Sunday, 27 October 2013

STEEL IS REAL



It was with great pleasure that I accepted the challenge of finding an appropriate bike for a potential member of Team Carlos-Weltschmerz. This is because he ‘wanted a bike like mine’ – a steel bike, with character. The idea came to him after hearing of our participation in the London to Brighton, and now he wants to climb aboard and join our outfit.
I was surprised how many bikes there were; I found him at least three candidates, of an appropriate material and size, in a little less than a fortnight. Some idiot kept stringing him along when my friend tried to buy the most convenient, so he ended shipping in a Dutch Van Herwerden from mainland Europe instead. It’s a better bike anyway – the right choice – and it’s induced in me a mild bout of bicycle envy. Van Herwerden is actually the name of the shop that would have had it badged and sold; the bikes themselves were normally made by Chesini or Zullo. Whatever the origin of this particular bike, it’s an absolute beaut, although I have yet to admire it at close quarters.
            I’ve already been passing on ideas for what jersey he might like to wear for next year’s London to Brighton. Easterbrook is a man with his own sense of style, and he’s proved most receptive to the type of togs I’ve suggested: 80s replica kit from Prendas Ciclismo, mostly. That’s an exciting proposition, but one too early to consider right now.

  
 
 

 
 

I’ve also been thinking about adding to my own collection (of one). I have no intention of letting go of the Romani, as it’s always been my intent to own two velocipedes (the size of my quarters precludes expansion beyond that).
I’ve been working in central London of late and my walk from Waterloo to the Grays Inn Road is riddled with bicycles. Just the other day, a gun-metal Peugeot really caught my eye, so after contemplating carbon and envisaging aluminium, I now think I’ll end up sticking with steel.
The Peugeot in question was probably a Premiere, but my research has pointed me towards higher end models; the Perthus, Galibier or Aneto. These bikes have chromed forks and their frames are forged from a higher grade of steel than the Premiere; Reynolds 531 usually, as opposed to Carbolite. I thought I’d found one these for sale on Gumtree. The seller resided in Brighton. I requested the measurements and the model, which would undoubtedly have been registered on the seat end of the top-tube. It took three emails before I garnered a response, finally suggesting a time I might like to come and view the bicycle. I explained that I lived in London so would need the measurements of the seat-tube, top-tube and head-tube, and a few choice photographs of the most vulnerable areas, to reassure me that the bike was worthy of my cash and the day-trip I’d need to make if I decided to action a purchase. He told me that he wasn’t prepared to put in the work to furnish me with such details. What a lazy specimen of a human being, I thought. I received nothing back in reply to the email I sent him conveying this sentiment (via the medium of sarcasm).

 
 


Economically speaking, the timing isn’t convenient anyway. Penury persists, and it’s almost winter – what’s the rush? So I have attended to a few issues that have been bothering my incumbent ride; the rear wheel, which needed truing, and a wobble in the bottom bracket. I went to Sigma in Kingston to fix the former, and the Vintage Bike Cave – from whence the Romani was purchased – to remedy the latter, figuring that if the bottom bracket needed replacing then they would probably have something appropriate to hand.
Initially, I thought that Sigma had done a decent job with my wheel, but no sooner had I ridden 20 metres and the chain fell off – they hadn’t replaced it consistent with the gear the bike was left in. Moreover, the rear wheel had not been properly realigned. I took it back and the situation was resolved, albeit in a blasé manner. To be fair, they did tweak the rear brake whilst at it, which would have cost extra had I realised it needed tweaking.
The Vintage Bike Cave represented a far higher quality of service. It turned out that the integrity of the bottom bracket was very much in tact, but after releasing the tension of the chain, excessive play within the axle was indeed observed. So I was sent across the road to drink coffee whilst they gave it the once over.
It was tightened accordingly, I wasn’t charged for the privilege, and the ride home was a delight; my gear changes were the smoothest they’d ever been, and the bike felt solid and reliable. Let’s hear it for the Vintage Bike Cave, folks. Sure, you’re going to pay a little extra for a bike down there, compared to what you might have to hand over to someone selling on eBay, Gumtree or, say, LFGSS, but your new bike will come fully serviced, with new tyres, inner tubes, bar-tape, brake blocks, and cables (if required), and their after-sales service will be committed and genuine.
In this day and age of people wanting something for almost nothing, it’s prudent to step back and consider what the meaning of ‘value’ really is. If that burk in Brighton selling his Peugeot on Gumtree had been bothered to take measurements, and it had turned out that the bike was what I was looking for, then he’d have got shot of it by now. Instead, it’s still up there on Gumtree. I assume people have come to see the bike and have deemed it unfitting or unworthy. The seller, therefore, will continue having to invest more time, writing emails, organising appointments, and entertaining potential buyers (although I am sure he’ll sell it eventually). All because he felt the use of a tape measure was somehow beneath him.


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