Maria Majsa
London, 1985

On Valentine’s Day this year I didn’t get roses, I got a bike. A handsome, shiny black upright. You might think that a bike isn’t a particularly romantic gift, but I disagree.

Exhibit A: If bicycles aren’t romantic, why do they keep turning up in songs?

I could quote four right now, but my favourite has always been Back To The Old House: When you cycled by, here began all my dreams. Even as I write that line, an entire scene unfolds in my head: Suburban street. Pretty girl on a bike, hair flying. Shy lad, doomed to watch her pedal by. Will he ever be able to tell her how much he really likes her?

Absolutely not. This is a Smiths’ song, after all. He never talks to her, and her family moves away and all is lost, except the memory of the vision of her sailing past him in the street. There is a world of bunched-up adolescent URST* in that line. Anyone who has ever been a teenager could relate. And although things get a tad morose after that, you get my drift: the vision on a bike lingers. Bikes have their own romance.


On Valentine’s Day this year I didn’t get roses, I got a bike.

On Valentine’s Day this year I didn’t get roses, I got a bike.

Exhibit B: It is possible to fall in love with pretty much anyone on a bike ride.

I used to go for rides with a friend who was a fellow Smiths fan. He had a bad stammer and couldn’t pronounce his Rs, but his politics were sound and his taste in music exemplary. On our first ride he verbally unpacked the lyrics of an obscure B-side single by The Smiths as we explored Chiswick, a pretty district of west London which occupies a meander of the River Thames.

The song was Jeane: three minutes of hollow-eyed desperation and kitchen- sink drama so raw and full of urgency, it could easily be mistaken for a live track. I remember him saying, “This song categorically means business”.  And he was bang on. From the stomping force of the opening bars t