So, you've seen the title, and though, 'what the hell is a Bruneau-Durieux when it's at home?' Well, thank you for being curious and popping in.
Lets start at the beginning. Last year my cycling partner in crime, Ben, became the new custodian of a rather sexy c1913 French racer, made by the Tapon Bros of Angoulême in SW France. This machine was a thing of beauty and I was understandably smitten as well. Bought locally off a fellow classic car enthusiast, and surprisingly affordable. Ben was a lucky dog! The patina on this was off the scale, and with a new set of Italian wood rims built on the old hubs by the capable Rikki Pankhurst, it was simply stunning.
c1913 Tapon by Mike, on Flickr
Now, the problem. Ben was lucky, and this machine was basically half what classic dealers would charge. If I wanted a similar machine, I was going to need more jam than Heartleys. The search started in earnest when Ben suggested it would be fun to do a ride in September, from Paris to Angoulême, to coincide with the Circuit des Remparts rally held at the old motor racing circuit in the city. It looks like a French 'Goodwood Festival of Speed'!
Our route would also follow one of the classic early cycle races, the Bordeaux - Paris, which started in the 1890s.
(Oh, we're doing it for a good cause too, 'Mind', so a little bucket shaking here won't hurt anyone -
So, I woud need a suitable mount for the ride. This raises the stakes. Thoughts of making a cheap 'retro racer' obviously my best course of action. I can cobble together an old English frame to look vaguely like an early continental racing bike. Maybe a '10 yard' impression, rather than a '5 yard' impression. It wouldn't stand stand close inspection. And to be honest, I'd feel like a fraud, especially riding alongside such a genuine machine. I start checking out what the dealers have to offer. Some ancient machines, and stunning prices to go with them. €900, £1,100 ... Kidney selling prices for me unfortunatley. (I could sell a few bikes perhaps, but I'd find parting with a kidney easier.)
Next avenue was eBay, searching under VELO ANCIEN. That was more fruitful, there are a few suitable machines on there right now, and cheaper than the dealers prices. But still expensive, and I would be buying a machine I planned to ride, not hang on a wall, so what if it turned out to be a dog to ride?
The chances of me finding a pre 1925 continental racing bike were rather slim then. At least window shopping was fun, and I really needed to do my homework as I knew nothing about Continental bikes, and nothing about pre 1930 bikes.
Ripley Cycle Jumble. Needs no introduction here. Not the place to look for early French racing bikes! But always a fun morning. Me and Ben got a few bargains, and it's good to catch up with mates and have a social there too. We were ready to leave, but of course that's not allowed without one final lap of the stalls. There leaning up on a wooden stake in the spot where stalls had already cleared out was an odd looking solitary pushbike. It looked very old. It didn't look very English. And those big rusty nickel plated curved bars and stem ... I made a bee line for it, and while I was trying to read the phone number on a flapping piece of card tied to the crossbar, I shouldn't have been surprised that the one of the old boys chatting nearby was the owner. We start chatting about the machine, which I'm quickly falling in love with, but trying not to show too much. It's not complete, it's missing the original pedals, and has a cobbled together English styrrup brake with a scissor lever on the front, the cranks are worn, the forks are loose in the stem. But it looks fantastic! And after asking if I can sit on it, everything feels like it's in the right place. (Bar the pedals, which had dissolved years ago)
A deal was quickly struck after some brief and gentlemanly haggling. I paid a £50 deposit, all I had on me, then off to the cashpoint to get the rest out. The most I have ever paid for a bike project, but peanuts in the current market for early French racing bikes. And so we leave Ripley, on Cloud Nine. I am now the new custodian of a 1925 Bruneau-Durieux, and I am smitten.
The next project by Mike, on Flickr
Those handlebars ... !!! by Mike, on Flickr