10 October, 2018

2018 French Fender Day and the Future of Vintage

by Igor

Another French Fender Day is in the books! This year, I think, was the best one yet. Lots of new people, fantastic bikes from several generations, terrific weather, and great riding through the gorgeous New England countryside. This year was particularly of interest to me as we had our little guy, Theodore, with us. In addition to having him with us as well as seeing a really good turn out of young people, I thought a lot about the future of vintage and how to continue the knowledge and traditions we've developed - you can find my notes about this at the bottom of the post after jumping in to all the cool stuff.

This Jack Taylor mixte and the blue diamond framed one next to it are sequentially numbered units!

Simon of Transport Cycles in Philly measuring up a skirt guard

Bonus Jan of Compass/BQ and Matt of Crust. Great to see them both out here for the event.
Dulled Zeppelin Fenders with paint matched striping on the above 650b'd Raleigh

Gorgeous striping, box lining, and logos on this Weigle

This picture is actually one from last year's event as context for the next.

And this one is from when Mark pulled me aside and showed me how the bag mounts. Quite clever and exceptionally secure!

Postino Bars

Peter's new-to-him support Volvo

Daniel's rig was properly weird and I love it.

Left shifter controls the internal crankset gearing, right one is for the rear derailleur

Segmented fork

Volvo and the VO Bus. The show was not relegated just to bikes.

Anodized stem

Surprising amount of Rustines Grips on the drops!

VO abounds at this gathering.

Super neat and clean internal wiring channel.

Flat topped fenders with two simple leather straps for newspaper retention

Color matched fenders

Jay with his VO'd Raleigh. Be sure to check out the DC Tweed Ride he organizes!

Woody from Trophy Bikes and her Lilac Polyvalent! We actually saw the crew riding through Cape Henlopen last weekend. 

Dave from Waxwing Bags
Corey Thompson's personal tourer. Gorgeous black and red lug and box lining. A beauty with many, many miles!

I noticed something this year that either I was not yet, perhaps, acutely aware of in years past: fresh faces. And that doesn't just mean people we haven't seen before, but rather that of younger folk. Even though I am technically part of the millennial generation, I have been into vintage bikes and cars for most of my life, and can speak fairly fluently about details, history, and technical aspects. But it is different if that isn't how you were brought up.

Throughout my life, I've gone to car events focused on both new and old, worked on my own vehicles (and sometimes others'), worked in a bicycle shop that did high-end customs and restorations, and currently attend/exhibit at shows that cater to our niche of the bicycle world. In the world of vintage, you cannot fully learn things simply by reading them in a book or even seeing them online. You need to ride a bike with downtube friction shifters, learn how adjust a loose-ball bearing bottom bracket, ride a 10-speed bike that has ten speeds total to really grasp how far we have come as well as the context as to why these things even existed. And often, learning by osmosis is paramount. Once the context lines up with the technical aspects, then you have knowledge. With the basis of knowledge and accessibility to resources, hopefully an interest will blossom and, with it, an appreciation of vintage cycling - and that is future of vintage.

Seeing an old bike, to some, may be a novelty or on the other side of the spectrum worse, garbage. We need to keep the younger audience in mind when we have these super neat events such as French Fender Day, Philly Bike Expo, Builders' Ball, NAHBS, and smaller regional shows. It may be easy to misread a lack of knowledge as disinterest, when in reality, it is simply hard to enter into a conversation when you are unable to articulate a question or interject with additional information. I've been a part of this industry for long enough that I can tell when someone I talk to has that spark of interest, but doesn't yet know some of the terminology or why a certain accessory even exists. It's exciting to see that ah-ha moment when they can understand the desire for frame/fender/rack/lighting integration and can see why Rebour identified and illustrated particular items on a Constructeur's frame.

Owning and using a vintage bike is a labor of love. They aren't as light and don't shift as crisply, but they exude a style and flair that is often lost on modern, wunder-bikes. There is a story behind the bike, even if you don't know it. The scratches tell how the bike was used, the stickers tell you where it lived, and the design tells you what the fashion was. There is something unique about riding an old bike (even with new VO components) that shows your personality and your desire to keep perfectly good old things in use rather than in the landfill or recycling plant.

We need to ensure we are open to all types of cyclists and expose those who may have never ridden toe-clips to these simple and wonderful machines. And that means being open, honest, and also accessible. Perhaps it's something I've learned though reading parenting stuff online, if you don't know something, rather than saying, "Because" or "I don't know", say "hmm, let's find out together". There are various forums and internet resources that house an amazing wealth of information from frame identification, part compatibility, and period-correct selections. Use it. And make sure others know about it as well.

