History

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The first contest goes back to 1903 in the Pyrenees. It was organised by the Touring Club de France (TCF). In 1922 it took place in Auvergne again under the aegis of the TCF. There was a 660 km route with many stages between Clermont-Ferrand and Aurillac via Le Puy-Mary. The edition of 1934 really left its mark on minds by making a prodigious jump concerning the technique. Once again, the competition unfolded in Auvergne with a departure from Clermont-Ferrand to reach Saint-Etienne in 3 stages and 460 km through the Sancy, the Cantal and the Forez.

At that time, the artisans of cycling were plentiful but the touring bikes were not very efficient and weighed near 18 kg. To make the builders innovate, the group Montagnard Parisien has created this competition.

The departure of the 1934 Concours de Machines from Clermont-Ferrand
Departure of the 1934 Concours de Machines from the Balainvilliers' halle aux grains in Clermont-Ferrand

The emulation of the event was so big that it enabled bicycles to be greatly updated with new major technologies. The weight of the bikes was halved because the contest required a reference point of 9 kg without the tyres. This has shown that cycles could be light and reliable. New setups like double-chainring, front derailleur or enveloping fenders appeared.

 

Routens and Menu during the 1949 Concours de Machines in Ceyrat
Routens and Menu during the 1949 Concours de Machines in Ceyrat

The Concours de Machines was not a race but a technical contest between different bikes. After every stage, each bike was examined carefully . Every single deterioration was penalised. After that, the victorious bike is the best compromise between technical innovation and reliability.

Jo Routens before the judging panel
Jo Routens before the judging panel

This event was beneficial in different ways for the manufacturers. It enabled them to show the superiority of their production compared to mass production cycles. In this way, makers like Nicolas Barra (Cycles Barra), Jo Routens or René Herse were revealed. Very ahead of their time, they became pioneers of modern cycling.

Daniel Rebour's plates
Daniel Rebour's plates