Diversion Diary | Vintage Bike Finds

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Just like all of us, Hannah is looking to survive the social distancing and lockdown. The Diversion Diary is a tale of love under lockdown, and bikes. Only, there’s an added twist: Hannah’s partner, BK, lives in the USA, and they’re locked down on different continents. This week, their vintage bike nerd proclivities are revealed.

BK and I had a week long road trip for a first date. I’ll save the details for the movie, or Netflix original series, but I’ll let you in on this bit. We were driving through Tucson when we saw a pair of bike shops – not corporate bike brand ones, proper ones. BK pulled over (I left my driving licence in the UK, which meant he had to do all the driving on the road trip, which was quite an oversight on my part) saying he’d like to have a look.

I had heard about his bike shop visiting exploits, but never seen it in action. It takes a certain amount of something to manage to spend a bunch of time in a shop, taking pictures, talking about bikes, asking questions – but not actually spending any money. Sometimes he will offset his intrusion with beer, but it was a little early in the day for that, and we were actually trying to find a liquor store to pick up supplies when we’d spotted the shops.

Within minutes, he was being given permission to take bikes off racks and move them out into better light so he could take better pictures. Staff were taking down vintage bike display items and dusting them off so he could have a closer look. He wasn’t pretending he was going to write a story about them, or Instagram them for ‘exposure’, or anything like that – he was just taking pictures, in a way that people might object to if the subject were their pet, or children. All the staff got in return for their time and efforts were effusive thanks, lots of questions, and lots of ‘oh wow this is cool because…’, ‘Do you remember how this always used to break…’. It was quite the performance to behold.

I’m not entirely sure how he gets away with it. Some combination of enthusiasm, knowledge, and interest must be part of it. Whatever it is, I like to watch it happen, and I like being part of it. I don’t really know that much about all the vintage bikes that he’s seeking out, but I’m pretty good at looking. I can spot things that look different, or unusual. Little quirks of design, sweet little finishing touches, an engineering oddity. I can’t put a name or a date to what I’m seeing, but my eyes will draw me to the interesting highlights. BK will then school me in construction methods, or the mechanics of a suspension platform, or tell me a tale of destruction, warranties, and head shaking sales reps. It’s a circus, set in the grease and rubber scented air of a bike shop. I love it.

Since that first pair of shops, we’ve toured many more, plus a few bike museums. I still know next to nothing about vintage bikes, but every time I learn just a little bit more. I even visit shops on my own, or dragging my kids in with me. I’ve even been known to take pictures and send them to BK, usually with my kids loudly in the background pointedly asking ‘Are you sending these pictures to Kevin, Mummy, are they cool bikes?’. I think they feel the need to explain my actions to the shop assistants.

This week, I’ve been doing a little research on my own vintage bike – a Schwinn the same age as BK that he gave me for my birthday – for an upcoming edition of Singletrack. This led me into a rabbit hole of old bikes, and that’s where I’m taking you.

A History of Schwinn

I think I could listen to anyone talk knowledgeably and fondly on almost any subject, and this brief run down of some rather showy bikes falls into that category. When visiting a bike shop, BK’s ultimate goal is to get into their attic, or basement, because that’s where the good stuff is. Apparently he’s made it into the attic of the shop behind this video.

Bendix 2 Speed Hub

vintage bike
From back when BK talked about bikes on the radio

I’m doing everything in my power not to need to refer to this maintenance guide because the exploded diagrams are terrifying. But it’s super interesting (I think). As a US made hub from 1960-64, I’d be surprised if there are many/any in the UK other than the one on my Schwinn – but if you have got one then here is all the info you need to keep it running. I’m really hoping the BK will be here to help service mine when it needs it, he’s done one, once before.

That’s A Lot

I’m not sure if this is bicycle heaven. I’d like to go, but I quite like the joy of finding things – the treasure among the tat. This is an out and out collection, and it’s a bit overwhelming. But I’d still go, ideally armed with beers after hours.

Bainbridge Island Bike Shop

Now this is quite heavenly. For a moment I thought RJ and BK might be one and the same person. RJ appears to have turned BK’s bike touring circus into an actual purpose/YouTube channel. I could definitely hang out with RJ. I also like his Thrift Shop Bike Tour. That’s my idea of a fun day out. Ah…days out…

Copake Bicycle Auction

vintage bike
Items in the upcoming auction

In an ideal world – the sort of world where I have freedom and money to buy luxuries like plane tickets for short trips across the Atlantic – I’d get to go to the Copake Swap Meet and Bicycle Auction on 26/27 June. Not that I’d have any intention of buying anything, I’d just go to hang out, look, talk to people with high levels of enthusiasm for bikes that aren’t always practical, comfortable, or even beautiful, and just go full nerd for a few days. But, if anyone wants me to go and wave a bidding card on their behalf and ship a bike or two back, you know where to get me…

Dream on, draw up your future wish lists, and stay sunny. I’ll see you next week.

Catch up with the love under lockdown Diversion Diary:

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Comments (3)

    There is a bike shop in Houston, Tx that has an insanely good collection of vintage mountain bikes hanging from the rafters. West End Bicycles. I would recommend stopping in if you happen to be in the area.

    Is Harry Ingham still in Tod?

    A trip to buy brake pads could turn into an afternoon talking bikes and rummaging through bits……

    I bought my road bike from him, an immaculate 20 year old Trek.

    ‘I’d like to have a nosey at that one Harry.’

    ‘It’s a bit pricey son…..’ (I was about 40 at the time).

    ‘It’s lovely, I’ll take it, how much do you want?’

    ‘Hmm, I don’t know. I might hang onto it and sell it to a real cyclist’. (I had my mtb with me). Long pause…………. ‘£100 sound reasonable son?’.

    I was at the cash machine at Morrisons before he finished the sentence……

    @Pete Yes Harry Ingham is still there. Very sporadic opening hours, and there’s not a lot of bits of huge excitement – I think he’s probably been flooded often enough to lose the stock from past years. But he still deals in classic/vintage bikes from time to time so if you get lucky you might find something interesting among the BSOs.

    @LAT I would love to ‘happen to be in the area’ of Texas! Seems unlikely, but you never know… 🙂

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