Sports Memorabilia #2: Cycling

The British seem to have become rather good at Bicycle sports. On both track and (latterly) road we’ve been dominating men’s and women’s events across the past decade. With Team GB reaching the upper echelons of pedal powered sporting achievement – and the Tour of  Britain in full swing  – we thought Cycling would be a deserving focus for part 2 of our look at collectible sporting memorabilia.   So we hope you enjoy our focus on the history and objects associated with the chain-driven-self-propelled-wind-in-your-face wonders of two wheeled sport.

Exactly the kind of kit you could keep safe, sound and secure in one of our London storage units… 

The Lotus 108 Track Bike. 

The Lotus 108 is one of the most famous bikes of all time and was a real game changer, but it could so easily have been a white elephant. Designed in the mid-eighties by a chap called Mike Burrows in Norfolk, its monocoque construction was deemed illegal by governing body – Union Cyclist International.  In 1990 the UCI relented and Lotus engineering joined the project. Their Formula 1 derived expertise in the lay-up of carbon fibre was crucial to the development of the machine. The bike’s most famous moment was at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, when cycling legend Chris Boardman took it to stunning victory in the 4km pursuit.  15 bikes were built by Lotus (including the prototype) with a further 8 replicas which retailed for £15,000. Lotus also developed a road bike version – the Lotus 110.

With such a rare machine you’d think that you wouldn’t be able to get your hands on such a stunning piece of cycling history? Actually there’s one of the Barcelona practice bikes for sale over on onceridden.com – along with a 110 road bike.  It’s Price on Application, but as such a monumental piece of memorabilia it probably won’t be cheap.

Graham Obree’s ‘Old Faithful’ 

If the Lotus 108 was a cutting edge technological marvel, Graham Obree’s ‘Old Faithful’ was the epitome of British innovation on a shoestring.  Whilst it wasn’t quite built in a Garden Shed, it was hand-built by Obree himself at his bike shop.  He thought it through thoroughly – he used washing machine bearings (rightly deciding that they must be good quality as they spin at 1200rpm) and a narrow crank so that his legs would be in a more natural position and closer together. Obree would develop a fierce on-track rivalry with Boardman in a tit-for-tat battle for the 1hour record which Obree first claimed on Old Faithful on 17 July 1993.

The bike is on display at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. Unlike the Lotus bike, Old Faithful is a one-off with only two other near-replicas in other Scottish museums. As such it is unlikely you’ll ever see one as sports memorabilia in self storage!

Alexandre Vinokourovs Olympic Winning Road bike. 

The pre-race hype for the 2012 Men’s Olympic Road Race put Mark Cavendish as clear favourite. But dodgy strategy and a field of other riders apparently out to stop the British machine saw Team GB flounder in their attempt to help Cav win Olympic Gold.  They failed to chase down a breakaway group featuring eventual winner Alexandre Vinokourovs from Kazakstan.

The Specialized road-bike  Alexandre used to win the gold was auctioned off for a staggering $243,000 dollars in September 2012. His 2012 kit made an additional ¢10,000. And with a Kazakstani Children’s charity benefitting from the sales that’s a quarter of a million dollars well raised.

Wiggo Mania – Sir Bradley related memorabilia. 

Winning the Tour de France and 2012 Olympic Time Trial Gold in the same year, Bradley Wiggins became a household hero and one of the UKs most successful Olympians ever – up there with Sir Chris Hoy and Sir Steve Redgrave. Plus – in his return to competition – he’s currently leading the Tour of Britain

So you’d think that Wiggo related 2012 Olympic memorabilia would sell like hot cakes. But not this Throne – which was used as a prop at Hampton Court Palace – the finish of the London 2012 Time Trial where he won gold. It was put to auction in autumn 2012, but with the highest bid being £9,500 it failed to reach the £10,000 reserve.

You’ll have probably spotted that the upholstery is almost ABC Purple. If it comes up again, perhaps we should try and snap it up for an ABC store reception, it would be just right for our playlist: A Quick Sit Down.  But on second thoughts, no. We wouldn’t be able to decide which of our storage locations – Wandsworth, Camden or Southwark – should get it. They’re all equally worthy.

Of course there’s plenty of other Wiggo memorabilia out there – how about this signed Tour de France Repro Jersey from the official Bradley Wiggins Tour de France memorabilia website. And the Wiggo legend can only grow if he continues his form and wins the Tour of Britain.

Memorabilia and those who have fallen from grace… 

Cycling – more than any other sport – has made the headlines for lots of wrong reasons.

In the past year the reputation of the biggest name in the road-going arm of the sport – Lance Pharmstrong (sorry, we couldn’t resist it – we mean Armstrong)  – has come crashing down. Between 1999 and 2005 Armstrong won an unprecedented 7 Tour de France races in a row. But he’s since admitted to doping during those successful years and been stripped of his victories.  That kind of negative publicity can have a an effect on memorabilia. It might even put a dent in the value of the most expensive bicycle ever, which was an Armstrong mount in 2009…

In 2009, Armstrong rode the final stage of the Tour on a Trek Madone  bicycle that had been decorated with real butterfly wings by artist Damien Hirst.  The Bike made $500,000 at auction the following November- making it the most valuable cycle ever sold.  The proceeds went to Armstrong’s Cancer charity Livestong.

We wonder whether the subsequent notoriety of the rider will put a dent in its value, or even increase it.

And finally… is it all just a little bit of history repeating? 

The first rider to win the Tour de France was a chap called Maurice Garin riding a La Francais 1903. In the 1904 edition of the race Garin was disqualified and excluded for cheating.  It’s almost understandable though – the bike he was riding had no gears and looked like this:

Garin allegedly jumped on a train and missed out a large section of the course.  We wonder if the official records show him as excluded for taking Performance Enhancing Transport.