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2022 Concourse de Machines Part Two: The Race and The Show

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2022 Concourse de Machines Part Two: The Race and The Show

Saying we woke up would imply sleep, which is a luxury the night before the Concours de Machines race hadn’t afforded us, owing to thick black clouds of mosquitoes that infested our van. I lit a church of citronella candles and closed all the doors and windows, while Josh rolled himself up in a sheet and slept outside on a decrepit shezlongé that sat outside the factory. Mosquitos spent the night screaming and raging in our ears while doing their best to tear us limb from limb. At 4 am they sat lining the window sills, fat and bloated, drunk on our blood.

I killed a dozen of them with an old sock in one limp sleep-deprived swipe as a tokenistic act of vengeance, knowing they’d be saving their strength for another assault the next evening. I stood in Andreas’ elegant la fraise workshop contorting my body to scratch bites between nerve endings on my back, craving coffee as the pilotes clip clopped in on road shoes. For many of them, road shoes were a terrible choice. The 204km route billed as a road with some cobbles and gravel somehow encompassed 1466m of short sharp climbs in an oppressively pancake-flat landscape, as well as some muddy singletrack. The singletrack must have caught teams rolling on 28c slick tyres off guard, and would prove catastrophic for some.

This is the second of two reports from the 2022 Concours de Machines. Be sure to check here for the first installment!

2022 Concours de Machines Part One: The Contest and the Contestants

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2022 Concours de Machines Part One: The Contest and the Contestants

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!

From Baden-Württemberg to Frankfurt: A EUROBIKE 2022 Über-Gallery

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From Baden-Württemberg to Frankfurt: A EUROBIKE 2022 Über-Gallery

A few weekends ago I found myself at Eurobike in its new Frankfurt übervenue. Eurobike has always been huge, but this year I was made acutely aware of the distances involved by the cab driver who dropped me off at the wrong entrance, and then charged an additional nine Euros for the 10-minute cab ride to the correct entrance. I bumped into another journalist who showed me her step count for the day, which prompted me to check mine, showing that I’d walked almost 60km or 40 miles of Shimano blue carpets over the space of two days. Shocking!

Britain’s Fastest Self-Powered Human: Mike Burrows

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Britain’s Fastest Self-Powered Human: Mike Burrows

In what I hope will be the first of many monthly(ish) articles, of varying lengths, Nikolai and I visited (in)famous bicycle designer Mike Burrows, who has been a constant in terms of support, inspiration and taking me down a peg or two when I need it (always). Nikolai filmed our trip on my Sony A7iii as part of an ongoing project, so I decided it would be especially fitting for Mike to document our trip on celluloid with my Mamiya C330, and a little Olympus rangefinder on Kodak Portra 800 film.

On Building the Epiplectic Bicycle

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On Building the Epiplectic Bicycle

Over the past few weeks I’ve enjoyed becoming re-acquainted with an old friend. As I’ve been slowing back down to a more creative and contemplative speed, un-encumbered by “normality” or any other external influence and bolstered by the vivid dreams associated with normal sleep patterns, a relaxed mind and inappropriately timed cheese consumption, I’ve settled nicely into fat tyres and riding fixed on sandy beaches. As the salty air of coastal living coupled with a lack of access to spares, tools and equipment that allow our bikes to keep rolling, caused the rideable bikes of our household to drop like flies. I was forced to delve deep into the museum of slightly broken bicycles that is my loft.

Meerkat Hooptie: Dear Susan Collaborates with Dynaplug to Construct a Hooptie Bridge Between US and UK Builder Cultures

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Meerkat Hooptie: Dear Susan Collaborates with Dynaplug to Construct a Hooptie Bridge Between US and UK Builder Cultures

It’s been almost a year since NAHBS. I was pretty nervous about going to America, but just before I left I heard that the Dynaplug people; who I’d developed a vague online relationship with, were here in London so we met up for fish and chips. Long story short, they were awesome, we really hit it off, and they totally put my mind at ease about my trip. We made plans to meet again in Chico while I was there, but my whirlwind schedule around NAHBS and subsequent road trip with the legendary Anna Schwinn (which was probably one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life) didn’t allow time-wise.