There had been some sort of mistake. After over a week of waiting, that second-hand jersey I’d ordered off of eBay – the one made from a wool and polyimide mix – still hadn't shown up. At first we blamed the post, and the guy who ran eTailBar was preparing to refund me my money. Because we were only talking about £16 (and because I was wondering what to buy my brother, Evans [S], for Christmas this year) I asked if eTailBar might prefer to send me the Descente jersey I really liked but had previously concluded was probably a little too big for me. And if it was too big for me then my brother could be its lucky recipient. To this plan eTailBar was receptive.
It was in preparing to send my replacement jersey that it was realised my house number wasn't registered with eBay. This is not the sort of information I would normally neglect to enter, but this was the first item I had purchased off of eBay (of any description) so it is hard to know for sure whether this was a technical hitch or an uncharacteristic oversight on my part. But the Guy At eTailBar was happy to send the substitute jersey regardless of where the fault lay, which was in keeping with the excellent level of customer service he gave throughout this protracted transaction.(The Descente jersey was approximately £3 cheaper than the one I ordered.Therefore, assuming that my original purchase eventually finds its way back to France, I should have almost covered the cost of sending its successor).
Meanwhile, there’s a Dutch company called ONBIKE.NL auctioning off some of those Solo jerseys I like the look of. They retail at £63 on Wiggle (and that's hawked as a reduced rate) so it’s very much worth pursuing. Based in New Zealand, this is what Solo has to say for itself:
'Each Solo Classique jersey is our interpretation of the styles worn by the great riders of the 50's - 70's. Our jerseys are tailored from Nuovotech polyester with superb moisture-wicking qualities. This means we can use colours, patterns and styles that are not possible with wool. It's the best of both worlds - retro style using modern fabric. Look closer and you’ll notice the meticulous attention to detail throughout each garment. Solo Classique jerseys look amazing and feel great to wear.'
According to the sizing chart on their website, with my 38ʺ chest I should take an extra-small. However, the reviews on Wiggle consistently lay claim to the unreliability of this information and advise potential customers to order a size up. This is surprising because in my experience the people of New Zealand are buff, sport-loving types. Further, there’s an extra-extra-small size in Solo’s repertoire, purportedly for folk with a chest measurement of 35.5ʺ, which, if the reviews on Wiggle are to be believed, pitches me at just below average (for sizes reach extra-large at the other end of the scale). I don’t mind admitting that I'm quite a thin fella, so I wouldn't normally expect to find myself so high up the chest measurement scale. Perhaps Wiggle’s customers just like a looser fit?
I discovered all this before the eTailBar situation had been resolved, when I assumed the first jersey was still on its way and at the point where I’d begun to think about buying a cycling shirt for my brother. With his physique more to mind, I threw in a speculative bid for the medium-sized and very handsome Café Serrano – ‘dedicated to Spanish cycling’. I set my maximum bid at £8.50 and saw the jersey sell for £33 six days later. Good value, you would think, but I sensed we could do better…
Onbike.Nl doesn’t carry the full Solo range and has only limited sizes available amongst their stock, so I decide to submit fresh tenders for: the medium sized Moretti – reflecting the ‘passion, colour and excitement of Italian cycling’ – with a ceiling of £16.50; the medium sized ATR – ‘dedicated to Denmark’ – with my limit set at £5.00; and the small Heuvel – ‘Solo’s tribute to the great cycling nation of Belgium – with a maximum offer of £8.00. This time around I intend on monitoring the situation and upping my bids accordingly. I'm certainly not interested in buying all three.
Unfortunately, come the final day of auction my second-hand Descente still hasn't arrived. This presents something of a quandary for it was to inform the focus of my continued bidding. On balance, this supposedly medium-sized jersey will probably fit my brother, so I let the Solo ATR pass me by. This, it turns out, is a grave error, for the thing goes for the paltry sum of £16 (I’d have probably been able to sell it for double for that myself). I raise my limit to £16 for the Moretti but bail out when I see the price heading towards the £25.90 it eventually sells for. I was right: there are bargains to be had.
I'm now left with just the Heuvel. I'm sort of hedging my bets here: if the reviewers on Wiggle are correct about the sizing then it will fit me well, but if they’re not then it will be too big for me but should be just right for my brother. The only thing to consider now is that I could end up with two cycling jerseys that fit my brother but nothing that’s of any use to me.
I am victorious in the war for The Heuvel with a winning bid of £26.55. In those nervous closing stages of auction I submitted a maximum bid of £29, but the guy I was duelling with – and who very nearly caught me out – obviously hadn't gone as high. I suppose you could say I got a bit carried away.
The very next day the Descente shows up, and it fits me like the proverbial glove. This I did not expect but I am pleased. For one, it really is a very nice jersey. Second, if I possibly can, I’d rather buy my sibling something brand new.
Unsure of which way The Heuvel’s going to swing, I submit another bid for the medium sized Bear – ‘dedicated to Russian Cycling’. I think I can safely assume that The Heuvel will have been delivered before this latest auction reaches fruition and I’ll be well placed to know whether to keep bidding for the Bear in the name of my brother (assuming my offer of £8.00 is trumped, which it almost certainly will be). Because I now face a reversal of the scenario entertained at the beginning of the week: two jerseys for me, but nothing for my brother. But now I know my bike for the strange Franco-Belgian hybrid that it is The Heuvel has taken on a deeper resonance, and it would make for a suitable homage to both Dirk Baert and Carlos if someone’s flying the Belgian colours come next June. And despite the obvious beauty of that Descente jersey, I'm not sure if I’d rather that someone was actually me.