I’ve just come back from spending the weekend at the awesome Eroica Britannia cycling festival. Three days of vintage bikes, music, food, drink, fun and lots of sun. It’s the first time I’d been to the festival and also the first time I’d ever had a stand to sell my books at an event. I went filled with excitement, and a little trepidation as I was to be giving a talk on the Saturday evening in the beer tent, no pressure! Anyone who’s ever had a stall at a festival before will be able to relate to me when I say that even though you are there and part of it, you don’t actually get to see much of it. Now don’t get me wrong, I had a brilliant time, met loads of readers, had many a heated debate about the merits of this climb or that climb and also sold a fair few books which was nice. From behind my table though, in the increasingly muggy air of our large tent, out through the open side, there in front of me every time I looked up all I saw were the assorted tables that made up the bike jumble and I just LOVE bike jumble.
To those of you who have yet to discover the wonders of the bike jumble, it’s essentially boxes of old parts and clothes that will excite you like little else and release waves of nostalgia every time you catch site of something you lusted after in your youth. From the moment I catch site of the familiar collection of clothing, battered old frames, obscure components and assorted tat my heart begins to race. Will I grab a bargain? Have I missed a bargain! Is there a pair of 1980 17mm V-section Assos rims, or worse, was there, have they already been bought! Trapped behind my desk though I would never find out, I hadn’t met my fellow traders before so felt a bit cheeky entrusting my goods with them whilst I went off hunting and my wife was not due to arrive until the evening. Even though the potential bounty was only 100 meters away for the whole of the Friday it was out of my reach, I just had to accept that what I didn’t know about I wouldn’t miss and hope that the next day when my family could stand in for 20 minutes I could go for a proper rummage.
To the casual observer, the uninitiated passer-by, bike jumble just looks like junk, but to the cyclist it’s all treasure, and for a rider who fell for the sport in the late 80’s the parts and clothes I couldn’t afford as a teenager are now vintage, used, discarded and ready to be snapped up for a bargain price. I wasn’t after anything in particular, not this time, but if I did spot a NOS Mavic SSC groupset or a 57cm immaculate red Vitus 979 frame then I’m not sure I could resist parting with whatever profit I’d made selling my books. So when my window came on the Saturday, with my ever supportive wife briefed to tell people who wanted a signed copy that I’ll be back shortly, I headed to get my eyes stuck in. Now walking 100 meters across a grassy field would normally take around a minute, but this was Eroica and not any old grassy field, it was full of people pushing just about every bike I’d dreamed of owning between the ages of 10 and 18. A mint red Raleigh Ti, an immaculate Tommasini with a gold lattice paint job and C-record groupset, and even a Vitus 979, in KAS livery with the afore mentioned Mavic components (although not the hubs). This bounty of eye-candy made progress slow and more than once I changed my course to follow, stalk a gentleman just to take a closer look at his steed.
Finally I made it and anxious that I had used half my allotted window of time getting there the pressure was on to find gold, that one item that someone else no longer wanted but will make my entire weekend. Nothing on the first stall, nor the second. I have plans for a vintage build but until I commit there’s no point in giving it too much thought so I passed over most components. Then, on the third stall my eyes were taken by flashes on fluro pink and green. Having lived through the ‘first incarnation of fluro’ between ‘84 and ‘92 these colours will always attract me. Their recent resurgence has been very welcome and I have indulged myself in a number of bright garments but the fluro of today lacks the outright crassness and freshness of the original 1980’s stuff. I tried on a garish Sidi t-shirt but alas the medium was the smallest they had and it was too big then as I turned to leave a flash of pink caught my eye from beneath a table. I plunged my hand down and pulled out a bag of brand new, never opened, fluro pink, pure Italian, Sidi headbands. I’d found what I wanted. I didn’t know what it would be until I held it but the instant I took one out I knew I’d now got it. I haggled the price down from £2 to £1, removed it from the wrapper then never took it off the rest of the weekend. I’m not sure how it will fit in on Walthamstow High Street, or on the school run, but here at Eroica it was perfect.
Happy, fulfilled and without a dent to the bank balance I returned to my stand content that I had my booty and that I’d ‘done’ the bike jumble.
I’d like to add that I cannot recommend the festival enough, I plead with you all to come. And to all those people who visited my stand to talk hills, thank you all so SO much. See you next year.