Thursday, 5 June 2014

Thank You Dougie Mansfield

There are a few people you meet in life that really change your life and take it off in a new direction. I met Dougie when I was 11. He had just taken on the shop and was still being 'shadowed' by the previous owner, making sure he didn't bugger it up! I had rescued my dad's aging 3 speed sit up an beg bike from the shed and with the help of a library book I spent the summer holidays restoring it to rideable condition. It was a beast of a machine that I could only just manage to climb on with great care - my dad is 6 ft 4 and I'm 5ft 8!

I'd been playing up in Hardcastle Crags and the 30 year old perished Dunlop White Sprite tyres had not survived the outing. I went to buy a puncture repair kit but he took the time to look at the tyre and suggested I might need to replace it. That evening I struggled with spoons, spanners and screwdrivers to free the tyre from the rim. Needless to say I was back down at Dougies the next day to buy tyre levers, an inner tube and a tyre........

That bike had some curious and extremely fragile rubber/cork handlebar grips. They were lovely to hold but in wet weather and on steep hills they would suddenly fly off, leaving you hanging on to nothing but fresh air, or worse still, smashing your face into the stem. So that was my next purchase. Dougie took the time to explain to me how to fit the new plastic grips, using washing up liquid to lubricate them into place.

When the rubber pedals fell apart, I upgraded to steel 'rat trap' pedals. But first there was the problem of how to remove the old ones, which were cemented in place with decades of rust. Dougie scuttled out into the back room and reappeared with the biggest spanner I had ever seen."Use this" he said. "Bring it back in when you're done." The right one came off easy enough but try as I might the left was stuck solid. It was Dougie who explained to me about left hand and right hand threads!

A year or so later I had scraped together £85 from my paper round and birthday money to buy a brand new Raleigh Europa from Dougies shop. It was in Raleigh team colours, a replica of the professional bike. For me this was my entry into club cycling. I could finally keep up with everybody else on the Cragg Vale climb. Once again Dougie was ever generous with the 'Big Spanner' and a freewheel remover every time I wore out the chain and sprockets, and taught me how to true the wheels when I broke a spoke. When a proper lightweight Denton racing bike was traded in, he made sure I could afford it and kept it for me until I was able to pay him. This meant that I could start racing and that year I won the schoolboys hill climb cnampionship, as Malcolm Elliot took the junior trophy.

This kind of thing went on and on, he was ever patient with me and my friends as we traipsed back and forth to his shop having wrecked some other part of a bike or run out of airgun pellets. A few years ago when my daughter (AKA 'The Cycling Goth') wanted her first pair of Dr Martens, we knew that Dougie would provide! The week before he retired he was showing me round, laughing at some of the stock that was still there from the days of his predecessor 'Arthur Jimmy'.

When I went for my first job, Dougie gave me a good reference. I still have it. One way or another, I've made my living from cycling ever since the 1980s, but that would never have happened without the patient, ever smiling presence of Dougie during my teenage years. Thank you Dougie Mansfield, you will be greatly missed!

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