swift changing of gears and squeak of dry breaks. At last you were free….

The youth of today take for granted these simple pleasures but my friend Gerry cherished his new gift like no other. He commented to me with a reflective glaze in his eye “Apart from my 1987 Lytron FM/AM/LW stereo tape recorder

…….the Peugeot five speed was the single most cherished thing in my life at the time..” It is a testament to how much he loved them that they still hold pride of place in his home. Why would he throw something out if it still works perfectly well? It was over 20 years later in 2008 that he rediscovered the bicycle in his shed awaiting its resurrection. The years had paid its toll and it was up to Gerry to rescue it from oblivion. When a restoration job needs to be done it needs to be carried out with high precision…nothing must get in your way…all avenues must be explored to seek out the little details to succeed in your task. Gerry needed to respray his old bike…replace the old stickers and re tape the handle bars as per 1987 standards..the list was endless. Difficult tasks indeed when the old ways of manufacture had given way to newer methods which were not a scratch(pardon the pun) on the older ways of manufacturing. The older Peugeot bikes were of a stronger more classic design and even though 21 years had passed …in bike terms this was a new era which had forgotten and shunned the older …some would say …better way of doing things!!

This was to prove the most challenging task that Gerry was ever to carry out in his life!! Why did he take this unenviable route of repair? Why not buy a new bike instead? The answer he gave me was..”Even though the 5 speed itself was not worth much at the time…I am of the belief that you can make even shit things look good and what else would I be doing?”..

And so began a 4 month journey of tracking down decal stickers and getting advice on how to remove rusting bolts from forums of like minded individuals….anything can be sourced on the Internet and eventually Gerry tracked down a guy in California who had exactly what he needed for the finished decal stickers on the bike ….the unmistakable Peugeot brand colors and trademark design reminiscent of the late 80’s. The wait for these stickers was unbearable as the reclusive Californian was slow to respond but when they arrived the bike could finally be finished with lacquer and reassembled to its former glory. I asked Gerry how often would he take the bike out now…”Never really….the odd time I might cycle to the local shop but not very often…I’m afraid it might get scratched so I keep it in a safe place at home…pump the tyres now and again..thats enough for me!!”…..the bike has its own kick stand for fear of leaving it against a wall might get it scratched….Gerry’s journey is a testament to an era that has long since passed on…but thankfully there are those pockets of people who will restore to former glory even the most insignificant of objects..He has so many projects on the go that I would love to tell you all about but for now the tale above should suffice…

Maybe I should start a chronicle of Gerry’s adventures throughout his life… this space!!



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