Wednesday, 17 October 2012


The next day, after having discussed the contrasting merits of Gumtree and eBay (sic) with a friend of mine the night before, I whimsically decided to take a look at what sort of bicycles there were for sale on the latter. I had begun to feel like I was having some sort of affair behind the Vintage Bike Cave’s back, ogling over all these bikes after supposedly betrothing myself to the Carlos. But I couldn't help myself. Besides, I still fully expected to end up in bed with the Carlos come the end of the week.
I've only ever bid on eBay the once, and that was for something completely unrelated, but it was enough to get the drift. I understand that serious bidders tend to wait for the dying moments of any auction to launch pre-emptive bids, I am aware that some sellers put a reserve in place, that others offer the opportunity to Buy It Now (italics host-site’s own). What I also learned, snooping around eBay on a Sunday evening, is that you are not supposed to contact the seller with an offer until the auction has run its course – assuming that the opportunity to Buy It Now does not apply – but that you can email them to request further information about whatever it is they’re peddling
The first thing that grabbed my roving eye was a red 1980s Duravia, another French marquee that proved almost as elusive as Carlos. The bicycle in question was available for me to buy (it) now for £295, with only about 15 minutes left until sale’s end. Despite the absence of any bids, there was nowhere near enough time left to table my own. No, I needed a good few days to procrastinate, weighing up this and that, before deciding, quite viscerally, whether something convincingly appealed. But the Duravia was a good looking bike, sold by yet another vintage bike dealership bothering to clean up and present their stock for maximum impact (although the new triple-tone black/green/white Vittoria Pro Team tyres they’d fitted were a terrible choice). It was just as well, perhaps, that the sale was about to run its course, because I would have been lumbered with another dilemma to wrestle with for the coming week and I was starting to grow very weary of this whole process. When was I just going to buy myself an appropriate bicycle and start riding the damned thing?
As I was about to knock my eBay surfing on the head, I only went and stumbled upon a vintage Pinarello Veneto! The auction had another three days to run – there was no Buy It Now option on this bike – and the reserve had yet to be met. In truth, it looked like the velocipede might be marginally too big for me. The seller reckoned it was either a 58 cm frame or 60 cm, that he was 183 cm in height and it fitted him fine – and that was all he had to say on the subject. I'm about 180/181 cm, so it was not an altogether improbable fit. But I’d struggled with these sizing issues with the Raleigh and had since come to conclude that whilst my inseam implies I could handle a 58-60 cm sized frame, my ‘reach’ does not. In other words, my legs are in longer proportion to my body – perhaps. Dear old Carlos, on the other hand, had been quoted at 57.5 cm, which looked like a nice compromise. Why was I even considering submitting a bid for the Pinarello?

Because it was one of the most beautiful bikes I’d ever laid my eyes on; because it dated back to 1989, so was not so old that the parts should have suffered too much wear; because it had new wheels and tyres; it had a brand new Brooks Swift titanium saddle… but why had he fitted his bike with a new Brookes Swift titanium saddle just to then sell it on again? A Brookes Swift titanium saddle goes for about £180, so I could only assume his reserve was pitched to cover this extra cost. Why price yourself out of the market like that? Why add value to something that doesn't need adding value to? Maybe he bought the saddle not long before deciding to sell, because the pictures corroborated his claim that it was indeed brand new. I could resell the saddle but there was no guarantee of finding a buyer willing to cover my costs – not even for a pillion of Brookes’ calibre.
I asked the seller for a few more measurements, but they were inconclusive. I increased my bid anyway, because I thought I had a fair idea as to the bike’s real value. Still the reserve remained undisturbed. The next day I upped my bid again, no doubt irritating those who like to leave their bidding to the final moments. Again the reserve remained undisturbed.
I emailed the Vintage Bike Cave to reassure them of my sustained enthusiasm for the Carlos but would probably have to wait until Friday now. (I would have done this regardless of my bidding for the Pinarello because I had decided against picking the Carlos up late on Wednesday and cycling it across London to my bouldering place. It just looked far too dangerous on the map – that journey on a bike to which I was unaccustomed.) I thought very carefully about how much I would be able to pay for the Pinarello, because I wouldn't be near a computer for the final five hours of auction and would need to rely on a pre-prepared maximum bid to secure any purchase. My fingers hovered over the keyboard with much hesitation. I had no idea whether my last bid of £400 was anywhere near the reserve price but doubted that it was - £500 would have to be a safer bet. How far was I prepared to go?

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