For France and, indeed, the rest of the world, the last month has been harrowing. In the wake of the worst attacks on Paris since World War II, the prevailing atmosphere in the city is one of resilience and strength, attributes for which the French are famous for.
Those same characteristics are embodied also by the latest creation from the Clermont-Ferrand workshop of Victoire Cycles: a raw steel road bike built for the Rapha Pop-Up store in Paris.
No, this wasn’t made for a Rapha Continental rider, so there’s not a trace of pink on the frame; a trademark of the brand. Rather, it was built as a showpiece of the current state of the French handmade bicycle, of which Victoire Cycles must be the pinnacle.
The plans for a Rapha pop-up shop in Paris had been in the pipeline for the previous few months and, in accordance with their prestige as the ultimate in bicycle couture, Franziska Stenke, the country’s brand manager, reached out to Julien at Victoire Cycles for a custom bike to fill the showroom floor.
Julien says: “We discussed with Erwan (our welder) and we thought it would be a good idea to unveil something different, but we only had three weeks to do a bicycle. After a few phone calls and emails, our friends from Tune liked the project and sent us some nice parts.
“We thought it would be a good idea to do something light, yet really rideable. Luckily Reynolds had in stock some 953 tubing in the diameters I wanted. THM sent us a magnificent crankset and we had a Super Record gruppo from Campagnolo on the way.
“I designed the frame to be the perfect balance between lightness and comfort. Stainless is harder than steel, so stainless bicycles are stiffer than steel with the same diameters. It allowed me to downsize the tubes a bit, and win a few grams on the occasion.
“The feeling of a frame is mainly due to the seat stays and downtube choice. This is why I used a 35mm on bottom, and bi-conical seat stays. The full bicycle ends up at only 6.3kg, with no compromise on strength or stiffness. By the way, most of the parts are made in Europe (only the headset, fork and bars are not).
The frame was finished and built the day before the opening, so luckily there wasn’t a lot of paint that had to dry. Rather, multiple clear coats were applied, the first was tinted with a black gradient from front to back which still allows the fine fillet brazing, which Victoire is renowned for, to shine through.