In 2018 I was invited to take part in the third edition of Concours de Machines as Dear Susan, in the medieval town of Bruniquel in the south of France. The Concours is a recent(ish) revival of a frame-building contest first organized in 1903 that ran up to the late 1940s. It was traditionally hosted in different locations around France, the goal of which was to demonstrate the superiority of artisanal “constructeurs” and their machines, over production bikes.
Before accepting the invitation, there were some red flags for me. For instance the idea of “better;” how you can numerically score one bike against another, especially if they’re designed and made around a particular rider for a particular course? There’s so much that just comes down to preference! Reading further into the scoring system, the seemingly arbitrary categories actually became quite liberating, in that scores were given based on abstract criteria rather than what constituted a good or appropriate bike. Limitations included things like: “the bicycle must have wheels with tyres, and a system with which to steer,” as well as point scoring sections like: “the bicycle must be able to power its own lights and it must have bags to carry everything you need for an overnight trip.”
This is the first of two reports from the 2022 Concours de Machines. Be sure to check back tomorrow for the second installment!
The re-issued event is too young to rigidly have rules on what happens and where, but in essence there seems to be a three year rotation on what the actual riding looks like. One year Rando, one year Paris-Brest-Paris, and the third year off-road bikepacking. 2018 was the first off-road year, and that encouraged me to turn up with something that, while adhering to all of the rules, was as off-piste as possible. I was in it to win it by scoring as many points as possible in the frame building part of the competition, while also not scratching in the race section. I didn’t really know anything about the contest except that it was French, and a snobby constructeurs contest. I showed up with a semi-built and untested medium tall bike that I had designed with the help of bike fitter Tony Corke on a tilting table to be as stable as possible. Rather than outrage, my wacky races, experimental tall fat bike became in many ways the star of the show, until the next morning. At some point in the night before the race, assembly was completed, and we made it to the start line. A couple of miles in, however, once we actually got off road, my flimsy cable-actuated steering system failed and I scratched.
I walked the bike for a couple of miles, which was basically impossible with no steering; looking for someone or something that could help me back on course. In the end my rescue came not from any kind of repair, but from the bad influence of legendary, but now reclusive and obscure New York frame builder, Fixi Paulie, and his unlikely Dutch accomplice “Rando Rob.” They ever so gently rolled to a holt next to me, in a blacked-out extra long wheel base Mercedes Sprinter, wound down a side window, liberating a thick plume of heavy smoke that cascaded downwards over the door and offered me a lift. It felt like I was hitching a lift with Cheech and Chong, who were in turn hitching a lift from Aphex Twin from the music video for Window Licker.
Rather than any kind of patch fix, we sat under the shifting shade of Coca-Cola umbrellas outside what seemed to be a junk shop that served food, and blocked our arteries with mind blowing confit duck and good, cheap red wine. We spent the day discussing failure, homemade rear mechs, vintage Singer frames and 650b tyres. It took scratching to become a fan. It took scratching to understand the contest, and it took scratching to stop and actually engage with constructeur culture in a meaningful way. That year the contest, which finished at some point in the night, was won by Andreas Berhens of “La Fraise” aboard a lightweight and conservative mountain bike, packing minimal kit. We vaguely stayed in touch, bumping into each other at shows over the next few years, but I was super excited to receive an invite to attend this year’s edition of the Concours in Andreas’ home town of Roubaix, for the contests return to Rando.
My business partner Josh and I arrived in Roubaix late the night before the competition, with the hope of getting a good night’s van sleep, in the carpark of a local swimming pool that Andreas had recommended as a safe place to park for the night. Although the pool was shut, on our arrival, a security guard somehow appeared and made a beeline across the car park and shewed us away, which gave rise to the opportunity to drive slowly round the industrial red brick town of Roubaix in search of a spot to park for the night. Roubaix at night doesn’t feel unsafe by any stretch of the imagination, but doesn’t feel welcoming either. It feels somewhat post industrial, but as a post industrial town, it hasn’t been developed in the way that towns in the UK have. Coffee is made to cater exclusively to a chain smokers palette, and while all French towns have bakeries and patisseries that make pastry to a high standard, avocado toast is at least 10 years away. We find a quiet side road that’s close to the morning’s events, next to a park to stop for the night.
