Thursday, May 31, 2012 - the art of losing customers.



The following is my review of an internet vintage bicycle parts store called

It appears that the site is run by "Ralph" from the Via Bicycle shop which is located in South Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.

I am going to share with you my personal experience with the Via Bicycle shop and will let you judge for yourself whether or not they deserve your custom. Before I start this post I'll quickly grab a coffee to calm my nerves! 

Coffee to calm the nerves!

I recently acquired a 1972 Raleigh Super Course frame and set about collecting the parts to build the bike. Nice frame, nice bike - great project. I had a look at the original Raleigh specs from the 1972 Raleigh catalogue and tried to collect original parts for the build where I could.

When it came to the braking system I learnt that the original 1972 Super Course was equipped with a set of Weinmann Vainqueur 999 centre-pull off I went searching for a set. I could get NOS (new old stock) sets on eBay but generally the sets did not come complete with hangers or original Weinmann brake lever hoods.

So I set about exploring other vintage bike part stores on-line and came across (Via Bicycle store). I searched their vintage bicycle parts and located the set I was after. The set pictured on the site had the hangers and the brake levers had Weinmann hoods, all was good!

The advertised Weinmann Vainqueur 999 brake set.

The advertised price was US125.00, which was fairly expensive.........but the hoods looked good and all the bits and pieces were there, so I was happy to pay this amount to get all of the items in one package. on Feb 15, 2012, I emailed via the link on their web page and asked to purchase the Weinmann brake set and inquired what the cost of shipping to Perth, Western Australia, would be.

On Feb 16, 2012, I received invoice number 201227 from Ralph at Via Bicycle. Great service I thought, very efficient - a reply within 24 hours!

The invoice indicated that they had a set and that shipping would be US25.00, so I paid the invoice for a total of US150.00 by Paypal for the items to be sent to Perth.

Paying by Paypal is great, very easy, very safe, and the merchant does not receive your credit card details, etc, etc......and after any transaction, all involved in the transaction receive an email indicating the transaction is complete, so I was happy that Via Bicycle had received the money and was aware that payment had been made.

On March 6, 2012 (after three weeks of making payment) I had not received advice from Via Bicycle that the item had been posted (shipped) so I emailed them to confirm if they had received my payment of US150.00.

....and so in response, good old Ralph from Via Bicycle replied:

          Hi there,
          I must have missed that it was paid for, sorry. I will get it out today.
          Sorry again for the delay.
No problems, I thought....Ralph was busy doing other bike things, it slipped his mind but he's on to it now.
So I waited for the package to arrive, and waited, and waited!! Nothing received.
On April 19, 2012, (eight weeks after making payment) I emailed Ralph at Via Bicyle to see how things were going. He forgot once, maybe he had forgotten again! It was a polite email asking how the item was sent so I could gauge how much longer it might take to get to Perth.
....but by this stage I was really thinking.......was it posted via airmail, surface mail, via the moon, or squeezed into a bottle and thrown into the nearest ocean! By the way the nearest ocean to Philadelphia is the North Atlantic Ocean which is about a 100km drive, so I quickly discounted this option! 
After emailing Ralph on April 19, 2012, I did not get a response. I emailed a Ralph again on May 2, May 7, May 11, May 14, May 17, and May 23, 2012. All emails were polite as I thought I would give Ralph a fair chance to respond. I could see that the website was still active as there had been products updated on May 3, 2012, however, I did not receive any response.
So there you have it, it's now May 31, 2012, (14 weeks after making payment) and I haven't had any response from Ralph at all, and I certainly haven't received my brakeset!
Firstly, I hope that Ralph and his family are all in good health. If this is the problem I accept the delay and have no complaints. I will also be understanding if Ralph has closed his store or if ownership or management has changed.
So now you've learnt of my experience.....would you purchase vintage bicycle parts from Ralph at
This is a typical internet purchase gone wrong. The buyer is genuine, but the seller is not so genuine. The seller knows that the buyer is too far away to take any action and so pockets the cash without fear of reprisal. Emails from the buyer to resolve the issue are ignored and so......the problem goes away.
Thanks for your help Ralph!
Until next time, ride safe.


UPDATE: February 2013.

On February 15, 2013, I was lucky enough to receive an email from Ralph who apologised for overlooking the sale. Ralph kindly refunded the outstanding amount to my Paypal account. Thanks Ralph, all is forgiven.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Rene Herse vintage bicycles.

Rene Herse was a French bicycle builder who was born in Paris in 1913. Herse constructed his own hand-built bicycles in France prior to the second world war and beyond.

Known as "constructeurs", French bicycle manufacturers hand-built their own beautifully crafted frames and bicycle components. Their bicycles were magnificent - each a work of art in itself. Each component was lovingly designed and hand crafted with magnificent French engineering and styling.

Herse was one of the outstanding French "constructeurs" and was always associated with the pinnacle of French cycling from the 1940's until his death in 1976. 

I recently rode in the Fremantle Tweed Run and spotted a Rene Herse bicycle. Although it wasn't a show piece, the owner was very proud to have such a bicycle. I would have loved to own it too!!

He told me that he had bought the frame in France whilst on holidays some years ago and on his return to Perth, Western Australia, lovingly assembled the bike with Rene Herse and other French components over an extended period of time.

Here is his build:

The Rene Herse bicycle with randonneur touring handlebars.

A beautifully crafted French stem, typical insertion size of 22.0mm.


An "Ideale" brand derallium saddle.
Beautiful high flange hubs with brass wing nuts.
Very neat front derailleur with chain guard.

He has definitely captured the Rene Herse feel!! From my study of the components I think that this bike is possibly from the 1950's - but I'd like to be corrected on this if need be. The bike is fantastic - and even better in the flesh.

Vintage French bicycles are unusual. This is mainly because the many threaded components used to construct the bicycles have different thread ratios (tpi - threads per inch) to those of vintage English bicycles. Some of the French sizings are also awkward. For instance.....the Britsh standard for the diameter of a quilled stem (insertion measurement) is 22.2mm, however the French went with a 22.0mm insertion size as standard. Pedal thread ratios are also quite different. 

Old Australian bicycle components tended to carry British thread ratios, so locating French threaded bicycle components in Australia was, until recently, very difficult. 

Amazingly, vintage French threaded bicycle components are now easily accessible through internet auction sites - eBay, etc, so finding the parts for such a build in Australia is now not so difficult.

Coincidentally, after spying the Rene Herse bike I came across a fantastic book called "The Golden Age of Handbuilt Bicycles". The book is brilliant and records the history of French hand-built bicycles from 1910 to modern times. The photography in this book is amazing and features several outstanding Rene Herse bicycles.

The book is well worth buying if you can get hold of a copy! I've taken the liberty of showing images of the book below....


Until next time, safe riding.