His name is Gustav – it says so on the frame – and he rode into my life without so much as a by-your-leave and in spite of, or may be because of, his history. I wasn’t looking for a new bike. I was just seduced.
But let me start at the beginning. I was preparing the Luxo-cruiser for the following day’s ride. The chain needed to be changed and I had the rear wheel out and the cassette disassembled for a complete clean. I had noticed that the brake pads were wearing down a while back and now they urgently needed replacing – before the following day’s ride. A trip was required to my local bike shop, Horsley Cycles. John, the owner, fixed me up with two news sets and he asked if I wanted him to put them on. As it was late in the afternoon and he is so fast at these small jobs (and extraordinarily reasonably priced) I said yes. I asked if he had a good Christmas and how were the Orbea’s doing. Fatal. I went over to where they were amongst the eclectic mix of bikes all over his shop. And there was Gustav – the most handsome Dutch style, sit up and beg bike in almost Bugatti Blue and with the most retro good looks that you have ever set your eyes on.
My wife has always wanted a sit up and beg bike and I can see the appeal of just pootling down the shops on one, so I took Gustav out of the rack. He was made in Latvia by Erenpreiss (never heard of them – but there is a website and an impressive range of city bikes). The sheer elegance of the mudguards made my heart miss a beat. They are a simple arc around the circumference of the wheel, no shaping around the rim of the tyres – just so elegant; 3 Speed Sturmey-Archer hub gear with coaster brake (back pedal to brake); a kick stand (Paul and Dane respectively would be proud of me); a chain guard with the logo beautifully cut out. John could see I was interested so he told me the history. Somewhere John Lewis Department Stores came into it but that bit did not make a huge amount of sense; allegedly it was bought there but I am not convinced that John Lewis has stocked them. Anyway, Gustav was seized by a debt collector to cover a bad debt and the debt collector had asked John to try and sell it. He only needed to make modest percentage of the list price and John wanted to make a bit on top – net, net Gustav was a steal at the heavily discounted price despite a few very minor scuffs. I don’t think he has ever been ridden. We agreed that I would come back and have a trial ride around the station carpark when it was light and dry.
I had to go the village during the week so I snuck in and had another look. Talked to John about swapping to a 5 speed hub gear and went back home to research a bit more. By the following Saturday the turmoil in my mind was too much – I took my wife down to have a look and prepared the younger offspring that a new bike might enter into my life. I haven’t ridden a coaster brake since the summer before university and the wheel base is noticeably longer than the Luxo-cruiser’s. John put on the requisite pedals and the ride convinced me – no need to swap the hub gear and if I have read the specs right not worth the effort or expense – and great fun to ride. As my wife pointed out, he needed a bell. John had just the right one, a large ding-dong one which was duly attached. And so Gustav entered my life.
I don’t really know that I am going to ride him that much – the village is hardly a bike ride away. I wonder if he can make Guildford and back. But you know how it is – you don’t make perfectly rational decisions when being seduced. And then there is all the additional money you are going to spend – he needed some retro looking lights – bought and attached. The leather handle bar grips would look so good and a small Carradice saddle bag. Oh yes, it is a love affair but it is such fun going down to the shops to buy a bottle of milk – you have a hand free for carrying things. I can just see myself pootling along with an open umbrella when it is drizzling. He certainly turns heads – he turned mine!