Confessions of a cycling hoarder

GCN's Jon Cannings rummages through his cycling workshop and wonders why the space he has always seems to get filled with random bike bits - and why he can't bring himself to get rid of any of it

Clock10:25, Friday 23rd February 2024
Collection of cycling memorabilia from the workshops of Jon Cannings over the years

© Jon Cannings

Collection of cycling memorabilia from the workshops of Jon Cannings over the years

I think I have a problem. I have a two-storey workshop full of bikes and various components. Some of the bikes mean a lot to me and some I have just inherited along the way. From Di2 diagnostics kit to 1950s Philips bikes sat there doing nothing, I’ll likely have something tucked away to get a bike on the road again, or something to tell a story about at least. The thing is, it has become a bit chaotic in terms of space!

It’s hard to pin down the moment it started, if it ever did start – being a hoarder, I mean. Am I even a hoarder? I don’t know. But I think I could be.

Maybe I transformed from an amateur collector to a hoarder or vice versa. Either way, it got me thinking, I can’t be the only person in this situation. Does any of this sound familiar? Please let me know in the comments at the bottom of this article, if only for my sanity's sake.

The start of a cycling obsession

An obsession with football sticker albums as a child could be a reason for the collector in me. I remember a strong desire to complete Panini’s Mexico ‘86 World Cup sticker album – 48 pages with space for 527 stickers of players and teams, the 'shinies' being the ultimate prize. From then until the mid-90s it was a bit of a blur; I was growing up and life as a child just passed me by without much of a care in the world.

Then came serious cycling. I reached my teens and started racing at a pretty good level across the UK as well as in Belgium and Holland. But it was always the other part I loved as much, if not more – my obsession with moving parts. Don’t get me wrong, I loved riding but I probably loved the machine more.

I would invest (never waste!) hours in Bike Tech in Bristol. Just a 15 minute walk from my school, I’d eat my packed lunch in the shop whilst bugging the staff who worked there. I’m still in contact with a few of them, I’ve never dared ask how irritating I was.

Bike Tech was an outlet for Caratti Sport, a huge UK distributor of plenty of top brands in the 1990s – Sidi, Colnago and GT, to name a few. The owners had close links to Italy. The co-founder Phil Edwards was a professional cyclist, right-hand man to Francesco Moser, and had family roots in Treviso, a hotbed of Italian cycling products.

I would gawp at beautiful Italian products, thinking of the hours of craftsmanship that went into building that Colnago Master Olympic right there in front of me.

Seeing the intricacy of serviceable components (cup and cone bottom brackets anyone?), knowing that they could be repaired or saved. Maybe these were the trigger moments as to how things could be kept for re-use rather than thrown away? Why spend money if you don’t need to, that’s the way I look at it.

My dad is equally to blame. He was also in Bike Tech far more than my mum approved! He had subscriptions to all the road cycling magazines and he never threw any of them away. They were all stored in the house. In-fact, some were moved into the attic, but the ceiling below it showed signs of cracking due to the sheer weight so we had to transfer them to a chest in the garage.

But why? We never looked back through them. I would meet the postman on my way to school, get the magazine from him, read them at school, take them home and give them to dad. It’s amazing the things you remember.

The years passed by and there was no letting up on the items being stored away for potential future use.

That old worn out tyre? It’ll probably be alright in an emergency.

Pitted headset cups? Could be useful on a training bike.

Worn out Look Delta cleats? What if I need them?

I could always find good reasons to keep hold of these things. Sounds daft really.

Some intervention required

But why was I doing it? I don’t know. If someone was to get rid of them for me, I probably wouldn’t care. In fact, I would probably thank them!

I did exactly this to my dad. It was 2004 and I was living and racing in Belgium. I would waste away the evenings on Veloriders, a cycling forum I used heavily. A new user joined who said they were writing a book and was looking for any cycling magazines that they could have as it would really help them. I could already visualise my mum smiling. Hundreds of magazines gone – garage space freed up.

I got in touch and said that my dad had loads. Dad agreed with me, it made sense. Along came a guy in his pickup truck and loaded it full of magazines, it bottomed out the suspension apparently. I wasn’t there, or I would have saved the copies of 'Winning' magazine. They were special!

