Re: [CR]A long reminiscence Re:Paris Sport

(Example: History)

Date: Sat, 17 Sep 2005 05:40:04 -0700 (PDT)
From: "Mark Poore" <>
Subject: Re: [CR]A long reminiscence Re:Paris Sport
In-Reply-To: <001701c5baf1$f7fb8db0$0c0110ac@D7FBDM41>

It might also be noted that there were frames coming out of the shop labeled Fraysse. Around 1982 or so I bought one in Tampa, FL that had been hanging on the wall for years and the owner of the shop let me have it for half price, $200. I remember the frame as being very well made with Cinelli lugs filed fairly thin and fork crown. The fork was rather straight, very little rake so I replace it with a chrome replacement fork of good quality that certainly improved the ride. Somewhere around here I do have a photo that was take of it and if by chance I run across it and the big if, if I remember I will post it to my photo page and let ya'all know.

Mark Poore Slatyfork, WV wrote: Dear Listies,

In reference to the confusion about Paris Sport and the numerous framebuilders that worked at the Fraysse's shop over the years I thought I might add a little of what I remember.

Paris Sport was a house brand of the Fraysse's shop in Ridgefield Park, N.J. The family has a long and VERY significant involvement with bike racing in the United States. At one time or another I believe Mike, father Vic, and grandfather Emile were all presidents of the USCF/ABLA, etc. and they were all very experienced racers of "the old school", i.e. heavily into track and old six-day lore, and of course, their local bike club, the North Jersey Bicycle Club(NJBC). They often managed / coached the Olympic/World Championship trips abroad during the "dark ages" of adult cycling in the US (the 40's to the early 70's).

Some of the confusion over the brands and wildly different quality levels comes from the fact that the Paris Sport shop imported MANY different frames and bikes which they re-badged and decalled as "Paris Sport". This is a very smart way to differentiate your bike shop from others, and is a common strategy once a shop acheives the size to bankroll such importing and wholesaling. The bikes ranged from the somewhat generic $150 ten-speed bike boom special/UO-8 clones all the way up to Vitus glued aluminum frames. There were also many different levels of steel frames brought in from the myriad of smaller bike companies which still existed in France. One of them was a company named Bernard Dangre', I believe. I can recall going downstairs at Paris Sport, into the frame shop at the very rear of the LOOONG store (it was once a bowling alley) and seeing dozens and dozens of road and track frames hanging up from the ceiling all primed up in flat green, just waiting for a buyer's choice of top-coat. None of them was exactly top-notch, they were all just production grade decent beginner to mid-level frames. I think the Fraysse's used to do a fair amount of wholesaling to other bike shops around the bike-boom, so this is also why they would have had so many of these kind of things around. They would sometimes decal these frames as "Vigorelli" or "Star Nord". The Vigorelli's were the better quality frames back in the 80's.

The aforementioned framebuilding shop was located all the way downstairs and at the very back of the store. Here is where the likes of Pepe' Limongi, Ramon Orero, Dave Moulton, and Andres/Francisco Cuevas made and repaired frames. Apologies to the other names I have missed. There were a myriad of builders who worked there because the frame shop was operated as a sort of separate entity - it was rented to the various builders and the Fraysse's would try and steer a lot of business to whoever was building there at the time. Sometimes the frame shop didn't have a full-time builder. Mike and Vic offered to set me up and rent me the shop when I was a youngster trying to learn how to build frames back in the early-mid eighties. I was very inexperienced but that didn't seem to daunt Mike or Vic - who sort of encouraged me and promised that I would "learn as I went" (!) and that they would send lots of business my way. In retrospect, I probably should have tried it, but it all seemed like there were an awful lot of vague verbal assurances and promises, and I was pretty aware of my marginal skills at the time.

So the frame shop would sometimes feature transient builders who came over to the USA for a time and they would build for a while, get homesick or whatever, and then they would move on. Because Paris Sport was located a very short distance from New York City the foreigners were always relatively close to the various vibrant ethnic neighborhoods where they could feel a part of the community.

It was all a very different world in the bicycle business back then. A much, much smaller, more insular world where having good contacts abroad was perhaps not as easy to acheive as nowadays. The number of decent bike shops the size of Paris Sport were very few in the US during the 40's to 70's. Especially ones that had experience with high-end equipment and clothing. One additional aspect of Paris Sport that really impressed me at the time was the training and weight room that they had on premises. Now that was truly unusual at the time but such a brilliant idea for keeping people involved with the bike club and the shop during the winter months when business would slow. It was all part of an intelligent well-run bike club scene where a new rider could rub elbows with experienced riders/racers and "learn the ropes" of the arcane, dangerous, and little-known world of bike racing at the time. A rider could try their hand at club racing and activities BEFORE they entered the fray of "organized" craziness that passes for the domestic sport nowadays.

The lack of clubs like the NJBC, with their year-round activities (time-trials, road races, training rides, roller races, award dinners, social dances, interclub soccer matches, etc. etc.) and ability to transform a newbie into an experienced and knowlegible dedicated bicycle rider/racer - is what so hampers the current bike scene in the US, IMHO. Lots of people riding very expensive bicycles, but with very little skill or expertise.

I think Mike Fraysse retired and sold the shop in the early to mid-1990's. He went on to purchase and renovate the old Singer family (Sewing Machines AND Bicycle company fortunes) estate in NY state. His family and him run this as a B&B/retreat and supposedly it is a wonderful joint. A good friend of mine went there a few years ago and said there is excellent local riding on rural roads with little traffic. Hopefully someone on the list knows more about this and can provide additional details. It would be great if he would join the list ! He would add a wealth of knowledge of bikes and the bike world to our humble list, although I understand why someone with so much involvement with bikes might want to keep a little distance from the topic. So if you do locate him please don't pester him with silly questions regarding how to wrap cloth handlebar tape, or whether cheapo Atom hubs were better than cheapo Normandy hubs !

Cheers, Mike Fabian in San Francisco


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