At 6:30 we wake up suddenly to the sound of two cars colliding, and get dressed to the sounds of a furious insurance detail exchange in French. Our accidental early rise saw us arrive at the contest, full of breakfast and somewhat on time. We pulled into an L-shaped yard surrounded on all sides by looming red brick walls in the shade of an expanse of factory buildings. We meet Andreas who gives us a brief tour of the building, which is perfectly preserved in some sort of middle ground between an urban explorer’s wet dream and a museum. It’s a comfortable and functional preservation, with elements of the factory being repurposed, while others remain untouched. Fabric dyeing barrels in primary colors are now used as huge lamp shades, while dilapidated roofs are now only partially adorned with original wooden laths, teetering on the edge of a scene from Final Destination by a cigarette paper’s thickness of rusty nail.
Andreas’ workshop is luxuriously dark and cool, with little islands of light highlighting workstations and displays of historical tools, left behind in what was formerly the factory’s machine shop, inhabited by toolmakers who would presumably maintain the various machines.
“This used to be a textile factory during La Belle Epoque, I just rent this space on the bottom, but the upper levels have all the original tools and books – feel free to look, you can touch everything, just don’t take anything.”
As competitors began to arrive we followed them through the process of scrutiny in the factories various rooms, first, in the center of the tool room (now the La Fraise workshop) bikes were checked over by the courses “technical commission”, amidst fervent chatter and focussed note taking as each bike was weighed and measured in various ways. The technical commission’s role is to check that all the required mechanical and safety elements are present (including wheels, brakes, handlebars etc) as well as checking details and gathering data, making sure required systems such as lighting are present.
After the commission has checked its checks we’re led through a room that once housed a great steam engine that powered the entire factory via a series of belts and drive shafts, which is now a little canteen, up a rickety narrow staircase to the “bobbinotheque.” In stark contrast to the gloom shrouded, brown on gray palette of the rest of the building, the expert jury are framed by huge brightly coloured bobbins. The jurors sit in a huddle around their computers ready to scrutinize each bike and allocate points, associated with each category of scoring. One by one the competitors, some teams, others individuals, bring their bikes in, and lift them onto a leather topped bureau with a bike stand on it, to explain their design and give a presentation based on a technical document they’ve produced explaining their design. The constructeurs, having been scrutinized and quizzed, make their way back down the stairs to a room filled with dying vats and large, once pressurized steel tanks, to have their bikes photographed.
This year’s 200km(ish) long course, while largely flat, was littered with a number of other, predominantly terrain based challenges, and punctuated by a number of short sharp climbs and descents, encompassing the toughest sections of both “the Queen of the classics”: Paris Roubaix, and Ronde van Vlaanderen aka the Tour of Flanders. As such, anti-cobble damping technology was a hot topic of design, which away from cycling’s oppressive overlords, the UCI was allowed to flourish. The constructeurs and their teams approached road bike suspension with more ingenuity and zeal than any world tour of modern times could, with solutions ranging from elastomers, to bendy metal and full on shocks. This year’s race was different to other years, in that while usually constructeurs are encouraged to pilot their own machines, this year that was only a possibility for one individual, as the rules dictated a female pilote.
To qualify at all, the contests rules state that participating bikes must:
Be adapted to different types of roads of the north of France : paved, gravel, cobbles, wet and dry conditions.
Ride hilly terrain with short but steep climbs.
Ride during night time.
Be able to carry the necessary means to repair any mechanical problem (a mechanical issue that can not be fixed by means of onboard equipment leads to disqualification).
Carry spare clothes / rain gear, water and basic food supply to last the day.
