Monday, 29 April 2013


The Romani is now in my possession and I’ve already covered some ground on it, fixed Kryptonite’s bizarre FlexFrame U-bracket to the down-tube, raised the handlebars by a whole 2 cm, exchanged the firm saddle it came with for the Vetta Gel off of the Carlos, raised the seat-tube a couple of inches and then lowered it again by about one. The early signs are good and I suspect that buying this bike was absolutely the right thing to do.

I asked my cadres to provide some information for my readers, like you sometimes get in real life sporting publications, such as Shoot magazine. I wanted to create profiles of sorts so to get a feel for the various personalities that race for Carlos-Weltschmerz. See what you think:

Name: James Evans (that’s me)
Age: 37
Bike:  Carlos Tours Romani Prestige
Race Jersey: La Vie Claire
Giro, Tour or Vuelta? Vuelta
Preferred theatre of Second World War (assuming one partook in it, and regardless of the risk of mortality): North African Campaign - leave in Cairo
Preferred meteorological conditions (not for cycling; just in general): 28°C, overcast, no breeze, humid, with the portent of storms
Hypothetical ride-on music (like they do in the darts and snooker): Fit and Working Again - The Fall
Favourite 'ism': Constructivism
What are you reading? The Anatomy of Melancholy by Richard Burton.

Name: Simon A C Evans
Age: 34
Bike: Gary Fischer Hybrid
Race Jersey: Bic or Café de Colombia
Giro, Tour or Vuelta? Tour
Preferred theatre of Second World War: North Atlantic Convoy
Preferred meteorological conditions: Heavy Rain when on a veranda or shed with an open door, to give the feeling that I am undercover but still outside
Hypothetical ride-on music: I Can't Do Nuttin For Ya Man – Public Enemy
Favourite 'ism': Cubism
What are you reading? Steady State Economics by Herman Daly.

Name: Peter Gowland
Age: 38
Bike: Bianchi C2C
Race Jersey: PDM-Concorde
Giro, Tour or Vuelta? Paris-Roubaix
Preferred theatre of Second World War: Western Front - Normandy
Preferred Meteorological conditions: August, Ibiza - hot and dry
Hypothetical ride on music: No music: spoken word - Al Pacino's 'inches' speech from Any Given Sunday
Favourite 'ism': Atheism – f**k God and the horse he rode in on
What are you reading: Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice by Matthew Syed.

Name: William Mommersteeg
Age: 43
Bike: Bianchi Reparto Course Condor Squadra
Race Jersey: St. Raphael
Giro, Tour or Vuelta? Tour
Preferred theatre of Second World War: Burma
Preferred meteorological conditions: 30°C and sun shining
Hypothetical ride-on music: Rock n' Roll - Led Zeppelin
Favourite 'ism': Favouritism
What are you reading? Chinaman by Shelhan Karunatilaka.

Name: Ben Wenborn
Age: 35
Bike: Specialized Roubaix
Race Jersey: Château D'ax Gatorade
Giro, Tour or Vuelta? Giro
Preferred theatre of Second World War: The Mediterranean - naval campaigns around Malta/Gibraltar/Suez Canal
Preferred meteorological conditions: Dark 'n' stormy
Hypothetical ride-on music: Can't Touch This - MC Hammer
Favourite 'ism': Laxism
What are you reading? Ubik by Philip K Dick.

