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1 July 2015 No comments

Back to the Future

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Back to the Future
In 1957 Roland Barthes published  'Mythologies' , a collection of essays .. the best known is "The New Citroën" the "Goddess". The Citroën DS 19 replaced the Citroën Traction Avant, the Citroën Traction Avant was old fashioned... pre World War 2 tech and styling.  The DS according to Barthes was perfection. The DS was perfection of Modernism, the high watermark of French design and ethos. World War 2 was in the history books along with the old aesthetics of the La Belle Époque "Beautiful Era" and Art Nouvos.  The Citroën DS was the future manifest in an object. French style, aesthetics engineering was at its height... for me it was a high point for French'e'ness, French bicycles and bicycles in general. Just like now the cars of Citroën were "conceived with passion by unknown artists "... the bicycles of the time ( like now ) were named. In 1957 if you were wealthy enough or obsessed enough you went to a Constructeur for your bicycle needs. A Constructeur was an Artisan working in an Atelier, builders like Alex Singer and René Herse. The constructeurs manufactured in the way cars were built before Henry Ford. No production line, the Bicycles were crafted, bespoke and above all an expression of Modernism, a refined Modernism, and to my mind a wonderful expression of the Modernist period. In 1957 the ' future' had arrived and it was not just the  Citroën DS that demonstrated people were living in the future, the bicycle in France was also this expression.

You may not believe me, but the bicycle is a time machine. We live in the post ' future', a world of retro and sentimentality, re - hashed emotions and relationships through our mobile devices. There are places in this life we can can have a pure modern experience.  Riding a bike is a pure ' modern ' experience ( if you you turn off the Strava, navsat and other BS ). You travel back to the future on a bicycle. This is something I love about the bicycle, time travel. Caren Hartley works in the tradition of the Constructeurs, bespoke from an artists viewpoint. I liked that, Aesthetics is also taken into consideration, as much as the ' function' of the bike. The Aesthetics of the Constructor Bicycle was outside the fashion system, and so to are Carens bikes. Leave trends in bike manufacture to the big corporate players... you know the one's Trekerello's etc Caren Hartley builds bicycles in 650c size, making smaller bikes that look great, not feeling the need to be 700c like the racers of the Tour de France. Caren operates in an arena where the cyclist is interested in riding their bike and not looking at it through the prism of the professional bike rider.  She makes a bicycle for people who love the pure ( modern ) experience and joy of the bike.

When first talking to Caren, we had an overlap of wants for a bicycle. Not least straight stays... no curved fashions for us, I said to Caren I had a thing for the Constructors and that WTB had given me Massive 650b tyres ( 27.5 + )... I wanted a new take on the Porteur. This is how the Bike got the name Porkeur. Its a Fat-bike / Porteur ... Porkeur. Many years ago I went to the Reynolds factory, a wonderful place spanning the history of the Bicycle. The French constructeurs loved Reynolds, 531 was the gold standard of the ' modern ' age, and Reynolds, like Caren, work with that history and bring it up to date with current technologies. Reynolds kindly gave us 931 tubing, which for me embodies the constructeur ethos... Reynolds tubes literally come out of the same machines that the tubes of the constructeurs came from.

I love lineage... I like to trace time in an object.. I think the fashionable word is Authentic or heritage. Reynolds got that, Brooks got that... and even though Caren Hartley is a new kid on the block... she has got it. My demands for the bike was to carry all my kit around the mountains where I live and beyond.... The bicycle needs to carry my Camera kit through the mountains I live on and it needs to travel through time.

See the Demi-Porkeur now at our flagship store in London's Covent Garden - B1866 - until mid July.  Store information found here: http://www.b1866.com