The bike featured here was for me, a genuine barn find, in that it was in the upstairs hay loft of a massive Swiss barn when I first set eyes on it for real. Before we say any more about the bike, lets just deal with this ‘barn find’ phenomenon that is sweeping the world of ‘classic stuff’. The latest fashion is to advertise a vehicle, motorcycle, boat, tractor, riding boots, record player, or old sewing machine etc etc that is covered in dust, has not been used, but possibly abused, for a long time, which seemingly makes the item more special, more unique, more sexy, and more valuable when it has been restored. In a lot of cases, this is complete crap, and beware. The other selling thing to be aware of, is going to see something, like a bicycle, car or motorcycle for example, that was photographed when it was wet, because everything looks nicer when its wet and shiny, except our cat. The gleaming surface of the water hides the real condition. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, and don’t lock the cat out in a thunderstorm either.
I went to see some bikes that were advertised in a Swiss, local e-selling site because the badly photographed pile of bikes, all stacked in an old Swiss barn, looked very interesting. I arranged to go and see the bikes and the owner met us (my wife came as well) outside the barn. Swiss barns are massive, wooden structures and this one was really old. The owner took us through a small door, which was part of a much bigger door and we entered at ground floor level. The owner then informed us that we needed to climb a ladder into the next level of the barn to see the bikes. We each climbed the rickety ladder and were greeted by a line of about 50 old bikes, all stacked up against each other, and with a carpet of dust on them. As there was no lighting, our eyes started to get accustomed to the dimness. We were in the roof structure of the barn which was magnificently made, and engineered.
One end of the barn had a window open which allowed some light in, but I still needed the owners torch to check through the bikes. This bike caught my eye immediately, as I had not seen anything like it before. Between the three of us, we managed to release this bike from the long row of bikes and I looked it over, via the torch. I’d made the decision that this bike was going home with us, but I needed to see what else there was hidden in there. I found another two interesting bikes and did a deal for the 3 bikes as it seemed the right ‘barn find thing to do’. Does a ‘Swiss barn find’ sound more mysterious and special in comparison to any old barn find? Anyway, we left with three bikes when I went for one bike. Sound familiar????………The barn still had a big ‘stock’ of other barn finds, but clearly, three bikes was enough.
This bike is a really unusual one with rear suspension and made by Alpa-Werke AG, which was a very early Swiss bike brand, and owned by a company called St. Galler Komenda AG, who produce Cresta bikes to this day. I believe my bike is a mid-1980s-ish model, which was about the time that Madonna had a No.1 hit in the UK with ‘Like a Virgin‘ and which bizarrely, is still being played in Swiss supermarkets like its just been released! I have not seen another bike like it, and it has all of its original Swiss quality components. However, after some research, I have found that it is more special than I thought and features in the article ‘The 40 most rare and iconic bike designs ever collected’. There is a typo in the article because they call it an ‘Alfa’ and it is actually an ‘Alpa’. You can read here and it is bike no.25 in the list:
So it is genuinely a factory bike and not a ‘shed special’. It has a Sturmey archer 5 speed rear hub, which I haven’t got around to dating from the serial number yet. The rear (adjustable) shock absorber is made by the Italian suspension specialist company Paioli, and was probably made for a moped originally. Without entering ‘geek territory’ and going through the full bike specification, just have a look at the photos.
So, I have a decision to make about what to do with it and here are my options. Do I…………..
a) Do nothing. Keep the bike in ‘barn find’ condition and leave it in the shed? (ok, so I had to give it a bath after I bought it, but it wasn’t wet when I photographed it, and nor was the cat).
b) Restore it to fully working and original condition whilst retaining the patina of time? This wouldn’t take much work or cost.
c) Make a custom chopper-lowrider-old-skool-mountain-bike-fixie-polo-bike thing out of it?
d) Put one of those bicycle engine kits in it? (because it would look ‘very moto’ with that suspension).
e) Just sell it as it is and let someone else work it out?
f) There is no option f.
Here’s my conclusion. As it has that Swiss romantic barn find story and experience for me, I’ve decided not to break the memory by restoring it myself, so it is for sale! Option e) wins! Hurrah I hear you say (maybe…). Check out my eBay store at the top of this page.
All photos by the author.