16 March 2017

Collecting 200 Years Of Bikes

There are all sorts of great reasons to visit the Bourgogne region of France.  There are the food and wine, of course.  If you're interested in art, history or architecture, the place is a treasure-trove.  And the cycling is great.  I know:  three of my bike tours included excursions to the area.

Speaking of which:  In 2010, la Musee du Velo opened in the town of Tournus, which is also home to l'Eglise de Saint Philbert, one of the oldest and best surviving examples of Romanesque architecture.  Earlier, the Musee had been in nearby Cormatin, where it closed due to financial reasons in 2007.  

I saw the museum in its earlier location.  France is known for such monumental museums as the Louvre and Orsay, but small, quirky places like the Musee du Velo are found all over the country.  (If you're in Saumur, you simply must check out the Musee du Champignon. Really!)  

One of the things that makes the Musee du Velo so interesting is its collection.  It includes a version of the hobby-horse Karl van Drais created 200 years ago and is considered, by some, to be the first bicycle.  

Another fascinating artifact is this brake on an 1869 bike:

I hear someone's still trying to break that saddle in!

There are also a number of penny-farthing (high-wheel) machines and one of the first Tour de France bikes to use a derailleur in 1937, when such mechanisms were first permitted in the Tour.

I got a kick out of this 1938 triplet

with its drop bars in front and two moustache bars (No, Grant Petersen didn't invent them!) for the "stokers".  If you want to turn your kids into tandem riders, there is this:

If their legs tire out, let one of them ride this 1950 machine

which can be propelled by pumping the handlebars from side to side!

In addition to these and other bikes, the museum has a fantastic collection of Tour de France memorabilia, items from chinaware to match boxes with images of bicycles and cyclists, and what might be the most beautiful collection of bicycle bells in the world.

The museum's collection might be said to have begun with this:

which was used by a fellow named Michel Grezaud.  He was a butcher in the area during the 1950s who used that trike to make deliveries.

He is also the one who amassed the museum's collection and, with his wife Josette, founded the original museum.  Sadly, he did not live to see it in its new location.


  1. Darn! I was in Beaune just north of there last year but went west cross-country to Autun and Moulins. Museums and old architecture are the things which act as way-markers for our trips so this would have been perfect...

    1. Now you know you have to go back!

    2. My navigator is having cataract operations, waiting for second one, so it may not be this year. We met someone in Beaune whom we mean to revisit so this is now near the top of my list.

  2. The saddle on the 1869 bike reminds me of a Brooks Special I once had. Was sort of like sitting on an angry badger.

    1. I have a Brooks Pro which, forty years on still as hard as a brick! How long do they take to break in?

    2. Phillip--Which Brooks Special was it?

      Coline--The first 40 years are the hardest!

    3. I rode the Brooks regularly for three years all the while waiting for the legendary Brooks comfort to appear. It never did. As long as I didnt ride more than twenty five miles it was okeh, more than that the teeth came out. Ironically unpadded shorts were more comfortable than thickly padded ones. However unpadded shorts don't leave much to the imagination so in the name of modesty I gave them up.

    4. Going to skip the shorts... I am not sure if it is an urban ledgend that a brooks saddle can be soaked in water for a day before riding to set up the breaking in. I never fancied riding a damp saddle. The B17 which was on the bike which got nicked had moulded to absolute perfection. think I need to go away and cry...

  3. That 1950 machine is not such a bad idea! I am remembering hills where I was pulling hard on the bars, would need to be titanium...
    Those internal routed brake cables are a nice touch, we need more internal routing.

  4. @ Justine-It was a honey colored one with the large copper rivets and copper washed rails. Also somewhat thicker leather. Maybe that helps explain the refusal to break in. Got a B73 on my old Roadster. It's comfy as an old couch.

  5. Phillip--A "Special" saddle is one with copper rivets and thicker leather. The Pro, B17 and other models come in "Special" versions. You may have just had a model that wasn't right for you.

    Coline--I was envisioning something like that.