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Collin Allin has a passion for bicycles and is one of Dubai's foremost collectors of the two-wheeled machines. Here he explains his obsession, his most revered bikes and the surprising one he'd love to have in his collection.Oakley business brand manager at Luxottica,
Talk us through your collection and how you started?
So I think the start of it was as a kid and not being able to afford the cool bikes. I started riding at four years old and raced a bit of BMX in South Africa. And then when I got into more serious racing - around 12 or 13 - we were average middle-class family and I couldn't afford the cool stuff. There were certain bikes within the history of cycling that changed the game. And I was always in love with them. But could never afford them. Now that I'm older and I'm able to buy them, I'm buying them. The most recent bike I got, which is a Colnago, is my 103rd bicycle that I've owned.
Yeah. I don't currently have them all at the moment. I've only got about seven or eight now. I've always kind of bought and sold them.
How many bikes do you actually ride now?
I've kind of narrowed it down to two, the ones that really stand out there and change things. So the first one is the Look KG196, which is the one in the room next door. The reason that one is so special is because it was the first Monocoque carbon frame to be produced. Up to that point, bicycles were using a two tubes that go into a joint or were glued. Look was very good at that at the time. And so when the KG196 came along, as a Monocoque, which basically means it's one mold - so there's no glue - it's a whole frame all around and this changed the game because they were able to really shape it.
It's a special bike then?
Yeah. This was the first time they came up with aerodynamically shaped tubes. They actually thought about making a fast bike from about '92 or '93, and it was raced professionally by the onsite team. And as a boy, I remember I was about 14. I remember even what I was wearing. I walked into a cycling shop and, well, the South African champion athlete, Conrad Stoltz had just rode for Once Team and he had the only one in South Africa. And at the time. It just looked like a spaceship. I was like what is that? And of course the price is so high. No one even could afford it in South Africa. Due to apartheid and because of sanctions, we didn't get a lot of that stuff. He [Stoltz] raced at the 2000 Olympics. So it must've been around '98 or '99, and had only been out for three or four years in the market. And I always said to myself, one day, I want to own one. I've got it hooked up to an indoor trainer now.
So it still gets a lot of use?
I ride it outside on the road and it's still a beautiful bike. It turns heads. Most of the bikes I have are over 20 years old. And when people see it, they're like "what is that?". It's 27 years old now and it still looks relevant to the modern stuff. And that's because all the bikes that we have today came from these designs and technology.
You don't see many bikes built like the '90s ones anymore. Why's that?
The UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale, cycling's governing body) abandoned these super bikes. They're from an era where money was no object and where built to ride as fast as you can. What was happening at the Tour de France and at other big races is that the top three or four teams had the best bikes and were winning. The smaller teams were complaining that they couldn't afford all the fancy kits. So the UCI started coming up with rules to to make it more fair for everyone. A bit like in F1 now where you have to have the same engines and stuff. So rules like how many spokes you're allowed to have in a wheel, and the frame had to be of a traditional construction and they put a weight limit in at 6.8kg. Annoyingly, these have never been reviewed. So 6.8 kgs, 15 years ago, is like a super bike today. You can build a bike that's 5kg now without trying to hide it. So they [the UCI] really need to relook at the rules within cycling. Also it was getting quite dangerous because there was a rider on a steep climb and to swap to an aluminium bike frame because when he got to the top, there were holes in the carbon frame from stones that had flicked up. That one layer [of carbon fibre] literally made it as light as possible and these prototype bikes were breaking. People were getting into accidents. In fact, the original four spokes spun very fast and that carbon fiber was like a razor blade - it actually cut people's hands off. Some had their feet cut off.
What's your favourite bike you've ever owned?
The most iconic bike I had, which is now in a museum in New Zealand, is the Lotus Sport 110. It's the same bike that Chris Boardman set a world record on. It was super interesting because it was manufactured in South Africa. Well, there were actually two batches of manufacturing. One was in the UK and one is in South Africa. Lotus only made it as a marketing gimmick, but it took off globally and started winning Olympic medals. It was a nightmare for Lotus because they didn't know what to do with this monstrosity that they've created and they just wanted to sell cars. This bike was super special and rare. I'm actually quite upset that I sold it, but it's in a good place. Chris Boardman actually signed it and it's on a wall in the museum. I've been trying to buy it back for the last three years!
And what's the Holy Grail for you in terms of bikes to complete your collection?
If we're talking history, I think I would need a Penny Farthing. That's where it all started. It's the most iconic bicycle in the world. I'd ride it too! I think it would be pretty cool. If I had one, I definitely would. A Penny Farthing is back to the absolute basics. I'd love to do a modern version. Maybe fit it with some shock absorbers and modern gears. That would be fantastic.
END OF INTERVIEW