Accommodate a navigation device or navigation tools to follow a GPS trace
Mandatory Equipment (not meeting the requirements means disqualification)
There are also rules on what a bicycle should be:
➔ A frame and a fork
➔ A handlebar with a stem or a similar system instead of a stem
➔ A removable and adjustable saddle with an attachment system to the frame
➔ Two wheels with rims and hubs and a secure release and attachment system
➔ A drive train with pedals and cranks
➔ A freewheel and transmission
➔ Independent brakes for front and rear wheel.
The bike needs to hold tools and maintenance equipment for 5 mandatory operations:
➔ repair a puncture or a cut in a tire and re-inflate the wheel, whether it is mounted
tubeless or with an inner tube.
➔ repair the transmission element (chain, belt, cardan…)
➔ adjust the gear shifting system, replace an element to keep it operational, for example a
➔ adjust the position on the bike (height and back of the saddle, tightening of the
handlebars, stem, brake levers) and adjust the headset.
➔ replace and retighten a spoke, even on the transmission side, and remove a wheel.
➔ front (1000 lumens minimum) and rear lighting for night riding: permanent autonomy
➔ a first aid kit
➔ Plates or signs on the frame and helmet to identify rider:
◆ First name, last name
◆ Blood type
◆ Contact number to call in case of an emergency
Separately to meeting the requirements, points are scored based on:
● Lightest bike of the competition (only those who cross the finish line intact will count, a
co-efficient for size of the rider will be applied)
● Best paint job (an independent expert will evaluate design but also quality and
● Highest skilled craftsmanship (for best finishing of joints – brazing / lugs / TIG / carbon /
bambou / wood etc.; choice of material – tubes, diameters etc.)
● Prettiest seat tube cluster
● Smoothest cable routing
Additional prizes were awarded this year for
● Holding and storing carry on luggage
● Integration of lights
● Suspension elements – “best cobble killer”
● Anti-theft protection
● Best racer (to the winner of the race – the rider, not the frame builder)
● Crowd Favorite “Le chouchou du public“ (based on Public Vote)
● Frame builders’ choice – La reconnaissance des pairs (prix des cadreurs)
The first friendly face we met was Victor Duchene of Auguste. I noticed the bike leant up against a bench, and was super impressed by the filet brazed steel truss style suspension fork, and was overcome by an insurmountable urge to actuate the shock by pushing down on the handlebars. Rather than the satisfying oil and air-damped squish that I’d expected, the bars rotated in the stem to point downwards under my weight. Thankfully Victor, who was waiting for the bike’s pilote to arrive before setting anything up fully, wasn’t too upset. I’ve known Victor for a while, having shared a past life each working as mechanics in London, and it’s been amazing to watch him grow from mechanic, to shop owner, to frame builder. At face value, the Auguste seems quite separate from Victor’s usual aesthetic, which encompases a rich history of “old French things.” His day-to-day bike being a 1950’s Peugeot with classic “Tetris”- style lugs that he inherited from his grandfather. Look past the ultra matte, ultramarine-esque lacquer and primary coloured bags hinting at Mondrian’s modernism, and there’s heaps of design features that showcase the breadth of Victor’s scope and understanding of bicycles.
First up, there was the somewhat controversial fork which is what first drew me to the bike. CDM is a contest between a number of different builders so there shouldn’t really be a house style, but in many ways there is. Perhaps it’s more of a culture than a house style, but let’s say there’s a culture of truss/trussy forks. I wouldn’t go as far as to call CDM a truss fork convention but there are definitely way more of them at Concours de Machines than at any other cycling event. Often they are used as bag supports, but Auguste’s was unique and uniquely complex in using a shock, and having a parolelagram suspension design that Victor borrowed from vintage motorcycle design. The fork was made from components designed and machined entirely in house, which took a whopping three weeks to complete.
In short, for a relatively new builder, a phenomenal achievement. In many ways it embodied the actual spirit of the event, because outside of lists of rules and requirements, what’s fun and exciting about CDM is that, in the most honest sense, CDM is a platform for experimentation and pushing the boundaries of builders’ capabilities and technology, which is exactly what this fork did. Why was it controversial? While the fork itself was perfectly straight, distortion caused by heat in fabricating the stem (which was integrated) caused the handlebars to be slightly misaligned on the vertical axis. An easy mistake to make, and an easy mistake to rectify, time constraints meant that it couldn’t be rectified. Although the bike was way too small for me, so it may not be a fair test, even knowing that it was potentially a problem, I couldn’t feel it whilst briefly riding the bike.
