Monday 18 October 2010

The Enchanted Workshop

Richard Pratt, the "Ricci" of Ricci-Sports
Shortly after my arrival in Düsseldorf, I was walking back from the post office when I saw, down a side street, a sign for a bicycle shop, Ricci-Sports.  It was late in the day and I knew the shop would be closed but I walked over anyway to look in the window.  The store was conveniently located to my apartment and I was hoping to find somewhere to have my herd of bikes serviced.

From what I could see looking into the window, I could see this was no standard bike shop.  The most normal thing visible was a Colnago Ferrari.  Even this was the only one I had ever actually seen, as opposed to being listed for insane prices on E-Bay.  There was an old Dürkopp track bike hanging on the back wall and glass cases with ancient but shiny parts.  A racing tricycle, again the first I had seen in the metal, stood near the Colnago and a modern Koga Miyata racing bike.  In the window was a wooden case housing a complete Campagnolo tool kit and a bright green stayer track racing bicycle.

1947 Durkopp Track Bike
I sent an e-mail to the shop’s proprietor and two evenings later I made the acquaintance of Richard Pratt, a Scottish exile from the electronics industry who followed his heart and ended up in Germany and, eventually, running a shop that might look out of sync with a modern retail operation but to lovers of classic bikes is truly an enchanted workshop.

Richard is generous with his knowledge and after warmly welcoming me into the shop, he proudly showed his impressive collection of hubs, displayed behind glass and gleaming in as-new condition, often packed in the original boxes.  As a newcomer to classic racing bicycles, the names were not well-known to me–Atom? Gnutti?–but they were gorgeous.  Also to be seen were NOS Lyotard pedals and some BSA parts as well.

The Newport Racer
In addition to these parts for connoisseurs, the main area of the shop housed some marvellous bicycles.  The aforementioned tricycle had been built up by Richard and sported his shop name on the repainted frame.  “Ricci-Sports” is the name he has adopted for the shop, both as a play on his own first name and in recognition of a lesser-known Italian bike racer, Mario Ricci, who was quite successful in his day, winning the Tour of Lombardy twice and four stages of the Giro d’Italia in the 1940s, and whose brother, Leopoldo, also raced professionally.  Richard mentioned he himself had done some time-trialling when I asked him about roads around Düsseldorf suitable for training; he did not mention that he had been twice Scottish road racing champion and has contested 1,000 bike races.

The Dürkopp, a fine example of a famous German marque, dated to around 1947 and was used in the closing years of his career by legendary track racer and Six Day winner Gustav Killian.  Also displayed was a late 1890s Newport Racer, manufactured in New York, as well as some classic clothing, such as a fine red Wilier jersey.  In addition to the Koga Miyata (Richard also works as a mechanic for the Koga Miyata women’s pro racing team), the newest things to be seen were lovely wooden Ghisallo rims produced in Italy and for which Ricci-Sports has rights in Germany.  Besides the Campagnolo corkscrew, there was also a clever wine rack in the shape of a gigantic hub, including a wingnut release!

Richard took me into the Inner Sanctum, the workshop itself.  This room has more tools in it than any other bike repair shop I have known, and a lot of tools that looked as if they went back to the days of the Newport Racer.  Hanging along the wall were several frames of interest, including a very nice Carlton from the 1940s, possibly originally fitted with a Campagnolo Cambio Corsa gearchange system, and a Rickert Spezial from a highly-respected German builder in Dortmund.

From his enthusiasm, it is clear that Richard can handle pretty well any bike repair and clearly takes great pleasure in classic machinery.  However, he recognizes that not everyone understands his focus and so offers a range of modern equipment and coaching/training for riders.  He was very generous with his time and we talked about track racing in Düsseldorf and doing some training together.

He is working on a history of wooden rims and regaled me with the story of A.C. Fairbanks, known to me as a producer of banjos but who introduced wooden bicycle rims to the world in 1893 and whose Fairbanks Wood Rim Company had large plants in the USA and England.  On parting, he insisted on presenting me with a racing cap from one of the teams of Fausto Coppi’s twilight years, a cap that may (or may not) have belonged to Il Campionissimo himself.

Richard’s website, a work in progress, shows some of his treasures and has much to interest enthusiasts of classic lightweight bikes.  It is well worth stopping by his shop (although I think he needs an espresso machine) which can be easily found in Düsseldorf at Grunerstrasse 35.  Give him a call first as the hours are somewhat variable depending on what he has on the go.

Grunerstrasse 35
40239 Düsseldorf
Tel/Fax: +49-211-4 93 14 54

Store hours: Monday to Friday from 14:00 to 19:00, Saturday 10:00 to 14:00


AMR said...

Thanks for a great post on a great bikeshop. One to keep in mind if around Düsseldorf one day...

Richard said...

that's on my list of 'have to go to'... enjoyed the post!

kreuzbube said...

Maybe you'd like to see some pictures I made when I passed by Richard's shop on a sunday afternoon in - and he opened the door and invited me in... what great guy!

kreuzbube said...

Maybe you'd like to see some pictures I made when I passed by Richard's shop on a sunday afternoon in - and he opened the door and invited me in... what great guy!