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!