[CR]An attempt to explain the appeal of those imperfect French bikes


Example: Production Builders:Cinelli

Date: Thu, 5 Jul 2007 20:50:07 -0700 (PDT)
From: Fred Rednor <fred_rednor@yahoo.com>
To: classicrendezvous@bikelist.org
Subject: [CR]An attempt to explain the appeal of those imperfect French bikes

OK - I'm actually sending this in respose to off-list requests. You might say it's being sent by popular demand. But like the frames we've recently discussed, I'm imperfect and might not express myself to everyone's satisfaction. So if you have comments, please do so politely. After all, these are just bicycles. Now on to the heart of the matter...

I'm willing to admit it: many people who like French bikes including me) do so because the bikes frequenty exhibit an anomoly or two. I mean it's heartening to know the builders showed the same disdain towards Anquetil, Hinault and Fignon that they showed to ordinary guys like me. That is, if Jan Janssen can win Tour stages on a bike with a really crude seat post clamp, who am I to complain about something similar on my bike?

Now I love the Bernard Carré frames, and I'm actively looking to buy a couple more, but I'm convinced that Monsieur Carré did not care to build a completely beautiful bike. There's always some quirky element. It might be the fork crown, it might be fork ends, or sometimes the seat stay caps... but it's always something that he believed was not worth the time.

And let's not forget the paint. Consider this: LeJeune had their own paint shop to finish frames built elsewhere. Have you seen LeJeune paint - even on genuine TdF bikes? A ninety dollar Atala had much better paint and chrome to boot... So if LeJeune's finishing work was an improvement, what would the contractor's own paint have been like?

I recommend you check out the forks of those old Peugeots that are "almost PX-10s". These are the bikes with Reynolds 531 main triangles, Vitus stays and forks made from... well, made from I don't know what. But they have visible seams, although those seams are oriented so that they're only visible on close inspection. (Note: I don't own one, but I think Motobécane bikes are fabulous. I even think their Swiss bottom brackets are a great idea - I just wish they had marked them with some special identifier.)

On the other end of the spectrum, even the few Singer and Herse bikes I've examined had disappointing finishes when examined up close. (Now I know that some of you own more of those bikes than I've touched...) I think I've said this to the list before: many French bikes are built to look good from a distance of a meter or 2. The lines of the bike really flow and they always seem to ride well. But a close inspection will reveal rough front dropouts, erratic striping, or whatever.

So you might ask, what do the Japanese collectors - for example - see in this stuff? I think there is a tremendous appreciation of the whole amongst their collectors. Anyway, as I mentioned, I'm also looking for a bike or 2 in the right frame size. (50 to 52cm, maybe 53.) But I'm not expecting utter perfection.
      Cheers,
      Fred Rafael Rednor - Arlington, Virginia (USA)