On Wednesday January 13 I had a dentist appointment in Garden Home, a neighborhood in deep SW Portland. And it was raining. It’s a thirteen mile ride, one way, from my house. I could have taken the bus, but it would be longer than the bike ride, so I gritted teeth, suited up in raingear, and hit the road.
It was raining pretty good when I left, let up a bit in the middle, and for good measure it rained harder as I closed in on the dentist’s office. I’d like to be that cheery person who says “any ride is better than no ride”, but believe me towards the end I started to doubt my decision to ride!
If anything, the very wet ride gave me a good chance to see how well my new rain jacket works. I just picked up a new North Face Venture jacket. I have to say it worked pretty well, as most of the rain stayed out. However, I managed to sweat pretty good from the climbing, so my base layer shirt was pretty wet, just everything on top wasn’t!
After the dentist appointment (the good news: some of my teeth are still okay!) the rain tapered off, then stopped. I decided to hit up the new branch of Five Points Coffee off SW Macadam, the shop my ex-roommate Chris owns. After having a cup, I noticed that my rear tire was flat. It figures, I had to ride through a bunch of puddles, who knows what’s in there. I inflated the tire and it still held air, so a slow leak. (And slow leaks on fat tires last longer than on skinny ones!) I rode off across the Willamette River into Sellwood.
Sure, I could have taken care of the puncture then and there. But the next stop was to Bike Commuter, a bike shop, where I wanted to check their (unfortunate) going out of business sale. Why get dirty on the side of a busy road with fixing a flat, when I can pay the shop to do it for me, while I walk around the store, beer in hand, checking out things?
And there was something worth checking out: an old Karrimor canvas saddle bag. I saw it at the store the last time I was there a few months ago. It wasn’t for sale as it was more a piece of wall art than anything else. But with the store closing, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask if it was for sale.* The owner seemed more surprised than anything else, because I don’t think he thought too much of it, just another piece of old bicycle flotsam floating around the store. “You want that old battered thing?” was the response. Sure, it was rough around the edges, there was a small hole in the bottom, but it’s where it’s double-reinforced, so it doesn’t matter. Beausage, if you will. He asked me to make an offer, so I did, and got the bag for a song.
Now the last thing I need is another British style canvas saddlebag! I thought I was doing good with only two, but besides the fact that I got this bag cheap, there are two other reasons for getting it. One, Karrimor bags are pretty rare in the States. Carradice has made traditional British cycling bags continuously since the 30’s. In fact, they are the only one to survive. (Brooks used to make bags, then got out of it, then got back into it a few years ago. But the bags are made in Asia, not the UK.) Karrimor still survives as a British outdoor gear manufacturer, but they stopped making canvas bike bags in the 80’s, switching over to nylon. Now they don’t even make bicycle bags. So to find a Karrimor canvas bag is pretty special.
The other reason is that I didn’t want the bag to end up in the dumpster, or have some similar fate befall it. While the bag has still seen better days, it still is very intact. They don’t build ’em like they used to, and it would be a shame for something built to last 100 years to find its way to a landfill. Now will I actually use the bag? Probably. I may have a few repairs done, but really, it doesn’t need much. I may just use it as is.
After Bike Commuter, it was still light and dry, so I decided to keep riding. I headed east on the Springwater Corridor trail, then had a beer in Lents, then headed up to NE for a friend’s dinner. At the end of the day I had ridden 38 miles. Not too bad for almost taking the bus!
For a good history of Carradice bags (with some mention of Karrimor), go here.
*When Bicycle Repair Collective closed in late 2013, they had a “display copy” of the covetable “100 Years of Bicycle Posters” book. I asked them if that was for sale, but the clerk didn’t know and didn’t seem that interested in finding out. I should have left my name and number, but I wasn’t feeling that well that day, so my mind was elsewhere.
The bag looks great! I spent some time lingering over the photos and imagining the potential of a carefully planned, thorough restoration/repair. I imagined cleaning, maybe cut-off the frayed edges, and replacing the leather trim. Maybe re-dye the canvas? If the condition meets certain minimum standards, I would consider investing an amount equal to the cost of a new Carradice (maybe more) to see how nice that bag could become. It could be a fascinating project.
Well, to be honest, I don’t know anything about restoring old canvas bags. Maybe I’m just dreaming.
Dreaming, indeed! 😉 As that kid on My Three Sons said, “Seems like a lot of work.” I might see about getting the piping repaired, but I do like it in its well-worn state.