Slightly wonky bars aside- which I’m more than happy to let slide on account of the complexity and otherwise impeccable execution of the design, I’m dubious about whether or not the suspension design saw any real world benefit over the famous pavé; its pilote Viva de Moustier weighing less than 50kgs owing to the suction and stiction of the relatively high volume shock. This was absolutely not a problem, as having ridden some parts of the course, there were definitely a huge number of sections that looked more like single track than road or even gravel over which the quirky suspension fork would undoubtedly have had benefit.
One of my favorite parts of the Auguste build was what should undoubtedly have won the “Le plus beau seat tube cluster” award (spoiler alert – it didn’t). Two perfectly concentrically bent tubes, one wrapping seamlessly around the seat tube top tube junction and brazed to the other. I heard from a third-hand source that the cluster was a visual reference to the old Royal Mail post bike seat stays made by Pashly, that Victor used to ride while he was living in London. Having owned and loved a number of those bikes I can say that Victor’s solution was far more elegant, and deserving of the award which was taken home by the immensely talented Julien Fritsch of Jolie Rouge.
Josh and I met Cycles Manivelle on a sunny roof terrace just beyond the upstairs “bobintheque” where the contest’s panel of judges were discussing a different bike. I was subconsciously squeezing brake levers as they climbed down the rusty ladder that led to a view of the factory roofs, which they were exploring whilst they waited for the judges. We’d spoken via email a few times, but never met in person. Having only been building for three years the machine they’d constructed for the competition felt comfortable, coherent and well thought out. There’s an old fashioned ideal that frame builders can only ever have been frame builders, that they somehow present a tacit knowledge of their craft, that somehow happened a long time ago and that they are exceptional at what they do because of 10,000 hours of practice. The truth about that is that practice doesn’t make perfect – it just makes better. What also makes better is working consciously, learning, with the goal of always improving on each part of the process. In this way relatively new builders like Manivelle are able to produce extremely competent and engaging work that’s worth being excited about. I was excited about this bike.
In the context of a very “trussy” group of builders Manivelle constructed a pretty lovely truss, incorporating a front rack with an eccentric design that provided both super minimalist support on the disc side, and cable routing through the brace.
“This is quite a trussy contest? That’s not a criticism, I love it, but why do you think so many people bring truss forks to the Concourse?”
“There just aren’t that many other options for a lightweight disc fork. You can use a carbon fork, or the Reynolds 856 fork blades but they’re quite heavy and they don’t flex so they’re maybe a bit uncomfortable?
The Manivelle fork is particularly nice for its lack of triangulation. The small diameter light weight twin tubed stem integrated into the top part of the fork, was designed to offer more vertical compliance than a traditional stem, while retaining a little lateral stiffness. There are anything cage bosses on each side, which remained un-utilized for the Concourse but offered additional storage for longer rides. As “not a fan” of either filed fillets or internal routing, I could appreciate that both had been carried out thoughtfully and skillfully with an inspiring attention to detail which won them the “nicest cable routing” award.
The matte UD weave of the Campagnolo Ekar groupo sat comfortably with the bicycles matte “machine green” powder coat, which in turn sat comfortably with the factory/museum/venue’s ageing workshop furniture. I loved that the brakes were run with post mount to flat mount adaptors rather than big unnecessarily heavy dropouts encompassing a flat mount, or big chunks cut out of the frame for castings. All in all Manivelle brought an exceptionally good looking rational design with a few quirky yet understated details and ideas, that made it one of my favourite bikes of the competition.
