In these days of gridlocked cities, the climate challenge and a growing penchant for slow tourism, the trusty bicycle is back in fashion. From 8 November 2022, the Cité du design invites you to discover over 70 bikes at the very forefront of technology and design in a brand new exhibition: Bicyclette(s), faire des vélos. Curator Jean-Louis Frechin, from the Nodesign agency, takes us inside the brave new world of the revival of the bicycle and its manufacturing in the 21st century. The choice of Saint-Etienne owes nothing to chance, for it is here in the heart of the historic capital of the bike that its renaissance in Europe is focused.
The velocipede, the first machine that allowed humans to travel faster, was born in Europe. From the feats in the Tour de France to popular means of transport among the working classes, the bicycle became an integral part of our culture. Largely replaced by the car and motorised two-wheelers from the 1950s on, the second half of the 20th century saw it mainly used for sport and leisure, and cycle production gradually came to be dominated by the United States, Japan and Taiwan. But since the anti-dumping measures taken in 1993, then in 2013, we have seen a revival of production in Europe.
Alongside players like Decathlon, which sells products partially assembled in France, or Cycleurope, which is perpetuating the adventure of Peugeot and Gitane bikes, the bicycle and its uses are in the process of reinventing themselves in France thanks to a multitude of innovative firms and craft bicycle builders who are pioneering new, sustainable, high-performance solutions. To mention just a few: the Manufacture du Cycle in Machecoul is relaunching pioneering mountain-bike brand Sunn; in Auvergne, Cycles Victoire is reinventing the high-end custom-made bike; 1886 in Saint-Etienne offers elegant bikes; legendary frame builder Cyfac has set a precedent that is being taken up by the younger generation; Maison Tamboite, a Paris- based manufacturer, offers its own singular, classic but technological vision of the bike as a luxury object.
Whether it is to get from A to B day-to-day, commute to work, surpass oneself through sporting exertion or explore new horizons on a cycling holiday, with or without electric pedal assist, bikes are very definitely centre stage again. Representing a new way to tame the city, they are an essential part of the solution for making a more environmentally-friendly society. Beyond the ecological and practical considerations, there is also an element of desirability in the mix, the aesthetic allure of the bike, an opportunity for personal expression: “You are what you pedal”.
In France, as in all the neighbouring countries, this culture of the bicycle is being reinvented thanks to the work of firms, engineers and designers who are innovating to produce bikes fit for today’s world and tomorrow’s.
This autumn will see the opening of the exhibition
Bicyclette(s), faire des vélos, an invitation for bicycle
lovers and the general public to come and discover at
the Cité du design a selection of over 70 bikes that are
revolutionising how we think of cycling and offer a glimpse
of what the bikes of the future will look like. More than just a
collection of objects, the exhibition explores the innovative
manufacturing processes that underpin this new industry.
Among the selection of bicycles on show, don’t miss: a
bike designed specially for the exhibition by the Nodesign
agency to demonstrate Europe’s manufacturing capacity,
which is fitted with a maximum of parts and materials made
in France or in Europe, the original bikes made by Vosges-
based manufacturer Moustache, the Velo’v urban bike
system by JCDecaux in Lyon, custom bikes built by Cycles
Victoire in Clermont-Ferrand, a Jean Prouvé bicycle and the
fabulous Nevi titanium bikes...
Not forgetting the creations of designer Matthieu Chollet, founder of PechTregon, the most stunning of the French bike designer-builders. You’ll also be able to see Saint- Etienne’s own legends, the innovative Vitus bikes, the high- performance MecaCycle machines and the iconic pink Mercier Raymond Poulidor bike.
These new “spads”, “biclous”, “bécanes” (just a sample of the many slang terms we have for our bikes in France!)... these two-wheeled conveyances are a selection of the latest inventions that we wanted to share with visitors. They are a fantastic reminder that without creativity, innovation and production, no new products and usages are possible. This exhibition presents some remarkable bikes, but also and most importantly the projects of men and women who, thanks to their passion, have succeeded in rekindling the culture of the bicycle. And who better than Saint-Etienne, home of design, the bike and manufacturing industry to chronicle the rebirth of this industry in France and in Europe ?
Curatorship and scenography
Designer and architect Jean- Louis Frechin heads the multi- award-winning Nodesign agency which specialises in design, innovation and technological creation. Pioneers in digital design, the agency is renowned for its expertise in new product design.