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Carradice Bags

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The Glue Man:
You can pigeon hole people in numerous ways but the most telling is their take on Nelson's finest, the cotton duck saddle bag. If they were made in Paris or came from the west coast of America on the guru racket, people would be mugging riders for them and running their ill-gotten gains to unscrupulous couriers without brakes or front teeth. As it is, they are produced by horny handed Lancashire matrons who know what's what and why it is- heavy waxed canvas, chrome leather and plenty of buckles promise a half-life just short of uranium and are favoured by folk (always volk) who measure time in decades and expect bicycle frames they bought with their first apprentice pay packet to see them through their retirement.

There can be no fence sitting about Carradice saddle bags, they are part of the problem or the whole solution, what cycling is all about or everything that's wrong with it. One of mine is just bedding in nicely after fifteen years, the other still smells of the facory at ten. In a moment of madness I sold (gave away actually with the roadster bike to which it appeared welded) a real veteran that had a bakerlite badge and surplus buckles. It had served the window cleaner for half a century before I had it. With names like longflap and lowsaddle, barley and cadet you know there isn't a mad-eyed cartoon goblin to be found on them. But there's witchcraft in them all the same. I'll have a Pendle to go.

The Glue Man:
Since a surprising number of cotton duck fetishists came out on the Carradice thread I thought I might try with that other recidivist purchase, the Brooks saddle.

I reckon I have about seven of the things and have sold at least as many again on bikes, so I'm prepared to admit to a unhealthy preoccupation with them. It's something to do with the memory of the leather, the way in which the 'seat' bones score the miles, pleasant and hideous into the surface to reveal the bicycle's history that is so satisfying. Every ride contributes its part much as the seasons are imprinted in the rings of a tree until the saddle becomes a record that you feel, with the right device -only available to the wisest old Brooks retainers- its story would unravel, like Lira's Alethiometer in 'His Dark Materials', but in reverse.

Unlike the interdictions handed down from head office I can see why people soak them in red wine, put them in the fridge, steep them in candle tallow made from the marrow of hanged men. It doesn't do them any good of course but it might just hinder the Men from Brooks in revealing the truth about us; the wheel sucking, the flatulence and lamp-post sprints at the final trump when all saddles are returned to their maker. How? You didn't think that bolt was for tensioning the thing, did you?

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