– Last week was a full week in Europe. 3 countries in 7 days with intermittent riding and enough wine to give me the notion of going to Halloween next year as my liver and, now, the wounds of jet-lag have me stupefied in a way that all the world’s espresso can’t reverse. Sleep is impossible. Catch up on work? I’m almost 10 days out of practice, so why start now? Instead, a few photos for you with blessedly little narrative --
London – Brick Lane Bikes
If whoever owns this store ever discovers Ebay, they will become millionaires many times over. The vintage 1985-1990 goodies are too vast to catalogue. Next time you’re in London if you feel an irrepressible need to steal a bike, I’d suggest you try to fencing it here since it will surely get lost in the dusty, grimly-lit sea of inventory. If you can spell Gert-Jan Theunisse, this is a must-visit place for you. Intoxicating. And just down the road, I’m told, are some of the best authentic curries in London.
London – 14 Bike
14 Bike was described to me as a skate shop, but for single speed bikes. The space is big with an eclectic mix of urban-type single speed gear and intermittently-contemporary track racing paraphernalia. Of note is their house-branded bikes. It’s as though the ubiquity of cycling in Europe makes riders less brand-sensitive, and gives shops leeway (via house-branding) to make some extra dough. Food for thought here. Big time food.
London – Condor Cycles
Known as the mother of all road racing shops in London, I got lost and made it to their doorstop 20 minutes after they closed. I was crushed! One glance through the window shows how strong their relationship is with Rapha -- you see photos of Rapha-clad pros, Rouleur light-boxes, and prominent placement of Rapha/Rouleur gear. Beautifully merchandized, and (like 14 Bike) heavy in private-label bikes.
Next was off to Girona for some riding. It’s a town that stole my heart long ago. Mysterious in its origin, ever-expanding in its scope: a veritable universe of empty roads and enthralling vistas. Girona is an ancient-yet-timeless cycling paradise. Being November, we men could truly be boys. I was lent Bert Grabsch’s old Paris-Roubaix-issue Giant, equipped with cantis and 26c tires. It was perfect for the dirt-and-gravel riding most prominent on our training menu. The main obstacle of the photos below was a 13km climb called Rocacorba, with its full-blown vascular system of dirt roads coursing up and down its sides making the mountain more like an amusement park -- a day’s worth of disoriented & short-of-breath pleasure.
Frankfurt – Assos nucleoFrankfurt Store
From there was business in Germany, which brought me into proximity to an unusual spot: A retail store dedicated 100% to Assos. Unlike many things in the bike biz, this effort is absolutely, positively not half-assed. It is in the heart of high-end commercial Frankfurt. Just a few steps from the typical Cartier, Rolex, etc type scene, and down the road from the most amazing selection of Leica camera I’ll ever see for sale, and a few doors up from the type of place that sells one-off crazy stuff like this (which reminded me of the 2004 Tour of Flanders, won by T-Mobile’s Stefan Wesseman with a watch on his wrist the size of a Egg McMuffin. Can anyone find a good closeup photo of that watch?) Assos did beautifully with this store. It’s not an outlet. It’s not polluted with product other than Assos (a set or two of Lightweight wheels is the only exception). I can’t imagine what the rent is & the possible economic viability of the effort -- but it is an amazing extension of their brand. Chapeau!