2001, Sarah Hartwell

Bufty: UK slang 1970s/1980s; middle-aged man who knows more than is normal about bicycles; elderly "bicycle geek". In general, a middle-aged or elderly male "enthusiast" e.g. train-spotter, coach spotter, bird-watcher etc.

The tall sad-faced old gentleman pedalled slowly through the park. His brown tweed trousers were bicycle-clipped and tucked into beige socks.  His shoes were sensible brown lace-ups, much-repaired over the years but still buffed to a shine. His jacket was also brown tweed, the elbows patched with leather, worn over a V-necked brown tank-top with cream dog-tooth motif at the neck and arm-holes (knitted by his wife) and a slightly crumpled white shirt worn with a plain bottle-green tie. Immune to the changes in fashion and in safety gear, he wore a battered flat cap instead of a BS approved helmet.

His bike was an elderly 26 inch wheel, 21 inch diamond frame, black Raleigh Roadster with side-pull calliper brakes, leather saddle which had been polished to a high sheen by many years' worth of trousers, straight handlebars, full mudguards and a slightly rusty rear carrier. Not for him the modern mountain bike with suspension, Shimano quick change gears and 700 millimetre wheels with five aluminium arms, nor even a mountain/road hybrid hard-tail with its 21 twist-grip gears.

Though he himself had exchanged the standard issue 3 speed hub for a 5 speed derailleur system (though only the middle 3 cogs actually worked these days) with gear change lever mounted on the head tube, the gearing ratio was not even that of a tourer. In a moment of madness he had exchanged the solid plastic pedals for metal rat-trap pedals, but he eschewed the toe-clips and straps which were favoured by "serious cyclists". They (toe clips, not serious cyclists, though he also had strong views about the latter) were dangerous, especially when you needed to put a foot down in a hurry.

The elderly black Roadster was currently fitted with a well-oiled spring operated bell which complied with some outdated British Standard, a BS AU-155 compliant front light and a BS 3648 compliant rear light. Apart from that, the Roadster was little changed from when he had bought it. The vintage bike had served him well right from its early days when he was an apprentice at the ball-bearing factory, through to his current pre-retirement years as a senior engineer at the same factory.

On the bicycle's carrier, held in place by a moth-eaten green-and-yellow elastic strap, was his battered brown leather briefcase containing a Thermos of tea and his Tupperware of sandwiches, supplied by his wife every working day. Beneath the saddle was a supermarket carrier bag containing a few essential repair tools.

But he was no ordinary cyclist. For unknown to his wife Doreen, a dinner lady at the local primary school, the battered brown briefcase also contained several sharpened bicycle spokes blessed by the local vicar, a cruciform tyre-lever made of silver rather than steel, a net bag of 3 bulbs of garlic on special offer from Safeway and a plant spray-bottle of holy water blessed by the local vicar and, just to make sure, by the Catholic priest, the local Rabbi and the ethnic gentleman who ran the corner shop and who was the nearest the cyclist could find to a Muslim cleric at short notice.

To many he was a gentleman a few years short of retirement, someone who knew more than was healthy about the gearing ratios and spoke lacing patterns of bicycles (he preferred a four-cross pattern to the more common three-cross pattern but the wheels of his bike did not have the small-flange hub necessary to take the four-cross lacing); a bicycle geek. But to those "in the know" he was a fearless fighter against evil, slayer of the undead and protector of the living.

He was Bufty the Vampire Slayer.

* * * * * * *

It was late evening and Bufty had told his wife that he was just nipping down the library to read a back issue of Cycling Times. In deference to Doreen's wishes, he wore his grey woollen overcoat and a blue-and-yellow scarf which might well have been a school uniform scarf and which had cost only 30p in the church jumble sale several years ago. He adjusted his bicycle clips and tucked the hems of his brown trousers into the tops of his beige socks and set off, first balancing on the near-side pedal and then, as the bike picked up momentum, swinging his right leg over the back wheel and onto the offside pedal. He had tucked the tools of his nocturnal trade into his overcoat and set off along Hyacinth Road, left at the junction with Daffodil Crescent and towards the recreation ground or "the rec" as local youngsters called it.

Bufty had guessed there would be trouble this evening and had chosen his route to the library with care. He was not disappointed. Trouble occurred as he pedalled gently along the bicycle path across the rec.

The two vampires came at him out of the gloom. One rode a 21 speed Y-frame mountain bike with cantilever brakes, 700 millimetre wheels with the lightweight carbon arms instead of spokes, quick change gears and full front fork suspension. The bike was painted in livid purple with a yellow "flames" design on the down-pipe. The other had an 18 speed twist grip geared diamond-frame hardtail in red with white painted lugs. They were standing on their pedals as their rugged bikes leapt and bounced towards Bufty. Some way behind them, the rider of a road bike with drop handlebars and slick tyres was having problems with either a puncture or a jumped chain. He was currently no threat and was more interested in the intricacies of his derailleur system than in Bufty.

