When I was a boy, I collected matchboxes, the cards from tea packets, books, postcards, coins and stamps, as boys were wont to do in those distant days. As an adult, I started a collection of wristwatches before realising I’d never have enough money to really do justice to this pursuit. Today, I admire people who do collect – they are the assemblers, the archivists of our history – but my own interest in collecting is minimal. Nevertheless, about two years ago, I started a collection of “extremely small but interesting things” (of which more, perhaps, in a separate blog post), but this too fell into abeyance. And a year ago, I started picking up anything vaguely connected with cycling.
The reason for this last mission was twofold: first, I’ve been a keen cyclist for a year and a half now, and am – as many of you know – President of Badgers Bike Squad; second, I enjoy going to vide greniers (the rural jumble sales) just to look around, so this decision gave me a casual objective.
My collection is in its infancy, but here are a few items I’ve ferreted out (photos below). There’s a 1934 copy of Le Miroir des Sports, covering the Tour de France in that year.
There’s a small working model of a bicycle: this, the previous owner told me, came from a school where it was assembled, from a kit, by the children and served to teach them how a bicycle functions. Beside it is another tiny model bike I picked up.
There’s a plastic model Tour de France cyclist. Occasionally one comes across whole sets of these on eBay or in vide greniers, and they date from the 1960s. I once went to an arts and crafts fair in a little village hall and a man was there with a model landscape he had produced with scenes from the Tour de France using these tiny cyclists, along with the publicity cars, the crowds, the mechanics and so on. I asked him why he’d started collecting this stuff and he said he had no idea, he wasn’t even particularly interested in cycling. Some of you may have seen my plastic model at the end of the Badgers Bike Squad videos, in the company of two others: they are owned respectively by myself, Yves Krier and Steve Birkbeck, the three pillars of Badgers Bike Squad.
There’s a cycling trophy – and it’s rare to find one with a sculpted cyclist, they’re mostly just cheap plastic trophy cups in the sports shops.
There’s a pendant from Notre Dame des Cyclistes, La Bastide d’Armagnac. This is a chapel and museum devoted to everything related to cycling in the Les Landes département, housed in the remains of a 12th-century Knights Templar fortress. It was created in 1958 by Father Joseph Massie, inspired by the Chapel of Madonna del Ghisalio in Italy.
Lastly, there’s a fabric badge inscribed International Badgers Club. This has absolutely nothing to do with Badgers Bike Squad, but I had to have it. It is in fact a worldwide club of scouting organisations that shares badges – hence “Badgers”. For the record, the word “badger” originates in the 16th century and almost certainly stems from “badge”, an allusion to the animal’s distinctive head markings.
If you go to vide greniers, please keep your eyes peeled for further items to add to my totally serendipitous collection.
By the way, look carefully at the cycling gear in the photo above from the 1934 Le Miroir des Sports and compare to today’s Tour de France cyclist. OK, they may be faster and more aerodynamic, but all the style has gone…