Soothing, gravelly Tuscan – though, in reality, I could discount the intonation that suggested a question mark. The mind was made up already, the eye had calculated my position and limits from the doorway as I entered the shop. It’s an ice-breaker more than a question. It’s me who will learn from the exchange, not he. The dismissive look, almost – so very almost – veiled as he turns and locates the bike I will ride.
I know that look now. Years later I’ve heard countless preposterous estimates & received wisdoms as to frame size. I look forward to it even – sometimes daring a sideways glance towards Il Maestro as he turns on his heels to locate a bike. The correct bike.
“It’s the English… always the English…”. The eyes roll.
A 47cm Pinarello is placed in front of me. I take hold of the bars and suppress the accusation of a joke at my expense. The saddle is raised, the bars adjusted deftly by practised hands. I swing a leg politely over the frame: I’ll humour him for now, for a minute or two with this child’s bike, before I declare it far too small. A 47?! Pfff…
On Corso Garibaldi I realised I’d mis-spent my life on bedstead-like bikes. This was fluidity, responsiveness – darting forwards at the merest suggestion, weaving through the early evening passeggini with ease.
I fell in love with that bike that first week in Lucca, holiday romance as we took to the hills. I return every few months to re-kindle the affair, to give in to the exotic. I’d love to take her home with me. So very nearly have at times. But maybe it is on those roads that her beauty lies: Would wrenching her away risk seeing the spark die as we began a humdrum life of post-holiday laundry and bills-to-pay on the workaday lanes back home?
Why ruin the magic? Like never-tasted-before local booze or customary dress item, maybe that Pinarello is best left where she belongs, on the effortlessly fast Camaiore road and the twisting, ribbon-like pilgrimages to the sleepy mountain top hamlets?
But then again – I just know we could make it work…
Images: Joyce Jason Ghijs