Thursday, May 28, 2009


One of the most difficult parts of this project has been the direction I want to take it in. You see, the direction has changed several times throughout the course of the project.

Initially, I was interested in a restoration to basically stock, but switching to fixed gear. Then it was a full-custom track-style fixie. I worked in a bike shop, it was all the rage... and the bikes just looked so darned cool, man.

However, as I thought more about it, I realized... this type of bike didn't fit my riding style. The older I get, the less interested I am in going fast, you see. I don't want to lean forward on my bike anymore... I want to sit more upright. I want to take lazy jaunts down country lanes in the crisp autumn air. I want to take a picnic basket along with me, and maybe a small thermos of fine ginger ale.

I started looking further into the past for inspiration, back to a time when gentlemen riders pedalled slowly, to work and back, or down a country lane on a weekend day, unhurriedly in search of what was around the next bend. A time when racing wasn't the raison d'etre of cycling... quite the opposite.

I found an interesting article about a type of bicycle long forgotten by most modern people: The Porteur.

Porteur bikes are bikes built to carry loads, in the most basic sense. The classic Porteur bike has a large front rack, fenders (mudguards) providing full coverage of the wheels, a low-mounted seat, and handlebars mounted to allow the rider a more upright position.

This style of bike was wildly popular for french companies like Peugeot, who had a Porteur in their lineup from the 1920's up through the 1950's.

Every major bicycle manufacturer on the European Continent had a bike for this segment. They were work bikes, designed to carry loads, and were wildly popular in the narrow streets of European towns. Bakers, butchers, tinkers, salesmen, paperboys, policemen, postmen.... they all used the porteur. In Paris, there was a famous rivalry among the newspaper delivery porteurs. Each vied to get their paper to the news stands first. So intense was the rivalry that, starting in the late 1920's, an official Porteur Race was held yearly in the streets of Paris!

Here was inspiration! A bike meant for riding everyday, with a heavy sprung seat, upright riding position, full fenders, and a proud, classic tradition. If I could make a good imitation of this style, simplifying along the way when possible, I could end up with a beautiful bike which was both comfortable and practical.

I found a number of similarities with the City Bike, a catch-all term used to refer to a (usually) 3-speed gentleman's bike for riding about town.

This bike was constructed at Velo Orange. It is based on City Bikes and Porteur Bikes, with a distinctly French flair. This was a direction I could get behind. Elegance, practicality... I now had my vision.

No racing for Red. I want a mode of transport. I want an everyday conveyance... with style.

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