My actual favourite bike was built by Soum. It was an unusual frame for Soum, who are more well-versed in building enduro bikes than anything for the road. The Soum, of team ‘Soumelie’, a compound of Soum and Amelie, seemed far less extreme than many of the other bikes in terms of its design, relating to the traversing of sections of Pavé. It sat looking slender and minimal on 28c slick tyres with caliper brakes that seemed to make everyone a little nervous, owing to forecasts of thunderstorms and whispers of “basically singletrack”. Caliper brakes however, offered a secret weapon in terms of truss design (I’m going to stop saying fork because they basically all had trusses). A brake caliper rather than a disk meant that there was essentially very little requirement for stiffness in the truss, which allowed for a very thin super lightweight structure with some bends allowing a lot of flex.
Coupled with a bushing at the top where the truss meets the integrated stem, allowing for some rotation and increasing flex, the Soum truss seemed like a great way to deal with very low travel, high frequency vibration presented by cobbles. There was no flip paint or spectraflair or clever fades on the Soum. Nice graphic design, fun colours and matching kit meant team Soumelie still felt polished without being overly fancy. It’s also worth noting that the bike was owned by its pilote who’d been riding it for a couple of months, which definitely offered an advantage in the race over riders who’d only just been fitted to a brand new bike.
The most cobble flex in the contest came from Cyfac. I’m not sure where to start with Cyfac, so I’ll start at the beginning. None of the riders had any kind of GPS or tracking, so trying to work out the route and where to photograph them meant chatting to the pilotes and working it out. That and a lot of waiting around, not knowing if we were ahead or behind! I sat down with Sophie Gateau, the Cyfac pilote over lunch on the first day to try and work out the lay of the land, who was going to be fast and how long it would take for the riders to get to where.
“Anything could happen, there’s no way to know when there are technical difficulties. Some of the riders might not even make it!”
Ok sure, but there haven’t been any bikes I’ve seen that are so “out there” that I’m worried about them, nothing obviously looks like it might fail…
The context of my comment was based on a number of bikes (including my own) scratching when I’d entered a few years previously as Dear Susan. There were bikes that looked as if they probably would fail, and they did. Constructeurs pushing the boundaries of lightness and design like that, is part of what makes the contest exciting, because there are few other places to go for that sort of thing. I guess that in terms of full wacky races machines, so far everything was pretty sensible.
“Wait until you see my bike!”
Your bike is going to fail?
“No but it’s very out there”
I guess that’s the place to start with Cyfac. It was way way out there. The Soum may have been my personal favourite build, for its well thought out and well executed austere design, but Cyfac brought what I’d come hoping to see. The frame stuck out as being the only carbon frame at the show, but carbon fibre was really the tip of the iceberg, as I’m pretty sure the whole bike incorporated more different materials than a new iPhone. There was a lot to the Cyfac, so working front to back, because the Columbus futura gravel fork run in “I ordered a catalogue bike off the internet and assembled it myself having never looked at another bicycle before” orientation set a precedent for the rest for the build.
Yes. The front fork was on backwards. No. It wasn’t a mistake! The fork had been heavily modified, starting on the bottom where the dropout was now a casing for a bearing, and the outside of the fork had been built up as a stop for an elastomer borrowed from a Redshift stem. A printed titanium rocker arm sat in the once dropout, and led to a new dropout made from fillet brazed stainless steel, which formed a lug for the new section of carbon fork, leading up past two home made leaf springs to a parallelogram pivot machined from aluminium, forming a truss that incorporated the pilotes name plate. The fork alone seemed to me like a really successful piece of design, incorporating everything good about a Lauf while also addressing a number of its shortcomings. The nature of the contest means that the fork was obviously a one off prototype, and due to its complexity and reliance on borrowed technologies, is unlikely ever to become a thing for production, so the two aren’t really comparable. Although there are a number of pivot points and hardware going on which would need to be maintained, the parallelogram design means that there’s none of the lateral wibble that makes a Lauf disconcerting to ride for the first time. The orientation of the brake on the right and the braking kinematics mean that although there’s 15mm of travel, Under braking, the tilting elements are pushed downwards, there’s a small gap at the top of the parallelogram that closes so the cockpit moves up towards the rider about 1 mm and becomes completely rigid.
