I've got a Silver Machine...



I just took a ride….

…on my silver machine….

I really have too - it’s in my garage. Though I’m not feeling mean, as the lyrics go on to say, but nicely relaxed.

In the early Seventies, Hawkwind released a single that became their biggest hit. It must have been on Top of the Pops that I saw it - back in the days of family viewing we’d gather around the moron’s lantern in the lounge as the classic Led Zep signature tune introduced the show. I was nine years old. And this track blew my mind! Mum hated it - she preferred those nice puppy love Osmonds. Dad didn’t understand it; Andy, my big brother, thought both it and I were stupid; but one of his mates had an afghan coat and cowboy boots so I knew he really liked it - or said to his mates he liked it. Ha!

Do you want to ride

see yourself going by

This space rock anthem has everything, I was hooked, it’s been one of the sound tracks to my life. Those guys were so cool… the nine year old me would love to have a silver machine… a silver space machine - or a time machine… the Silver Surfer

flying sideways through time

it’s an electric line

It triggered my imagination with Carl Sagan space and The James Burke Special electronic science fiction. I read Alfred Bester’s Tiger Tiger (The Star’s My Destination) and was introduced to Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy.

And I have a silver machine in my garage. And I really have just been for a ride on my silver machine.

It’s an American import Bianchi track bike. Not ideal for use on the road as the frame geometry is fierce; built for ultra smooth velodromes, it hits Berkshire’s disgraceful potholes I pay for very hard. Wide flange hubs reduce even the small advantage of spoked wheels. But the single speed fixed wheel gives maximum drive, ultimate efficiency. No derailleur, no block, no cables, no gear levers, no chain rings, no over-lapping gear ratios and other such road-bike paraphernalia - just 68 inches for each rotation of the pedals.

The last fixed wheel bike I used came into the bike shop, tired, unloved, battered. Dings and dents in the top tube from wooden-basin smashes, potentially lethal splinters flying. But I could see the beauty underneath. I bought it for £50. Resprayed it. Stuck a new TA chain ring on it and got a gear of about 63 inches. Room enough for narrow mudguards and joy of joys there were lugs already on the dropouts to fit them. This soon became my most favourite bike ever, the only one I regret selling.

The new one has no mudguards, nowhere to fit them. The chrome tubes are clean. Even the pump clamp is cable-tied to the seat tube. Single front brake. Rear braking by pushing back; don’t try to freewheel downhill, just let those legs relax and spin freely.

It flies out of a dream

It’s antiseptically clean

It turns out Hawkwind’s Silver Machine wasn’t a space ship. Or a time machine. But a bicycle. A silver bicycle. And I’ve got one in my garage.

You’re going to know where I’ve been

On my silver machine.

Silver Machine lyrics by Calvert/Brock