Sunday, January 28, 2007

Can you pronounce Singer ?

I just got back from 8 days of general debauchery and
a certain merriment in Paris, where, I stopped at the
Alex Singer store. I was sort of prepared for the
store and what to expect, but nevertheless was quite
impressed. For those of you that haven't been there, I
have to say, that as a confirmed bike junkie and shop
connoisseur, the Alex Singer experience is like no
other. I remember walking through the west end of
London a couple of years ago, and bumped into the
window of a store that sold bespoke shotguns. Sold in
pairs, made to measure, engraved and buffed to a
certain sheen that only way too much time and skill
can achieve. Heirloom quality. Alex Singer's
storefront has that same essence.
I got there at their lunchtime. Those French know how
to structure working hours in my opinion: 9am to noon,
then 2 to 7pm. Never too many consecutive hours to
tire one out. I was reduced to pressing my nose
against the glass for a few minutes, gaping at the
subtly buffed chrome, paint and alloy adorning the
mostly 531 and 753 bicycles within. A sometimes
strange mixture of seemingly old-world frame set,
complete with box-lining and full chrome, but with a
spanking new Dura-Ace 10 speed kit on it. Lots of
shellacked bar tape, all honey brown, all with lots of
texture, made you want to reach out and feel it. Hand
made stems, heavily chromed and flawlessly polished,
with hidden binder. Time-warp displays of 60's style
panniers, clothing and accessories.

Time for a coffee before they opened, then I came back
to an empty store (it was Saturday even) and an
invitation to tour the back of the shop, sniff the
glue, pluck a few spokes, look like I sort of knew
what I was doing. Hanging from the beams were loads of
partially completed frames, lots of wheels, and a few
repair jobs. Seems like if you own a Singer, even if
it gets flattened by a truck, you still send it back
to see if it just might be salvageable. From stateside
Back at the front of the showroom my eye was very
taken by a 61cm blue AS with exquisitely matching
paneled aluminum fenders. Drat, it's just my size,
just a little too difficult to rationalize YET another
bike, so I resisted manfully. Seems like no-one could
have ever really ridden it, since all the housings
were about 2" too short, quite a remediation when it's
Campy ergo, and shellacked in place.
So, I dawdled some more, eyes darting from bike to
bike, then wrenched myself back to reality. There's
always a next year, always a next bike, always...

No comments: