VéloSolex moped

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Increasingly dependent on getting from A to B as quickly as possible I have noticed a rise in commuters using electrically operated bicycles and small motorized scooters. They seem to offer limited comfort and even less protection for the rider who, for an inexplicable reason, think they have the power of a large Harley, BMW or Honda at their fingertips and get themselves into precarious positions on the road causing much frustration to others.

In a far gentler era the predecessor of these street demons was VéloSoleX or more frequently referred to as a Solex which was moped – or motorised bicycle – originally produced by Solex who were based in Paris (France) and founded by engineering friends, Maurice Goudard and Marcel Mennesson.

Designed by Mennesson during World War II, the Solex was produced between 1946 and 1988 in a variety of versions largely utilising the same technology of a motor with roller resting on and driving the front wheel of the bicycle.

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Being very competitively priced and hugely economical to run, the Soles was a massive success. In total it sold in excess of 7m units. In 1947 even BP created “Solexine”, a pre-mixed  oil and petrol mix for the Solex’s two stroke engine and sold in a 2L can. By the late 1940’s Solex was selling 100 units a day rising to 1500 a day by the mid-1960’s – when it was blessed with a new maximum – though limited – speed of 30 km.

The company now makes a range of electrically powered bicycles. An early version, designed by Pininfarina, was launched in 2005 as the E-Solex.

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By 2014 the Solexity Infinity was launched, again from the pen of Pininfarina – with capacity to travel up to 80 km on one charge – at the costs of around €2,000 – keeping the brand alive!

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As French as the Beret, Brie and Baguette, the Solex, a classic French icon of the mid-20th century, has a very special place in my psyche as I explored the opportunity in the 1980’s of importing them into the UK. It was perhaps my first brush with the ever increasing dominance of the words “Health & Safety” in our national idiom.

I was required to deliver details to the Ministry of Transport who after some consideration and lots of teeth sucking, decided that the fuel tank, which was then made of a reasonable durable plastic was too feeble to withstand any front-end impact and the risks of fire were too great.

Solex also commissioned various evocative advertising posters, which in their own right are increasingly collectable.

Solex Poster a

For our French speaking friend’s – we know who you are – the equivalent of a an Owner’s Manual for a Vélosolex is a must – Le Guide du Vélosolex click the Amazon link below the image to get yours!

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Le guide du Vélosolex

Why not pick up a classic French VeloSolex enamel sign that will look at home in your Gite in La Gironde, on the wall of your Flat in Fulham or your Man-cave in Manchester! Click the AMAZON link below the image

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FRENCH VINTAGE METAL SIGN 40x30cm RETRO AD VELOSOLEX LE VRAI BICYCLESD2C56E9B-03F2-4C9E-AF3A-13C55668EEA2

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FRENCH VINTAGE METAL SIGN 40x30cm RETRO AD VELOSOLEX REFERENDUM 2

I love VeloSolex – and all this little motor cycle represents – you can too with this iconic T Shirt! Please click the Amazon link below the image 

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Velosolex Moped T-Shirt. Gents Ladies Kids Sizes. Bike Cycling France Motorcycle:X Large – 48″

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Photo Credits – with grateful thanks – Solex SA

Pashley Cycles

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There is such a massive push for us all to get fitter and cycling is not only very enjoyable it’s a great way to see your local city, town or countryside. However, our regular readers will, of course, expect us to highlight those iconic and rather beautiful bicycles that make a design statement.

Pashley Cycles are well known to those who love fine British hand-made bespoke bicycles but they are about to get even more famous, especially if you are a London based former “Boris Biker” and now a “Sadiq/Santander Saddler”.

In October 2016 it was announced that Pashley Cycles had developed a new fleet of more manoeuvrable hire bikes with smaller wheels, a lower frame, a new gear hub and an improved gel saddle. The first batch of new cycles are due to be phased in to the London streets during early 2017 with a further 500 being introduced annually thereafter.

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Founded by William ‘Rath’ Pashley in 1926, the dedication and craftsmanship at Pashley Cycles continue the founder’s legacy to this day at their factory in Stratford-upon-Avon. Whilst demand has increased steadily in recent years every effort has been made to ensure that quality is not compromised.

Pashley employs the manufacturing system whereby each constructor individually hand-builds and finishes the  bicycles that have been ordered – its rare that they carry any stock – thereby ensuring a seamless connection and preservation of quality from initial assembly to despatch.

Let’s visit – click here – the Pashley Cycles Factory

For me there are two cycles in the Pashley range that tick several boxes, they are Countryman or Guv’nor. Both have legendary Reynolds 531 steel frames and Brooks saddles – Brooks bicycle saddles – the core difference being that the Countryman (our featured image) has the versatile 8 speed Shimano Alfine gearing whereas the Guv’nor – which echoes a Pashley design from the 1930’s known as the “Path Racer”- has the iconic North Road handlebars and comes in either a single gear version or a the very trusty Sturmey Archer – something many have known and loved since childhood – three speed version.

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Adrian Williams, who now owns around 73% of Pashley, lead a management buyout in 1994, firm was his belief that hand-welded and high quality British bespoke bicycles had a future. The announcement from Transport for London is clear vindication for Mr Williams.

In 2010, Pashley, suffered a severe blow when longstanding and very valuable customer, the Royal Mail, announced the end of its bicycle deliveries. This decision necessitate a new outlet for the company’s production – hence the TfL link.

Additionally, the TfL announcement follows hard on the heels of J Sainsbury’s release trumpeting the  reintroduction of bicycle deliveries of groceries in London using Pashley cycles. Pashley have made a range of commercial “cargo bearing” cycles for years that traditionally accounted for around 60% of it total annual output of 8,000 to 10,000 cycles. Think “Open All Hours” – the original series!

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Images courtesy Pashley Cycles