The Musee Comtadin du Cycle     Great Cycle Museum in Provence

I have been fortunate to have two cycling trips to France this year.  My first was to Bourg D’oisans to give me an opportunity to tackle some of the Alpine climbs such as Alpe D’Huez.  In September I was off to Provence to show a friend the routes up Mont Ventoux.  On one of our days off we decided to have a relatively flat ride to Pernes-Les-Fontaines, which just south of Carpentras,  and visit The Musee Comtadin du Cycle.

I had heard from a friend that the museum might be a bit difficult to find but worth the effort. Luckily we first found a museum about the local French Resistance and when we enquired about the Musee du Cycle a very enthusiastic lady insisted to taking us there in person.  Turns out she is one of the museum’s volunteers.

My friend was correct it was well worth the trip.  The museum has many cycles of all sorts of vintage and type on display.  The museum book (5 euros) only shows a handful of the exhibits which are in at least five rooms, although the museum is expanding to another floor next year.

 My favourite bike in the book is a 1897 Bicyclette Acaten with a rack and pinion drive.  Single speed unlike the recently proposed multigear system from America.  Another fascinating thing was looking at the various chains employed.  For example The Bicyclette Course built by P.Fageot Aine in 1895 has a roller chain with about an inch pitch. The front chain ring (le plateau)  has 17 Teeth and the rear cog (le pignon) only 8.  One the museum’s favourite display is a 1936 Terrot Velo de Course features “un derailleur a trois vitesses”. The bike is built from Reynold HM 531 and is equipped with a Super Champion” derailleur.  There is also a bike similar to the one used by Maurice Garin when he won the first ever Tour De France

There are too many bikes to describe here but I can assure all members that should they be in Provence a visit to this museum will be one of the highlights of their trip as they will see military folding bikes including a BSA from 1943, many types of trade bike, several tandems and a Japanese Cyclopause a form of cycle rickshaw which is not too dissimilar to one of the “inclusive” cycles which accommodates a wheelchair that I help to maintain for my local council.  Not everything is old though there is a 2014 prototype by Raymon Martinex which features a double transmission system effectively giving ratios for (I estimate) 6 or 7 to 1, the details state that at a cadence of 100 revs per minute speeds of 135.932 Km/h would be reached.

My favourite part of the Museum though has to be the workshop display, just take a look around and you can see  why as a bike mechanic I was fascinated by it.

Lastly I must mention that about 2kms from the museum at the entrance to the local sports complex you will find a statue of Paul de Vivie who was born in the town and credited with inventing the derailleur gear.  

Statue of Velocio

For those in the area with a bicycle I can also recommend the cycle path from the west side Carpentras and follows an old railway path north and west alongside the D187 road to the Ancienne Gare de Loriol-Aubignan.  But note if you wish to have lunch at the café there you have to book in advance but if it is open they are happy to sell you a beer!

More details, including location and contacts for the museum can be found at the web site tourisme-pernes.fr.  This is a “must go” location for anyone interested in the history of cycling.