Part of what makes life worthwhile is the anticipation of getting something that you really, really want. Whether that be a watch or a car, a house or a pair of shoes, it’s often the case that the looking forward is almost as good as the attainment. For cyclists the item that dominates day dreams and night dreams is often a bicycle and for younger cyclists the dream is all the more vivid.
I can remember sitting down the back of the class in school next to Ray designing and speccing out our dream bikes. We had full lists of campag, mavic and shimano components when we should have been looking at poetry and Peig. Ray had the full design of a Peugeot 531 pro and I had gone for something a little different. Having seen Colm, Alan and Ken Maye along with many other top riders aboard exotic machines bearing the name Rapparee which were designed and built by their father Des in his workshop in Clonard County Meath, my heart was set on having one.
A summer of milking cows and pulling ragweed set the Rapparee fund in motion. Incessantly regaling my parents with the benefits of a Rapparee for months made way for the top up needed to finish off the fund. Then after speaking to Des on the phone one Saturday morning my Father and I set off to the foreign location of Clonard near Enfield in County Meath. Des took all of my measurements for the bespoke frame set. But then came the really important part.
In the midst of posters of Kelly, Roche, Fignon and LeMond on my bedroom walls always stood a poster of a bright red Ferrari. I could only dream about owning a Ferrari but the Ferrari of bikes was within my grasp and my heart was set on having a Ferrari replica bike.
Hours and hours were spent with an A4 notepad, a pencil and ruler and red,yellow and black markers. I handed the final product of my artistic endeavours over to Des with a small amount of trepidation, wondering if he would be able to share my dream.
A few weeks later the frameset was ready and off we set on the road to County Meath again. I was excited and nervous all at once and was willing my Father on to get there as fast as the Nissan Laurel would go. We got there eventually and when Des handed me the finished product my face must have given my verdict away as I looked up to see both Des and my Father smiling back at me. I couldn’t believe how Des had managed to finish it exactly as I had hoped for but was afraid to build my hopes up to. Even the Rapparee logo resembled Ferraris prancing horse.
I built up the bike with Mavic headset, chainset and gear levers. Campag Veloce brakes and Mavic GP4 rims on Mavic hubs. Cinelli Criterium bars and stem and a Rolls saddle on a Campag record seat post.
The bike served me well and even managed to be first across the line on a number of occasions.
Sadly the dream ended after a few years when other distractions took over from the bike and my racing career came to a halt. Priorities changed and one evening a chat with a friend who was selling a car but looking for a nice bike led to a bit of wheeling and dealing. The dream machine was traded for a Lancia Delta Integrale with fully blacked out windows, a Pioneer cd head unit and a fire extinguisher. I knew someone looking for a fire extinguisher and managed to get £70 for it so that sealed the deal.
Over the years every now and then I would think about my old Rapparee and feel a slight sense of regret at having parted with it. Then one day, not so long ago I was in the shop when a guy I knew from Town walked in. He asked if we took in bikes that people were getting rid of. He was clearing out his shed and needed to dispose of a bike. Actually it was one of my old bikes with my name on the top tube.
We don’t normally just take in old bikes as there is a cost in disposing of them, but when he went out to the car and walked back in with my old Rapparee I was delighted to be reunited with my old steed.
Many of the parts have been changed but now I have a little project for myself to restore the Rapparee back to its former glory and I look forward to taking it back out on the open road again one day.