Claudette was my trusty steed from London to Barcelona, around Ibiza, and all the way back to London again. Technically, she still belongs to my mother, who picked her up back in the good old days (1980 something I think), and cycled her on many long miles through France, Spain, Switzerland, among others. Claudette knows the continent’s road well, and has torn up many many miles over the years. A Claud Butler Special, Reynolds 531 steel tube frame, she was built for touring. My mother had lovingly crafted Claudette into a fierce touring machine, with front and rear pannier racks, a groupset tailored to long distance riding through mountains, and the best Shimano mech available at the time.
There was very little for me to do in order to ready her for the next adventure. A good service on all the moving parts, re-taping the handlebars my trademark Port and Starboard, and new (well old, but unused) Brooks B17 saddle produced from the depths of my father’s garage from his previous touring stock, and everything was set.
My panniers were the ones used by my parents during their touring in the 80s, trusty New Zealand made Tika’s. Unavailable now for many years, they have character like no modern pannier, and were absolutely bulletproof throughout.
Unfortunately, my plans of many years of long distance cycle touring with Claudette were swiftly curtailed shortly after my arrival back in London. It’s ironic that after several thousand miles through French and Spanish mountains and countryside, it was within 2 miles of my house that I was ‘ridden through’ by an inattentive motorcyclist. Both Claudette and I did a rather impressive flip through the air, and both landed in a twisted heap. While I only damaged tendons, muscles, skin, and other unimportant bits of physiology, Claudette suffered irreversible damage, including a buckled front wheel, fractured frame, bent tubes, and general destruction of the braking system. An unfitting end to a bicycle that has travelled many fantastic miles through some of the best bits of landscape Europe has to offer.