J. P. Weigle for the Concours de Machines

In this year’s Concours de Machines technical trials, I am riding J. P. Weigle’s entry (above). The Concours is a competition for the best ‘light randonneur bicycle.’ The rules stress light weight, reliability and innovation. Bikes must be fully equipped with lights and the ability to carry luggage, plus a pump and a bell. There are bonus points for fenders.

Bikes are examined at the beginning, with points for light weight and desirable features. Then they are ridden over an extremely challenging course to see how well they hold up, with penalties for anything that goes wrong. Click on the link for the complete rules of the Concours (also available in English).

Building a bike for the Concours is a major undertaking, because most parts have to modified for light weight and other features. It’s almost unavoidable that the bike is finished barely in time for the event. In our case, the bike arrived in France almost ready, so we took it to our friends at Cycles Alex Singer to finish it. Then Olivier Csuka hung it from the scale that already weighed the Singers that won in the 1940s Concours.

We were excited to see that the bike (with pump and pedals) weighed just 9.1 kg (20.0 lb). That is incredibly light for a fully equipped randonneur bike, especially since we didn’t want to make a ‘one-event’ bike, but a bike that will be fun to ride for many years. So we built the bike with a generator hub instead of a superlight sidewall generator (which is noisy and can slip in the rain), with a comfortable Berthoud leather saddle and ergonomic Compass Maes Parallel handlebars. We avoided the temptation of ‘crazily light’ components with limited lifespans.

How do you make a bike so light? You choose the very light components, and then modify them to make them even lighter. Peter Weigle even cut pieces out of the headset crown race. (The race only locates the cartridge bearings, so there are no balls that could fall into the cutouts).

The Rene Herse cranks already are among the lightest in the world, but they were reprofiled to reduce their weight further. The holes drilled in the chainrings save another 10 g.

Prototypes for the new Rene Herse brakes save even more weight. They are modeled on the classic originals, but adapted for current-style posts. With hardware made from titanium and aluminum, they probably are among the lightest brakes available today, yet they offer great stopping power.

Peter Weigle also made a superlight rack. It weighs just 137 g when a standard Rene Herse rack tips the scales at 168 g, and most production racks weigh 200 g or more.

Peter even reprofiled the Compass taillight to save a few more grams.

We worked with Gilles Berthoud to make a superlight handlebar bag that weighs just 266 g. Made from the same canvas and leather as the standard Berthoud bags, it eliminates all outside pockets and reduces the leather reinforcements to a minimum. Even though it’s the lightest handlebar bag I’ve ever seen, it still incorporates a map case on top. Because without it, you risk getting lost!

When the bike was weighed at the Concours ready to go, loaded up with its bag, spare tube and tools, it weighed just 9.7 kg (21.4 lb).

Despite the focus on light weight, we wanted to include innovative features. The bike disassembles Rinko-style, so it’s easy to carry in cars, airplanes and trains. In fact, this came in very handy on the way to the Concours, when we had to fit five people, their luggage, and three bikes into a station wagon…

A switch on the stem operates both head- and taillights. When descending mountain roads, it’s easy to switch on the lights when a tunnel appears. At dusk, you can ride without lights to save a little resistance, but turn them on when a car appears in the distance. And if the bike is used in Paris-Brest-Paris, where you often ride in pelotons at night, you can turn the headlight off when it reflects off the calves of the riders in front of you. (The standlight still makes your position obvious to the riders around you.)

For reliability, Peter did all the standard things of directly mounting the fenders to the frame, etc. The generator hub uses Schmidt’s SL system, which eliminates the external wires that connect the hub to the lights. Instead, an insulated ring on the hub connects to a similarly insulated plate on the left dropout, with the axle and the frame forming the ground. The positive wire runs through the frame and rack to the headlight and taillight. Not having wires means there is one less thing to go wrong.

We didn’t take the weight savings to an extreme: We used a Delux Wide-Body hub, which is a few grams heavier, but makes for a lot stronger wheel. There are other places where we could have saved weight, but we opted for comfort, performance and reliability instead.

