18 December 2019

Serious Mojo In The Shadow Of Power

Last week, I spotted a pair of Sun Tour shifters on eBay.  The item's location was listed as "New York, NY."  So I asked whether I could pick them up.

Turns out, the seller was even closer to where I live than I expected:  only about 4 kilometers away.  Woodside, Queens, to be exact.  And he said his "shop" was located behind a restaurant on one of the neighborhood's commercial strips.

The reason I'm not revealing the name of that restaurant, or the name of the shop, is that Damon asked me not to.  In fact, on his website, he says his "shop"--which is really more of a workshop--is in a "secret location" and that he meets customers only by appointment.

Damon is actually an engaging and friendly fellow.  The reason for his arrangement, he says, is that his shop--a garage, really--is a "passion" and he doesn't want to deal with the more mundane parts of the bike business.  (He once had a regular shop, he explained, and running it was nothing like he expected it to be.)  Also, I sensed that he wanted to deal only with customers who shared his passion for vintage bikes.

One of our common loves, as it turns out, is frames from British builders.  He showed me a Claud Butler from the '50's that he's fixing up, along with a few other frames from Claud's countrymen.  When I revealed my own love of Mercians, he knew he'd found a soulmate, at least in bicycle terms.

(Oh, and he did some of his studies for his profession--his "day job"--in Paris and, quelle coincidence, was living in the City of Light at the same time I was there. How do Francophiles become aficionados of British Frames?  Hmm...)

All of the frames in his "shop" were steel, except for one older Vitus bike.  Among his Butlers and early '80's Treks stood one of what might be the most sought-after (by collectors and enthusiasts) bike from a mass manufacturer:  Raleigh Lenton.  It was in really good shape, except for the cellulose fenders--which are almost always broken.  

I could have spent all day at that shop, and with Damon. Because he's trying not to publicize his operation too much, I didn't take photos--except for one particularly intriguing machine.

Damon equipped this Olmo city bike, which probably dates from the '50's or '60's, with Campagnolo Gran Sport equipment, except for the Weinmann centerpull brakes. (The Gran Sport brakes wouldn't have been long enough or played nice with the fenders.)  He was impressed that I've actually written posts about GS equipment and Weinmann brakes, but I was even more taken with some other features of that bike:

Those bars put those narrow "city bars" I see on hipsters' fixies to shame--both for function and style.  But perhaps the best (or at least my favorite) part is something Damon customized.

He bent it to accommodate the front derailleur.  That alone would have made me want to make a return trip to his "shop"--which is just a few blocks away from where Dick Power had his framebuilding shop and retail store.

Before I left, I noticed that he had some vintage Silca pumps that, he explained, had been stored away from sunlight which, apparently, is what makes the plastic on them brittle.  I bought one, in black, for Negrosa, the 1973 full-Campy Mercian I picked up last year.  I know that the Zefal HPX (or even the earlier HP and Competition) pumps are easier to use and sturdier, but most full-Campy bikes of the time had Silca Imperos--and Regina freewheels, which I also have, even though I know the SunTour New Winner and Winner Pro are better in almost every way.  

That trip was short but sweet, to say the least!

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