Renaissance of French frame building tradition: Le Concours de Machines

When I first heard about the Concours de Machine at the beginning of this year I got immediately excited: a race of traditionally built bicycles in the style of the great French builders of the 1940s and 50s. Bikes and designated riders have to pass three different tests, a 235km long road race with more than 4000m of altitude gain, a 55km time trial up and down a mountain, and 70km of gravel tracks, three days in a row in the beautiful area of Ambert, in the region of Auvergne.

It’s not just a race but also a challenge to build the most versatile bicycle where no changes can be made to the machine during the three days. In the tradition of the old races there are several constraints such as weight limit, the provision of independent light system and the obligation to provide a system able to carry 3.3kg of weight in the form of 10 editions of the magazine 200, to name a few. The full race manual provides a point system (beneficial and penalizing), verified by an independent expert jury. Challenge accepted, sign me up!

A lot of thinking went into the conception of the machine. I went to Ambert to ride the stages myself to get a feel for the terrain and the conditions. As a result I decided to build a ride that honors theframe design of those great machines built by frame builders such as Rene Herse at the time but that also strikes a balance to offer the comfort and performance of modern components, always bearing in mind the sustainability of manufacturing and thought process that went into every single component. Hence many of the components are manufactured with the same care you would expect from handmade bicycles, such as the cranks (White Industries), hubs (White Ind. and SON), brakes (Paul Components) and lights (again SON).

The frame is a classic lugged steel frame, using Columbus Spirit tubing for the front triangle and Columbus SL tubes for the rear, held together by the Rene Singer lug set, developed by the master Richard Sachs. The fork was built from Kaisei “Toei Special” fork blades, hand-bent to a mid-trail geometry which allows nimble handling with front loading and provides subtle suspension. The suspension feel is emphasized by the 32mm Compass light weight tires, developed for road and gravel racing. Finally, to turn this bike into a racing machine, it is equipped with a Sram Force 22 group set.

Voilà, the machine is ready and rider Martin Breuvart from Lille has the honor to represent LaFraise Cycles to take her across the various challenges.

To find out about the production process check out these shots on flickr