A Visit to Ben Le Batard

batard_aero

While I was in Paris after this year’s Paris-Brest-Paris, I visited Ben Le Batard, who runs a machine and fabrication shop. He specializes in motorbikes and bicycles. The bicycle portion of his shop is run by Daniel Hanart, perhaps best known for building Jeannie Longo’s hour record bike, as well as some of the bikes of the Confrérie des 650.

Le Batard bicycles are unique creations. The bike above is a time trial bike with an aluminum frame, which reputedly has won numerous French championships. According to Monsieur Le Batard, polishing the frame alone took more than 9 hours.

aero_bars_stem

The entire bike is an amazing piece of fabrication. The custom-made stem-cum-aerobar combo was inspired by René Herse’s stems…

curved_tube

Here is another Le Batard creation. This one is unorthodox in the British tradition – the goal is to keep the chainstays short and stiff for optimum performance. I’d love to test one!

customer_bike

Outside, we saw a customer’s bike, which featured many neat details. The integrated headset cups remind me of 1950s Bianchis, except here they house easily replaceable cartridge bearings. The internal brake cable routing also is quite elegantly done.

bianco_6day

Among the personal bikes of Monsieur Le Batard was this magnificent track bike, built for 6-day racing, and completely original, left untouched since it had last been raced.

terrot

Even though it was labeled “Terrot”, it was quite obvious that the frame was made by Bianco, who built the frames for many professional racers at the time. Bianco only delivered bare frames, which then were painted in the colors of the racer’s sponsors. So there are no “Bianco” decals, and yet anybody with a little knowledge can easily tell a Bianco by many of the details, as well as the superb workmanship.

monkey_bike

From the sublime to the (slightly) ridiculous: a Honda Monkey mini-motorbike. I actually kind of like it. At the very least, I’d love to try one.

harley_batard

Custom motorcycles, hour record bikes and now also some classic randonneur machines – it’s an fascinating mix that speaks highly of Messieurs Hanart and Le Batard’s abilities. It was a fun visit! Merci beaucoup, also to Ivan Souverain, who introduced me to this unique shop.

About Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

I love cycling and bicycles, especially those that take us off the beaten path. I edit Bicycle Quarterly magazine, and occasionally write for other publications. Bicycle Quarterly's sister company, Compass Bicycles Ltd., turns the results of our research into high-quality bicycle components for real-world riders.
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11 Responses to A Visit to Ben Le Batard

  1. David Pearce says:

    I love the B.S.A chainring on M. Le Batard’s Bianco track bike. After I figured out the initials on the ring (at first I thought it spelled SAAB), I recalled my distant memory that BSA made motorcycles. What a nice opportunity to dive into the exciting history of commerce and manufacturing, in this case, the Birmingham Small Arms Company. Who knew?, (not me!), that this company was involved in such a wide range of businesses, from arms to bicycles to motorcycles to 3-wheeled “popular” cars, and “normal” type automobiles.

    My main point really is to celebrate the great industrial area of Birmingham, England. What a wonderful place that must have been, maybe not always beautiful, I assume, but full of industry and metalworking and commerce! And what is now mainly left? Brooks! I guess books have already been written about the Birmingham commercial area, but what a wonderful opportunity to revisit the topic.

    And speaking to the general catholic (small c) tenor of your post here, lets just say, “Metal working is cool”. And solving problems (i.e., making an engine actually RUN, or making chainrings and cassette gears) is exciting too.

    And speaking of beautiful things, what a beautiful, beautiful bicycle is the 1947 Alex Singer Randonneuse, your featured cycle for October in this year’s calendar. Thank you!

  2. Thanks a lot for this nice article, hope to see you soon for some test drive(including the Monkey) Le Batard custom cycles.

  3. James says:

    In my humble opinion, that aluminium time trial bike looks ghastly.

    • …but sounds like it gives an awesome ride!
      In any case, we can appreciate the detailed work and care that went into it.
      -Barbara
      Compass Staff

    • I rather like it. Once you let go of preconceived notions of what a bicycle should look like… I often wonder what René Herse would build today, if he were still alive. My own Herse is my interpretation of taking the best from all eras and trying to distill it into a coherent whole… but we have to remember that during their heyday, Herse and Singer built cutting-edge bikes, not classics.

  4. Jeff Lyall says:

    I am sure that in its day, that Alloy TT bike would have looked like it was built by NASA. For form, function and sheer inventiveness I think it’s hard to go past the Rob English bikes. In particular I love his TT bikes, but I would be happy with any of them. http://www.englishcycles.com/custombikes/time-trial-mk2/

  5. Chris Lowe says:

    That TT bike reminds me of the Look titanium bikes raced by ONCE. I don’t think I’d ever want to own such a bike but I sure do love looking at TT bikes, especially the more exotic ones. Sort of like admiring a F1 car – utterly impractical but still an impressive piece of machinery!

  6. Probably the most successful use of this design was on Graeme Obree’s homemade bike (the one with the bottom bracket famously made from washing machine parts he’d found on the road), paired with his chest-on-bars position and his later Superman position. The UCI found ways to make both illegal, but he was able to take the Hour Record and two world pursuit championships with the design. I’m surprised that the UCI would have allowed such huge gussets on Longo’s bike.

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