Bottin du Cycle 1951: The French Cycling Directory

I love cycling print media from days gone by.  This bible-like tome, the Bottin du Cycle, is a French compendium of all things cycling related.  Its 1,296 pages attest to the booming cycling industry in France during the post-war era.

The front, back, side, spine, and even the edges of the pages are covered in advertising. This book was meant to promote the industry, and I think it must have succeeded.  The ads featured on the exterior of the catalog include Caminargent (Caminade), maker of extraordinarily lightweight octagonal aluminum frames; LAM, a brake manufacturer; Sonnclair, maker of cycling bells; Pryma, a saddle maker, and Philippe, handlebar manufacturer.  Even the supplied bookmarks contain ads:  Dissoplast, a maker of glue and patches for repairing flats, and another ad for Caminargent.

The first part of the directory is devoted to a listing of the phone numbers and addresses of all cycling related retailers and manufacturers of the era in Paris (the blue pages) and then in the rest of France, by region and city.  The print in this section is very small, so I had to employ my vintage magnifying glass to read the text.  In it I found the telephone numbers and addresses of the French builders of the day, including listings for Camille Daudon, Robert Ducheron, Alex Singer, Rene Herse, and many others whose bikes have survived the test of time.

There’s even a section on “Cyclomoteurs” – bicycles made to accommodate a small engine, usually 50cc.  This ad features a frame style by Veloto amazingly similar to some of today’s e-bike models, such as this one available at Portland’s Clever Cycles.

Here’s an ad for Cycles Metropole featuring a drawing by Rodolphe Rebour, Daniel’s brother.

The rest of the book is devoted to featuring the retailers and manufacturers, arranged by category.  Ads appear throughout the book, some of them in color for those who sprang for a higher ad budget, such as Tron and Berthet, shown above.  I couldn’t use a scanner due to the book’s girth, so I used my camera to photograph some of the more interesting pages.  Here’s a look, for your enjoyment:

VAR tools – the gold standard, still made today.

Gnutti hubs – a competitor to Campagnolo.

Mavic and Super Champion rims – both excellent choices for a build.

LAM brakes, featured on many higher-end bicycles.

A Perry coaster brake internal hub.

An innovative hub design – removal can be done sans freewheel.

Arc-En-Ciel (“rainbow”) – loopy frames and whimsical handlebar – I have never seen one of these but would love to.

J. Moyne freewheels – my Camille Daudon features one.

And, of course, the compendium would not be complete without an offering from Peugeot.  The above PH models from 1951 are some of the best of their model range from this era.

This directory will come in handy when I need to research component makers and builders, and is also just a fun bit of cycling history.

5 thoughts on “Bottin du Cycle 1951: The French Cycling Directory

  1. As you may know, I too am a fan of cycling in print and this is an excellent publication. Nice find! What’s funny is that most of those VAR tools on the pages in your book are the same vintage I’m constantly on the hunt for. The older VAR equipment is typically superior to many other new bike tool brands products being produced today.

    • Yes. The industry developed so differently here even though we have greater expanses and plenty of hills. But there was some influx of French and British bikes in the 40’s and 50’s. I have some photos of my Dad cycling with a friend probably dating to the late 40’s. She’s riding a lightweight geared mixte and he’s stuck on a heavy weight ballon tire bike.

      • Don’t get me wrong: I do like vintage American balloon tire bikes. But they aren’t always the appropriate tool for the job, like riding distances or hills. There was such a disregard for adult cycling in the US until at least the 1960s. As for the expanses and hills in the US, I think that’s probably a big reason why the US embraced cars faster than Europe.

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