Grasping the cruciform silver tyre lever in one hand and muttering a brief prayer as he held it before him, Bufty pedalled for all he was worth towards the two vampires. His Raleigh Roadster left the cycle path and bumped over the uneven grass. The unforgiving leather saddle, any pretence of sprung suspension long since abandoned, jolted his crotch. No wonder he had never fathered children, he thought as he rattled towards the vampires. At the sight of the cross, the vampires split up and cycled more cautiously.

"Didn't you see the signs?" growled Bufty, "No cycling in a children's play area!"

"I don't see you walking, grand-dad," sniggered the rider of the purple Y-frame, now cycling with no hands on the handlebars.

Bufty exchanged the cross for his plant sprayer and gave the impudent vampire a squirt of holy water. His face blistering, the vampire fell from his bike which lay on its side, wheels gently spinning. As he rode past the prone figure, Bufty stabbed downwards. A sharpened bicycle spoke stabbed through the vampire's heart and the creature shuddered into grave-dust. Bufty winced as the gritty dust settled over the mountain bike.

"That'll play havoc with the gears," he muttered, but there was no time to stop and rescue the purple Y-frame or the single spoke since the other vampire was headed straight for him from the other direction.

Bufty still had 2 sharpened spokes left. They always played havoc with the pockets and lining of his coat and Doreen could never understand where all the holes came from. The rider of the 18 speed hard-tail was careening towards him. There was no time to retrieve the spokes from where they had worked their way through the seam of the pocket and into the coat's lining. With characteristic quick thinking and resourcefulness, he unclipped his bicycle pump from the Roadster's top tube and with pump in hand he cycled frantically towards the vampire. At the last possible moment, Bufty veered to the left and leaned over just enough to thrust the pump through the spokes of the hard-tail's back wheel. Brought to a sudden halt, the vampire was flung over the handlebars and by a fortuitous twist of fate, impaled itself on the 5 foot tall metal railings at the edge of the rec. It hung there for a brief moment before imploding into dust.

The vampire with the jumped chain decided to make a run for it. Dropping its bike - a 10 speed silver tourer with drop handlebars, gear change levers mounted on the down tube, mixte frame, 27 inch wheels and centre-pull brakes - it fled. Bufty fleetingly wondered whether or not to follow the fleeing vampire. He made up his mind, gritted his teeth, stood up on the pedals and pushed his old but reliable bike into the highest gear which still worked. Inexorably the black Roadster gained on the fleeing figure. With no time to get a sharpened spoke, Bufty grabbed his weapon of last resort from the depths of a pocket - a length of brake cable. Looping it over the vampire's head like a garrotte, he leapt from the Roadster and pulled the two ends of the cable.

Several things happened at once. The Roadster travelled several feet riderless and then toppled, landing on one of the cranks which buckled with the impact. Bufty swore. The vampire's neck broke with a sickening crack like a snapped bike chain and then the cable sliced through the unresisting neck like cheese-wire through Camembert. The creature exploded into grave dust and Bufty began coughing. Dusting down his overcoat, he pocketed the brake cable, checked that his bicycle clips were secure and went to assess the damage.

Bufty sadly picked up his black Raleigh Roadster which he would now have to wheel home. One crank was buckled and he could see that the front wheel was out of true. The front light had shattered. He walked the bike back to where the silver 10 speed tourer lay. Fishing his emergency repair kit out of the disintegrating Asda plastic carrier bag which was permanently tied underneath his leather saddle, he relieved the tourer of the corresponding crank and pedal. After a moment's contemplation he took the chain as well and the front light. He had the feeling that the Roadster's chain was on its way out.

He walked back to the fallen 18 speed hard-tail and the 21 speed Y-frame which had come to rest only yards apart. The sharpened spoke twinkled under the sodium lights the other side of the rec's perimeter railings. He pocketed the spoke for next time. By rights, the bicycle pump should have shattered when he had jammed it into the back wheel of the hard-tail. But Bufty's bike pump was no ordinary bike pump and the metal casing was built to military standards for strength and toughness. It really pissed him off when someone nicked his pump from the ball bearing factory's bike racks as it always cost a fortune to replace it.

There was very little he could salvage from the mountain bikes - they were built to metric measurements and largely incompatible with his old Roadster. Just for the hell of it, he did a circuit of the rec on the hard-tail but he didn't much like the gear change or the gel sofa-saddle. He checked himself over - his bike clips were still in place and his flat cap was seated at its customary jaunty angle. The resilient Roadster was, upon further investigation, rideable over the short distance if he took care. By the time he cycled carefully back from the library, he had no doubt that local teenagers would have salvaged the abandoned bikes, leaving no traces of the epic battle in the rec.

Whistling a jolly tune, he pedalled unhurriedly to the local library, secure in the knowledge that his night's work was well done.

For he was Bufty the Vampire Slayer, bicycle-riding defender of mankind and slayer of the undead.


You are visitor number:

tumblr visit counter