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The magnificient Paris Galibier bicycle

Advertisement in June 22, 1950 Cycling Weekly. Now posted on Classic Rendezvous.com

Once upon a time, well over 60 years ago, I (and some other hometown enthusiasts) pedalled all the way from Ipswich to the Herne Hill cycling track in London – some 80 miles each way – to see Reg Harris, who was the professional world sprint champion cyclist in the 1950s.

I had a lightweight Claud Butler bicycle at that time that I had bought secondhand from a friend who was purchasing a new bike. I was very happy with this cycle although, inevitably, a new Holdsworth displayed in the window of the Geoff Mercer’s Lightweight Cycle Shop tempted me and I traded Claud.

As it happens, I did not keep the new Holdsworth very long because another very unusual bicycle caught my eye – the Paris Galibier. Despite the name, Paris bicycles were made in England. The Paris Company hand-built many traditional bicycles but the Galibier had a distinctively different and unique design.

This Paris model had an unorthodox frame – an unusual cantilever design, a larger dimension tube stretching across the centre of the bicycle with twin top tubes. This was my favorite lightweight cycle, very comfortable to ride for both touring and racing and striking in appearance. I kept it until just before I was drafted into the Royal Air Force in 1951 when I sold it to a friend, Colin Broughton.

It was a magnificent machine.

Recently, I searched for Paris Galibier’s on the web and found one in the United States for sale. It was priced at $2,500. Another in England was being offered for £1,000. I had purchased mine, new, in 1947 for £28.

A few years ago, I learned what happened to my beloved Galibier. Colin had kept it for decades and took it with him when he moved to Luton in Bedfordshire. One evening it was stolen from his house but, Colin said, the thief might have come to a sticky end with it! When I owned the bicycle it was fitted with derailleur gears but a few years earlier Colin had fitted it with a back pedal brake hub and, at the same time, he removed the lever brakes from the handlebars.

The remains of the Galibier were found at the foot of a very steep hill in Luton. This hill has handrails for pedestrians, so you can tell it’s steep, said Colin. The thief obviously had been unable to brake and had collided with the wall of a public house at the bottom of the hill wrecking the machine, wheels and frame beyond repair and leaving a bloodstain at the scene.

The Paris Galibier was one of the most distinctive bicycle designs ever and this marque had a great following of enthusiasts. It is said that some 9000 of these frames were built under the Paris and Harry Rensch names.

Some years ago the Classic Rendezvous.com web page – which features classic British bicycles – were looking for photographs of the Galibier. I was able to provide them with two, taken in 1950, and these have appeared on their Paris Bicycle web page for the past 10 years.

There were, at one time, hundreds of hand-built British racing and touring bicycle frames. Those marques I can recall include Paris, Rensch, Baines, Bates, Dawes, Ephgrave, Hetchins, Carlton, Hobbs of Barbican, Claude Butler, Holdsworth, Excel and Grubb.

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