Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

06 March 2012

Before Nashbar

Ou sont les neiges d'antan?

If you've seen "The Glass Menagerie," you might recall seeing "Ou sont les neiges" projected on the stage.  It's comes from a line in Francois Villon's Ballade des Temps du Temps Jadis (A Ballad of Ladies of Times Past), which is part of his Testament.

When you're around anything long enough, you might start to wonder where its "snows of yesteryear" have gone.  There is the bike on which you took a particularly memorable or important ride, or some part or accessory you liked but hasn't been available in ages.  

Also, as in any other endeavor, some cyclists miss the old catalogues and brochures.  Sometimes people think everything was better in the "good ol' days"; the truth is, the forgettable stuff is mainly, well, forgotten.  But it's hard to deny that some things had a style that simply can't be emulated (without seeming to be a parody, anyway) today.

A while back, Bike Snob wrote a post in which he said, in essence, that even if the world were to end and you were in an underground bunker, a Nashbar catalogue will find its way to you. Of course, he was being his snarky self, but we all know that snark works only when there's at least an element of truth in it.

Believe it or not, I can remember a time when Bike Nashbar catalogues weren't as difficult to evade as bill collectors or Inspector Javert.  In fact, in those days, the catalogues, and the company itself were very different.

For one thing, it was called Bike Warehouse.

They indeed offered some of the lowest prices on bike-related stuff, as they do now. However, in those days, they sold mainly current-model, high- (or higher-) end equipment, such as Campagnolo Nuovo Record components, SunTour Cyclone derailleurs and rims from Super Champion, Mavic and others.  

If I recall correctly, Bike Warehouse was the first mail-order company from which I purchased any cycling equipment.   I had just begun reading Bicycling! magazine on a regular basis, and Bike Warehouse advertised in it. Like many other people, I was drawn in by their selection and prices.  

Plus, believe it or not, they had a particular kind of quirky charm that you don't see today. 

 This page comes from one of their 1976 catalogues.  By then, they'd been in business a couple of years.  Even if I didn't give you a year, you probably could have guessed the era from which it came by its graphics. Actually, those graphics were even a bit dated by that time.

There is one aspect of that catalogue that added to its quirky charms but which, alas, I cannot render on this site.  You see, those early Bike Warehouse catalogues were printed on newsprint.  Almost no newspapers in those days had color, as the technology was prohibitively expensive.  So those early Bike Warehouse catalogues had all of the black-and-white glory of a pre-WWII film.

As the saying goes:  Ils ne font pas comme eux pas plus.


  1. As frequently occurs here, a learning experience about tidbits I never realized before!

  2. When shopping for cycling clothing uk cheap mountain bikes there are some cycling clothing suggestions that you'll want to consider.

  3. It is late and I was foxed by the French, google tells me it means "They do not make like them not more."! Well I should have known that...

  4. Coline--Here in the States, we'd say, "They don't make 'em like they used to!"

  5. They certainly do not here either! I relented in my search for some Brooks proofied, after so many blank stares in different shops, and went to the old bike shop, now fancy boutique. While waiting I looked at all the bizarre plastic sculptures they called bikes, with items from an S & M emporium where the saddles should be! A friend spotted me in there and we chatted, he then admitted that his plastic bike was in for repair, It was the correct colour for a Bianchi and when I was asked to lift it it appeared to be a holograph, but it was not a bicycle as I know it...

    They claimed to actually have the proofied and I so I got to have a long chat with Glyn who married the original owner's daughter, I let him struggle with the "I know you but can't quite place you" syndrome as everyone searched the premises. In the end they "gave" me the antique tin for shop use which should last me several lifetimes!

    I have noticed that the comment box likes to change some of the words I tap out so if I sometimes post nonsense it is because I have forgotten to check...

  6. Coline--I have had various pages and apps change words I've written. Sometimes I don't find out until someone else reads it.

    You make a good point: bicycles (at least some) and shops aren't made like they used to be.