[CR]Technical trials and international participation


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Date: Tue, 1 Jul 2003 12:06:11 -0700
To: classicrendezvous@bikelist.org
From: "Jan Heine" <heine@mindspring.com>
Subject: [CR]Technical trials and international participation

French technical trials:

I don't know of any non-French makers taking part. Note, however, that I researched only the 1933-1949 trials. I know little of the earlier trials. The best source on those is Raymond Henry's article.

Back then, frontiers in Europe were still very real - wars were fought over them! Also, the rules meant that most manufacturers would have to make specific bikes for the trials, which was worth while only if you could expect sales. And from what I know, the French bicycle market was dominated by French makers. I know some people bought high-end racing bikes from Italy (in the 1980s), but otherwise, until recently, you saw almost exclusively French bikes in France.

Of course, American manufacturers didn't make cyclotouring bikes in the 1930s and 1940s, so participating in trials was not an issue.

There were some exchanges across borders: Once in a while, somebody in Le Cycliste will write from the U.S. or Canada, there even are some Rebour drawings from a bike show - all baloon tire stuff, which Rebour chronicled in his inimitable style, but his descriptions are a bit at a loss of understanding what this was about!

I remember (quoting from memory, so don't take me by the word) a letter in 1938 or 1939 saying that "in the U.S., finally there are some lightweight bikes available. Called Paramount (could be Schwinn Paramount, I don't recall exactly), the racing model weighs 10 kgs (22 lbs) (once again, quoting from memory, could be 9.8 or 10.5 kgs), which is considered the utmost in light weight here (meaning the U.S.). Clearly," the writer, an American, states "the U.S. has a long way to go until they can equal the wonderful bikes available in France, but there is hope." (Note that this is not my opinion, but that of the writer of the letter to Le Cycliste.)

More frequent were little articles on the state of the bike industry in other European countries, most frequently Belgium.

Ernest Csuka told me an American immediately after the war wanted to order a Singer (tandem?), referring to the win in the 1939 trials. M. Csuka said that export restrictions meant they couldn't fill the order... So there were people in this country reading Le Cycliste and other mags.

I don't have the complete rule books for the trials, only the excerpts published in the magazines. However, I don't find anything that indicates foreign companies are explicitly excluded.

The only cross-border participation that I have found: In the 1948 trials in Belgium, Alex Singer participated, but the bikes were run under Cycles Mignon. This will be described in part 2 of the trials, in the next VBQ, with an interview with the winning rider.

Changing topics somewhat, there was quite some American participation in European racing in the early 1900s. Major Taylor, of course, comes to mind, but also Americans being favorites in PBP, which at the time was a professional race. But this, of course, is outside the CR time frame.

Jan Heine, Seattle

John Price wrote:

Jan, this is probably a good question for you but I thought others might be interested in the answer so I'm posting to the CR list - and hey, its not another Masi thread (not that there's anything wrong with that)...

Were the French randonneur technical trials only open to French bike companies ? Did any other countries take part ? I know there wasn't a big randonneur following in Italy (for instance) but I wonder if some of the companies there might've still tried their hand in the trials, or maybe more likely, the English or Americans.