“This is unlike suspension forks with plunging elements, when you brake you compress the fork, and this can be tricky in situations where you are riding corners and the bike behaves differently, so this system just locks the suspension and it feels very safe riding the fork. So you don’t have suspension in the braking phase. So that’s a very nice feature. I tried it personally and it feels really safe, so we’re very happy with the result because that was very difficult in the design process, lots of breaking things”
The use of elastomers, as well as leaf springs means that rebound is managed well, and the fork reacts super fast, unencumbered by the suction and stiction of an air shock. It was a highly wacky fork, intricately designed specifically for cobbles, and for that specific application I’ve not seen anything that surpasses it.
Cyfac spent 3 months manufacturing their machine, which was only completed at 3am in the morning of the technical committee. While Cyfac could comfortably have dropped the mic at that point, instead they continued the squish all the way back, with super wide, super flat chain stays, acting as a set of leaf springs for the rear. The chain stays formed a single component, through the dropouts into the seatstays, who met a titanium linkage on their other extremity, matching that of the fork. The linkage joined the seat tube where it attached to a massive bearing, and was damped against an invisible elastomer inside the frame. Its complex full suspension design far surpassed any weirdo innovations that the UCI would ever allow in the actual Paris-Roubaix. Remember the Rock Shox Roubaix fork? Have you seen Trek’s funny squishy back ends? Cyfac took all of that, improved on it and squished it all into one independently made bike.
The bike most opposite to the Cyfac was Stolen Garage, aka team bike polo’s, contribution. I met Luca of Stolen a few years ago at a polo tournament in London, where I somehow got stuck in a lift, and Finlay “the president” of Stolen a few years back at CDM. Back then and again this year, Fin helped me out as a translator, being properly bilingual. Relatively new to building, Stolen Garage met playing polo and started building over the pandemic, although nothing about what they brought hinted at inexperience. The frame was simple, with geometry based on a classic Paris-Roubaix bike so, while I accept there was no way it could have won awards relating to suspension innovation, I can’t imagine a steel bike being much lighter. The frame was constructed from Columbus XCR tubes which are not only the cutting edge of light weight modern steel road bike tubes, but are also more or less unobtainable in modern times.
It featured an Enve carbon fork, which has to be close to the limit of light weightnes any sensible person would ride over cobbles and singletrack, a Campagnolo record groupo, and a Tune seatpost, stem and hubs. The seatpost clamp, weighing only 3 grams seemed like a potential point of weakness, made from a dental floss quantity of UD carbon, but held up just fine on the day. The paint, and the thought that had gone into the paint, really stand out too; with a palette based on the colours of Marie Antoinette, with pearlescent lacquer over clear showing off a measured 60 grams of neatly filed fillets. The bike was adorned with a little crown for “the queen of the classics”, metallic mud splats, applied using a sacrificial wheel set, and a glittery little green parrot common to the area. It had little lines in red and blue representing the lines of Roubaix famous STAB velodrome at which the show part of the concourse was held. I’m not going to pretend to know anything about paint, but it seemed pretty technical and couldn’t be more relevant to the CDM in Roubaix. Stolen Garage didn’t take home prizes for either paint or lightness, which they were (hilariously) vocal about.
Matching the Stolen bike for simplicity was Larix with their first ever titanium frame, built after 6 years of practice in steel. Being titanium, it didn’t need paint, and was left as raw. It was pretty paired down in terms of competition specific features, but had a cute front basket with a drybag in it. Cycles Cattin were even more explicit in their “in it to not win it” attitude to CDM.
They showed up in pirate outfits, and in true pirate spirit refused to adhere to the competition rules, opting for a front oil lamp rather than a dynamo, a bottle of rum over a first aid kit, and a light up skull and crossbones integrated into the seatstay bridge at the rear. The bike also featured a curved seat tube allowing a 405mm chainstay length with 36mm tyres.
