Oxford Today readers share their fondest memories of spending time on two wheels at University.
Last year, we asked you to recount your fondest memories of cycling in Oxford as a student. We had an overwhelming response of wonderful stories — some touching, others interesting, and several just plain funny — which shows just how integral the bicycle is to life in the city. Here, we’ve decided to publish some of our favorites for you all to enjoy.
My bicycle was stolen, but we found it in town so phoned the police to ask what to do. ‘How d’you know it’s yours?’ they asked. ‘I keep underpants under the saddle to dry it – they’re still there!’
Linacre College, 1991
Crash, Bang, Wallop
Instantly converting vertical and rapid forward momentum into a spiraling horizontal slide, still attached to the pedals and seated on the saddle, across both traffic lanes, due to black ice all across the Abingdon Road on a moonless night in 1980, en route from Lincoln to the OCMS (later Templeton). Then biking away, uninjured.
January 1947. It was the first day of the great freeze and the Broad was covered with compressed snow. I mounted my bike and turned the wrong way. So I instantly came off as the my front wheel locked and the bike skidded. I landed on my bottom.
With a wicker basket strapped to the handlebar and attached by struts to the front wheel, my student bicycle was good for carrying heavyweight textbooks. Hitting a pothole at Cowley Road roundabout, a sheared fork left me steering to safety. That basket may have saved my life!
St John’s, 1978
On a whim, decided to cycle round the Oxford Ring Road with some friends one night circa 1977. Weather not great, it was hard work and rather further than we thought...
St Hilda’s, 1975
The proudest achievement, of my whole life was cycling the whole length of the Marston Ferry Road cycle track without my hands on the handlebars. There are various barriers now, so maybe my feat will go unchallenged.
I recall sitting at a pub with various other Oxford University Cycling Club riders following cycling cuppers; as aggregate times for each college’s riders were totaled, it slowly became more apparent that Mansfield, my college, had won the event. My first cycling ‘victory’ – I started racing at Oxford and continue to this day.
My fondest memory of cycling in Oxford is cycling back from the Dominos pizza outlet near the station to college with 6 pizzas balanced on top of the handlebars.
I remember my friend Chris courteously offering me a lift on the somewhat delicate luggage rack of his fast, sporty bike to take me home to St Hilda's after a Catz disco. I broke it, but he never complained.
St Hilda’s, 1980
I bought some ice cream in the High, put this in the basket on the rear of my bicycle and cycled back to Jericho. All that remained was a pool of liquid covering my rear wheel. It was the summer of 1976, one of the hottest years on record.
Brushes With the Law
When up at Pembroke College in the early 1960s, I played with the City of Oxford Silver Band and went to practices on my bicycle with my cornet in its case strapped to the carrier. On one winter occasion, it was dark and I sensed a fellow cyclist coming up behind me. I glanced behind and recognised a member of HM constabulary who was peddling hard. Fearing that an encounter was best avoided, I pedalled harder but he gave chase. As he had a superior set of gears, he caught up with me and, as feared, it was not an entirely social occasion. Apparently, my back light was not working.
I was cycling down a narrow street when a policeman stopped me. "You're going the wrong way down a one-way street. If a car came the other way and hit you, you wouldn't have a leg to stand on." His mastery of English was a credit to Oxford.
In my first year, some friendly Somerville undergraduates invited me to formal hall. I cycled from Holywell Manor to Somerville, unaware of how much revelry lay ahead. On my way home, I crashed into the cycle stand outside Balliol. I wisely locked up my bike and stumbled the rest of the way.
Melissa Holloway (nee Ford)
My fondest memory of cycling in Oxford was returning from a postgraduate fancy-dress party with a friend, both of us dressed in WWF panda outfits! As we cycled down Banbury road, car drivers were giving extreme double-takes at the sight of two slightly unsteady pandas.
The Queen’s College, 1992
Love Is in the Air
Summer of 81, outside the Newman Bookshop, a girl on a bike asked me how to get to Iffley Road. That was memorable! After another 2 years we were married, at the Chapel of St Thomas More, behind the bookshop. The shop is no more, but we are more.
Only in Oxford
Cycling up the High to evensong at Jesus, gown billowing and bottle of wine ready for formal hall with friends afterwards. The setting sun touching the Queen’s statues, filled me with a huge sense of peace, community and tradition. However much the essay crisis loomed, it always inspired.
Cycling along the towpath from Folly Bridge to Weirs Lane, where my best friend and fellow student of Oriental Studies had a mooring for her narrowboat 'Qassedak' (Persian for dandelion), my bike basket piled high with Ottoman and Persian dictionaries. We would spend our evenings translating set texts together.
My fondest memory is the story that after the famous biochemist Professor Sir Hans Krebs, Fellow of Trinity College, passed away, his personal bicycle was for public sale or auction and the note read : genuine Krebs' Cycle.
Dickon Peter Yau
As an American in Oxford, I embraced the cycling culture but struggled with some of the trans-Atlantic terminology. Weary of getting soaked on my trips into college, I wandered into a high street shop and asked if they carried “waterproof pants”. The reply: “You mean, like, adult diapers?”
Image by Oxford University Images