23 December, 2009

Ernest Csuka of Alex Singer Cycles dies.

From the Alex Singer site (translated):
Ernest Csuka died in his 81st year December 22, 2009. The body is currently at the Chapel of Perpetual Help in Levallois. The funeral will be held Monday, December 28, 2009 at St. Justin Church in LEVALLOIS 14 H 30. LEVALLOIS Cemetery after the ceremony
Ernest Csuka, as many of you know, was the last of the great French constructeurs. He took over from the legendary Alex Singer in 1964 and continued to build what many, myself included, felt were the finest bikes ever produced. Ernest started with Singer in 1944 and introduced numerous innovations over the years.

We assume that his son, Olivier, will continue production of Alex Singer bikes.

Here is a  a lovely video about Mr. Csuka (in French).


Kathryn Hall said...

Does not his son, Olivier, continue to make frames?

Velo Orange said...

I expect that Olivier will continue making the frames since he had taken over most of the production a couple of years ago.

Just added that to the post.

Steve said...

Here's what Jan Heine posted on the iBOB list today:

Ernest Csuka, constructeur of Alex Singer bikes
for many decades, died on December 22, 2009. He
was 82 years old. Ernest Csuka was the last of a
generation of great constructeurs, whose work in
post-war France had shaped modern bicycles, with
lightweight tubing, modern geometries, and many
aluminum components which later found their way
to racing bikes. Many of the bikes Ernest Csuka
built have been ridden hard for decades, and
still are ridden today. They combine light weight
and a light feel with quality and durability.

Ernest Csuka trained as a pharmacist, but started
working for his uncle, Alex Singer, in 1944, just
6 years after Alex Singer had opened his shop.
His brother, Roland, entered the shop around the
same time.

The Singer shop already had a good reputation,
both because Alex Singer was known as a strong
rider, and because the nascent brand had
presented the lightest tandem at the 1939
Technical Trials. Alex Singer expanded his
reputation for excellence by winning the 1946
Technical Trials with perhaps the lightest
cyclotouring bike ever built, a machine that
weighed just shy of 7 kg (15.4 lbs.) fully
equipped with fenders, lights (including a
battery-powered standlight), racks, even the
pump, but weighed without tires (lightweight
tires were difficult to find just after the war).

Ernest Csuka introduced numerous innovations to
Cycles Alex Singer, including the elegant stem
with hidden binder and the matching internal
expander seatpost. He introduced Singer to the
Nivex derailleur, which shifted better and was
more reliable then the commonly used Cyclo. He
also researched the geometries that made Alex
Singer bicycles handle so well.

Ernest was no mean competitor on the bike
himself, winning several stages in the Tour de
France Cyclotouriste and placing well in many
other cyclotouring competitions, also with his
wife Leone on the tandem.

In 1962, Alex Singer retired and Ernest Csuka
took over the shop. It was a difficult time for
bicycles, and in many years, only a dozen
custom-built machines left the shop in Levallois.
Roland began to work for Renault, and only came
in on Saturdays to work on a frame if there was
one on order. As always, Ernest made the
braze-ons, the racks, the custom stems and
assembled the bikes. The shop kept above water by
selling sporting goods in addition to bicycles.
Singers were favored by many randonneurs, and
many of them were ridden in Paris-Brest-Paris and
other famous events.

The 1970s saw a new popularity for cycling, and
up to 120 frames and bikes were made in a year,
but the 1980s saw new brands and new materials
become popular. When Roland died in the
mid-1990s, Cycles Alex Singer continued to potter
along, with most orders coming from Japan. A few
years ago, Ernest retired and handed the shop
over to his son, Olivier. Custom bicycles have
seen somewhat of a resurgence, with orders from
France, the United States and Japan, but the
output has remained small. When I last visited
earlier this year, Ernest still came into the
shop and worked on the bikes every day.

Ernest will be missed not only as an incredible
fount of knowledge about cycling, but also for
his wit, humor and friendship. Until he suffered
a stroke in 2008, he rode his bike every Sunday,
rain or shine, with his friends from the ACBO
(Amicale Cyclotouriste de la Banlieue Ouest -
Cyclotouring Friends of the Western Suburbs). I
have been lucky to join him on many of these
rides over the years, and not only marvelled at
his mastery of the bike (even at age 80, he still
had some of his famous sprint left), but also
laughed at the many jokes shared by this
tight-knit group of friends. "Nénès," as he was
called by his friends, will be missed by all. As
they say, they don't make them like this any

Jan Heine
Bicycle Quarterly

S.K.Eldersveld said...

I remember first visiting the Singer shop in Levallois Perret near Paris in 2002 to order a chrome camping bike. Mr. Csuka was a great host. After chatting about bicycles and rides in france for some time I recall asking him what he thought of Nicolas Sarkozy who had been mayor of Neuilly-sur-Seine a nearby city and who was then French Minister of the Interior, but was rumored to have his eye on the Presidency of France. He said (translation) "I don't concern myself much with politics these days, but Monsieur Sarkozy has one of my bikes and another on order". Sure enough, he then showed me the "sur-measure" custom order form for a new randonneuse for Sarkozy (as I recall, Sarkozy is about 5' 6" tall). Earnst then invited me upstairs for coffee and cake with Olivier, his son. Visiting his shop was always first on my list of places to visit when I was in Paris. He will be greatly missed.

Ian Kersey said...

During my son's 7th Grade French Class trip to France in 2006, we snuck away from the tour for an afternoon visit to the Alex Singer shop in Levallois.

I had received a copy of Jan Heine's The Golden Age of Handbuilt Bicycles the Christmas before and wanted to make the pilgrimage to see the shop.

M. Csuka, pere et fils, were charming hosts and were impressed that I had brought along Jan's book. When I asked Ernest to sign the center spread (pp. 86-7) showing him and his wife, Leone, racing near Brussels on a tandem in 1953, he was bemused, but good naturedly signed it; noting that the bike in the picture was sitting in the corner of the showroom, 6ft behind me!

He and Olivier then took my son and me on a backroom tour of the shop.

While I purchased a Singer jersey and several water bottles, my biggest regret today upon learning of Ernest's passing has been procrastinating in completing and submitting the "Fabrication de cycles sur mesure" form that I also picked up at the shop.

Lesson learned, albeit sadly and belatedly: Carpe Diem!

Anonymous said...

The pictured bike just looks so perfect.

Steve Fuller said...

A great loss for the bicycling world. True craftsmen seem to be few and far between these days.

superfreak said...

he will definately be missed. best of luck to oliver.
thx superfreak

Anonymous said...

Jesus H Criest that is a very , very beautiful bike.