We headed up to the ‘tradesman’ entrance where the flurry of smug faces with badges on chests that read ‘stall holder’ entered empty handed and exited with frames slung over shoulders. Each time I turn up to a cycle jumble – normally an hour or so before official opening and for reasons I still do not know – I can’t help but look on in absolute envy at these men who trade goods before the curtain goes up.
One morning, this morning, the early rise had paid off. As my partner and I stood, watching the line of items enter and exit the building like leaves carried by an army of ants, there was an opportune gap. The man who had been standing there, guarding the door had gone for his flask of tea. My girl, now standing beyond the golden threshold gestures at me to enter also, me, being a softy, I shake my head from side to side, she grabbed my hand and pulled me along behind her. I was in and it was 8.30am, not the 10am advertised on the flyer, and all thanks to the wife.
Did I manage to grab the vintage cycling bargain of the century? Nope, not really. I actually spent 50p. Right before we were escorted from the beige leisure centre and consequently shamed by the stern organiser, I managed to pick up one of my most treasured possessions today; A book, the 1979 published TI Raleigh story, 52 pages of printed wonder and all featuring the magnificently dominant TI Raleigh team of the 70s. My favourite. Now, having been read, and the pictures ogled it now sits proudly on my bookshelf.
I recently visited Tuscany for Le Coq Sportif’s L’Eroica and, while I was there to ride the race, I was mostly looking forward to the jumble. I wanted to see how the Italians do things and, well, it was mostly the same as here in the U.K but in another language, and outdoors, and hot, with more good stuff. I wandered around, a few paper Euros in my pocket, eyeing up Delta brakes, boxed gruppos and complete bikes dripping in Campagnolo but I found myself, after a few rounds, settling at one stall.
He had, as well as the obligatory sea of componentry, a large and fruitful selection of golden era magazines, badges, bunting, stickers, catalogues, mascots and postcards. Dandy. He wore an oil stained blue jumper, sleeves rolled up, with grey hair and chunky fingers and he chatted with his apple-eating friend. I leafed through a section of Pink Cyclisme cards. On the cover, Maertens, Thévenet, Poulidor, Hinault, to name but a few and all with penned signatures. I pick them up and enquired as to the price of said items. Then, after a lesson, shouted in Italian and pointed out with sausage fingers about the greatest cyclists of all time we agreed on €1 each. I bought ten.
I love a cycle jumble, me, I think they are great. All of that goodness under one roof, the hardware going for an asking price and not to the highest bidder, where you can handle the items and not just be reliant on jpegs on screens, the folks you meet have knowledge and enthusiasm dribbling off of their tongues and relish any opportunity to inform you of the origin of any item sat on their wooden wallpaper pasting table, you can slice their delight with a knife. It is also a social gathering where friends meet, you’ll most likely come across many unmanned stalls as Barry will be over there chatting with Pete. Unfortunately for me there won’t be one around these parts for a good few months as they only seem to spring up in the warmer months, but I suppose that leaves me with plenty of time to garner one of those ‘stall holder’ passes.