Thursday, July 21, 2016

1950's French Randonneur Bicycles

French randonneur (or touring) bicycles of the 1940's and 50's have some particularly interesting history. These custom made aluminium bicycles were a testament to boutique bicycle manufacturers across the French countryside.

Compared to other bicycles built around the world at the time, most custom made randonneur bicycles were well ahead of the rest in terms of design and style. Custom built randonneur bicycles were quite expensive and due to their cost were often playthings for the rich and famous. Many examples still exist and are often sold at auction for reasonably high prices.

Here are some examples that sold recently at auction with

Here is an AVIAC bicycle that was made in Courbevoie, near Paris in the 1950's. This was quite an advanced bicycle for it's time as it was made from lightweight aluminium and had cable routing that ran through the frame. This particular cycle has Simplex gearing. The hammered aluminium fenders are beautiful.

French AVIAC bicycle 1950's

Here is another from the same era made by MERCIER, this being the Mecadural Pelissier model. This was also very lightweight for its time. During this period aluminium could not be welded and so the lugs held the aluminium tubing together with expander bolts. Another breath taking example of the fine art of French bicycle manufacturing from the 1950's.

French MERCIER bicycle 1950's

Most randonneur bicycles had built in lighting systems to enable the traveller to ride at night. The 650B tyres were quite forgiving which enabled the randonneur rider to travel on rough roads throughout the French countryside.

Thanks very much to Bernhard Angerer for the great photos.

Safe riding...

James @ PVC.


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  2. I swear this was the bike I was loaned a few times by the French family I stayed with as a high school exchange student c.1980. I was 16 and the bike was regarded as just basic everyday transportation for me to use get to the train station a few miles from their house. Even though I was 'into bikes' then, the stenciled brand name on the down tube had been worn away and somehow even the badge logo was illegible too, so I could not identify the make of this bike that I've now remembered for decades since though I only rode it a few times through suburban Paris. It was the father's old bike but he was not aware of too many details about it. It may have even been passed down to him by an older relative. This was an old bike even for the early 80's and he was just working on middle age then. The road to the station was bumpy (possibly cobblestone!) but I recall being aware that the bike's design with it's 'fat' (red!) tires seemed to be purpose-built for just that type of French road and now I know! Mostly what has stuck in my mind since then was it's unique bare aluminum 'non-welded' lug construction and those comfortably generous (and red!) tires. I instinctively knew even then that that particular bike was likely a strictly French experience and I would never see a bike like it in The U.S and I haven't. At that time I had my eye on a neighbor's old college bike a big white PX-10. I still love old-time-y bikes although I did clear out my bike horde in the dark days before eBay. It was the 90s and I even let the PX-10 go for PENNIES! Now I've become a 'bike minimalist'. I've learned to be realistic and to recognize the time investment involved in every overly arduous, overly ambitious restoration attempt. I now concentrate on 70s-1987 high-end Raleighs,dream bikes that are 'classic' now but were far out of my reach back when they were new. I must admit that re-experiencing this aluminum French bike that I now know for sure was made by Mercier after forty years is really exciting and it has re-kindled the fascination I still have for this amazing 'mystery' bike!! A thousand 'thank yous' to 'Perth Cycles' for this 2016 post! Many thanks!

    -Timothy Horan Framingham MA. U.S.A.

  3. Aluminium was Oxyfuel gas welded as early as 1900 on the Graf Zepplins.
    There were many French aluminium welded marques in the 1940's

  4. Graf Zepplin main frames were riveted, many smaller components welded aluminium.