A CYCLING enthusiast has thanked Taunton locals after being quickly reunited with his stolen bicycle — he’s owned the “precious steed” for 44 years.

Martin Atton, 77, from Taunton, had his Raleigh Record Ace bicycle stolen from the side of his home on Sunday, May 12. His son Tom was “straight on the case”, posting photographs and details of the bike on local Facebook groups with a plea.

Sightings of the distinctive bike “down a Norton Fitzwarren alleyway” were reported to Martin within a day, but the search turned into “an emotional rollercoaster”.

Martin, who is a lifelong cyclist and former Alpine climber, said: “Who could be interested in an enormous vintage machine, with clip-in pedals? I had lavished decades of TLC on it. I built my own wheels, fitted a unique set of components and spent many hours making the leather saddle bag by hand.”

Somerset County Gazette: Martin's handmade leather saddlebagMartin's handmade leather saddlebag (Image: Martin Atton)

After a thorough search of the Norton Fitzwarren area was unsuccessful and a subsequent false alarm, Martin “went to bed with a heavy heart, thinking I had lost an old friend forever”.

The next day at 6am a local helping with the search informed him that they had eyes on the bike near a layby in Norton Fitzwarren.

Martin said: “It was propped up against a wall. I handed over a reward to the Good Samaritan, grabbed the machine, and brought it home in the car.

Unfortunately, the bike had been “ridden into a wall” and had bent front forks which meant it couldn’t be pushed or ridden along.

Martin added: “My superb pump was missing as was the expensive aluminium bottle. My top-quality tools had gone, along with the soft leather bag they were kept in. My cycle computer had disappeared. A mangled new rear derailleur gear was the final straw.”

Thankfully the leather saddle bag was still in place and “it isn’t all bad news”, according to Martin.

The cyclist wrote: “Thank you for the words of sympathy from my friends in Cycle Somerset. Without the initiative of Tom, the bike would never have been recovered. Thanks also to the gentleman who guided me to my precious steed. 

“A big thumbs up to Derek Cutler at On Your Bike. Having been a volunteer there, I was aware of Derek’s tremendous skill as a cycle mechanic and his many other qualities that make him such an all-round good chap. He has already given an all-clear to the frame and is now trying to source a pair of replacement forks for my much-loved machine. I know he will come up trumps.

“Why was so much damage inflicted upon a clearly meticulously maintained bicycle for no reason or positive outcome? I am of course, so pleased to be able to nurture more TLC on my old friend to make it as good as new again.”