Ok, so I begin this blog, full of good intentions of regailing you with tales of derring-do a-velo, then nothing for the whole summer! Well dear reader, there is a very good reason for that, I promise you.
It all started with a Facebook post from an acquaintance in the trade. He did not post to me directly, as I had recently mentioned some plans I was formulating for The Velocipedium’s direction. Those plans included taking on some local premises and building – among other delights – a batch or two of Pedersen recreations. That is still on gthe back-burner, but back to the plot….
John – we will call him John, for that is his name – had been approached by the owner of an old-established shop near him, asking if he wanted to buy the business. The owner had bought the place 12 years ago, mainly for the property, but his sole employee was retiring. Unwilling to take on the running of the shop, he was closing the doors.
The shop was something of an institution in the Lancashire mill town of Oldham, having been founded by the legendary Harry Skidmore (who emigrated to Canada in 1939 and ended up working on the Spruce Goose, for howard Hughes and living to over 100). Now the shop was a week away from vanishing, like so many others.
Skidmore’s is a great name for a bicycle shop, especially one which became the go-to BMX hangout during the first and second BMX booms! So…..
I saw John’s post, asking if an experienced shop mech/manager was looking for work or a business. I asked, and was put in touch with the owner. What transpired is that four days later – just three days before the shop was to close forever, I held the keys to Skidmore’s Cycles of Oldham!
As one might expect, the shop is a little tired, to say the least. Not in a dusty, old wooden polished Alladin’s cave cozy vintage sort of way but in a stained Raleigh-blue carpet, musty, 90s lycra, tired old stock that needs dumping too many pink dolly seats worn out tools kind of way! However, unimpressed though I was by the downstairs shop, there was a bonus. A BIG bonus….
Upstairs, there are two floors, the old victorian shopkeeper’s accomodation, complete with old fireplaces and vintage wallpaper, and, if not actually stuffed, then certainly replete, with meat-and-drink for any vintage bike geek. New Old Stock! As a former Raleigh dealer, Skidmarks (to give it its local nickname) had hidden treasures….
Many hidden treasures…..
yes, that really is a NOS Raleigh Superbe! Here it is after being rebirthed…
…but more of that later, is a separate post.
Many hundereds of original factory decal sets have since been sold on ebay. They paid a few bills, I can tell you!
Piles, literally piles, of NOS World Tour & Raleigh tyres in the old sizes….
…and the tiny workshop included a wall full of ex-army WW2 drawer units. containing untold mysteries!
…and the odd strange spelling!
So, in short, the last six months has seen me working all hours to revive the fortunes of the shop, while also going through the old stuff, with each day involving a 120 mile round trip commute. I began by train, riding the final 8 miles from Manchester Oxford Rd (or 7 from Victoria) on one or other of my touring-geared bikes (it is uphill all the way, then an intense downhill blast homeward, entailing low gears and good brakes.) but then Tory Britain’s privatised-for-thier-mates railway closed the main line to the coast, so it was necessary to purchase a car.
Car-haters skip this paragraph…
Technically it’s ‘another’ car, but the big posh car was not going to be ruined (and ruin me with running costs) on this daily grind. I needed something economical and reliable, which could also carry stuff. My search for a reprise of my beloved old Citroen Berlingo proved fruitless, but I kept seeing Ford Fusions in really good condition, for almost no money. 1.4 litres, cheap spares, easy maint, bomb-proof reliability. Hello ‘Shroom’, a mushroomy-goldy metallic beige Fusion 2, with a few elderly previous owners, (The Fusion is definitely an old fogey’s car!) and never having ventured far from the Ford dealer where it was maintained regularly. £550. Yes, five hundred and fifty pounds! Now fitted with a bike carrier, permanently, the car has covered 13,000 miles in a few months, doing duty also as a bike-chaser (picking up purchases country-wide) and tweed ride bike transporter. No oil or water used, Average 50mpg, not missed a beat, and the heater & stereo are both excellent!
To bikes again….
The shop now has settled into a rhythm, with the customer base shifting towards the commuter and transport cyclists, and their maintenance needs. I still sell some kids bikes, but am letting the stock run down. Now i have closed for the midwinter break, and will be doing a minor refurb and major restock before opening again for 2018.
The Velocipedium is being slotted into this new era of Skidmore’s, with the shop being given an old-school vibe, and a dedicated corner for ‘the old and interesting stuff’.
So, my cycling has been limited to the commute, and occasional organised tweedy occasions. A highlight came in September, with The Velocipedium September Saunter, which I will outline in a separate post. Other forthcoming posts will cover some of the NOS bikes, and a few of my own recent acquisitions which may interest those of a similar persuasion to myself.