It didn't feel good putting the Carlos up for sale. It felt like a sort of betrayal - that I’d stabbed the narrative of this journey in the back. The sense of perfidy was mollified by the bad weather and the lack of opportunity to reacquaint myself with the quality of ride that the Carlos is undoubtedly capable of delivering. I’d also been thinking about the Romani Prestige.
A day or so after my visit the Vicini dropped in price, levelling out at around £500 – about what I considered to be the limit of my expenditure. The Man Who Worked On Lathes had said that he’s let me have the Romani for £445, and it was toward this more traditional looking machine that I inclined, irrespective of the £65 saving. I would need to take the bike for test-ride to be sure, but the measurements seemed to make more sense: if I adjudged the Carlos to be a little cumbersome then I’d need something smaller.
It was to be exactly two weeks before I had the opportunity to return to Highgate and ride the Romani Prestige around the block, in temperatures that were cruel and would soon give way to a sustained delivery of snow. The bike felt to be of an appropriate size, although the make-shift pedals and low gearing were prohibitive in terms of making any credible evaluation. It was enough to convince me that we could have a future together. Besides, the Vicini had since found a buyer.
We worked through the finer points of restoration, the Man Who Worked On Lathes and I, and it was settled and I laid down a deposit of £100.
A bit about Romani bicycles:
‘Romani was a company based in the town of Sala Baganza in the province of Parma. It was rather a big and well respected builder. Established in 1924, the company had its peak in the mid 1970s (and) up to mid 1980s. Surprisingly, you rarely saw many bikes with the Romani brand because much of their production was third party frames. Virtually any shop in the Parma/Reggio Emilia/Modena area that had a shop brand, but who did not build in-house, would have bought from Romani. They also built for many exporters. It is said that the two Romani brothers were involved with the Colner production and also had a collaboration with Colnago. Catalogues show that Romani made frames of Columbus SL, SLX, TSX tubes or Reynolds tubing. They closed down in the early 1990s.’
The Man Who Worked On Lathes told me how he’d acquired it from a dealer who used it for his window display. The Dealer hadn't wanted to part with it, but The Man Who Worked On Lathes persuaded him to on account of the business he had just pushed his way. The Dealer claimed that the bike was a replica of one ridden in the Tour De France. I doubt there’s any way of verifying this but it does look to be cut from relatively decent stuff: Cinelli stem; Shimano 600 crank-set and head-tube; Campagnolo brakes, hubs and seat/chain stays; Wolber rims; Columbus tubing. I know that it is Columbus tubing because of the avian company insignia stamped on the bottom-bracket.
I was looking forward to taking the Romani home, but I also wasn't. For one, I’d yet to find a buyer for the Carlos. More significantly, I was starting to get really rather bored with cycling being my primary focus in life. It’s almost as much as I can do to write this, because writing about something that one finds a bore is doubly boring.
I don’t think it’s the act of cycling that has given way to this ennui, because I've not had much time for that of late. What I can’t bear the thought of this is having to sell that Carlos-Galli jersey (now surplus to requirements), or of confronting my aversion to helmets, and of having to invest more time tweaking another bicycle and suffering bouts of euphoria and despair in turn: is my new bike too big or too small; should I have held out for something else; was white bar-tape really a good idea? I want it all to be over, folks, this preparatory stage: no more hunting for bike locks, front lights, cycling shorts, socks, helmets, bidons, bidon cages, “mitts”, saddle bags, technical jackets, CO² inflators, or actual bikes. I want to spend £49 on a new La Vie Claire jersey and be done with it, and I want April to deliver the sort of weather it’s supposed to so I can start training for the London to Brighton and at least take pleasure in the act of getting fit. Even the Paris-Roubaix failed to stir the excitement I’d hoped for – not because it wasn't a good race, but because I've begun to lose some interest.
What I really need, I think, is to start spending time riding with my team – or at least a member of. Finding a buyer for the Carlos might help, too. Incidentally, its picture appears in the latest edition of Urban Cyclist on the page entitled ‘What are you Riding’ (no question mark). I submitted an image after browsing through the last issue in WH Smiths. I couldn't really say why I did this, because it seems to me now a slightly odd thing to do. Regardless, it provides a handy tag-line with which to revitalise my advert for the Carlos: ‘As featured in Urban Cyclist Magazine’.