Mentioned to me by my neighbours, who are cycling enthusiasts, this sketch from the third episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, which was first broadcast by the BBC in October 1969, still has some satirical bite. When mainstream cinema is dominated by pretentious, spectacular, reactionary and largely humourless American superhero comic book adaptations, the idea of a heroic ordinary repairman is as funny as ever.

I remember just such a bicycle repairman, a Mr Ives, who wore a boiler suit and sported brylcreemed hair, and worked from his garage on the estate on which I grew up in the 1970s. While bicycle shops still offer repair services, this figure of the oil-stained, flat-capped mechanic is a poignant sign of a period when British roads were far more empty and bicycles were used more widely by adults and children for getting to and from work, school and the shops.

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