Saturday 16 June 2007

Le Cirque du Cyclisme: Part Two

A serious workspace...

After enjoying the seminars, everyone left to get ready for the evening’s banquet. I asked Jeff about the Cycles de Oro shop next door and he told me that he had already seen it and was quite impressed, so I decided to see for myself. This place is amazing! It must be the best bike shop that I have ever seen anywhere. There was a lot of high-end material, including the full range of Specialized Tarmacs, including one with the intriguing Roval wheels. The wheels were also being sold separately at $900 a set (aluminum rims, there are carbon as well) and I was suddenly overcome with buyer’s remorse since my new set of Dura-Ace wheels is on its way. Should I have sprung for the extra $200 for what must be the coolest wheels of recent memory? On the other hand, that $200 would pay for my weekend in Greensboro at Le Cirque du Cyclisme...

Frank Kramer's bike, and a Tarmac frame

Roberts time trial bike

Besides the wonderful Tarmac collection, there was a full range of drool-worthy Colnagos, a Canadian-built Argon 18 Mercury time trial frame and lots of other great things, along with a huge service area in the back. But unique to any shop I have been in was the great collection of classic bicycles that were mounted on the walls. One of the first things to strike me was a Pierce-Arrow bicycle from 1915, built for World Champion Frank Kramer (positioned above a new S-Works Tarmac SL frame). Other interesting bikes ranged from a dark brown Richard Sachs to a Roberts time trial bike with a curved seat tube. There were even bikes that the Dale Brown, who owns the store, had designed, including a child’s racing bike for his son.

Steven Bilenky and his handiwork

As we left the store, we came across the crew from Bilenky Cycle Works in Philadelphia. Steven Bilenky was sitting next to a gorgeous green and white fixed-gear bike, with the same kind of curved seat tube as the Roberts in the store. It looked great and we chatted for a while with him and one of his crew who had built up a town bike–with a front carrier ideal of a case of beer!–that was also on display. The green and white bike went on to win the People's Choice Award and the Best Fancy Lugs at the show the next day.

We drove back to the hotel, organized our stuff and headed out the door by 6:45 pm to get to the Painted Plate, a banquet hall where the evening’s dinner was being held. Although there were not a lot of vegetarian alternatives, I did quite well with salad, green beans and mashed potatoes, and in recognition of my superb riding earlier in the day I treated myself to two pieces of lemon cake, Fat Cyclist weight loss competition or not!

Dale Brown spoke about the ten years of Le Cirque du Cyclisme and his regret that it was coming to an end for him. There was not a dry eye in the house as he thanked all the people who had made the event possible. A group of cyclists who have ridden with him then got up and announced that in recognition of all of Dale’s work they had passed around the hat and they presented him with a cheque for $4000 so that he could join them on a cycling trip to Italy.

At this point, an introduction was made of the guest speaker, Brett Horton, of the Horton Collection, not unknown in these pages as I reviewed the recently published book on the collection here. A large, jovial man who, as he himself admitted, does not look much like a racing cyclist, Brett and his wife Shelly have amassed the largest collection of bicycle racing memorabilia ever. Brett brought some of his latest acquisitions to le Cirque, including the matching Belgian national jerseys (Nos. 1 and 2!) used by Patrick Sercu, the most successful Six Day racer ever, and Eddy Merckx, when they raced track as a team. He also had the rainbow jersey World Champion Paolo Bettini wore on the stage finishing in San Jose in the 2007 Tour of California. He spoke a bit about the other items in the collection, which includes 200,000 photographs, and his hunt for an elusive bicycle once owned by five-time Tour de France winner Jacques Anquetil.

The Horton Collection Vanilla--the only bike Brett Horton owns with fenders! (photo by J. Huang,

The Horton Collection Llewellyn (photo by J. Huang,

What I found particularly interesting was his commissioning of five lugged steel bicycles from a group of builders around the world to demonstrate that steel still has a place in the world of carbon fiber and aluminum bicycles. In many applications, steel is still an excellent material and to show this he had frames made by Richard Sachs and Sacha White in the United States, Ron Cooper in England, Darrell McCulloch from Australia and Dario Pegoretti from Italy. He encouraged them to build whatever they felt would be the best expression of their building philosophies. The completed bicycles were displayed at EICMA, the big trade show in Italy, as well as the North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS) in March 2007. The photographs of these bikes that Brett Horton showed were spectacular and I hope that they might be issued as a portfolio of art prints, although it sounded that the work involved in producing the first book might have put the Hortons off of publishing for a while!


Will said...

Hi Leslie,

Thanks for the enjoyable read.

Obviously the little you have forgotten about cycling and bikes is more than this "newbie" knows in total.

Although, unfortunately, recently I have become an expert at fixing flat tires. :-)

Key Cycling Tip: In general, Swiss mountain roads are MUCH better quality than French roads.

As to lightweight bikes, The Tour d'Alsace will be handicapped and lighter bikers will have to carry my camera - and more importantly my "emergency" beers.


Hey, no fair climbing on the big ring - that will also be against the rules in France next month.

Anyway, great to hear you are feeling in good shape as your Euro adventure approaches.

Best regards,


Sprocketboy said...

Good to hear from you, Will. The adventure begins soon, and of course the Tour d'Alsace will be featured on these pages.

Being an expert at fixing flats is not a bad thing, but I may be beyond that now: I am bringing the new tubeless tires--le dernier cri in cycling tech--to Europe. And I think big ring climbing is limited to rolling hills in North Carolina!

One of the advantages of going to Europe is that "emergency" beers--or wine or pastries or ice cream--are conveniently located everywhere. A sign of a superior civilization.