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2 April 2015 No comments

Camille McMillan & Hartley Cycles Present The Demi-Porkeur

Friends Events Bicycles Art & Design Stories
By Juliet Elliott
Camille McMillan & Hartley Cycles Present The Demi-Porkeur

I first met photographer Camille McMillan at Eroica Britannia last year, where he cut a dashing figure swaggering around in a silk scarf shooting images and taking rides on a motorbike under the Brooks England banner. I was immediately curious about him; he appeared to play by his own set of rules with no pussy-footing about. Certainly as a man, he’s intriguing and enigmatic but believe it or not, I was unaware of his serious pedigree as a photographer and cyclist.

A regular in Rouleur, The Times, Cyclist and The Ride, Camille published his first book 'Le Metier' in 2010, a collaboration with professional cyclist Michael Barry and more recently launched The Collarbone with Luke Scheybeler, a pro-cycling reportage app. So highly regarded are his skills with a camera, next month’s Bespoked handbuilt bike show features a ‘snapshot retrospective’ of his work, focusing on his instantly recognizable analogue photographs. But Camille’s no bystander watching from the sidelines and shooting cycling’s protagonists, he’s a passionate rider of bicycles as well, having grown up competing as a Junior racer and paying his dues. So next month’s exhibition will be accompanied by the unveiling of his new custom-built porteur style bicycle, currently being hand-crafted by Caren Hartley, of Hartley Cycles. I caught up with Camille and Caren to find out more about the new bike and discover his motivation behind commissioning it. Was the style of the bicycle something he decided on at the outset, or did the eventual design become apparent during the process? “I wanted a bike I could use all year around…good as a ‘kit-humper’ but also good for mountaineering. I always carry kit on bike and not me; I hate backpacks or any bag while riding,” says Camille. “I started thinking I wanted full suspension but that soon faded and I went back to my roots.” “I was worried that my camera kit would be mashed by the vibrations and bumps so I started to look at Fat Bikes. Fat Bikes look so gimpy that I started to look at 29ers, then found 27.5 +  or 650B. Demi Fat, as I like to call it. I told Caren I liked the construction of the porteurs of the 50s and 60's, for instance Herse or Singers.” The result, was what Camille calls the 'Demi Porkeur,’ a bike capable of handling pretty much anything, particularly the mountainous routes in Camille’s backyard in the Pyrenees where he enjoys searching for ‘the route less travelled… where the tarmac ends.’ So could you call it an adventure bike? “I don't like the word Adventure. Adventure means something has gone wrong. I want to get to where I’m going without problems.” Somewhat unusually, Camille has to ditch his other bike in order to take ownership of the new Porkeur, as he tries to only have one bicycle and one motorcycle at a time. His ‘beloved Puch’ has to go. “I will probably miss it forever... but that’s good.  I don't want to be a collector,” he says. The bike is being built as we speak in London by Caren, chosen by Camille as “She comes from a fine art background and she is a perfectionist.” So far, he has only seen the bike via and Whatsapp and Instagram. Has it been it been tricky working with a client remotely, I ask her? “It has been quite challenging, especially as there has been such a tight deadline for this project. As we have been limited to Skype calls and emailing it has meant that making decisions, getting things signed off and ordering has been tough at times, for example a storm came in on the mountain where Camille lives and he was completely uncontactable for a week!” But despite the difficulty of being in separate countries, the partnership has proven to be a natural one. “I was quite relieved to find out that Camille didn't love the aesthetic of your average all terrain or fat bike, as it's not really my style either. But designing something combining the classic look of the mid century French Porteurs with the functionality needed to carry all Camille’s gear took a bit of thought. “It was not easy when you’re trying to squeeze straight seat stays around 75mm wide tyres. But with a few state of the art frame additions such as a 148 x 12 syntace rear axel and a semi fat yoke from Paragon Machine Works, I think we have managed to make a semi fat bike in disguise, a demi-porkeur.” The geometry of the frame was a collaboration, with the nuts and bolts (650B+ wheels, seat angle, head angle, trail and BB height) based on a kind of off-road/expedition type bike.  The tubing is prodominently a Reynolds 931 stainless set, with an 853 fully custom fork with a triple crown, so it will be really strong, lightweight for this type of bike and also corrosion resistant. And will it be ready for the great unveiling at Bespoked, where Camille will get to see it for the first time? “The frame is all fillet brazed, and the front triangle is done, and the forks are nearly there - still a lot to do before the show! It's my first time exhibiting at Bespoked, which I am really excited about and luckily I'm far too busy to get nervous,” concludes Caren. More images of Camille's machine will be featured on the Brooks Blog in the coming weeks. Juliet Elliott / Bikes N Stuff