As anyone who has visited the shop knows. Tativille is the kind of place that doesn’t make a lot of sense. Maybe it shouldn’t exist in Hyde Park, or in Chicago, or in 2012, or in this particular time-space continuum. It’s a bike shop sans bikes, a retail establishment without a cash register, a service industry business without service hours, or a telephone. But it is a conventional storefront in a conventional commerce district with conventional neighbors and occasionally, conventional customers. And the other day, I met one of them.

But first, a detour.

One of the very first rules of the shop, one that has never been broken, is the rule that says Thou Shalt Not Own Wheels Worth More Than Thine Bike. Needless to say, you don’t see too many Zipps or Lightweights or Carbones rolling out of the shop. I mean, you do, but you also don’t. What you do see is a lot of handbuilt wheels, and by a lot, I mean a lot by 2012 standards, but not a lot by 1982 standards. On the other hand, you’re a lot more likely to hear Cameo or the Human League than LMFAO or Adele. Which is to say, maybe that’s just it: maybe what’s going on is Tativille really exists in a 1982 that wishes it was 1952 but through the lens of good old 2012.

1982 was a good year. I raced most of it on a hand-me-down Gios and the Badger totally did the Giro-Tour double. I learned how to moonwalk. I raced in Utah, upstate New York, Georgia, Texas, Colorado, and Philly. And my wheels were 36h Mavic Montlhéry Légère rims laced to Campy hubs. The rims had been my employer’s for exactly one ride, after which he determined that they were better suited to a 51kg junior than a 75kg coach. The rims weighed in at a svelte 315g each. Even by 2012 standards, that’s pretty light. And by 1982 standards, they were bananas. The rims possessed virtually no inherent structural rigidity, but that didn’t matter much, what with a whopping 72 spokes to keep them rolling true and round. They were fast, I was fast, end of story.

I didn’t hear the guy come in at first. I didn’t hear the guy come in at first, because I was playing Don’t You Want Me REALLY LOUDLY. And also, I didn’t realize that the shop door was unlocked.

“Can I help you?” I asked.

“So… I just moved into the building next door, and, um. Um, I found this bike in the basement. I was wondering if you could tell me if I can use it, if I should use it.”

The boy rolled up a dirty-as-hell road bike further into the shop. I cringed. A spider dropped from the saddle onto his sneaker and scampered off.

“Whaddya know..” I muttered.

“Excuse me?”

“That was a really nice bike,” I began, “in 1982.”

“Wow, it’s that old?”

“Yup, but it’s almost completely original. Dirty, but original” I said, eyeballing the Bridgestone Sirius equipped with Suntour Cyclone II and 36h Araya tubulars. “I bet with a proper cleaning and tune-up, it would work just fine. But you’ll need to replace those wheels.”

This was one of those moments. This was one of those moments where ethics and esoteric fetishes and commerce and maybe a little greed were getting all mixed up in my head, and in my heart. Clearly, I thought to myself, he needs new wheels. But what to do with the old ones? And what to replace them with?

Thirty minutes later, after a brief lecture on the 70s bicycle boom; the weak yen; the relationship between Matsushita, National and Panasonic; the Paris Roubaix; Andrew Dugast and FMB; and kevlar beaded clinchers, we determined that I would take the old wheels in as partial trade giving me a pass to temporarily waive the Wheel Valuation Rule and build some super sick, all silver, box section wheels for this here Bridgestone.

Sure, the new wheels are probably worth a lot more than the bike, and seeing as how it probably won’t leave the confines of good old Hyde Park, they’re overkill for the application. But I know they’re awesome, and he knows they’re awesome, and, you know, I think that’s all that matters.

Well, that and… now I have some pretty exciting 36h Araya tubulars from 1982.

P.S. You should really own some handbuilt wheels, and you should really have TATI design and build them. I’ll even play whatever music you want while we discuss these things over tea.