The Simplicity of Vintage Cycles

Vintage Bicycles Done Proper :: Corvallis, Oregon

Cycling in Print: Mademoiselle, 1972

Months ago, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition broadcast a photograph of a woman, fist high in the air, brow furrowed while she screamed, demanding equitable bicycle infrastructure. The image instantly went viral.


Mademoiselle – April, 1972

I too was hooked and wanted to know more about the spread. Contacting the Coalition gave me only a small lead. I was told that “the shot came from the magazine Mademoiselle from 1972 or 1973.” Typically, the printed material I photograph and use for this blog, I purchase. But purchasing years of Mademoiselle back stock seemed awfully spendy, challenging to find in large, sequential blocks, plus who’s to say I would even find the correct issue? The library to the rescue!

Mademoiselle April, 1972

Pouring through multiple issues worth of le doiche ads and evolutions of different face creams from 50 years ago, I finally discovered the photo shoot in question buried within in the April, 1972 edition.

Unfortunately, the shoot is only a smattering of pages long and cycling is just one of a number of sporting activities in their early summer issue.

Mademoiselle April, 1972

When I first saw the powerful image of the woman with the red bag that oozed early seventies bicycle advocacy in a time when the country transitioned from bicycles as toys to legitimate modes of transportation, I had assumed that the rest of the images would all be very similar and relevant to that revolution. And although the next two images below show wonderfully strong women with passion and fire for bicycle roadway justice, I realized quickly through flipping, through the remaining pages, that Mademoiselle was really just pushing the latest fashions. And perhaps, even the latest hot trend of cycling and the thrill of protesting for its acceptance.

Mademoiselle April, 1972

Mademoiselle April, 1972

Mademoiselle April, 1972

“Before you think biking, beaching or boating, think body. And think honing it into its all-time healthiest shape.”

It saddened me a bit to realize the truth of the photo shoot. The truth that Mademoiselle was focusing more on looking good while riding a bicycle rather than fighting for our spot on a more balanced roadway. But, then I started to view the photo shoot from a different perspective. Sometimes advocacy isn’t about vehement, fist pumping protests or passive aggressive Twitter posts to city council transportation organizations, but more about just being on the road. I feel that doing something as simple as riding a bicycle can be just as impactful for cycling advocacy as showing up to transportation focused meetings or joining a group that fights for the rights of people on bikes. That being a present image, as a “normally” dressed person on a bicycle, to other motorists conveys that an everyday person can ride a bicycle for transportation, which gets other, typical, non-race oriented people thinking more about riding. And sometimes those people riding are even dressed fashionably.

Mademoiselle April, 1972

The advocacy drew me in to the viral photography frenzy, but once I discovered the intent of the issue, I began focusing my awareness on the bicycles.

Mademoiselle April, 1972

The images weren’t quite as crisp as our current modern photography equipment and methods are so identifying the frames the ladies were riding was anything but easy. What was clear to me, however, was that there were only a couple of bicycles available for the shoots and they were used quite ubiquitously.

Mademoiselle April, 1972

The images above show what looks to be an Australian made Malvern Star frame (note the two, six-point stars on the head tube) and the other bicycle, with its black and white paint scheme and Mavic “Racer” brake caliper suggests a Peugeot frame but the head badge seems to say otherwise. Whatever model this frame is, I was unable to pinpoint it.

Mademoiselle April, 1972

Different shots, same bike. But what is it?

The two bicycles above, which are used in two different shots, seem to be the same frame. The head badge is blown out by the sunlight in all of the shots I viewed but there is a distinct diamond image, very similar to the Eddy Merckx head badges of the early seventies. Although there seems to be two bar decals, one above and one below along with stem shifters present on the image to the left and wheel wing nuts instead of quick release levers. All of these lead me to believe that although the frame is painted orange with a diamond shaped head badge decal, it is very likely that it is not an official Eddy Merckx machine.

In the end, this 1972 photo shoot was intended as a good-natured, sign of the times way to show how one can be fashionable and comfortable on a bicycle. And really, what’s wrong with that?

Mademoiselle April, 1972

© Josh Capps and The Simplicity of Vintage Cycles. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Josh Capps and The Simplicity of Vintage Cycles with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

7 comments on “Cycling in Print: Mademoiselle, 1972

  1. Peter Dunn
    September 2, 2014

    Hi Josh, thankfully the world has changed considerably in the last 42 years ! There are still campaigns for better cycling conditions, but cyclists especially in the UK are accepted to have a right to be using the road. Next year you should come to London to take part in the free cycle event in August. On a Saturday a 10 mile loop of roads are closed of in Central London linking many of the famous touring sites, just for use by cyclists ! The next day there is a 100 mile long sportive through London and into the countryside, followed by a professional race. If you fancy coming over, happy to put you up and loan a suitable bike.
    Cheers Pete

    • Josh C.
      September 3, 2014


      The world certainly has evolved quite a bit since the early seventies and from a standpoint of bicycle infrastructure, awareness and advocacy, I believe it has drastically improved. Very much so in even the last 5 years! But, we can always do better to balance the roadway for all users. So I am excited to see how the next 5 years play out for cities all around the world.

      Through social media sites like Twitter, I’ve been keeping tabs on the UK and viewing the challenges your side of the world faces. I am thrilled there seems to be change brewing especially since there has been some volatile situations crop up causing significant protests. These aren’t bad things. Sometimes, it’s simply how change happens.

      As for cycling events you mention, both sound incredibly intriguing! With such an offer, I would certainly consider attending. Perhaps you can reply to this message and give a website for the event(s) so the readers following along know more too.

      • Peter Dunn
        September 3, 2014

        Hi Josh,

        The website for next year’s event is I’m sure a web search would find information and photos from this year’s event.


  2. adventurepdx
    September 3, 2014

    Good discovery (and use of library!) Yeah, it is disappointing that the photo shoot was mostly used to sell clothing, but at least it’s “everyday” clothing vs. lycra. (Though me being me, I wouldn’t mind seeing some wool jerseys of the era.)

    And me being me, I’m going to have to point out that the term you meant was “poring” through multiple issues of le doiche ads. 😉

    • Josh C.
      September 3, 2014

      Well well, I stand corrected again! Looking back to my Lotus Eclair post, you commented about my “guilty conscious” spelling error. I’m starting to detect a pet peeve pattern of finding and calling out spelling errors! And also, to bring it back full circle, my editor wife, who obviously does not edit my final work, would applaud your find.

      As for the clothing, it would have been fun to seen Mademoiselle dress one of their dolls up in a wool Bianchi jersey or the like. Who knows, maybe that was the ’73 spring lineup…

      • adventurepdx
        September 7, 2014

        It’s not spelling errors as much as it is confusing homophones, which I have also been known to do from time to time. 😉 And don’t worry, my biggest pet peeve with homophones and bicycles is brake/break and pedal/peddle, which is so very common. I’ve been working on a comic about it which will someday see the light of day.

      • adventurepdx
        September 7, 2014

        And then there’s your/you’re, which really gets under my skin. At least pouring and conscious are not as common.

        Okay, I’ll stop now.

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This entry was posted on August 30, 2014 by in Cycling in Print, Topics and tagged , , , , .

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