Almost desperate to find just a trace of evidence pertaining to the bikes Carlos manufactured (or rebadged), I launched a final search-engine offensive, but this time in French. “Carlos road bicycle steel” translates as “acier de bicyclette de route de Carlos”, so I ran a search on that, but without the preposition ‘de’ in case it proved grammatically restrictive.
My reward was an advertisement on vieux-velo.com from someone selling an old Carlos bike, with everything but the wheels for €650! The notice read thus:
‘Je vends mon cadre de vélo de route de marque CARLOS, modèle 1983, entièrement COLOMBUS; tout équipé sauf les roues, de taille 55 dans un état correct. Convient parfaitement pour une conversion FIXIE, par exemple.’
Or in other words (and I have translated the advert literally because, first, I don’t speak French and, second, because I thought the verbatim translation held a certain charm):
‘I sell my framework of bicycle of road of brand CARLOS, model 1983, entirely COLOMBUS; very equipped except the wheels, of size 55 in a correct state. Is appropriate perfectly for a conversion FIXIE, for example.’
You’d have thought that this would have pleased me, but you’d be wrong. The Carlos in question was too early a model to be comparable to my own, and was built using Columbus tubing, whereas there’s no indication that my Carlos has been hewn from such reputable a material (although it’s not impossible). But it did get me thinking about how the French might refer to their classic bikes: vieux means old, and velo is a more informal alternative to bicyclette. I tried running a search using the words ‘acier velo route Carlos’ and found another image on the website ‘Vélotaf’ (a French web-forum concerned with cycling, similar to our Bike Radar, perhaps?) which looked like a good match. The frame appeared to be identical in form, although the components were quite different. But, lacquered in blue, I couldn't help thinking that this Carlos looked rather cheap, and the accompanying thread shed little light on the company’s origins, let alone the quality of their produce.
I think it’s probably time to let go of my obsession with Carlos’ provenance...
[Carlos in Blue]
Unpleasant things have been happening to me of late. I've just purchased a CO² inflator and concomitant cartridges, to fit inside my Ortlieb Saddle Bag alongside a spare inner tube, tyre leavers, glueless patch kit and modest multi-tool. I then decided that I should invest in a cycling jacket and found one that pleased the eye. My metamorphosis is finding its form as I slowly take on the attributes of a fully-fledged cycling enthusiast, but my bicycle-esteem is starting to suffer as some sort of result.
It was never supposed to be like this. I thought that by eschewing carbon, cleats and conservative clubs I’d be impermeable to the vanities and conceits of more zealous cycling aficionados. Instead, I've returned to fawning over images of vintage bicycles on Gumtree and eBay, thinking about how far I might be prepared to go.
Talking of which, that Pinarello Veneto is up for sale again. But guess what: not only has the seller corrected his spelling but he’s fixed the price at £600 (open to offers if anybody wants to submit a bid through eBay – he’s rejected two already). Presuming that the Brookes saddle has a resale value of, say, £150, and assuming my Carlos to be worth a little more than the £295 I paid for it – given the rapturous reception it received from the guy at Crown Cycles – would it be fair to speculate that I could offer £580 for the Pinarello, sell the saddle and the Carlos (and the Jamis, too, if it came to that) and actually end up breaking about even? It’s a tempting prospect, for the Pinarello is still very enticing and probably faster and easier to handle than my Carlos.
Such a proposition doesn't sit quite right with me. For one, the Pinarello has something of the Bianchi or the Colnago about it: lovely bikes all, but high-end Italian marquees loaded with connotation. They are highly desirable machines, and that’s reflected in their value. I don’t think I’d be able to relax if I rode on something like that. The threat of theft or impact damage is not my real concern here: the issue is more how these bikes might reflect upon their owner. What sort of individual rides a Pinarello? Miguel Indurain won his five consecutive Tours de France titles on them, I think, and Bradley Wiggins has just ridden one to his first, so what business have I got owning one?
Why should this matter? It doesn't matter, actually, but I've only recently embraced cycling of the road-racing kind and it would feel almost impertinent of me to ride a bike of such calibre. I’d feel like the guy who put his gear before his physical ability: who spent more money than time in honing his or her craft; the person who launched himself into their new-found hobby for all the wrong reasons.
There’s something else that’s troubling me. If I give up on Carlos then I might be disturbing the narrative. Part of me was sad to see the Raleigh Record Ace go, but I was sure it was the right thing to do. Buying Carlos also felt like the right thing to do, and even the guy who sold it to me expressed this sentiment. Carlos feels right. Carlos is unique without being ostentatious. Carlos has some foibles but does ride rather well. Carlos is consistent with my approach. Carlos is Weltschmerz.
Carlos is also in keeping with the accessories I've amassed: the two cycling jerseys that I bought on the cheap; the fingerless gloves that didn't break the bank; the moderately priced but classy looking bottle cage; the base-level cycling shorts my mother kindly bought for me; or the old Adidas Sambas that make for a perfectly serviceable pair of cycling shoes. And I want to ride a Pinarello? It would feel like sedition!
I'm not going to bid for the Pinarello this time but I shall keep an eye on the market for other bikes, with a view to selling the Jamis. Because whatever becomes of Carlos, I feel a strong, almost uncontrollable urge to purchase another white bicycle replete with 1980s era livery – like a PDM labelled Concorde, perhaps?
[A Concorde 'Gavina' in PDM colours]