I was talking to a bike industry guy the other day, the kind of guy who’s been around a long time, who can recall product specs from things that barely saw the light of day, a guy with a dream/nightmare basement, the home of things extremely valuable, but only to a vanishingly small number of bike nerds. He confessed/boasted to me that he had 5 Vitus road frames. They were all to be substrates for the various, complete Mavic gruppos he’d hoarded. Sean Kelly much?
It became apparent as we spoke that he’d long ago moved on from his French aluminum predilection, leaving those frames to sit in the basement alongside all manner of exotic bike history apocrypha. For a period, he said, he was stockpiling Mavic wheels for a reason he couldn’t clearly articulate. I was impressed with his ability to run through models and variations on models of various bikes I’d once wanted. What was more stunning, because I’ve encountered bike “collectors” before, was that this particular example seemed entirely calm, normal, and well-adjusted, rather than erratic, hyperactive, and ostentatiously verbose. Most of these guys (they are ALL guys) are over-amped and just about able to converse with normal humans.
I have one friend who collects rear derailleurs like a British eccentric might collect exotic butterflies, pinning them to canvas sheets or making painstaking drawings of their impossible wings alongside various, scrawled Latin notations. I have another friend who claims to have a floor-to-ceiling cabinet filled with Campy 10-speed groups. He has the market cornered, assuming there is a market.
None of these men has children. One has a dog. This is just data.
For myself, perhaps it is the ameliorating influence of a wife and kids, the scattering influence of low-level ADD, or a simple lack of time, but I have not managed to dig too deep a bike nerd niche at my own home. I once had 8 or 10 bikes. Now I have fewer. My parts bin has gone thin and practical. Don’t get me wrong, the packed basements of the modern bike hoarder are really fascinating, even exciting to me. I love to sift through that stuff, the way I used to thumb a deck of baseball cards, as a twelve-year-old, evaluating each face for scarcity, value, and charm, or the way I’d comb the piles and stacks of record and bookstores when I was in college. I do love that idea that there is treasure to be found and appreciated.
This week’s Group Ride asks if you’re one of these people. Have you fixated on a brand, model, or specific product and acquired far more than you could reasonably ride or appreciate yourself? Do you know anyone like this? And even if you never did, what one bike thing, if you did have that kind of time and money, would you squirrel away in your basement/shed/warehouse/bomb shelter?