You can admit it. When you travel you are always looking at the bikes. And when you tourist in a country where people are biking all the time, the types of bikes you run across are endless, even though certain bikes seem to predominate in certain places. Ogling is a fact of biker travel life.
In Vienna you see Peugeot, Bianchi, Puch, and MuddyFox everywhere, being ridden, chained to bike racks and fences. When something is especially interesting I’ll stop and check it out.
Last night I was having a miserable non-dining experience at Va Piano, an Italian chain here where the kitchen line is stretched out against a wall. Each cook has a bay and you go to the bay, order your food, watch the chef prepare it, then take it yourself over to the table, hot. It shreds their labor costs because they don’t hire waiters, and it gets the food from the stove to your face more or less instantaneously.
The system had broken down last night, though. There were only two chefs for six pasta bays, and one of them was a trainee. The line was long and grumpy, The pizza bay wasn’t doing any better. After I bailed on the pasta line and migrated over there, I watched the cook pull ten burnt pizzas out of the oven.
“It’s going to be a minute,” he growled.
“No, it isn’t,” I said.
Grocery store food
Across the street was a Spar grocery store, so rather than wait another hour and spend $18 for dinner I figured I would wait zero minutes and spend $4 for a sandwich, bottle of water, and pasta salad.
As I crossed the street I checked the bikes shackled to the rack. And there she was.
An old Italian beauty with chromed fork crowns, dt shifters, and cables sticking out of the hoods. And what the hell was that? Campy NR rear der? Pretty soon I was squatting down, rubbing off the grease as a group of angry old women sat on a bench eyeing me suspiciously.
The brakes, crank, and pedal were various, but along with the vintage Campy parts the owner was even running sew-ups. I snapped a few photos.
“Excuse me?” a voice said.
I looked up and saw a tall hipster with a shoulder bag, tattoos, and forearms like thighs. “Is this yours?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said.
“It is?” He clearly thought I was trying to steal it.
“Hell, yes. Where’d you get it?”
“My uncle gave it to me. It was his old bicycle from a long time ago.”
Funny how when people describe the 70’s as a long time ago you feel ancient. “He gave you something pretty cool.”
The guy’s suspicions hadn’t completely allayed but he’d sized me up and saw I was no bike thief, or at least not a very good one. “Yes, he told me it was a good bike.”
“Campy Nuovo Record rear derailleur, and check out the front derailleur. Totally classic. And the frame, it’s an Italian touring frame. A lot of this is original equipment.”
He raised an eyebrow. “So?”
“So it’s just beautiful, that’s all.”
“It is covered in dirt and grease,” he pointed out.
“That’s because it’s not hanging on a wall in some dude’s collection. You’re riding the shit out of it.”
“Is that bad?” He was now a little concerned.
I stood up and clapped him on the thick shoulder. “Dude,” I said, “that is exactly what this shit was born for.”
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