Last week one of the members floated a discussion question: suggest your list of the top ten bikes ever produced, Some people said that was too broad a topic. But others chimed in. These guys (and it is mostly guys) own some incredible bikes.
I don't. I own some really nice bikes. but not like these guys. So I wrote back with the following:
I like John John Katsaras' suggestion (partly because even my top 5 would be an embarrassment in this crowd) and so I'll riff on his modified version of the game.
Since I don't have anything near a world class collection, my attachment to my bikes is often more sentimental and personal than it is material.
When I look at a bike, Yes, I admire the workmanship. But I also think very much about the memories I have of riding it and often the story of how I came to acquire it - the special people or circumstances behind it.
#1 No Name French w/ Campagnolo Record plus other interesting bits.
I bought this no-name (probably mid-to-late 70s? can anyone help me date it?) steel frame bike with every intention of reselling it as quickly as I could. It was being offered for sale by a fellow in Grenoble. At the time I was even more ignorant of bikes than I am now. I was just zeroing in on "Campagnolo".
We communicated by phone and email. He told his father me was had been a mechanic for a Paris area amateur racing team and this was his bike. Even though there are no frame stickers on it at all (besides those rainbow stripes which I think I have already determined here are meaningless), he told me it was made of Reynolds 501 tubing. That may be so but since 501 wasn't (it seems) introduced until the early 80s and this bike seems to predate that, he might well have been confused with 531. (though looking at the photos the "81" under the BB shell might be / would logically be its year of production and so might put it into the 501 era. It weighs 21.3lbs/9.7kg with a Brooks saddle, no pedals.)
As is often the case with French bike sales through local want ad services, I expect Laurent would have preferred the buyer pick it up. Since I was in Toronto that of course was impossible and so I had to convince him to pack the bike for transport (at this point many negotiations fall apart.) Fortunately he agreed (he said he was quite handy and worked making small instruments in a local scientific lab) and several months later, it having been packed, shipped across France to a friend in Montpelier, repacked onto a boat and eventually unloaded in Canada, I was able to have a close look.
Roll forward 2 years. Having stayed in contact with Laurent, the seller, he agreed to help me mange the purchase of couple of other Grenoble area bikes. I'd spot them, then he'd go off to inspect them, negotiate price and retrieve the winners. Later that year I was in France and so I decided to make a road trip up to pick them up myself and to meet Laurent. I was stunned when the doorbell to his apartment was answered by a fellow completely wheelchair bound. How (or maybe Why) I wondered had he managed to not only pack up and ship off not only his father's bike but also to run around Grenoble picking up three others, store them in his small storage space for 6 months (while probably having to shuffle them around while search for other stuff) without use of his legs? I didn't ask but clearly the answer is "One adapts". Instead, we just enjoyed a very good lunch and have stayed in touch periodically since. (Hemessaged me recently that he has taken up seated waterskiing and is competing internationally. He puts me to shame.)
The bike itself is (I think) in quite excellent condition. The hood rubbers are like new. It is clean (OK, it's picked up some dust while in my hands) and is pretty much ready to go. It might be slightly small for me, and it's not a pure breed (e.g. SR seatpost, Weinmann brake levers) but still, it has a certain appeal - to me at least.
In any event, I would have trouble selling Laurent's father's bike now.