Bezoeker van onze site Ron, stuurde ons zijn geschiedenis met Zieleman. Hij beloofde ook foto’s van zijn collectie te sturen, die volgen dus binnenkort.
I bought my first Ko Zieleman mid seventies, indeed in the Reggestraat in Amsterdam Zuid.
Special prepared by Ko, and like usual applied with the text “type special” on the upper frame tube.
Anyway, all his steel soldered bikes were special and did carry that label.
And special it was, maybe not the bike but the way Ko runs his custom bike business.
Definitely, Ko did not make any distinction between customers, no special treatments. Unlike the label, no customer was special.
Entering his business Ko’s first standard salute for everyone: “goeden dag Heer “ good day gentleman, emphasizing every gent is a gentlemen.
Coming to order my Zieleman, no sophisticated measurement tools were used. Ko put me on one of his showroom bikes, looked carefully on to my position on the bike and said: ‘Your frame size will be 60 cm. No further discussions are necessary. The frame will be made with Reynolds 531 stays and tubes soldered with copper’. (Later on Ko started to build frames out of Columbus too, with silver soldering and Cinelli Micro fusion lugging).
Next step: colour finishing of the frame and how to complete the bike. Ko showed a number of metallic and non metallic samples: ” you have to make your choice out of this selection, more colours are nor available. Text on the frame, positive or negative paint-transfers and that’s it. If you are lucky my father will stick them to the frame, he is the best. And if I may advise you, complete the bike with Campa Super Record. Do you have wheels? If not, my father – who is still working for a couple of hours in the workshop – will prepare a tremendous stable set with butted stainless spokes”.
Price was no issue for any discussion. Always fixed, depending on metallic or standard paint. Number of connection points for brake cables and “pitcher” were carefully calculated and the price added to which parts should be chromed (forks).
I think to remember I paid fl. 650,- guilders for just the frame, half to be paid in advance. Rest invoiced after six weeks (in case the frame was finished at that moment…).
In case??? Yes, because I soon found the moment of picking up the finished bike at the agreed moment was utopian. Reason, Ko’s bikes were very much wanted. He could effort not to call you but he expected you would contact him. If necessary again and again, etc. Resulting in a situation his customers would visit his shop frequently during the “building period” being curious on Ko’s progress.
Anyway, visiting his (work)shop was absolute not a punishment. Often you could met monuments of Dutch cycling world in the workshop, ordering parts, just for a talk or bringing incomplete wrecked bikes to be repaired by Ko. Most probably one of the reasons Ko could not guarantee delivery times because of these emergencies.
Finally there was that special moment; receiving my new born Zieleman frame. No ceremony! In case you were lucky, getting a old fashion head cap (yes, for free) from the master with the announcement: ‘If you may run into problems, just pass by, you know to find me, good luck’.
Proud as a father with his new born baby travelling by train with the bike to my home city. Astonished no single person in the train asked me for details of this beauty. Never the less completely prepared to answer any question. At these times mostly regarding to speed number, total weight and where did you buy it. Non of that all, even no admiring remarks referring to the beautiful metallic cognac paint or silly questions such as: ‘who or what is Zieleman’. What a wretches, the poor people unknown of the Chrome Molybdenum treasure in their nearness. But lucky I was!
At the end of the seventies my wife started to be enthusiastic on cycling. Even in such a way, I decided to travel to Amsterdam and ask Ko to build us another Zieleman. And so he did. Both bikes are (currently 2012) – with a couple of modifications – still up and running. Coming to the point in the late nineties, forty years after starting building bikes, and Ko thought it was enough. He locked up his place and put an advertisement in Wielerrevue (a Dutch Cycling Magazine). It was this very short announcement: “Ko houdt er mee op. Gereedschap en materialen zijn te koop”. In English: “Ko quits. Tools and materials are for sale”.
Un known of above mentioned catastrophe, I visited a bike seller some were I the middle of no were (countryside). Location similar to a “cattle camp”. A representative of bike tools by accident happened to visit this unknown place, noticed my interest in second rose (bikes). He advised me to have a look at the sealing. Doing so, switching the light on, surprisely I found a bunch of brand new Zieleman’s. Different size and colour, most covered under a layer of dust but undoubtly in every detail carrying masters signature.
Imagine these frames, never expecting to meet such an inglorious end in the dark, some were on a sealing in the country, between cows and pigs without being deflowered.
Thirty five years after my first purchase my financial position did a little bit improve (related to mid seventies). So you may understand I could not resist start negotiating on price. So, such another beautiful piece of proven craftsman shaft came into my possession for just 130 euro,- , a fraction of the original price. Much money for an old fashion frame, but little for a historical monument. And than coming home; enthusiast preparing and fitting all different parts, however a wife looking day after day more sceptical telling me: ‘You can only ride one bike at the time and where to store this new adoption child. Don’t tell me there is more to come’.
You might have an idea what happened next. My wife did hit the nail on the head. Every time I was around in that neighbour head, I visited that shop buying another of Zieleman’s Special Species. Currently, not yet ready to start a museum, bit coming close. I admit, these bikes deserve a much better life than being used by an old dabbler, but other sides, every thing better than ending between scrap at Steptoe and Son.