09 Nov 2011

Heavens Hackney Winter Warmer

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The late onset of winter brings a different feel to a working market. Gone are the joys and fresh morning starts of the spring and summer months. Now, by the look of most of our fellow traders, this is a bit more about getting through the day.

Very few people think, Oh I’ll spontaneously buy a bike today, on a wet November lunchtime.

A blessed few do however keep buying bicycles. To those few – we salute you.

A guy came down from Lancashire last year in a foot of snow to pick up his Flandria Freddy Maertens, although this probably tells you more about Lancastrians than anything else.

So the focus may shift on to road racing bikes as these seem to appeal regardless of the weather. In part because they are such lovely furniture pieces, though flatmates nationwide may disagree with this statement.

This Chesini is wonderful whether moving or sat in the lounge. It is the most spectacular steel frame build ever seen at Heavens Cycles. Perhaps it is a custom build.

Certainly the old man we bought it from in Belgium looked like he had the money to spend on a custom bicycle, but then as the Flemish never tire of reminding you, they live in the richest economic area in the world*. He didn’t speak any English and my Flemish is vague but enthusiastic. Nevertheless I managed to communicate via a series of desperate gestures my high regard for his bicycle.

It is always sad to relieve a man of his evident pride and joy – it’s as if you are taking away his racing license, or his wife. But then one cannot afford to be a sentimentalist in business, however low-fi your business model+. To be fair our man looked like he was firmly, happily retired from racing as he puffed away on a large cigar. He was also about sixty five and had fitted a more sympathetic gearing and an new (but ugly) rear derailleur to accommodate this, a move we immediately reversed. We’ve also serviced the shifters and re-cabled the bike, as well as fitting new pads and bar-tape etc.

It is odd to see 9-speed STIs on a steel frame, as this sort of modern-era technology coincided with the advent of aluminium in bicycle frame building. Or put another way steel had sort of become obsolete by the time by the time this technology came in, all which does rather suggest that this was both a custom build and a craft-build, and the evident craft involved in the frame building backs up this thinking.

Chesini still make some radical steel-framed road bikes – http://www.chesini.it/road.php?id=40 .

The seat-cluster is worth the entrance fee alone. And the guy who painted the bike has his name on the bike. The paint is incredible. And the carbon cranks are a touch.

I have no idea what to ask for this bicycle. A thousand pounds would not be beyond some London speculators.

And with Christmas coming up it would be insane not to offer such retro fiets treats as the little brown Dutch number below. These bikes are bomb-proof and have already come such a long way.

Also, here are some other great road bikes from Heaven’s Cycles. More 9-speed technology, more racing-grade steel. And more very reasonable prices, of course.

*Sometimes this sort of smug business does bite you in the ass. Witness our gleeful purchase of an ex-pro team carbon fibre bicycle with Stephen Roche’s name written onto the crossbar. We ignored this potential fact of cycling history, discounting it as improbable – Steven Roche won the Tour de France, Giro de Italia the World Championship, in the same year – and found ourselves instead focussed on regluing one of the tubes which had come unstuck from the lug, in the way that apparently bonded frames tend to do. This repair was effected outside, in the dark. The decrepitude of the bike obviously coloured our opinion of it and we quickly sold it, to a policeman, for £300! (Do officers read blogs?)

Subsequent information revealed that this was indeed Steven Roche’s bicycle.

*This may be untrue. And let’s see how the Belgians ride out the Euro-zone crisis. The Flemish will also sometimes talk of how the affluence of their cities (Brugge, Antwerp, Gent…) is a relatively new thing, not discounting Antwerp’s status as the largest city in the medieval world. New Flemish money comes from textiles and textile crops and is in part a result of the guild traditions which continue to exist amongst farmers, and which continue to organise them. The money was previously in the southern, Walloon towns (in the 19th century) before the European mining bubble burst. The war also inverted the traditional French language hegemony in Flemish territories, but that is another story.

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