As reported last week, I had a bike stack. I’m feeling much better now, thanks! My main concern, however, as I got lifted from the road by lovely strangers, was for my bike.

Pablo and I with my new bike. Pimped out in yellow and chrome.
Pablo and me with my new bike. Pimped out in yellow and chrome.

My bike is the most valuable material possession I own, apart from my couch, if we’re talking from a financial POV. From an attachment POV, my bike is number one by a mile.

I’m attached. The reason is this…it represents a story and a process. Allow me to share the story (it does have a point).

My bike started out as a frame bought from Paris five years ago. It’s a Barale, which is a seriously rare bike built in San Remo, Italy in the early 1970s. It’s super light. A friend’s partner helped me do it up, strip it back and paint it, adding spic rims and a white leather saddle etc. It took fiddling and calibrating, paring back and much fiddling to make it more and more elegant.

It weighs about 8kg. I can lift it with one finger. It has no gears, but I can fly up a hill past geared-down kids because it’s so perfectly calibrated to my body weight and size.

It’s elan on two wheels. It goes with me everywhere. On holidays. To parties. To the Apple store.

But then I added a layer of love (and this is what you do with a Thing With A Story).

I was out and about a little while ago and I got approached by a guy – his name’s Pablo – who told me he owed me a favour. I’d recommended his bike shop – Chappelli Cycles – a few years back and he’d got a lot of business from this (this brought me much joy; good people deserve good referring). Pablo offered me a new bike, gratis, by way of thanks.

I couldn’t accept his offer; I just don’t take on anything new until a previous version karks it or runs out (underpants, green shorts, yoghurt). “I love my current bike,” I told him. So he offered, instead, to fiddle and calibrate my bike for me. To clean it up (it was suffering serious rust from my stint in Byron Bay). OK, Pablo, You’re on, I said (as I age, I’m getting much better at accepting gifts…coming from a looooow base!). I figured you might be interested in seeing the process…

First off I stripped the bike down and inspected everything. I knew that you wanted to restore as much as possible so parts like the original cranks were kept and hand polished and reused.
First the bike was stripped. “I knew you wanted to restore as much as possible so parts like the original cranks were kept and hand polished and reused,” Pablo says.
The frame was sent to Aaron the custom painter who Chemically striped the frame then sandblasted it. A grey primer coat is applied to protect the bare metal.
The frame was sent to Aaron the custom painter who chemically striped the frame then sandblasted it. A grey primer coat was applied to protect the bare metal. I chose a colour that felt uplifting and period-appropriate – a powdery bright yellow. I adore it.
The frame was then wet sanded by hand. Then a white basecoat was painted on, then the yellow basecoat.
“The frame was then wet sanded by hand. Then a white base coat was painted on, then the yellow base coat.”
The Barale is so rare I could only find one reference for the head badge, and no decals are available. Jim Parry from Mine Design redrew the badge and Greg Softley, a bike decal specialist in Coffs, printed the decal. The decal was applied then a beautiful gloss clear coat 2Pac was applied.
“The Barale is so rare I could only find one reference for the head badge, and no decals are available,” Pablo says. “Jim Parry from Mine Design redrew the badge and Greg Softley, a bike decal specialist in Coffs Harbour, printed the decal.”

I’ll pause here to reflect on why fiddling with what you already have is infinitely more satisfying and meaning-giving than acquiring something new. It’s like when you knit something. Or bake something from scratch. Or grow a plant.

You tend. You engage. You respect the process. Things slow down. You marvel. And everything comes closer. Not just the bike or petunia plant…everything. Shopping for the new is like expecting a lover to fix your issues, or drugs to numb your pain. It’s all about lurching out beyond yourself for the fix, when the answer is always so much closer.

I think the antidote to so many of our anxious, modern ills is to get closer.

When we lurch outwards, things become so precarious and unsettled.

This is what a craft is about – getting closer. Pablo is a craftsman and the process of engaging with him as he detailed my bike was very much gear shifting. When we chatted on the phone, I slipped into third with him. I stayed close to things. Intimate. Marveling.

I managed to get hold of a vintage pair of italian campagnolo calipers that were polished and fitted. She got all new brake cables and outers, new leather grips, new saddle, new 42mm mirror polished rims and a fresh chain. The original pedals were reused with new leather straps fitted
Pablo then hunted down a vintage pair of Italian Campagnolo calipers that were polished and fitted. “She got new brake cables and outers, new leather grips, new saddle, new 42mm mirror polished rims and a fresh chain. The original pedals were reused with new leather straps fitted.”

I share this story because it really was a lovely journey that reminded me to get close. And made me feel OK about my resistance to purchasing new things. I spend a lot of my life doubting myself – my idiosyncrasies, my choices. It’s nice to have my beliefs confirmed sometimes.

Elise Pioch and Pablo Chappelli

PS Check out Pablo’s other craft projects…his car and church that he converted into a house up bush. Or drop in at his Chappelli Cycles store/crafty showroom in Botany, Sydney. His crafted bikes range from about $400 upwards. Pablo’s partner Elise runs her beautiful French candle business Maison Balzac from the Botany showroom, too. Worth a visit!

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