And with that, I would like to implore our readers to comment with at least one resource, forum, show, or event that you find extremely useful in your daily vintage bike life. I'll start with two sites I use every day. Whether it is to answer questions from our readers or to satisfy my own curiosity, they are jewels of resources.
  • www.velobase.com
  • www.sheldonbrown.com


bob chung said...

Hi Igor,Massively Appreciate the GREAT PIX,WELL WRITTEN DESCRIPTIVE WORDS on FFD!.........Bob/Port Townsend Cyclery

Mountaindave said...

Excellent post and treatise on C/V bikes - I couldn’t agree more.

I have learned VAST amounts from the members on the bikeforums.net/classic-vintage forum and have made a number of friends - in person, not just virtually. This site is great for the beginner.

For those more familiar with C/V, the Classic Rendezvous google group is amazing. The depth of knowledge is incredible.

Unknown said...


The owner of this blog hasn’t posted much in the past year or so, but the archive is a treasure trove of info about old French constructeurs.

dcain said...

Hi Igor,
Great post, and great to see you there!
The irony of being at FFD was that I didn't spend nearly enough time really taking in either the bikes or Peter's shop--there was so much chatting and talking and discussing that as soon I decided to take a look, some person would tug on my sleeve...
People are often surprised when I tell them my bike is only 6 years old. It looks "old" and certainly exhibits a vintage vibe. At the same time I'm quite proud to tout that it is a fully functional and versatile bike equipped for almost any riding condition. Wide tires, fenders, lights, and rinko-able—it's all so functional. So, while I’m into the beauty and aesthetics of older bikes, its more and more clear to me that I’m most compelled by that aesthetic combined with a very forward looking attitude about improvements and refinements. VO has been a big part of making this possible. I think we are living in a really great era of bike evolution—looking back to see the way forward.
My go to resource/reference/check-in continues to be the i-bob list.
Dave Cain

dcain said...

Oh yes... those Rustines grips. They are amazing. Word has it that Peter declared that "they are like 650B for your hands", and I fully agree.

Owen said...

One name: Jobst Brandt

His ride reports from touring the Alps were always wonderful and inspiring:


And his technical analyses were second to none:


Finally, "The Bicycle Wheel" should be on every avid cyclist's bookshelf!

Anonymous said...

For British bikes, great pictures, old catalogs
lots how to & why.


And there is Veteran Cycle Club, they have large
online library of old catalogs etc.

house of pills said...

My favorite site is probably the garbage dump. Talk about learning by osmosis! I am happy and thankful that Velo Orange makes period correct and otherwise *obsolete* upgrades for my dump finds. This summer I found a beautiful but stripped down 63cm Peugeot UO-8 with a rusted out crankset/bb. Thanks for making a cartridge bottom bracket that fits.

As a 20-something millennial in New England I have found a wellspring of old geezers in the region that are happy to lend their knowledge and cut me deals on these old road bikes. They are always surprised when I tell them I am exclusively interested in the rusty steeds the Baby Boomers enjoyed when they were my age. Nine times out of ten they will give me info or tools that I have never heard or seen before.

By extension, I have always had great luck on the iBob Google Group, bikeforums.net (C and V), the surly and inimitable RJ THE BIKE GUY and the cult classic MY TEN SPEEDS.

Ray J said...

Velobase.com is a great resource for vintage components and many other things related to vintage bicycles.

gugie said...

"We come for the bikes, we stay for the people".

Great seeing Igor again at FFD. It's a long flight from Oregon, but well worth it. I'm pimping this event like crazy for next year and hope to drag others next year.

What's really amazing to me is the openness of many of the people I talked to, including Peter, Jamie Swan, Corey Thompson and others to share their "secrets" - which they want everyone to know so myself and others can "keep the flame alive". Collaborating rack and bag designs with David Cain has been a special treat over the past few years.

I try my best to share my knowledge of bikes with others. Many of us have open houses, especially inviting newbies to come and learn how to work on these classic and vintage bikes. Seeing someone smile when they see a headset faced, chased and pressed in, then feeling how smooth it works brightens my day.

In an age of throwaway stuff, there's a thrill in resurrecting old things, and having them work as well (better?) than the new. Sharing this ethos with others is twice as good. Seeing people bring their kids...priceless.

The Ecogeek said...

I used to own a Schwinn Traveler that I bought brand new in 1982 for $250. I rode that bike everywhere! Then in the 2000's I bought a brand new mountain bike and gave the old Schwinn away to a guy that never rode it. One of the worst decisions I ever made!

eric said...

great comments Igor… keeping it inclusive with the newest enthusiasts!

another vote from me for http://www.classicrendezvous.com

Not vintage specific… but http://www.copenhagenize.com is a great site to introduce people to Danish bike culture… and global cycling advocacy.

JohnM said...

Any word on the date of FFD 2019?

gugie said...

FFD 2019 is scheduled for 10/12. Peter has always scheduled it for the weekend before Columbus Day.