I will be offline for a few weeks while I’m away participating in Paris-Brest-Paris for the second time.
If you are curious about randonnering, a form of ultra distance cycling w/roots in France, here’s an NPR report on the history of the sport (w/a soundbite at the end by me). I’ll post a gallery when I get back, emphasizing custom bikes, canvas bike bags, roadside eats and wool jerseys.
It’s always fun to match a fave brand to its foreign, brick and mortar store. During my recent trip to Japan, I visited Cycles Grand Bois, a venerable bicycle company known for its elegant handlebars, polished bike parts, custom frames, and 650b tires. Thanks to a rando pal who knows how to navigate Google maps in Japanese, we found GB in a suburb of Kyoto. Trading shoes for slippers, we explored the main shop area and talked to the manager. The showroom space is cramped, with bikes packed in tight bunches on the main floor and auxiliary frames stacked in window display pyramids or hung from the rafters. I’m including a few snaps from my visit. Follow Grand Bois on Instagram for a more immersive view of the shop.
I tried watching the 2016 Tour de France but lost interest after the first week. I miss the panache and personal style of cyclists from the past. Now, I can barely distinguish one game piece from the next (logos, lego shaped helmets and mirrored shades drown out the personalities of the individual riders. I much prefer the era of leather hairnets, wool jerseys, lace up cycling shoes, Campagnolo parts, and steel bike frames with pinstripe detailing around the lugs or chrome forks and seat stays. In lieu of a $29 streaming media packaging, I’m now browsing through vintage European matchstick covers from my favorite print ephemera archivist, Pillpat. Head over to her vintage matchbox and matchboxes set on flickr to pick the riders for your own personal peloton.
Occasionally, an eBay watchlist returns a pleasant ping like these original Hebden Cord Touring Shorts. Alas, they are sized too large for me but I still want to document for my archives. In a few years, all memories of elegant, tailored, non-technical cycling garb will most likely disappear from our collective memory. Here is a little evidence to the contrary:
Did you catch Chris Froome sporting a logo free musette during the Olympic road race in Rio? I always love catching glimpses of this little retro style bag in a sea of state of the art garb and bike technology. While modern cycling musettes are made of cheap synthetics (designed to be discarded), my favorite vintage versions were made out of cotton (with a matching strap). Unusual examples include a snap fastener or flap closure but most of the ones you find on eBay are simply unstructured sacks with straps. I tend to shop by logo or color blocking. Here are a few examples that I gathered during a recent shopping expedition:
Last month, I traveled to the UK to ride the 1400k randonnee, London-Edingburgh-London. I survived the ride but couldn’t really tell you what I remember. After pedaling for 4.5 days on about 8 hours of sleep (total) I recorded and erased most of the experience. I did manage to take a few snaps of the trip with my phone and loaner point and shoot. These are a few my “before” photos from the days leading up to LEL. In next few weeks, I’ll post my post-trip field trip notes from my visits to a few of my favorite London shops.
UK arrival – assembling my Vanilla in the courtyard of the Snaresbrook Travelodge
En route to city center to repair on an out of true wheel. Lots of guest appearances by Brompton folders on this trip.
I wish we had had more time to chat with Ninon, owner of the amazing, Bicycle Workshop. Like all my favorite shops. BW focuses on repairing utility bikes but harbors a hidden inventory of vintage parts and deadstock bits. Ninon was the only person on my trip who remembered Hebden Cord, the now defunct UK clothing company that used to manufacture bespoke cycling shorts.
Last August, post Paris-Brest-Paris, we had the pleasure of visiting the Alex Singer shop on 53, Rue de Victor Hugo, in northwest Paris. The historic Singer shop has a reputation for producing some of the most stunning, steel cyclo-tourist and racing bikes in the world. Visiting the Alex Singer is like shopping from the past. Vintage and modern bikes share the same floor space. A side showroom is filled with deadstock cycling shoes and wool jerseys – all in their original packaging. Since I’m set for bikes, I limited my purchases to a few Alex Singer caps and a fetching leather style pouch. Here are some snap views to round out my report:
Gilles Berthoud bags in Alex Singer shop
Gilles Berthoud bags on display
Alex Singer porteur bike
The Singer shop porteur – my all time favorite
Love both the custom Singer front rack and shop floor tile
Button-up neck (for on-bike temperature regulation)
Rear carrying pocket
Long sleeved version (photographed during mixte test ride at RBW)
Rivendell Bicycle Works used to sell a wonderful derby tweed sweater which they referred to as a long sleeved cycling jersey. The knit sweaters/jerseys were made by the British knitwear firm Outdoor Knitwear/Woolyback. They came in several different styles including a crew neck, a “polo shirt” version and a sleeveless vest. I own the vest and regret not purchasing a long sleeved, crewneck jersey (preferably, the crewneck). The wool for my vest is super durable, never pills, and come in a nice, timeless seafoam green color. Here’s a link to the original blurb from the Rivendell website. Don’t bother the kind folks at Rivendell about available stock. I believe the sweaters sold out several years ago although I have an archival petition in to bring them back (progress pending?). What I like about the Riv jerseys (beyond wool type and generic styling) is how well they integrate cycling or use-specific functionality (a rear carrying pocket and button up neck) into an everyday garment (making it equally appropriate for indoor-outdoor wear).
Wooly Warm garment tag and derby tweed wool close-up
Please email me photos of your Rivendell Wooly Warm sweaters, wool tops or jerseys. I’d like to post a full “catalog” of images of discontinued Wooly Warm woolens.
For interested parties, Rivendell just released issue # 41 of the Rivendell Reader (available for free download as a pdf file).