Internal Detours
Saturday, June 10, 2006
  cirque '06, part 1
Wow, it's a whirlwind!

We left Greenwood a little after 8:00 with a trunkful of Ana's digital paintings, a backseat full of luggage and coolers, and Julius strapped up and riding on the rear bumper rack. We made good time, even with a couple of stops at rest areas. The lilies at the North Carolina welcome center were so stunning, Ana took a bunch of photos for reference use in her florals. We stocked up on maps and brochures and headed back out.

We arrived at the O. Henry around 12:30, checked in and ate. There was time for me to change clothes and drive over to Cycles de Oro, the epicenter of the Cirque du Cyclisme. Grabbing my gear, I rode across the street to the shop's parking lot. I leaned Julius next to another Mercian - John Crump's 1950 Vigorelli Special, the oldest Mercian in the U.S. I popped into the shop to grab a cue sheet and say hello to Dale Brown, ringmaster of the Cirque and benevolent despot of the Classic Rendezvous newslist.

I had time to nod and say hi to Larry O and Aldo, folks I hadn't seen since I'd last attended the Cirque in 2001. Moments later I was setting off with the Friday Fixed Gear ride.

It was an in-town course with lots of twists and turns. One batch of riders got caught on the wrong side of a traffic light early on and never caught up with us again. I rode for a while with Bob Freitas, a fellow post-cardiac-event cyclist, and we traded notes on treatments and riding after heart attacks. A fellow member of the iBOB and CR lists, he was riding an utterly lovely De Rosa a lot like the one I wanted when I was 14.

We stopped a couple of times to regroup. I looked around at the machines surrounding me. The ride leader, a very articulate young guy who works for Dale, was riding the shop's Soma Rush. There were several Bianchi Pistas from different years. Several young cats I was later learn were from Philadelphia and were associates of Curtis at Via Bicycles were there riding brakeless track bikes - the nicest of which was the battered black Paramount with the incredibly skinny round fork blades.

Not everyone rode fixed. New York's John (aka Gianni) Pergolizzi was astride an amazing 12-speed Alex Singer from 1949 - which means it had three chainrings and four cogs, rather than two rings and six cogs. Brian Baylis was riding the Aero-Tour show bike he built, and other randonneur bikes present included Peter Weigle's and a Chris Chance, as well as a couple of vintage Jack Taylors.

There were some maneuvers that would not meet the approval of the GCC - at several intersections, riders stopped traffic while the pack went through red lights. I rode for a while with a gentleman named Tom who was piloting a lovely old chrome Paramount converted to fixed gear. I told him I admired his T-shirt from the 1st International Fixed-Gear Symposium, and learned he thought it was one of the the nicest cycling events he'd been to.

There was another fixed I noticed, a blue and white Carpenter with cottered Chater Lea cranks, Airlite hubs with flanges that looked like chromed telephone dialing rings, and BSA pedals. Of course my name failure popped up - I am forever bobbling people's names, so I don't have one to go with that bike's owner.

We rolled along a multi-use path for a bit, then entered a park. While skirting the edge of a pond, we heard a sudden loud "bang!" Pergolizzi's front tire had blown out. The bunch was stopped, and we took a quick break while he undid the wingnuts on the huge Maxicar hubs and replaced the tube in the 650B tire. Moments later we were off again, winding our way back to the shop. I wound up with 20.5 miles for the ride.

I hung out for a little while, walking around and looking at the stuff for the auction, noting in passing a lovely red Mercian frameset with Nervex Professional lugs, a '49 Gillott that needed to have the top headlug repaired, and other cool frames and parts. Much of the merchandise was crisp and clean, but some items were well-worn. On the last table I looked at, there was a battered Peugeot PX-10 frameset with no paint left on the fork blades. I looked at the tag - it was a 58 cm, center to center - and shook my head and smiled and walked on.

We were originally scheduled to go to the buffet supper, watch Jeff Groman's movie The Jazz Sport, an ode to the glory years of Six-Day bike races, and watch the charity auction. When I got back to the hotel to shower and change, we decided instead to get something to eat and stay in and rest up. After searching through the yellow pages, we settled on Greek cuisine from the Acropolis on Eugene Street. I managed to figure out how to get there via MapQuest, and the folks at the restaurant were able to give me good directions back over Greensboro's somewhat confusing streets to the hotel.

This morning I got up early, fixed myself some oatmeal and headed over to the shop again. I had thought the ride choices would be 12 and 25 miles. Oh, no. The options were either 25 or 33. I'd flipped Julius' rear wheel over to the 71-in gear the other day, and I wasn't sure I was up to what I remembered as some stiff hills. Too late. Time to fish or cut bait.

