As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve done quite a bit of online searching, so it’s time to go on a field trip and get some hands on experience.
Luckily, I live near London where there are a multitude of bike shops – many catering for vintage.
Step up the LondonCyclist website (yes, I know I said I’m going on a field trip, but it helps if I know which fields!) – a quick search for “Vintage Bike Shops London” later, and I have their posts commenting on the best bike shops in North, South, East, West & Central London (these “best bike shop” pages list all kinds of bike shops, not just vintage, so are a really useful resource for anyone visiting or residents not in the know).
So, armed with a Day Travelpass, CityMapper & (for part of the day) a London-based daughter who is a ninja on the tube, off I went to the points of the compass in search of treasure & I so nearly found it in the South…
There were no shops specifically mentioning vintage in West London, so I headed South to Seabass Cycles in Peckham. LondonCyclist had stated “The Peckham unit is a veritable Aladdin’s cave of vintage frames, full bikes and parts” and I have to agree with them, it was brilliant – I could have spent hours there.
The staff were very helpful, setting up a couple of the bikes for me to get a feel & see what size frame would be better – I tend to find proper bike shop staff to be a bit like undertakers, in that they take one look at you and have a pretty accurate idea of your size.
“You’ll be a 56? Let’s just try you on the Chesini… …Actually, you might get away with the 57, try the Koga-Miyata”.
Size is an important point to check when looking for a vintage bike, as the geometry can be quite different from modern bikes, so it’s good if you can actually try them out. In my case it seems I’m now looking for something slightly taller than when I’d started.
“So, what have you got in 57cm frames then?”
“Colnago?” – “Ok, but I want something less common”
“Paganini?” – “Now that is nice” (chrome plated then over-painted, unfortunately quite a bit of the paint had come away)
“What about the Gios?” – “OOOH, I LIKE THAT” – a 1978 Gios Torino Super Record, chrome forks, pantographs and the perfect size (as had shorter top tube).
I spent quite a while looking at all the stock, but kept coming back to the Gios, if it had just been a bit tidier (or a little cheaper) I’d have bought it there & then, but as this was my first stop of the day I wanted to see what other options were out there, so headed North with a parting – “I’ll be back” (and I will be, Seabass is a fantastic shop).
I was going to meet up with my daughter in Islington, but had some time before then, so thought I’d stop off at Brick Lane Bikes on the way as they had a lot of frames on their website & had said they did have a selection of those in the shop.
Well, they have quite a large selection in the shop actually, but you can’t really see them as they are all jammed together, hanging high up on the ceiling with very over-inflated price tags (even for London) no doubt catering for their main customer – the Hipster.
I have never seen so many Hipsters in one place – Hipsters & Grumpy Old Mamils do not mix, it was hell.
As I obviously had no interest in converting a frame to single-speed or in wearing a satchel, I was roundly ignored by the staff – fine by me.
I continued on to Pedal Pedlar in Islington where I was going to meet my daughter, but got there early so plenty of time to look at the nice stock. A couple of frames were interesting, a Vitus & an Alan (although it’s alloy, the Alan is “Eroica Compliant” but it’s not steel so would feel like I was cheating) and they also had what on first glance looked like a Gios Torino tucked away at the back, however closer inspection revealed it to be a copy (PedalPedlar made sure to point this out themselves as well). At the back of the shop there is a fantastic cabinet full of vintage bike parts and again I could have spent hours rummaging there, but I need a frame before I start on the components!
My daughter had arrived while I was browsing and I mentioned where I’d been so far –
“Brick Lane? You must have enjoyed that, lot’s of Hipsters there” – “Really?? I never noticed….” 😤
With that, we bid adieu to Pedal Pedlar – I’ll certainly be checking back when it’s component search time – and headed East into the depths of Hackney.
I had high hopes for The Hackney Peddler as LondonCyclist had described them as having “an amazing warehouse space stuffed full of lovely frames”, unfortunately I was to be disappointed as the only frames that caught my eye were not for sale. I’d say “stuffed full” was a bit exaggerated and I don’t think they were elsewhere, as they told me to check back for new stock – unfortunately, their web presence is just a landing page, which would mean visiting the shop, so unlikely. Then came the suggestion that had my daughter struggling (& failing) to keep a straight-face – “You can follow us on Instagram, as we post photos of new bikes when they come in” – I think not, I am beyond a certain age, I don’t do Instagram (having said that, I don’t blog either, yet here we are…).
The disappointment then continued as for some reason the only food options around were Vegan – sorry, but this Grumpy Old Mamil is a a carnivore!
I’d originally planned to visit Skinny Eric’s however, as they were described as “specialising in rare and vintage parts” and given the limited frame stock they listed on their site, I decided to leave them for another day and head back to Seabass Cycles in Peckham for another look at the Gios before they closed.
Sadly on 2nd inspection, there was just too much work needed – you could possibly just about get away with touching up the paintwork (although quite a bit required), but the forks would need re-plating as the chrome was flaking away and badly pitted in places – lovely, lightweight frame but probably more a candidate for a full refurb.
As nothing was purchased it may seem like an unsuccessful trip, but I certainly wouldn’t class it as a wasted day – I now have a fairly definite idea of what I want and my non-cyclist daughter had the pleasure of accompanying me around bike shops – win-win!!
Mind mostly made up it’s back to trawling the inter-web…