I’ve received a few deliveries of late, the finishing touches, I think (and hope) for my appropriate bicycle.
First up were the replacement gloves – a pair of white Mavic Espoir ‘everyday race gloves’ offering ‘progressive cushioning’. They only cost me £13.30 - £3.69 less than the Altura gloves they replaced. I tried to order them on-line at the already reduced rate of £14.00 but the website wouldn’t process my order. I emailed Hargroves cycles, not to demur but to question whether their website was at fault and if there was an alternative means by which I could complete the transaction. They took it as a complaint, none the less, and offered me a 5% discount on my order by way of recompense.
I’d been unsure as to what size I should take – medium or large – after trying both on in Cycle Surgery with inconclusive results. Hargroves only had medium and small in stock so the prospect of saving £6.00 (they retaill at £20) settled it. The medium seems fine, the elasticated top portion of the glove allowing for a variable fit.
Next to arrive were a pair of white leather Zefal ‘Christophe’ toe straps. If you don’t understand why I parted with £9.99 for these, or if your reaction to them is a shrug of indifference, then I doubt you’ve reaped much reward from reading An Appropriate Bicycle.
Practically speaking, I bought them because leather toe straps are far more effective than the nylon banding I’ve been making do with – you should at least comprehend that. Leather holds its shape better, which can be of great benefit when re-engaging one’s foot with the toe clip after standing around at traffic lights. Nylon is slack by comparison and more vulnerable to snagging.
The Romani did actually come with leather straps already attached but they were black, well-worn strips, and the metal fasteners marred with rust. The Carlos had come with black toe straps, too, and I’d discovered that when wet they would make quite a mess of my shoes (the dye would rub off, presumably). So I needed new straps to ensure the fluidity of my ride and to save spoiling my footwear. Further, I thought it might be good idea to tie in the colour of my toe straps with the colour of my bar-tape.
£9.99 is actually about as cheap as you’re going to get for genuine leather straps, although they were reduced by a couple of quid. It wasn’t just a question of price, mind: these Zefal straps have the word christophe printed upon them in the most pleasing of fonts. It’s like that little M for Mavic insignia on my jacket and new gloves, or the engraved detailing on my bike’s handlebars, and the Cinelli head badge that features on the clasp of the handlebar stem: small details that make all the difference. I don’t even like branding as a rule, but certain names and ensigns leave their mark: Fred Perry’s laurel wreath, Adidas’s original trefoil logo, Levi’s red tab, and now Zefal’s christophe.
And who or what is christophe anyway? The blurb on the back of the packaging tells me he was Eugene Christophe, a French cyclist who purportedly invented the toe clip. He entered into business with a company called Poutrait Morin, who later changed their name to Zefal, and these straps now bear his name as something of a tribute.
When I went to fit my new straps to my toe clips I noticed that they too bore the legend ‘Christophe’. Isn’t that a wonderful thing?
Despite my ambivalence towards eyewear it is obvious that glasses have a place in cycling, if only to stop bugs and pollen from getting in one’s eyes. As a hay-fever sufferer, the route the London to Brighton takes – through meadows and fields – has a nasty potential. Aside from dosing up on antihistamines – which by no means guarantees a result – the best precaution I can take against such an “attack” is to invest in some shades.
I already have a pair of shades – two, in fact – but not the sort that “wrap around” the face to ensure maximum coverage. The cheapest I could find in-store – at Evans Cycles for £29.99 – was the Endura Shark glasses set – with interchangeable lenses and everything! They seemed okay but I really wasn’t looking to spend that much. You might think, ‘Why skimp on something like that, especially what with your hay-fever and all?’ We’ve already established that I don’t much like wearing sunglasses, and the British weather will hardly dictate I need to very often. But on top of that, the shape of my nose isn’t conducive to the wearing of eyewear – most glasses sit too high on my face and it will be uncomfortable and it will look silly. So unless the Endura Sharks were a perfect fit – which they weren’t – then what would be the point in parting with that much money for them? (Not that the price would be considered expensive by your seasoned cyclist’s standards; some people will pay three figure sums for a pair of Oakleys.)
I was almost resigned to buying a specific pair from Marks and Sparks, with an accommodating bridge, but I didn’t like their imitation carbon fibre frame effect. Then, after stopping by the Hounslow branch of Halfords on one of my rides, I came across Foster Grant’s Ironman range. Fairly innocuous looking shades, they sat quite well upon the ridge of my nose. At £26 a pair I still thought the price a little steep (they didn’t even come with interchangeable lenses) but my internet based research unearthed yet another on-line discount – direct from Foster Grant themself – and I purchased the very same model for £17.42.
Finally, I had to deal with the helmet issue. Actually, I bought a helmet some time ago but I don’t like talking about it. As helmets go it’s actually not too bad: a Uvex i-vo, in white, weighing in at 225g, and of German origin. What’s more, I picked it up for £29.99 (including postage) reduced from £44.99 (not including postage) and it’s not uncomfortable either. But it does look awfully wide sat upon head, and I’ve been trying to sell the thing with a view to replacing it with either a Louis Garneau Sharp or a Giro Savant, both retailing at around £60 (although the Giro can certainly be found cheaper if you shop around) and helmets that seem to fit me just that little better.
No takers as yet for the Uvex, despite the “watchers” sniffing around on eBay. If it doesn’t sell before the London to Brighton then I’ll just have to settle with what I’ve got.
And talking of buying things first and then impatiently waiting for a sale to materialise, I finally got shot of the Carlos. That might seem a ruthless way of putting it, given the time we spent together, but after: bumping the advert up on Gumtree a total of 10 times over a period of at least six weeks; paying a pound to advertise it on a website called Preowned Cycles; giving it a go on the Retrobike forums and not receiving even the slightest bit of interest, despite a statistic informing me that 400-odd people had taken a look; having two people meet me to view the bike, only for both of them to tell me they’d need to ‘have a think about it’ and, after having thought about it, apparently deciding against it, I’d started to become rather sick of the sight of that bike still parked up in my hallway.
So when a guy from Tunbridge Wells called me on the Saturday and told me he was prepared to drive to West London on the Sunday, I was confident that it would be a case of third time lucky. I knew Carlos was a nice looking bike – most of my friends prefer it to the Romani – and I figured that anybody prepared to travel from one side of London to the other was of serious intent.
And so it came to pass and he paid the current asking price of £325 without the mere hint of a quibble – this young man who was off to Oxford University in the autumn, with an accent that suggested he would not be out of place there. I don’t think money was an issue for The Guy From Tunbridge Wells, but when he gets to Oxford with Carlos in tow I think he’ll appreciate what an appropriate bicycle he now has in his possession.