Sunday, October 14, 2007

Zeitgeist and Me

I just don't seem to be part of the current cultural zeitgeist in stuff. Mostly this doesn't matter since I don't really need more stuff but occasionally it does become a bore. An example of former occurred today when I visited the Cycle Show at London's Earl's Court with my pal Wichie. He's in the market for a new mountain bike so he had his little eyes wide open and juicy nose was held aloft sniffing out the perfect down-hill machine that his hard-earned could get him. I was just there for the experience and to see what the world of new bikes is like. I am not in the market for buying a bike since I have just built one, a fact which has been recorded at seemingly unending length on this blog, somewhat in the manner of a very dull Norse epic. I am also not currently riding my new bike, a machine Wichie has described as being "like an Edwardian crotch rocket" thanks to the huge workload I currently have. I have had two days off in the last four weeks, and that doesn't leave much time, or inclination quite frankly, to go out and cycle.

As it turned out my pre-expo pep talk of "You don't want a new shiny bike, you don't want a new shiny bike." turned out to be utterly superfluous. 99% of the bikes were horrid. Thousands of gears, ugly, lumpy frames, enormous elaborate suspension set-ups and garish paint-jobs. If you cycle down rocky mountain paths at breakneck speeds I'll allow you all but the garish paint-job, it's necessary to not dying whilst pursuing that particular hobby. But I suspect that much in the manner of most 4x4 SUVs being sold to people who will take them no further than the local Tesco's, most of these mean down-hill dirt-bikes are more likely to be seen plying the North Circular than the South Downs. And it's a shame.

There was one exhibitor who did delight my tweedy old-fashioned tastes in all things cycling and that was Witcomb Cycles. Ernie Witcomb and his son Barry have been hand-building lugged steel frames in south London for over 50 years. Nothing has changed in the styling, the odd concession to modernity aside, they are pretty much indistinguishable from a road bike of the 1940s. They are beautiful works of craftsmanship, each frame individually tailored to the height, weight and riding style of the customer. Of course such attention to detail and bespoke design does not come cheap (upward of £1500 for a frame alone) but it is a pleasing sight to see someone making things on a small scale, with care and tremendous skill rather than shipping the whole operation off to a sweat shop overseas with an "it'll do" attitude.

So I left the cycle show only £4 lighter; I couldn't resist this Fullers London Pride water bottle. It's one of my favourite beers and I like the irony of the logo appearing on a container for water.

On my way home I stopped off at the last of the central London guitar shops I had to visit to see what the world of guitars has to offer me. And it was, once again, a very depressing experience. There were countless practically identical standard Stratocasters, plenty of 1960s pastiche guitars by Burns and Hofner and the usual none-more-metal, none-more-black heavy metal machines. In other words nothing that appealed to me. What I'm after, to replace the Flying V, is a 1980s style superstrat with perhaps just one humbucker and a Floyd Rose trem. I don't really want one of the modern styled Jacksons or Ibanez models as they're a bit too pointy, too Steve Vai and not enough Eddie Van Halen. Try as I might I have yet to find anything that comes close to the pretty basic, but solidly constructed, guitar I seek. I have had a tip-off that an out of town guitar shop may be getting one Charvel San Dimas style guitar in next week but if that falls through then I'm back to scanning the eBay listings. If anyone has any pointers to a not-too pointy superstrat type guitar in the Kramer Baretta or Charvel San Dimas tradition that are available in the UK then drop me a line will ya?

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Anonymous Nick said...

Hey, Mr A.

Thanks you very much for you kind words about Witcomb Cycles.

The Cycle Show went incredibly well and are still getting over the support we received from all the people who visited us.

Can I make a little correction to your post, however? Our frames start at £1500 not £2000 as you mention.

Finally I'd like to invite you to check our new website and have a look at our blog.

All the best

6:37 pm  
Blogger Mr Atrocity said...

Prices corrected.

7:08 pm  

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