About Nola Wilken

Cycling enthusiast and owner of Restoring Vintage Bicycles; CPA/Founder of Wilken & Company, P.C., CPAs

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.

A Southeast Portland Adventure

I love it when a routine bike ride turns into something a little different.  This morning, with a promising break in the rain, I set out on my 1975 Centurion for what I thought would be my usual route out to Oaks Bottom and back to town on the Springwater Trail, with a brief stop at Tadpole Pond.  But, as I was getting underway, I could see that other COVID escapees had a similar plan.  My initial leg of the journey was crammed with pedestrians and other cyclists, as well as a fair number of cars.  So, en route I veered off course.

I headed south on SE 28th, past Clinton and Powell, and at that point thought that maybe a stop at the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden would be first up.  I cycled past the encampments which line 28th as one approaches the East Moreland golf course.  The course was fully stocked with golfers teeing off on its manicured greens, and offered a disturbing contrast to the disarray of the encampments just across the course’s fence line.  But, I kept my thoughts in check as I maneuvered the bike through the debris and then pulled in to the Rhodie Garden’s parking lot.  There were only two other bikes parked there, including a cargo bike with kid’s strider bike tucked neatly into its giant bags.

Unfortunately, once again everyone seemed to have the same idea as I did, and the Gardens were jammed with people taking in the serenity of the 9.5 acre park, with its teeming waterfowl.  So, I opted not to go in.  The above videos are from a recent visit (middle of the week, rainy day) when I was lucky to be one of just a few guests.  The birds featured in the 2nd video above are American Wigeons, a type of duck with an interesting, delicate call.

Upon deciding not to head down to Oaks Bottom, which I suspected would also be crowded, I meandered back into town going first north on 22nd from the Sellwood area, and then followed previously un-vetted (by me) cycling “greenway” routes back in to town.  As is sometimes the case with Portland’s cycling infrastructure, the recommended routes can be ill-conceived which I discovered when I found myself at the apex of a 5 way multi-lane intersection with no bike lane in sight.  Once I’d found my way again, I finally had a chance to see the Gideon Crossing, a structure which was built to accommodate cyclists and pedestrians waiting on railroad crossings.  This part of my route was at one time a section of my regular commute but I haven’t been out this way for about a year and a half.  I tried out the elevator, and then walked my bike across the bridge.  All worked fine, and the view from up top was fun.

Once back in town, I stopped off at one of my favorite local haunts, and a place that I miss now that “hanging out” is not an option.  Often there are interesting bikes (and persons!) parked out front.  Today it was quiet, so I ordered a latte and began a walk through the neighborhood while I sipped my decaf, in between re-masking whenever others were nearby.

And that’s when today’s special moment happened.  I approached an intersection that I ride every day on my commute, but I came at it from a different direction.  I caught a whiff of something extraordinary and unexpected during the height of winter:  the fragrance of jasmine, strong and powerful.  I looked up to see a lovely stone house with a front garden which has to be the envy of all its neighbors.  It was teeming with jasmine plants in full bloom and with ripe berries as well.  What a fantastic way to wrap up today’s journey.  In that instance, my trip turned into an adventure instead of a ride. The fragrance of the jasmine is still with me.

New Showers Pass Refuge Jacket vs. Ancient Sugoi

Sugoi Jacket – 2008 WDYR, Photo credit A. Graves

For winter cycling, I’ve used a Sugoi jacket for the last twenty years or so.  The above photo shows me and the jacket aboard the Jack Taylor on the Worst Day of the Year Ride in 2008, a fun Portland winter cycling tradition that I’ve participated in over the years.  At this point the jacket was nearly 10 years old, but as you can see it looks new.

The Sugoi has it all:  full length pit zips, a lightweight liner, a cut-away cycling design with a shorter front and lowered rear, non-rotated sleeves (more comfortable when off the bike), fully waterproof and breathable with plenty of reflective material front and rear, and a soft interior collar.  My only complaint with the Sugoi has been the lack of exterior pockets in the front.  I’ve washed the jacket in Tec-Wash and rejuvenated its waterproof shell with NikWax over the years, with good results.  However, now the jacket doesn’t really come clean as it used to, and much of the Velcro is loosing its mojo.  With some reluctance I began searching for a replacement.  Unfortunately, Sugoi no longer makes anything close to this model.

Medium Sugoi on top of Extra Large Refuge – virtually identical in size.

I own several Showers Pass jackets, which have become the gold standard for cycling outerwear.  Being 100% waterproof and breathable, and extremely well-made, Showers Pass jackets also withstand the test of time. However, I haven’t tried any of their winter cycling jackets until now when I decided to purchase the “Refuge” model, which is billed as multi-purpose:  suitable for hiking, skiing, trekking as well as cycling. I knew that the jacket would be sized oddly, as are all of their women’s models, so I ordered the “extra large” size, which as you can see from the above photo is only slightly larger than the Sugoi size medium I’ve been using all these years.  That turned out to be okay, since the Refuge does not have any internal lining and is just a shell designed to allow layering underneath.

Like all Showers Pass jackets, this model’s quality of construction far exceeds most other cycling jackets.  You can find technical info at the Shower’s Pass website, but suffice it to say that there’s nothing to complain about in terms of quality control.  The front of the jacket has lots of reflective material.

The jacket has many nice features.  You can cinch it down at the hem, there’s some decent reflectivity on the rear (but not as much as in the front) and there are two large front internal pockets, as well as an internal chest pocket.  The jacket is not designed to be cycling specific so it doesn’t have a cutaway front and lower rear.  Instead, it sits about mid-hip (slightly longer than a regular cycling jacket), and features a magnetic rear flap which can be dropped down for those extra rainy endeavors.  The design of the rear flap is ill-conceived for cycling, but may be advantageous to hikers needing to rest on wet surfaces.  In my experience these flaps can snag on saddles with saddle bag loops, and the magnets can get stuck on your saddle rails.

For my test rides on this jacket I hauled out the 1978 Peugeot PR 65, which I’ve set up with an upright riding position.  I ventured out on a 45 degree miserable Portland winter morning, and the jacket performed just as expected.  The jacket did bunch up a bit at the front of my thighs, but this didn’t cause any problems.  I did not engage the rear flap, and did feel a bit of cold air coming up on the jacket’s backside.  Synching down the hem helped, however, and I stayed warm on my rides.  While out on the Peugeot, I didn’t get any compliments on the jacket.  However, there were many admirers of the Peugeot – both pedestrians and cyclists alike.  It’s a nice bike!

I also tried out the detachable hood, something I’ve never worn while cycling.  I usually don ear protection under my helmet for cold, wet rides.  The detachable hood is cutaway on the sides so as not to interfere with peripheral vision, but in practice felt like a wind sock, so I immediately removed it. Fortunately, in my Peugeot’s Carradice bag was an old French beret that works well underneath a helmet, and was the perfect complement to the vintage Peugeot.  It kept my ears and head warm, and kind of made me smile.

WDYR 2006 – Sugoi in center

In conclusion, I’ll say that the Showers Pass Refuge jacket is a perfect all-around jacket, but not a cycling jacket per se.  I’ll probably enjoy using it on rides where I plan to also do some hiking and birding. I am going to continue using the Sugoi jacket until and if I ever find the perfect replacement, even though it is a bit ragged.  I hope that eventually I’ll find its replacement, but the Shower’s Pass Refuge jacket is not it.