Vintage Bicycles Done Proper :: Corvallis, Oregon
What was life like in 1970s France for a bicycle tourer? Four Cyclotourisme magazines offer a snapshot of an age long past in an era of simplicity.
The essence of Cyclotourisme magazine is summed up simply: People. Parts. Places. Bicycles. And not necessarily in that order. A few ads in the back half, featured bicycles and component spotlights in the front half and a handful of black and white snaps of smiling people riding bicycles through glorious locations make up the bulk of these 40-plus-year-old pages. But most emblematic is an overall tone less serious in nature, more simple and whimsical. From the oddly tinted monotone images to the hand penned drawings, this was a magazine for people who ride. Someone more thoughtful and who lives full from experience.
As nearly anyone reading this knows, film photography was much different 40 years ago than our standards today. Some images are partially blurry. Some have a muted, yellowish-orange tint, lacking color saturation and contrast we now expect in any magazine. Others just lack “pop”. But, there’s something special about these old photographs of people loading up sag wagons and lining up with pride for a height-oriented group photo. Most decades have a look and this is that look of the 1970s. To me, they are the perfect combination of faded light, outdated cover shot coloring and plain ‘ole nostalgia seems to make them more beautiful with age.
I found it novel that throughout the pages, it was clear that many of the same challenges we face today are identical to challenges then. Lighting. Component selection. Baggage considerations and placement. What the trail looks like and how much elevation gain and loss. None of this is new. We’ve just found more complicated, technical and evolved ways of solving the problem.
The images of the people are where my gaze always falls first and eyes spend the most time washing over. A thousand words is told in each of them and in one shot above, I feel it speaks volumes. There isn’t anything about this photograph that I don’t love. It keeps the theme of the magazine tracking straight as an arrow. A country road. Fancy, of-the-times French racer. Spare in the rear just in case. No helmet. Argyle socks. Toe clips for speed. Clearly older, a bit portly and still standing now and again to mash the pedals and practice his technique. “Pédalage en danseuse“. “Pedaling as a dancer”, indeed.
The pages are fun and easy to thumb through, even if the publications are entirely in French, which is not a language I know. Of course, a lot has changed in the decades since 1978 but what delights me is the message conveyed. People then, like today, simply used bicycles as a tool to enjoy life. It isn’t spelled out directly. It doesn’t need to be. You can see it on their faces. It is comforting to know that some concepts do not fall out of favor.
Tour de la Drôme: One of eight departments in the Rhône-Alpes, the Drôme is named after the river which runs east-west across the centre. A largely undiscovered region, it offers the cyclist some of the most spectacular contrasting landscape within France; from the mountainous Alpine Vercors in the north to the low-lying lavender fields of the south. The low traffic levels, good road surfaces and generally courteous drivers makes it a great region for all age groups and all levels of cyclists – even in the peak summer months, the roads are quiet.1
Singer. Csuka. Herse. Peugeot. Bianchi. If you were a heavyweight in the world of cycling, there was no question you would have been featured in the back pages of Cyclotourisme.
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