Today was the first stage of the bike test. With more than 4000 m (13,000 ft) of climbing, the test was more challenging for the rider than for the bike. The photo below shows the Weigle after the 230 km (140 mile) stage over mountain bike trails and muddy forest paths (above). The bike passed the examination of the jury without a single complaint, and it even remains remarkably clean for what it’s been through today.

Tomorrow is another stage of the bike test, then comes the final reckoning. The jury, the builders and the public each also get to award some points. Together with the points for the features and penalties for any malfunction, this determines the final score. At the end, the bike with the most points will win the 2017 Concours de Machines.

Further reading (added 8/30/2017):

About Jan Heine

Spirited rides that zig-zag across mountain ranges. Bicycle Quarterly magazine and its sister company, Rene Herse Cycles, that turns our research into the high-performance components we need for our adventures.
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81 Responses to J. P. Weigle for the Concours de Machines

  1. jon h says:

    c’est si brillant!

  2. Kick My Pan says:

    Très belle machine, bravo!

  3. Rick Thompson says:

    Wow, just fantastic. Many questions come to mind but here are three:
    1) Will the brakes be available from Compass? I assume the centerpulls would still have slightly better modulation, but these cantis allow the biggest tires.
    2) Are you going to make changes to other Compass components based on what is learned here? I think we all would like sub-10 kg bikes this beautiful and capable.
    3) What’s with the wing nut on the fixed section of the rear fender?

    • HIDGolf says:

      3) The wing nut is probably for attaching the removable section of the rear fender to Rinko the bike.

      • Indeed. A gram or two lighter than a separate Rinko nut.

      • Rick Thompson says:

        Thanks. I did figure that out, shortly after posting the question… Now I just want to know what joins the two parts underneath – is it a short piece of the same fender? And are those VO Zeppelins? (Not just idle curiosity, I am about to order fenders and plan to rinko.)

  4. Peter says:

    Lovely bike, I’m slightly envious 😉

    Aren’t you worried that the derailleur will get bent when the bike is packed up for transportation like this? Also, given that you’re not a heavy rider, why did you feel the need for 28 spokes in the front wheel? (and did you save some grams using alloy nipples?)

  5. Glad you guys resisted the temptation to drill holes in the fenders 🙂

    Awesome bike – good luck!

  6. immu says:

    No separate, rinko nut but a bolt through the seat stay bridge + wing nut..? That’s a cool idea!

  7. Philip Kim says:

    how do the cantis compare to the compass centerpull?

  8. Frank says:

    Interesting that you opted for downtube shifters in spite of Ergopower levers.

  9. Bill Lindsay says:

    I love that bike, but I can’t find the required bell.

  10. The secret for such a low weight? DRILLIUM!!!!!

  11. Steve Palincsar says:


  12. A Escolier says:

    Très beau vélo. Et Alex Singer c’est le paradis.

  13. Dave C says:

    I love my disk brakes and brifters, but what sold me on this beautiful machine, besides the featherweight, was the fact that it could be packed up Rinko style. It’s been a very long time since I’ve coveted a bike, but alas, that feeling has returned.

  14. Curly says:

    That’s what I’m talkin about!

  15. Jacob Musha says:

    That is an absolutely gorgeous bike, and I can’t wait to get a set of those cantilever brakes!

    Speaking of innovations, Shimano brought a number of ideas to the market over the years. Some good, some bad. Some stuck and some didn’t. There are several that still interest me from the 1980s that didn’t last in the marketplace. I’m curious if you have any thoughts on whether they had merit. Mostly interesting to me are the 10mm pitch chain, Biopace chainrings, and Dyna Drive pedals (large pedal threads with bearings inside.)

    • Francisco says:

      Biopace does deserve a comment. Shimano phased their oval rings so that the downstroke was undergeared rather than overgeared as is the case for every other oval chainring in the market. Now it must be said that the whole ‘science’ of non-circular chainrings is suspect at best, but Shimano’s take decidedly was not successful.
      Superficially biopace replicates the abbreviated down stroke of ‘planing’, and is therefore kinematically similar to a flexible frame. But whereas the latter stores some of the down stroke’s energy elastically, biopace simply wastes the chance to do anything useful with its shortened down stroke.

