Wonderful old bikes at the world’s smallest bikeshop: my annual report

Dale at Work

Every year I stop by Claremont, California, to spend a few days in research at theological libraries, visit old friends at Pilgrim Place, and check in with Dale Mattson and his son Sam at Claremont Velo, the world’s smallest bikeshop. Wednesday through Saturday of most weeks, Dale opens the windowed nook where he keeps things and moves a work stand and half a dozen bikes out onto the sidewalk and he’s ready to go.

His shop is across Yale Street and east on Foothill Boulevard about 50 yards from the library where I do most of my research. I walk past his place every time I go to Wolfe’s Market to pick up a little food for lunch.

I was especially glad for Dale’s presence this year because I was having trouble removing pedals from the bike that I was packing to take home after riding it in Arizona and up Mt. Baldy. In addition to the allan key that is needed, Dale had a hollowed out seat post that he used as an extender in order to make the pedals come loose.

The bike on the stand was a beautiful black and red Motobecane from a long time ago. One of my daughters bought a bike just like it around 1971 or 72. Although she bought a new bike 30 years later, the old Motobecane is still in her possession. It is good to see such fine old classics.

When Dale bought the bike for a tiny sum, it had been in someone’s shed and had been used as nighttime roost by chickens and birds. With a couple of hours of detailing, however, it has shined up nicely. With new cables and rubber, along with general overhaul, it will be a wonderful mount for someone, and, I presume, at a far more reasonable price that such a nice bike might command in other venues.

The bike that tempted me was hanging in the shed—a 1980s Bertoni. It had scarcely been ridden at all in the quarter of a century since its owner bought it. Dale has done basic conditioning and would sell it with a list of things still to be done—like new cables and rubber—or add an appropriate amount and do that work himself.

Bertoni Headtube

Bertoni Headtube

The bike was made by the Alan company that sold many bikes under its own name and other labels. I own an Alan frameset, given me by a friend, and have thought that I might set it up to be rideable again. Dale suggested that it would be easier, and probably no more expensive, to buy his Bertoni that’s ready to ride, and with all original equipment.

Over the weekend, my wiser self took over. I don’t have adequate space for the three bicycles I intend to keep in the years ahead. What would I do with still another? So that absolutely gorgeous Bertoni will become the joyful mount for someone else who values fine, old bicycles.

By the way, I think the Bertoni has a 56 cm seat tube. Maybe it’s just the bike for you.

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