When I rolled in, Richard was seeing another customer, so he sat me down with Reg Harris’ autobiography to while away the time. Soon enough we were discussing the fine points of cycling history and the needs of the Chesini over a glass of Mt. Ventoux rosé. Richard told me about the joys of riding a singlespeed bike and pointed out the cosmetically-challenged bike in the stand next to the Chesini. It was a 1940 Umberto Dei that had been set up as a singlespeed and which he said rode fantastically well. He suggested I take the bike outside for a spin around the block, but since it was pouring rain again at this point I demurred.
After we had agreed on the work to be done on the Chesini–I have no idea how I am going to ride L’Eroica with no gear smaller than a 42-24–I was about to walk home when he pressed a bottle of 2008 Gino Bartali Chianti (yes!) upon me but then insisted I ride the Dei home. At first I thought he was joking but he was quite serious and we headed out into the rainy streets.
After seeing Richard off at his place, I continued on home and was surprised how quickly I arrived. I put on a headlight and a flashing taillight to continue the ride and headed back out into the night. It was a bit late and I had not eaten, so I broke down and rode over to the all-night McDonald’s on nearby Grafenberg Allee. Riding in the cool darkness on this black museum piece was wonderful and my doubts about singlespeeds were erased as I laughed out loud on the bike.
|A restored 1935 Umberto Dei, featured a tricolore paint scheme (photo by Alex Clarke)