Vintage Bicycles Done Proper :: Portland, Oregon
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.
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!
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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