  16. bruno says:

    Bravo to JPW ! Last year machines were a bit disapointing in terms of weight. This is a true ‘heir’ of the end of 30’s machines. It would be nice to have a table with the individual weights. What is the tubing of the frame ?

  17. starground says:

    A true work of art. For me, this is perfection. And no silly light stuff either…chapeau!

    Side note: Back at art school we had a construction project, making an “as light as possible structure”, able to hold 1000 g across 1 meter span. We made a negative span bridge at 9,5 g. It held the weight, it shook, it was very close to collapse. It worked, but still it was useless…

  18. Bob C says:

    Those prototype brakes.. the detail on the fender attachment rinko split on the seat stay bridge, the fork and stem details… Wow. New standards set… Great, great work…

  19. azorch says:

    Two things: 1. I’d love to see a build sheet for this bike. 2. Rinko has intrigued me ever since I first read about it in BQ. With the way frame, wheels, etc. are bundled, do you experience paint scratches? Or are you using some sort of cushion or pad that I’m not seeing?

    • There are a few small pads where parts contact the frame. Key for avoiding scratches is making the bundle tight, so nothing moves. As Natsuko said when she first showed me this type of Rinko: “If you hear noises, the bike is getting scratched.”

  20. Tim Evans says:

    It’s beautiful!
    Does the Berthould bag use the rack’s tombstone?

  21. Pamela blalock says:

    Is there a rinko extension for the rear mudguard (to keep spray off a rider behind you) that is missing in these photos? Or are you just so fast that no one would be in the immediate line of fire 🔥 😇

  22. Brilliant machine. Peter is one of the rare really grand masters of bike building. Like Olivier and e few others.

  23. Peter Chesworth says:

    Looking forward to the Compass Herse cantis. The long brake arm and washer set up on my Tektro 720s seems to rob them of power, no matter how low the straddle cable is set (which in itself is not easy with fender, rack etc). These look simpler and more resolved.

    • Frank B. says:

      In general canti brakes with long arms are more powerful (higher mechanical advantage) than those with shorter arms (with similar geometry elsewhere), so if the Herse brakes have even shorter arms than the Tektros, you should not expect them to be more powerful. Maybe you need different brake levers? Or try some other cantilevers with different geometry from Ebay. I would recommend older Shimano Deore cantilevers like the Shimano BR-MT62 and similar. Strong and easy to set up.
      Or you could try low profile brakes with very long arms.

  24. Kirt says:

    And the orders begin pouring, JP…..😉

  25. Chad says:

    I hope you do a full write up on this bike in a future issue of BQ. Just a beautiful machine. It is always a treat when you review his bikes. When will the brakes be available? If you need an more local testers, I’m just north of Seattle in Marysville. They’d look great on my Soma Grand Randonneur. I’d be happy to test and provide feedback.

  26. aquilaaudax1 says:

    If this was about weight saving why did you choose a threaded headset, why was the frame lugged and not filler brazed or tig welded?

    Jan I also thought you didn’t like using down tube shifters on modern multispeed cassettes?

    You have also stated in the past that cantilevers where not great for optimal braking as the low mounting point caused the fork legs to twist under hard braking.

    • The headset was a complex calculation – a threadless steerer is lighter, but requires a more massive stem that is heavier, and so on… The shifters are indexed, so no trouble shifting the 10-speed cassette. I do prefer the best centerpulls, but they are a little heavier. I am surprised how well the Herse cantis worked in the rain today.

  27. Gert says:

    Drilling holes in the chainrings to save 10 grams and then mounting what looks like a 346 gram saddle seems inconsistent. The saddle may be great but still, there are many great saddles a hundred grams lighter. You could then later change the saddle. You will probably not long term drill holes in the chainrings?
    Is the saddle chosen for aestethic og marketing purposes?
    The cantilever brakes look very interesting. How well do they brake compared to the centerpull brakes?
    I am thinking of a combination of front centerpull and rear cantilever

  28. Marco O. says:

    Interesting to note that the first three places in 2016 were modern designs, with disc brakes and brifters.