I surprised myself, actually. There were some abrupt descents followed by equally sharp climbs. I got up them just fine. I did a little "dancing on the pedals," but mostly I sat back, grasped the drops, and did old-style English seated climbing while focusing on "turning them round." Sure, there were moments I reached to the downtube only to be reminded there were no levers or lower gears there, but all in all I was fine. On one of the descents, I hit 31 mph, which I think is the fastest I've ridden fixed since the heart attack.

At one point the fixed-gear contingent was riding as a bloc, with me following the Carpenter's pilot, another gentleman on a chromed Lygie conversion, and a Quickbeam with hammered fenders and M-bars behind me. I got back to the shop just before 11:00 with 26.75 miles and had time to return to the O. Henry, shower, change, and head back to the shop. Ana had plans for an afternoon of hanging out, eating lunch and resting up.

I had lunch in the seminar room - a turkey sandwich wrapped in a spinach tortilla - and chit-chatted with folks I hadn't see in eons. I was sitting next to Charlie Young, who I'd talked into buying a Fiorelli in 2001 - so I wouldn't buy it. I told Tom Hayes he had made a very happy man of Ainsley Wiles by selling him the frameset that became the Deathtrap. Several folks commented on how shaving off mustache they'd last seen me wearing had knocked a decade or more off my looks.

During the first seminar, Matt Gorski and Charles Andrews discussed restorations, showing both good and bad examples. Listening to them, I was struck by how my tastes have evolved. Most of the examples they showed were Pogliaghis, classical Italian racing irons that have little interest for me. As they talked about high-dollar restorations that involved nearly full repaints around skillful masking of existing decals and graphics, I realized that I really don't have much use for hanger queens. I'm glad someone out there is willing to keep pristine examples or restore wrecks to exquisite condition - but it won't be me.

During the breaks, I socialized some more and wandered the seminar area, looking at the various bikes people had brought in. There was an amazing Johnny Berry from the late '50s, original paint, lots of patina and the coolest old Huret derailleur system I'd seen yet; over near the door was an early 50s Dawes with a 4-speed Cyclo-Benelux derailleur system, original spearpoint celluloid fenders, and Reynolds stickers. There were old Paramounts, even older French rando bikes, and truly ancient track iron. Through an open door, I could see a Bob Jackson track bike, an old English Rex frameset, and the battered Peugeot frameset. And it wasn't even the show - that comes tomorrow.

Peter Weigle's presentation was particularly interesting to me. He showed lots of pictures from his days at Witcomb in England, the early days of Witcomb USA, and the growth of his own business. Afterwards I walked up and took a closer look at his bikes. It's the first time I've really looked at Peter Weigle's bikes, and the closer I looked, the more details I saw - and loved. His front racks are exquisite. The frames' lines just look perfect. Little touches called me back for a closer look - one example being the perfect little rings brazed onto the inside of the right fork blades to accomodate wiring from a generator hub to a lighting system. If I ever decide to buy another new, custom bike, he's on my short list of options.

John Barron's presentation was simplicity itself. After a brief introduction, he distributed white cotton gloves to all present and turned us loose on tables of carefully tied-down NOS vintage parts, including '50s Campagnolo Gran Sport derailleurs, assorted cranks, pedals, stems, pedals, and other rare beauties. While he'd left most of the boxes at home, a few were present. I didn't even bother trying to get a look at the early Campagnolo cranks - they were on the same table as a set of the "no-name" Campy sidepulls, the first version of those brakes. I thought the Titan and other adjustable stems on the last table were particularly lovely.

During the next break, I stepped down to the entry area and stood around while Joe B-Z talked with a bunch of folks about a Masi he had that hadn't moved during last night's auction. As they agreed it was a rider, not a show bike. I looked at it - it was blue, a Carlsbad California Masi from back when "everyone who mattered" was working there. It had top tube cable loops, rather than the usual chromed Campagnolo clips. Several folks commented on how it just radiated a "ride me fast, now!" vibe, and I agreed. It looked fast just sitting there.

The last presentation was Dave Moulton, author, musician, and former framebuilder. After talking about the adaptive nature of frame design, he described his development in the craft. After starting out filing lugs for North London builder "Pops" Hodges in the '50s, he worked for 37 years building frames before leaving after feeling burned out. He'd turned to writing songs and fiction. To advance those causes, he'd developed a website - only to be Googled by fanatics for his bikes, be they Dave Moultons, Fusos or John Howards. He sounded like he was at peace with his framebuilding years, which had a lot of resonance with me.

Folks were packing up, and I was chit-chatting with Larry O as we watched folks rolling their bikes out of the center. Charlie was walking by with the blue Rex, and I asked him who had wound up with the Peugeot.

"I did," he said. "Go get it, it's yours."

"No, I couldn't do that," I said.

"Yes you can. I don't need another project, and I can view the $45 bucks I paid for it as a pure donation. Take it, it's yours."

So I thanked him and retrieved the frame and headed back to the hotel.
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Location: Greenwood, South Carolina, United States
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