A little battered cosmetically (some rust spots, the brake hoods are shredded, a mix of newer and original components) but still, if it were my size (it's a 54) I'd be riding it daily. It's snappy and crisp. But no theft magnet.
So, I was pleased when finally the other day, after … what 3 years of storage? Someone (Paul) came over to see it.
Paul said he was looking for another “project”. Only experienced bike people use the word "project". Paul it turns out, has a nice little collection of vintage bikes himself, and is very knowledgeable. Having lived in the UK and Amsterdam he's also had hands on collecting and dealing experience and so has become eagle-eyed (or shall I say "thorough").
What I hoped might be a sale to an appreciative buyer (always my favourite end result) however turned into an eye opening learning experience.
“Is this the original fork?” he asked. I said I thought it was but he thought it should have a Gazelle logo embossed into it.
He fingered the rust on the top tube at the cable guide. A spot of rust on a 35 year old bike is not unusual nor should it be a deal breaker. But Paul hesitated when he ran his finger along the underside of the top tube.
“This bike has had a front end accident” he announced.
That was news to me but when he showed me the slight ripple under the top tube (see below), it was obvious he was right. “That's why the fork has been replaced” he continued.
There then followed an awkward silence. That was the moment when Paul had to decide if I was honestly ignorant or deliberately deceitful. I hope he accepted my protestations that I honestly had no idea of the damage (I've tried to be overly upfront in all my dealings about flaws). I'd never suspected the frame had any problems (the ripple wasn't easy to see like a crack or a chip. Very subtle – until you look at it or for it.)
Nonetheless, I apologized for having wasted his time. After that point we were at least able to talk bikes. Paul sounds like he has a terrific and carefully curated collection of 6 vintage bikes (he was obliged to pare down his fleet during a recent move, due to lack of storage space. I sympathize.)
(I was glad at least to be able to drag out ANOTHER Gazelle Champion Mondial which had the exact same fork and so could prove that the first bike's fork was original too.)
Lesson learned though. As you can see from these pictures, a straight edge is pretty handy when checking out a frame. There are also simple alignment tests you can do with a long piece of string.
In the end Paul agreed that the frame was probably perfectly rideable. Steel is pretty tough. It just isn't suitable as a collector's item nor as a restoration project (the top tube would have to be replaced which would ruin the paint which would require an exorbitantly expensive repainting job.)
Fortunately it wasn't a very expensive purchase. So, it isn't that costly a lesson. And it still rides great I think. So, I'll probably still sell it. Though at a significant discount and with a big disclaimer.