N+1…or 2

I have written before about N+1 in the context of bicycles, where N is the number you already have and you are asked how many you need, so now I have a confession (or 2) to make. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about our participation at the Eroica Britannia (here), what I didn’t mention is that we bought a bike. There were several trade stands at the Eroica, selling bike parts as well as ‘vintage’ (i.e. Eroica suitable) bikes.

One particular stall, which we visited on the Saturday and which also hired out bikes for the event, had for sale a Claude Butler Mixte bike. For those who may not know what it is, a Mixte (pronounced Mix-tee) is a sort of cross between a ladies step-through bike and a man’s crossbar bike, they have a downward sloping pair of thinner tubes rather than one thicker tube, which gives strength to a lighter weight bike. Often considered a ladies bike they are really unisex and multi-purpose. We were rather taken with said bike, which was in excellent condition for its age and my husband offered to buy it as it wasn’t very expensive. I was tempted but eventually said that I didn’t really need it so why buy it? However, overnight I thought about it and decided that it would be useful to me as a winter bike and for some minor off-roading as the tyres were fatter and more ‘grippy’ than the skinny tyres of my race bikes. So first thing Sunday morning, before our Eroica Classic ride we went back to buy it – it had been sold!

Henry Burton Salmon MixteThe stall owner showed us another bike he had, a salmon-coloured Henry Burton Mixte. Now Henry Burton bikes were made in Stafford not far from where we live, (the shop is still there but they no longer make their own bikes); indeed the bike I was riding for the Eroica was a hand-made Henry Burton bike. He suggested we thought about it on the ride (we needed to get to the start). While we were out I saw a girl riding the bike having hired it for the event and I spent a little time talking to her about it. To cut a long story short we bought it. Then we had the problem of getting it home as we already had two bikes and our bike rack couldn’t take any more. Fortunately the seller’s business premises were only about half-an-hour’s drive from where we live so we arranged to collect it from him once back home.

We collected it on Tuesday afternoon and not being one to hang about my husband began fiddling with it straight away. On Wednesday morning he went to our local bike charity shop ‘Back to Bikes’ in Stafford to find some bits for the bike. What did he see there but another similar Henry Burton Mixte, this time in a sort of aqua-cum-pale green, which had only just come in and not yet been through the workshop. It is built to a higher specification than the salmon one, having amongst other things 18 gears as opposed to the 10 of the salmon one, and was cheap – half the price! So he had to buy it didn’t he? After all he is quite capable of doing the necessary refurbishment himself. I came home from my visit to the local supermarket to find him fiddling with a bike I had not seen before. His suggestion was that he did them both up and then I could decide which I wanted to keep and we would sell the other.

Henry Burton Green MixteHaving done some minor work on the second one he decided to try it up the road to see if it was okay. Fatal! He came back saying that he thought he might keep it for himself, for the same reason as me – it might be useful for ‘roads, tracks and trails’ riding such as we did at the York Rally last week.

So there you are, we now have N+2 and we hope to try them out on the Tissington and High Peaks trails next week – providing he has fitted my new chain and got the gears working properly. I’ll let you know.

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