Roubaix: Bikes like you won’t see anywhere compete in a “machine” contest
Pedal artwork. We know the rather recent enthusiasm of the general public for the bicycle as a means of daily transport. A democratization of the practice which tends rather to privilege the big industrialists of the sector, like B’Twin, in particular for a question of cost. However, there is a more confidential parallel market powered by masters in the design and manufacture of unique bicycles: the craftsmen framers. It is their work that is tested and especially highlighted by the Competition of machines, the 6th edition of which takes place in Roubaix, in the North, until Sunday.
The existence of the Concours de machines is not new since the first edition dates back to the beginning of the 20th century. The original idea was to show that the know-how and ingenuity of craftsmen made it possible to create bicycles that could largely equal and often surpass production bicycles. The event ceased to exist just before the First World War before being reborn in 2016, in Puy-de-Dôme.
“The more homemade pieces there are, the more points it earns”
Six years later, it is therefore in Roubaix that the craftsmen have an appointment and the competition began, this Thursday, with the technical control in the premises of Lafraise cycles. “The 12 participants pass in front of the technical commission in charge of checking all the objective criteria of the bike. Then a jury checks that the machine complies as much as possible with the specifications to participate in the competition,” explains Andreas Behrens, himself a craftsman cameraman.
Everything is scrutinized: braking, lighting, wheels, tires, luggage, presence of mandatory equipment and even the quality of the paint. “The more homemade pieces there are, the more points it earns. We have already seen artisans making their own derailleurs or brakes,” adds Andreas Behrens. Silvin Kutsch, a cameraman from Strasbourg, didn’t go that far: “To each his own. We made everything in house, except the transmission, the wheels and the lighting. It took us about sixty hours of work, ”he says.
With a year of orders ahead of it, Manivelle, Silvin Kutsch’s company, hardly needs publicity. “Participating in this competition is above all to challenge yourself on things that you hadn’t done before,” he admits. It is also an opportunity to meet passionate craftsmen. “There must be only about twenty of us in France and we all know each other. It’s very stimulating to see the creations of colleagues,” adds the 28-year-old.
Machines proven on the cobblestones of Paris-Roubaix
But it is not enough to make a beautiful bike that complies with the specifications, it must also be robust. This criterion will be tested on Friday, on a 218 km course inspired by the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix exclusively run by women. “The bikes will be inspected after the race and every little defect, every loose screw will cost the designer points. At the end, whoever has the highest total will win the competition, ”explains the boss of Lafraise cycles.
The public will be able to admire the machines from Saturday at the Roubaix velodrome. However, there is no need to come with your credit card, all the bikes have been made to order and made to measure for individuals. Unique models, made by hand, which implies a certain budget. That of Manivelle cost 8,000 euros to its owner.
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