Archie and the Carlton Corsa

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I met Archie the other day. Late 80s, fierce intelligence, former cyclist. He was selling his old bikes after quitting around 12 years ago when his wife became ill with cancer. They used to cycle together. A blast around the Gower peninsular before breakfast. Audax events long and short. Road races. Timetrials, both trying to best 20 mins for 10 miles. I know Archie did, but I didn’t push for more detail.

Archie bought a Hetchins in 1953 for £11 and 3d straight from the factory. He bought the Corsa in 1973 and a Geoffrey Butler light tourer in 1993. There’s a pattern. This is a man who knows exactly how often he wants to bolster his Audax armoury.

We chatted. Training tips. the dangers of racing obsession that dominates everything from conversation at meal times to deciding when its off to bed. Archie told me about a training book he used to live by, right up until the author died at any early age. “I decided I’d rather not follow his advice after that’, he added sagely.

I was there to buy a bike from him. A 1973 Carlton Corsa. Its long been my intention to ride L’Eroica, the vintage bike race, after reading all about the Italian event about 10 years ago. This year a sister event opened in the Derbyshire Dales and a whole new world of opportunity presented itself.

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The Corsa adopted a stately pose in Archie’s back garden. A gorgeous burnt orange colour, the black decals standing proud. Beneath the 80s gel seat cover sat a tan Brooks B17. A Carradice bag hung limply from the back. An ancient dynamo touched the side wall of Michelin tyres.

Archie was an engineer by trade and it shows; hand laced wheels (48 spokes) and well maintained parts failing to betray their 41 years (unlike me – I fully betray my 43). A quick spin around the block and I was sold. The Corsa was mine, along with two spare wheels. Right now its getting some TLC, a wipe with an oily rag and a little re-greasing. 10 years of inactivity will do that to you.

It was a genuine pleasure buying that bike and meeting a man 40 years my senior with whom I shared a passion. Was I looking at myself in 2054? I’d like to think so. If I get to spend almost an entire lifetime cycling with my loved ones and retain a mind even half as sharp and engaging as Archie’s, I’ll be a very lucky man indeed.

Archie’s hat was in the Carradice bag. He told me to keep the bag and use the contents. I accepted the offer.  

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