I was seated next to collector extraordinaire, Pat Moffat, who was liquidating a few decades of collected bike parts in a fever. It worried me a little, because at previous swaps, Pat developed a reputation as an early and stealthy buyer—yet here he was, selling the farm. And by the farm, I mean a dozen or so Campy cranksets, baggies full of Campy dropout adjustment screws, crankset dustcaps, and few 1960s era Brooks saddles just to name a few of the things on his table. More concerning was the fact that he was just making up the prices as he went!
I had driven over to Paso Robles from Arizona with Pat, and his parts contained in plastic bins seemed to me like treasures. My half of the cargo area of my wagon was filled with my own gems, and Pat and I had half-joked that we could simply trade bins and call it a day. In fact, on arriving at our Air B & B in Paso Robles Thursday night, we poured each other a glass of local zin and rooted through each other’s bins. It was our own little pre-sale. We couldn’t have been happier.
Friday morning, we arrived early, secured our tables, and displayed our wares. The morning was slow, but traffic built throughout the day as ride participants arrived. Pat was doing well, and each time I looked over, a transaction was in the works. I was doing alright also, although my stack of French pedals was getting much less attention than I’d hoped. Bike swap business is generally a cash and carry operation, and you’ll see guys fishing out fat bank envelopes from pockets to complete a transaction. The bank envelope of cash is a tool of the trade.
Come Saturday morning, the atmosphere at Eroica central had changed. The midway was crowded with riders in full costume. Bicycles ready for judging in the Concours d’Elegance were rolling in. I left my swap table to use the bathroom bumped into two(!) Alex Singers on the way. A gentleman with a beard named Holland from Chico brought in two Jack Taylor’s that were the bee’s knees. The bikes had all of their patina, and were not cleaned within an inch of their lives, like some of the other bikes. They seemed to match Holland’s outfit and ethos—ridden hard and much appreciated.
A bit later, Pat looked over at me and said, “Some of these guys are strutting around with their bikes!” For some, it was like a cotillion ball for bicycles and their riders. But I understood completely, you slave away in your garage for months to build a special bicycle, and finally the day arrives for its debut in a crowd of people who appreciate what you do, who know your bike is something more than just a ten speed.
Our Tucson friends John and Virginia Siemsen showed up. John rolled in his gorgeous orange Mondia complete with its Swiss flag pennant, and a contrasting blue bandana. Although Mondia’s aren’t as rare as some brands, John’s careful treatment made me want for my own collection.
It was a parade of vintage bike eye candy to rival any I’d seen. Someone had Greg Lemond’s first racing Gitane, and Masi’s were everywhere. I met Hartmut Snoek, who was on a fantastic Rickert that he had brought over from Germany. He owns 17(!) Rickerts, and I think you’d have to call him the marquee expert for that brand.
Prior to the event, I had sold Eric Montgomery a Mondia for his daughter Katrina to ride. They stopped by our swap table and showed me the bike ready for action.
Before the day was out, I photographed a t-shirt I saw that said it all: