Araya via Jimmy by Fellow
In the summer of 1991, I got a summer job working for BOC. They were doing the gas installation in Ardkeen Regional Hospital, and a very good friend of the family, Jimmy Curran, recruited me for a few months work.
My responsibilities were varied, but mainly involved me keeping the cabin clean, and making sure I bought everything the lads requested for their lunch. Participation in the lunchtime games of cards was pseudo-compulsary, and being the butt of many many jokes was par for the course.
As the summer work came to an end, I mentioned how I was going to use some of my savings to buy a new racer, as my current bike, an MBK Mistral, was too small for me.
Jimmy told me that he had an almost new Araya that he’d sell me. I paid the princely sum of £200 for the privilege of owning that beauty.
The Araya served me well, it was used to get me to matches in the hurling field, and the soccer field. It carried me home in the middle of the night after my shift in the Tannery was over. It allowed me to visit my Grandparents in Curraghmore, and Portlaw, whenever I wanted to. It gave me the gift of freedom.
After graduating college, and moving to Dublin, I forgot about my bike. I was getting the DART, the bus, taxis, but mainly walking. The places I lived weren’t spacious enough to devote space to my bicycle. It remained in my Grandparent’s house in Brown Street.
After my Grandad died a few years ago, I rediscovered my bike in the covered alley way beside the house. It looked shabby, and rusty, and given my then state of mind, it looked dead.
I decided I would restore it to its former glory. I didn’t think it would take so long.
Then last year, Jimmy passed away.
Everytime I saw the bike in my shed, I was reminded of my Grandparents, and Jimmy. The rust a reminder that perhaps I don’t think about them enough. That the thing I remember most is the pain of their death, and not the joy of their lives.
I really needed to get the bike back on the road.
I took the first steps and began breaking the bike down. Removing pedals, seat post, handlebars, and brakes. I didn’t have any specialised tools, and rather than doing damage I decided to leave the bottom bracket and the headset to those with some expertise.
I started following Fellow on Instagram, and loved the work they were doing. Andrew Elder, a qualified aeronautical engineer, created Fellow because he loved bikes. He started off in his own sitting room, until his wife wanted to reclaim that space, and he ended up in the current building on Jameson Street, just off the Ormeau Road, in Belfast.
The small shop is also the workshop, so if you call in to buy some bar tape, you’ll probably find Andrew working on a bike. A nice collection of old frames hang from the wall, waiting for new owners, and another life. Outside there are tables and chairs, where you can have a cuppa and a chat (probably about bicycles).
I sent a bunch of photos of the Araya in its current state to Andrew, and asked what would be involved in breathing life back into this old bike again.
After a brief consulation, we agreed on what work should be carried out. I brought the bike to Belfast, and left it in Andrew’s capable hands.
The bike was broken down, the frame shot blasted, and then inspected to make sure the rust was only on the surface, and hadn’t damaged its integrity.
Next came the powder coat. We chose silver paint to reflect the original colour of the bike. I wanted to be sympathetic to its origins, so the frame would retain its history, and not simply be a new bike.
Andrew then cleaned up all the components, and set about putting all the pieces back together. He added a new stem, headset, seat post, and bottom bracket.
The original Shimano 600 brakes were too far gone, so they were replaced with a set of Shimano Golden Arrow. The spokes on the front wheel were badly rusted so they were replaced with new stainless steel ones. After seeing the results, the difference between the front and rear wheel was stark, so I asked Andrew to replace the rear spokes too.
Andrew then applied the final touches. The Fellow decal on the chainstay, and Jimmy decals on the top tube.
It was fitting the Araya was given a new lease of life in Belfast, as it passed through Co. Down, where Jimmy grew up, on its journey home.
I took the bike out for a spin that evening when I got it home, and it was as smooth as butter. It was lovely, taking Jimmy, and my Grandparents for a spin around the place where I live, creating new memories.