It is not often that my day job in arts education and my interest in bikes overlaps, but on Friday it happened twice. Firstly, I was still musing on whether to buy a Brompton for the World Championships on eBay. The thing is – I really do not need the Brompton as an ongoing addition to my modern lifestyle - just need to get used to riding it, compete and then get off. The trouble was that while eBay seemed like the obvious answer I was worried about provenance. Familiar to art historians, provenance is basically, ‘is this what it claims to be?’ If I suddenly put what I claimed was a Picasso up for sale, it would be greeted with great skepticism. It would be down to me to prove that there was a history of the canvas going back to when Pablo gave it to his dealer. On eBay you tend to see lots of things that doubt the provenance of bikes up for sale – one obvious clue is when the bike is photographed in a public place rather than in the house or the back garden. Another is when there doesn’t seem to be any understanding on the part of the seller of the specialised nature of the bike. You can always ask questions, and honest sellers shouldn’t be upset. But if the answer to the obvious question ‘Do you have proof of purchase?’ comes back with a tale worthy of Tolkein, probably best to stay clear.
Helen Pidd has some useful advice on spotting stolen bikes for sale in her new book Bicycle: Love Your Bike: The Complete Guide To Everyday Cycling which I also received on Friday. And what should be on the title page? An illustration of a Brompton by Olivier Kugler who I hope my colleague Jane will be interviewing for our new Illustration course very soon. A small strange world.
As I say Helen’s book is useful, a great present for someone new to cycling. It is clearly from the cyclechic rather than lycrachic perspective, but none the worse for that. Just one thing – 16 inch wheels do not mean you have to pedal faster (p26) – it’s a gear thing Helen.
BTW the way one thing eBay is very good for is vintage bike parts, so if you want some 1990 Campag Chorus brake callipers you know where to go – and I still have the receipt!