Article of the Week
Barry is preparing himself for the Spring Classics, we thought to ask,
who is Barry Astral ?
and if you like Barry's ramblings, check out 3 men
on bikes for a laugh... )
word enigma was invented for Barry Astral. Ive known
him for over 30 years but Im not sure Im any closer to cracking
what hes about. Descriptions
of him might include the terms eccentric, wheeler-dealer, rock n
roller, storyteller or womanizer.
Well, alright, womanizer
might be a bit strong but his adventures in pursuit of the fairer sex
over the years have certainly provided a rich source of amusing anecdotes.
But apart from all this, above all else, Barry Astral is, first and foremost,
In the beginning,
at least for me, there was Barrys bike shop. The opening of Astral
Cycles in the mid-seventies was announced with a suitable splash in a
two-line ad in Exchange & Mart. As a teenager looking for my first
racing bike I rolled up on my wheels of choice at the time, a Raleigh
Chopper. There he was, this lean and tanned bloke with blonde hair nonchalantly
lounging outside the shop in the sun while half a dozen customers poked
around inside in a bemused fashion. Barry didnt believe in hassling
the buyers, especially if there was some sunbathing to do.
The shop was actually a squat, so this made for conveniently low overheads.
Barry slept in the room behind the shop on a mattress on the floor surrounded
by old bikes hanging on clothes rails. You might think this bijou residence
left a bit to be desired in the pulling stakes but Barry never seemed
to have much bother, at least to my untrained teenage eyes. I cant
offer any comment on the quality of the ladies entertained
here, suffice to say that a mate of Barrys apparently
ran what amounted to a bordello in a room above the shop. Barry assures
me this was an entirely separate enterprise. No inter-changeable stock,
Anyway, this place was an irresistible hang-out to any impressionable
teenage boy interested in bikes. It wasnt long before I was resident
mechanic, working most Saturdays for the next few years, even long after
I left school. Almost all repair work was carried out by me. Barry would
save it up for the weekend so he didnt have to do any.
Mind you, one thing was guaranteed to catapult him out of his chair at
the rear of the shop; the entrance of an attractive female. Id be
about to offer assistance to a good-looking young lady when suddenly Id
be barged aside by Barry saying, Dont worry Tone, Ill
see to this customer. I didnt usually mind this as
it gave rise to the possibility of hearing a Barry-esque chat-up routine,
often with the added bonus of sexual innuendo so outrageous that Julian
Clarey would find it useful.
For example, there was the girl who needed her saddle height adjusted.
Instead of just moving the thing to the correct height Barry would pull
it from the bike and thoroughly clean the seat post tube in a highly suggestive
manner. Meanwhile he would be chatting away to the girl, skilfully assessing
what he could get away with without causing offence. On more than one
occasion I saw this scenario culminate in the immortal line, Remember,
to make it slide back in easily, always grease well before insertion.
These diversions aside, it was Barry who introduced me to the world of
bike racing. He had hundreds of copies of International Cycle Sport and
I was soon enthralled with stories from the continental Tours and one-day
Classics. Names like Gimondi, Thevenet, Poulidor, de Vlaeminck, Maertens
and especially Merckx were soon the gods of bike racing for me as I made
my first tentative foray into racing myself. Wed talk about bike
racing for hours.
Then one day Barry mentioned hed done a bit of racing on the continent
himself. Pressed for more information, he admitted to a couple of seasons
racing based in Ghent in the mid-sixties trying to make a living in pro
races! Blimey! What next?...........