It was Mr Mommersteeg who was proving to be the most receptive to this whole London to Brighton project (although everybody was committed by way of registration). He – as my neighbour – was knocking on my door to see if I wanted to go for a ride. I did, and so we did.
            It was a Saturday, and the weather was good: a stiff breeze but the sun was out, with an ambient temperature of approximately 15°C – usual for the time of year and a marked improvement on the unseasonably cold and wet and dank conditions that have persisted through February, March and the beginning of April. We set off towards Wimbledon, by way of Kingston, New Malden and Raynes Park, in good spirits.
            The night before I’d alerted my co-conspirators of our intent, knew that it was late notice and expected little in the way of a response. I was pleasantly surprised, then, to see that Mr Wenborn had replied to my email and was open to the possibility of joining Mommersteeg and I in Wimbledon.
Somewhere along the B282 – West Barnes Lane by another name – I received a telephone call from Wenborn and impressed myself with the dexterity with which I unzipped the top pocket of my Mavic technical jacket, extricated my mobile phone, answered it, and proceeded to discuss estimated times of arrival with the caller, all the while maintaining a reasonable speed. Wenborn would indeed be joining us and I’d finally be able to begin the process of team bonding.
            We discussed bicycles over coffee and then headed off towards Wandsworth, by way of Tooting Broadway. We then made towards Putney before following the Thames to Hammersmith, whereupon we crossed to the north side of the river – its south facing aspect open to the sun’s glare – and paused for a pint.
            Thereafter we moved back south, cycled to Barnes Bridge and repeated the procedure. Over that second alcoholic beverage, cycling attire was to be the topic of conversation – what jerseys we had; should one wear a second, looser pair of shorts over their lycra; what did I think of white cycling shoes – and I was pleased that my domestiques appreciated that these things matter. Not everyone does.

Mommersteeg and I covered approximately 23 miles that day, albeit fractured with coffee and booze. It signalled the start of my training regime, though, and that was important. After having hit some good form about half of the way through February, I’d since lost it again, the cumulative effect of bad weather, full-time work, a niggling shoulder injury and too many social commitments.
            I followed this up with a 16 mile ride on Monday, a 28 mile ride on Thursday  and a couple of 4 mile round commutes to work in-between – about 75 miles in all. This is no big deal: Mommersteeg and Wenborn ride about the same distance week in, week out on their respective commutes to work. An anticipated period of reduced working hours should allow me to establish a similar routine.
The 28 mile ride is worthy of note because it represented the first time I’d dressed in full kit – my debut in Lycra, if you will. I wore the Descente cycling jersey, my cycling shorts and race socks in temperatures touching 20°C, and found the experience strangely exhilarating, like I had some sort of extra power that I could impose on people that got in my way – like I might be taken more seriously. This illusion was slightly dented by the absence of any helmet, for serious cyclists are apt to wear protective headgear at all times. I could have done with some sunglasses too, but I don’t really like things in and around my face, which is why helmets have featured so lowly on my list of priorities. This might sound reprehensible, but consider this: I’ll take more risks when I'm finally wearing a lid, in situations that I presently ease up on – like descending.
My ride took me through Richmond, Putney, Wandsworth and Battersea, and paused in Waterloo at Evans Cycles to return those Altura “mitts” after I’d recently observed the stitching coming away in the area betwixt my thumb and forefinger. On inspecting the same style glove in-store I concluded that the issue was anomalous and that my particular pair of fingerless gloves had not been properly appended in the first instance. However, my enthusiasm for them had now waned and I decided that I would replace them with something more modern. This was not because of any perceived weakness attributable to the style but more to do with a fondness for anachronism. The flavour of my bike and my race get-up has an undeniably retrospective feel, but my motive is not parodic and I’d like to offset some of these traditional aspects with a more contemporary edge. There will be my cycling shorts, the accessories attached to my bike, a helmet (eventually), and now there will also be my new gloves: I've ordered a pair of white Mavic Espoir ‘everyday race gloves’ offering ‘progressive cushioning’ from another on-line cycle store – Hargroves Cycles – for the meagre sum of £14, with free postage, reduced from £20.

In the meantime, I've secured that La Vie Claire jersey. My birthday’s coming up and I dropped noisy hints in the company of my lady-friend. Naturally, she obliged, although I will have to wait a month or so before I can wear it.
            I've sold that Carlos-Galli jersey too, so now I can run with my ‘trinity of jerseys’ theory. The La Vie Claire jersey, along with those of my contemporaries – Café de Colombia, PDM-Concorde, St. Raphael and Château D'ax Gatorade – leads me to believe that Carlos-Weltschmerz could well be the smartest looking team in the peloton.