Meanwhile, my own collection of 'stuff' was gaining momentum. Working in the industry at places like Schwinn/GT, Rapha/Rouleur, Wiggle and Lazer helmets came with its perks – samples galore, prototypes. Then there were my old race numbers, an old wheel or two (or three), old kit, more valve extenders than anyone could ever need. Things were offered and I accepted.

It wasn’t thrown away. I was curating a collection, but a random collection of things. Hoarding, some might say.

Getting a fix for fixing

A few house moves along the way would see the mass of bike-related bits get cleared up, sorted, consolidated… but they would always come back again.

Cycling, especially if you love tech, comes with its complications. You get asked to fix a lot of people's bikes, from basic models to top-of-the-range. And I never want to let people down. I know the freedom that a bike gives, and also how necessary they are to some people. Having components lying around can help get a bike up and running again.

Most recently I tried to start afresh with my own workshop, a two-storey affair. It was all in order, neat and tidy, everything where I wanted it. Then I would see an advert 'free to collector' and the opportunity to save a bike from being thrown away. I would take it in.

Uncompleted projects, I call them. The parts needed to 'fix ‘em up' have been binned, which makes sense. Parts that were just hanging about for no apparent reason and there is a lot to be said for 'if you have not used it in 12 months, you are not going to use it'.

Take, for example, the Gazelle lo-profile bike that a GCN Tech viewer once sent to me. It has been in bits and pieces since 2019. I think a main reason that I haven’t built it up is so that it goes under the radar to anyone else, so I can’t be moaned at for 'another bike' in the workshop.

A Merckx-shaped rabbit hole

I really do need to get rid of these uncompleted projects so that someone else can benefit from them, rather than them cluttering up the workshop. I think there is a fear, though. A fear that someone is going to cash in from something that should be passed on, almost taking custody of it temporarily before it is given to someone else and so on.

Online marketplaces are to blame for unquestionably the weirdest things I’ve obtained. It’s so easy to go down a rabbit hole and at 3am be bidding on a cigar label featuring Eddy Merckx.

I would love to blame Eddy for these purchases, but how can you blame the GOAT? You can’t. But he is the only person I ever had a specific eBay search set up for. I’ve ended up with all sorts connected to the 5x TDF, 5x Giro, 3x World Champion. From a Rodania watch to a promotional flimsy vinyl record advertising water, I’ve had it.

But why? I wasn’t displaying it like a collector often does. I was just getting it, getting it because it was there. Was there a value behind it? Unlikely. It was just compulsive. What do I have to show for it now? Nothing really. I sold it on when my partner spotted it and quite bluntly asked, “Why?”.

I feel like going away for a bit, so that my workshop can be reclaimed. My partner would be ruthless, but my fear is that she will get rid of that French threaded bottom bracket that I know one day I’ll need to help someone get their 1980s Peugeot back on the road again. Or perhaps those Cinelli Spinaci handlebars that I've been hanging onto since they were banned in 1997.

That's the thing. It may currently seem like unorganised chaos, but I know exactly what I’ve got back there.

Those Spinacis would look great on a Colnago Master Olympic, come to think of it. Does anyone know someone who's selling one?

Related Content

Link to 10 years in 10 tech innovations
Road bikes have come on a long way in 10 years

10 years in 10 tech innovations

Our bikes may look similar to how they did ten years ago, but a lot of things have changed.

Link to Road bike tech we wish would disappear
Road bike tech we wish would disappear.

Road bike tech we wish would disappear

Our list of bike tech that the industry can survive without

Link to Bike tech we should all use, but don’t
YouTube video Ppn_z0pWupA

Bike tech we should all use, but don’t

The bike world is full of amazing tech, but there are some things that don’t get used as much as we think they should

Link to Why the all-rounder superbike could be a disadvantage: GCN Tech Show
YouTube video WFpLLZp7SKs

Why the all-rounder superbike could be a disadvantage: GCN Tech Show

Are WorldTour teams with one all-round bike, like the Specialized Tarmac SL8, paying the price compared to teams with more than one option at their disposal?

Subscribe to the GCN Newsletter

Get the latest, most entertaining and best informed news, reviews, challenges, insights, analysis, competitions and offers - straight to your inbox