Cycles LeBaron were the CDMs only Belgian competitors which given our proximity to Belgium where a pretty high percentage of the race took place, was odd. The LeBaron frame featured a missing section of top tube, with the goal of adding some compliance to the rear end. They described it as a steel version of a Lapierre carbon gravel frame. By reducing the number of triangles they aimed to reduce vertical stifness.
The design looked almost like a 90’s GT frame, but with a section chopped out, which would definitely have reduced stiffness although not quite as much as a double top tube. The frame also featured a neat little spare spoke holder on the chainstay, which doubled up as a chain stay protector and battery powered lighting, as opposed to the dynamo power solution that the majority of constructeurs had opted for.
I was super excited to see what Jolie Rouge Cycles had brought along and to see if Julien had brought his goats, who he hand reared from the age of one and a half weeks. Unfortunately there were no goats, which on most levels made sense, as the town of Roubaix isn’t as goat friendly as it could be, however he did tell me about his plans to make them little 5kg panniers this summer and hike the pyrenees with them. His main concern about goat hiking was finding places where the goats could sleep inside, as he was worried that letting them sleep outside would attract wolves.
The originator of the modern CDM, Victoire, brought a bike that focused on details; all cables were fully internal, even down to the cable for the rear light which was almost impossibly neatly integrated into the non-drive side dropout. The paint took 50+ hours with sections of clear lacquer and two different sizes of glitter. The overall palette was pretty limited with everything tied together nicely by hard anodised Ingrid cranks and rear mech matching the color of the dressed brass filets under the lacquer, the brass head badge and the downtube logo.
I really enjoyed the little things about this bike, the made in-house stainless steel Garmin mount, which must have lost points for being heavier than a normal plastic one, but was super cool and finished the bike off nicely. The bags were a nice touch, attaching and detaching quickly and easily to a custom made Fidlock magnetic rack, while holes in the bridges may or may not have saved a gram or two, but definitely looked nice.
After CDM the bike is designed to be used by pilote Jeanne Lepoix for the grueling Atlas Mountain race, which is why perhaps big tyres and a flexy carbon seatpost were chosen as the main shock absorbing systems over a flexy truss.
I met Caminade at the last CDM I attended, where they brought a range of super interesting bikes designed to reduce the cost of custom titanium frames, by using only round tubes cut with straight ends that fit inside a carbon fiber lug. In doing away with mitering and welding the tubes, the goal was to bring the ride quality of titanium to more people by reducing the cost. The bike they brought to this year’s edition was perhaps the opposite.
Made almost entirely with curved tubes and the largest diameter curved ISP I’ve ever seen, the cockpit integrated a stem, bar with multiple positions and a lamp that sat at a fixed angle. The frame was built around a pinion gearbox with elevated chainstays, but otherwise the bike was pretty spartan with only a little bar bag adorned with a flower, and two small water bottles.
The graphics were anodised in rainbow colours, and the solution to displaying the pilotes name and details on the bike was to engrave them in tiny letters on one of the saddle rivets.
Last but not least was another favorite, and the only one person team, builder and pilote, Swanee Ravonison of Atelier Pariah. The bike was an exercise in minimalism, with a straight 1 1/8th fork, no paint beyond a natural patina showing hand prints and oxidization, a magic ISP with what looked like a Thomson masterpiece as a topper with a hidden internal wedge, and graphics scratched into the tubes with something sharp and hard.
Being the only builder/rider should have won an award, as should the seat stay junction, (even though Auguste should also have won). The silver flowing round in an impossible way, devoid of slots or clamps or bolts or anything else which is meant to be there. The groupset wasn’t really a group of anything but disparate components from SRAM, and Shimano with a glimmer of 10 speed Campagnolo record thrown in for good measure. The bike was so anti-fetish and utilitarian, it was impossible not to fall in love with it.
The bikes themselves and the scores they were given based on the professional judges’ decisions and the technical committees measured weights etc, were just one part of the contest, the other being the race. Without completing the 204km race over challenging terrain, the bike would scratch and none of its scores count for anything, so tune in next time to meet the pilots and read the race report to see who made it and how!