Shopping for a bike

15 11 2010

It’s no secret; I’m jonesing for a new bike.

The Orbea has been a great bike. But it’s got a lot of kilometers on it, and aluminum frames are so 2003.

Carbon fibre is where it’s at.

On our recent trip to Europe, I was hoping I’d get a chance to¬† visit some bike shops and check out the exotic European brands that aren’t so ubiquitous around here. Amidst all the Treks, Specializeds and Cervelos I see on my regular rides, it’s rare to spot a Lapierre, Focus, Canyon or Museuw.

Testing my new water bottle from the famous Plum bike shop in Ghent.

I didn’t want to turn our holiday into Mario’s bike-shopping adventure, but when we stumbled upon the famous Plum bike shop in Ghent (well, maybe not so accidentally), I had to pay my respects. It’s been around for 100 years, and even has its own museum in a back room.

But it seems city bike shops in Europe are more about everyday get-around bikes than catering to racers. The various departments in the store were stuffed with all manner of urban bikes, commuter bikes, delivery and carriage bikes and even little trikes for kids not yet old enough for bikes.

Aside from a couple of nice Eddy Merckx racing bikes hanging in the front window, the only other racing bikes represented were all from… Trek! Aaaargh, it seems the ubiquitous American company is exotic in Europe.

In Berlin, there was a small bike shop right across from our apartment, but it was more of a repair outlet. The few other shops we passed had little to draw me in.

That is, until I read about the Pasculli bike shop, in the Wilmsersdorf district, on Rapha’s website. It’s more like a boutique or gallery, selling only its house brand of custom-fitted bikes constructed at a small factory in Italy. It was started as a sideline project by Christoph Hartmann, an oboist for the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra with a passion for cycling; Antonio Pasculli was a virtuoso oboist from Sicily who was known as “the Paganini of the oboe.”

Walking into the shop was like walking into a Mercedes or Ferrari dealership. Instead of greasy wrenches huddled over their workstands, a well-dressed woman greeted visitors at a reception desk. The foyer featured a sitting area of couches and easy chairs grouped around a stylish coffee table stacked with cycling books and issues of Rouleur magazine.

Is it a bike shop or an art gallery?

Actually, it's a bit of both.

There are about a dozen bikes in the Pasculli oeuvre, aluminum and carbon fibre racers, a time trial bike, a cyclocross bike, commuters and a mountain bike. They’re beautifully built and finished, hand-painted in your choice of color patterns. They’re elegantly displayed, against a backdrop of photographs by German cycling photographer Timm Koelln.

Now this is the way bikes should be sold.