Monday, 15 April 2013


It didn't feel good putting the Carlos up for sale. It felt like a sort of betrayal - that I’d stabbed the narrative of this journey in the back. The sense of perfidy was mollified by the bad weather and the lack of opportunity to reacquaint myself with the quality of ride that the Carlos is undoubtedly capable of delivering. I’d also been thinking about the Romani Prestige.
            A day or so after my visit the Vicini dropped in price, levelling out at around £500 – about what I considered to be the limit of my expenditure. The Man Who Worked On Lathes had said that he’s let me have the Romani for £445, and it was toward this more traditional looking machine that I inclined, irrespective of the £65 saving. I would need to take the bike for test-ride to be sure, but the measurements seemed to make more sense: if I adjudged the Carlos to be a little cumbersome then I’d need something smaller.

It was to be exactly two weeks before I had the opportunity to return to Highgate and ride the Romani Prestige around the block, in temperatures that were cruel and would soon give way to a sustained delivery of snow. The bike felt to be of an appropriate size, although the make-shift pedals and low gearing were prohibitive in terms of making any credible evaluation. It was enough to convince me that we could have a future together. Besides, the Vicini had since found a buyer.
            We worked through the finer points of restoration, the Man Who Worked On Lathes and I, and it was settled and I laid down a deposit of £100.

A bit about Romani bicycles:

‘Romani was a company based in the town of Sala Baganza in the province of Parma. It was rather a big and well respected builder.  Established in 1924, the company had its peak in the mid 1970s (and) up to mid 1980s.  Surprisingly, you rarely saw many bikes with the Romani brand because much of their production was third party frames.  Virtually any shop in the Parma/Reggio Emilia/Modena area that had a shop brand, but who did not build in-house, would have bought from Romani.  They also built for many exporters.  It is said that the two Romani brothers were involved with the Colner production and also had a collaboration with Colnago.  Catalogues show that Romani made frames of Columbus SL, SLX, TSX tubes or Reynolds tubing.  They closed down in the early 1990s.’

The Man Who Worked On Lathes told me how he’d acquired it from a dealer who used it for his window display. The Dealer hadn't wanted to part with it, but The Man Who Worked On Lathes persuaded him to on account of the business he had just pushed his way. The Dealer claimed that the bike was a replica of one ridden in the Tour De France. I doubt there’s any way of verifying this but it does look to be cut from relatively decent stuff: Cinelli stem; Shimano 600 crank-set and head-tube; Campagnolo brakes, hubs and seat/chain stays; Wolber rims; Columbus tubing. I know that it is Columbus tubing because of the avian company insignia stamped on the bottom-bracket.

I was looking forward to taking the Romani home, but I also wasn't. For one, I’d yet to find a buyer for the Carlos. More significantly, I was starting to get really rather bored with cycling being my primary focus in life. It’s almost as much as I can do to write this, because writing about something that one finds a bore is doubly boring.
I don’t think it’s the act of cycling that has given way to this ennui, because I've not had much time for that of late. What I can’t bear the thought of this is having to sell that Carlos-Galli jersey (now surplus to requirements), or of confronting my aversion to helmets, and of having to invest more time tweaking another bicycle and suffering bouts of euphoria and despair in turn: is my new bike too big or too small; should I have held out for something else; was white bar-tape really a good idea? I want it all to be over, folks, this preparatory stage: no more hunting for bike locks, front lights, cycling shorts, socks, helmets, bidons, bidon cages, “mitts”, saddle bags, technical jackets, CO² inflators, or actual bikes. I want to spend £49 on a new La Vie Claire jersey and be done with it, and I want April to deliver the sort of weather it’s supposed to so I can start training for the London to Brighton and at least take pleasure in the act of getting fit. Even the Paris-Roubaix failed to stir the excitement I’d hoped for – not because it wasn't a good race, but because I've begun to lose some interest. 
What I really need, I think, is to start spending time riding with my team – or at least a member of. Finding a buyer for the Carlos might help, too. Incidentally, its picture appears in the latest edition of Urban Cyclist on the page entitled ‘What are you Riding’ (no question mark). I submitted an image after browsing through the last issue in WH Smiths. I couldn't really say why I did this, because it seems to me now a slightly odd thing to do. Regardless, it provides a handy tag-line with which to revitalise my advert for the Carlos: ‘As featured in Urban Cyclist Magazine’.