The most common question that we are asked by new customers is “Moonglu, where did the name come from”? This is usually followed by a laugh from either myself (Neil Dunkley: owner) or Mark Swindells (original owner). The truth has been somewhat lost in the mystery and I would like to say that there is some relevance in there somewhere, but infact there is none. It has no great relevance at all, certainly not to Ripon or bikes or a bike shop in Ripon.
Mark and I were recently discussing the history again, as we often do after the question is asked. So at this point it would probably be sensible to explain the whole history of why there is a bike shop on Blossomgate, Ripon, along with how I came to own it.
The shop was originally set up by Mark Swindells in 1992, on Blossomgate at the site of the existing shop, now called Moonglu. Mark is Ripon born and bred, he decided to set up as a bike shop, Blossomgate Cycles for the reason many entrepeneurs set up their own business, a keen interest, hobby and skill.
By 1992 I was already a keen cyclist, not in a particularly competitive way, but I had watched the Tour de France, the half hour daily 6.30pm programme on Channel 4 with Phil Liggett, Gary Imlach and Paul Sherwen. Chris Boardman hadn’t even won Olympic gold on the Lotus superbike by this point. My earliest memory is Greg Lemond in the Z-team jersey, an all American hero winning the Tour for the 3rd time. Those half hour shows must have stirred something in me as I decided to save my paper round money and any Christmas/Birthday money to buy a proper mountain bike. I had already read the only UK mountain bike magazine, MBUK cover to cover, then again and picked my ‘proper’ mountain bike, a GT Karakoram, a distinctive triple triangle design mountain bike with a very late 80s/early 90s red paint with splatter finish, it was all the rage then!
I seem to remember that the price back then was £585, quite a large amount of money for a 14year in 1990. Once I had saved enough money I had to find a bike shop that stocked GT Bicycles and ask my mum to take me over one Saturday afternoon. Ripon had a Raleigh shop back in those days, John Donoghue run by Pete, a nice guy who sold me my first mountain bike, a Raleigh Mustang SIS. We had to look further afield for the GT and a friend recommended Arthur Caygill Cycles in Richmond. So off we went, £585 exactly in my pocket, hoping to bring back the red splattered Karakoram.
It didn’t pan out quite how I had wanted it to. When we got there, although the shop was beyond my wildest dreams, packed full of the bikes I had drooled over in MBUK, I couldn’t find the red Karakoram. We waited our turn and spoke to one of the staff, it was confirmed, it wasn’t a bike they had instock, I was deflated. Good shops were few and far between in those days and I didn’t want to drag my mum all over Yorkshire in search of my dream bike, so we wandered around some more. The next part is abit grainy, I don’t know how it happened, but I ended up leaving the shop with a pink Saracen Tufftrax. Looking back, I don’t know what I was thinking, perhaps I fell into the trap of not wanting to leave with something. It wasn’t a bad bike by any stretch, equipped with full Shimano 400LX with a biopace chainset but there was no getting away from it, it was pink. Now I hadn’t really discovered my sexuality by this point, I was pretty sure which way the gate opened, so I learned to live with the bike.
By my 16th Birthday I had been given a holiday job at Ripon Land Rover, cleaning and polishing new Land Rovers and Discovery’s prior to collection. £2.50 was what I earned, probably well below minimum wage, but I embraced work, loved the job, made some great friends and even learnt to drive. 1992 also coincided with the opening of Blossomgate Cycles, and a lunchtime visit gave me a new dream, they stocked GT and had a new model the Pantera AL with Rock Shox Mag 20 suspension forks, I had to have it. This was cutting edge at the time, aluminium frames were rare then, Hans Rey on his Zaskar AL was always in MBUK and Rock Shox forks just weren’t on production bikes, most bikes came with rigids, I worked every hour I could at both Land Rover and my paper round and got to the magic figure. I can’t remember how much this was, Mark would probably still remember but I believe it was over £600.
Buying the Pantera coincided with a meeting that would create a lifelong friendship. I was working one evening at the Newsagent down the road from my house when whilst stood in the doorway I saw a guy ride past on a bright yellow, red and pink Klein Attitude. This moment still lives with me, he knew I’d seen him as he powered past on his XTR equipped superbike and there was a knowing mutual look. A Klein, in Ripon, at the time would be comparable with the rarest Ferrari in Ripon, Klein’s were the real dream bike, superbikes of their time, handmade in very small numbers in the states by mountain bike pioneer Gary Klein. Dave Hemming had just won a Mountain Bike World Championship silver medal in the downhill on a rigid Klein Attitude, these were only ever seen in the magazines, and I’d just seen one.
The summer of 1992 was also when Ripon Mountain Bike Club was trying to take off. The first meeting was at the South Lodge on Harrogate road and I decided as a mountain biker that I should go along. 6 or 7 turned up to that first meeting, including the guy with the Klein. It turned out that he lived about 100 yards up the road from where I lived and he just bought the Klein from York Cycleworks. It was their showpiece and Graham must have made their day when he went along and bought it. The meeting quickly became superfluous and Graham and I struck up conversation about bikes and bikes and bikes.
The wheels of fate continued to turn and it turned out that as well as Graham growing up with Mark from Blossomgate Cycles, he had also just met 2 other lads that were also into mountain biking. Jody Hamilton and Dan Furness were school friends, best friends and fellow mountain bikers, Jody on his Raleigh USA Technium and Dan on his Marin Palisades and 1993 Kona Kilauea. We all met up and rode nearly every Sunday for the next 2 years, Graham picking us up in his Toyota Land Cruiser and laterly many Ford Transits and taking us riding all over Yorkshire. Scar House and Nidderdale, Boltby Forest, Bolton Abbey, Bolton Castle and Reeth were our regular rides along with our favourite ride above all others, Guise Cliffe above Pateley Bridge. Not a bridleway and not particularly far but some of the greatest trails that we could imagine. Today they are considered ‘Cheeky’ trails but I know they are still ridden, I’ve seen the tyre tracks.
The end of school brought big changes to our lives, I went off to Liverpool University, Jody tried college, Dan went off to America and to climb some mountains in South America and Graham continued his day job as an agricultural engineer. Despite my 3 years of ‘study’ for a Geology degree, one thing remained constant, bikes. Our riding continued as we met up during the holidays, not always the full group but 9 times out of 10, Graham and I would ride somewhere. Yorkshire is a great place for riding, the North York Moors and the Yorkshire Dales are both beautiful in different ways and over the years we have ridden most of the classic trails that are now covered in numerous ride guide books.
The biggest change in my life came in 1998, meeting my wife Kelly. Bikes had always been number 1 until this point and nothing had got in the way of my cycling. I think Kelly would argue that bikes were still number 1 but life does change and a level of flexibility needed to be found, I couldn’t keep disappearing all day every Sunday. I’m not sure if it was the need for flexibility, the foot and mouth crisis or having some money in my pocket but a road bike seemed like the sensible option to keep everyone happy. Despite the romance of the Tour on Channel 4 I had never actually owned a road bike until this point. My first purchase was a Trek 5200 OCLV with Shimano Ultegra 9 Speed. The road bike allowed me to get a 2-3hour ride in, without driving somewhere and having the extra hours bike cleaning afterwards, the perfect solution to time management.
Kelly and I were married in 2002. At the time, I was working for an multi discipline engineering company in Leeds.