  29. Andreas says:

    Absolutely stunning bicycle.
    More than it saves weight, that René Herse drillium crank is just gorgeous. Totally fits the campa –
    stronglight,.. tradition.
    Are those modified campagnolo brake levers?

  30. sisyphus says:

    This machine is profoundly sublime. I could empty my soul on that thing.

  31. marmotte27 says:

    I’ve tried reading Natsuko’s blog post on the concours using google translate. The experience confirms other tests of this facility I made recently. Translating into or from English seem to work pretty well these days, translating into other languages (I tried German and French) gives very inferior results. You still get the main gist of what’s being said, but the percentage is far lower than in English, meaning most interesting details are lost.

    • Frank says:

      Google Translate is not rule-based; it is statistical and needs to be trained on very large samples of human-made translations. Large corpora are readily available for some language pairs (e.g. all official EU business is translated into the unions’s several official languages – and freely available). With Japanese-to-French or to German, training material is not abundant.

  32. Bob says:

    I too am curious to read a report on the new brakes—benefits over currently available cantilevers, trade-offs with respect to Compass centerpulls, judder, etc.

  33. JD says:

    The rando front rack is elegantly minimalist and efficient. The drillium fork dropout is a great insider touch – like a shirt monogrammed on the hem – only the owner knows about it 🙂

  34. JD says:

    What is your mud flap material? I’d like to save an ounce there…

  35. Noel says:

    We are living in the new golden age of cyclotouring bicycles, and we have Jan to thank for it.

  36. John H. says:

    I am very interested in learning more about the results of the 2017 Concours de Machines. Is there a website that details the results of the competition?

  37. ryancoyle says:

    That is a very handsome bicycles. Nice balance of weight, comfort, durability and tradition. Those brakes look great, I look forward to purchasing them. Curious about the choice of modern derailleurs and levers. I think that if you gave up indexing you could have gone with alloy bits that were just as light. Was indexed shifting a must? Also, why stay with modern levers if you didn’t need the guts? Just to match? I do prefer modern hoos profiles, those levers on the maes bars make for a great combination, so many hand positions up top.

    Anyways, great bicycle. Good luck.

    • We wanted to show that our bikes can be compete on equal terms with modern machines. A lack of indexing might have been understood as a throwback to an earlier time. There is nothing on this bike that offers less performance or requires more skill to use than any modern bike.

  38. I want more in the paint department. The single blue treatment , although rich, does not make justice to what´s going on w/this bike.

  39. Matthew J says:

    Peter is a master at modifying components to make them look their best. My road bike has Peter modified Stronglight cranks and Campy Nuovo Tipo hubs. Sublime.

  40. Arthur says:

    Absolutely stunning bicycle. Very high on my dream list.

  41. JohnB says:

    How much weight could have been saved without the chrome forks and stays?

  42. Interesting to compare this with Rob Englishe’s Trans-Am bike (slightly different intended use, I know). A question: why Maes bar rather than Compass Randonneur bar?

  43. Iain says:

    Hi Jan, really beautiful bike, from the picture it doesn’t look like you have added tire wipers to this bike. Can you expand on this please.

    (btw love the blog, it’s made a real difference to my cycling over the last few years)

    • I don’t use tire wipers any longer. With wide tires rolling at low pressures, there are far fewer flats than with narrower, higher-pressure tires. I have about one flat a year, so no need for additional protection. I had no punctures in the Concours despite very rough roads.

  44. Doug L. says:

    Very nice build including Campy derailleurs. Congrats to you and Peter – well done. After the trials coverage hoping for more technical articles to follow in future editions of Bicycle Quarterly.

  45. Frank B. says:

    Could you elaborate a bit how the rear fender is attached? I suppose, there is a tongue at the detachable part that reaches to the screw – is it glued to the fender? And do you have to remove the whole screw and wingnut assembly? Or is the tongue slotted? Wondering …

  46. Wilfried531 says:

    Magnifique ce vélo!
    Jan, did you run tubeless?
    Can we hope, to see on day, Babyshoes Pass or Loup Pass tires with specific bead chape for tubeless?

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