Presentation of Concours de Machine 2016 (1/3)

Presentation of Concours de Machine 2016 (1/3)

Victoire Cycles and 200 magazine organize the first re-edition of the Concours de Machines. This competition that took place from 1934 to 1949 brought the French handcrafted bike builders together to put to the test their "machines" created for the occasion. It will  take place this year the 1st, 2nd and 3rd of July in Ambert, France, during the sportive " Les Copains", who provide us their routes their organization and their public.It is a very popular event in the French cycling calendar (about 2500 riders in 2014) that is famous for his friendly atmosphere and the quality of its routes. The Forez mountains are ideal to push the bikes to their limits. We will present you this week the Concours through a three episodes serie. We start today with the history of the Concours and its goals. 


The first contest was organized in the Pyrénnées in 1903 by the Touring Club de France. In 1922, it took place in Auvergne, still under the aegis of T.C.F, with a 660km route in several stages between Clermont-Ferrand and Aurillac, via the Puy-Mary.  We had to wait the 1934 edition to really make an impression. Once again, it was in Auvergne, with a start from Clermont-Ferrand to join Saint-Etienne. Three stages and 460km across the mountains of the Sancy, the Cantal and the Forez were at the program. At this period, there were a lot of frame-builders but touring bicycles were not performant and weighed about 18kg. It was to push the builders to inovate that the Groupe Montagnard Parisien created the competition.

The emulation generated by the event was good for the bicycles that were modernized thanks to the appearance of great technical advances. The weighs of the bikes was reduce by half, the competition decreeing a reference weight of 9kg without tyres, proving that bicycles could be both light and reliable. New specifications appeared, like the double chainring, the front derailleur of the enveloping fenders.  

The different competitors fight on the selective roads of Massif Central, that were more difficult due to the snow melt. However, the Concours de Machines was not a race, but a technical competition between the different machines. The trials where the cyclists raced for their builder were here to put to the test the different setups.

At the end of each stage, each of the bikes were analyzed with care by the judge panel. Each deterioration was penalized. At the end of the competition, the winner was the bike with the best compromise between technical inovation and reliability during the trials.

Other editions of the Concours de Machines took place then in Colmar, Annecy, Grenoble , but also already in the Forez mountains. The last edition was in 1949, in Ceyrat, next to Clermont-Ferrand and Victoire Cycles workshop. The Auvergne has welcomed the first and the last edition of the Concours, wraping everything up, and, it is a nice wink, it will come back in this region.  

This event was good for builders in different points. It allowed them to show the superiority of their handcrafted production in front of mass production. It revealed some frame-builders like Nicolas Barra (Cycles Barra) or André Reiss (Cycles Reyhand). They became the pioneers of modern bicycles, with a considerable lead on their time.  Many technical advance from this period are still used today.  

Auvergne and cycling

The history of the Concours de Machines is very linked to the Auvergne. The region is perfect to ride and 2016 will be very rich in cycling events. After the Concours, the Tour de France will come in Le Lioran resort on the 6th of July. The strong cycling news at this period will be good to highlight the Concours de Machines and handcrafted bicycles to the general public. 

At the beginning of August, the 250 riders of the Transcontinental Race will start from Muur Kapelmuur in Belgium, to join Gallipoli in Turkey. A 4000km journey, without support, and four checkpoints. The first one will be in Clermont-Ferrand and the famous Puy-de-Dôme. 

At last, we are very happy to be part of the organization of a big event in september. The cyclists invited will race by mixed team of 4, on a 160km and 3000m elevation route mixing gravel and road. More information soon!


The goals

Handcrafted work and made in France products have wind in their sails, so it was important for us to highlight our work. The original Concours de Machines were strong competitions, were the builders put intensively to the test their bikes,  during sometimes 1000km. The machines had to respect a large amount of strict standards, at risk of penalization.

We do not want to make an exact copy of the original competition, that ended more than 60 years ago. The market has changed a lot, most of the production moved to Asia and new standards, new materials and new technologies have appeared. The place of craftmans has changed a lot too.  Their amount has decreased and the knowledge has disapeared. However, and the organization of the re-edition of the Concours de Machine confirms it to us, there is a strong enthusiasm for handcrafted bicycles. The credo of this event will be to improve and to highlight our work. We want to highlight our work and know-how to general public, to show them that there is an alternative to mass-production and another vision of cycling. The second goal will be improve our work, through the competition. We hope that it will create an emulation to allow each of the builders to inovate. At last, French frame-builders do not meet each other very often. It will bring together the major part of French handcrafted bicycles builders, so it will be a good start to create partnerships and develop our job together.

It does not mean that we will abandon the competition. We have programmed for these 3 days some very demanding trials to push the bicycles and the racers to their limits. An international judge panel, mixing historians, builders and technicians will have the hard task to evaluate the machines. Today, 19 builders are registered. We chose to put a few technical limits to let each other to show his own vision of the light randonneuse, the theme of this year. 

More details in the next episode!      

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