Concours de Machines 2021: Khelys, La Fraise, Edel, Brevet, and Soum
In our fourth post about France’s 2021 Concours de Machines, we hone in on five more builders, learn the story behind their bike and its design challenges, and share detailed photos of each of these unique rigs. From crafty folds and upside-down forks to tasty morcels like integrated charging and homemade tents, find out all about them here…
We asked a second set of framebuilders who entered the 2021 Concours de Machines to talk us through the design considerations that went into their bikes, and to share a bit about themselves. You can check out last week’s selection here.
If you haven’t already read our previous post that lays out an overview of all the bikes in the competition, and includes the history and the rules of the Concours, it’s worth familiarising yourself with how the event works before digging into this one.
For instance, note that this year’s Concours required that bikes arrive by public transport and conform to the size stipulations set by France’s high-speed TGV trains: just 1.2 metres long x 0.9 metres tall. Given that the theme for 2021 was ‘a self-sufficient trip between friends on a 2-3 day ride basis, among medium and high mountains’, each entry had to be able to haul a specific amount of gear, include both new and old components, and be wired up for certain navigation requirements, such as lights and a GPS.
When you’re ready, dig into the bikes below and marvel at all the clever solutions – be it folding frames, integrated tents, inverted suspension forks, built-in truing stands, or rinko-style packing – that these talented makers have dreamt up for the Concours de Machines 2021.
Cycles Khelys (Les Vosges, France)
I’m Yann. I’ve been a bicycle designer for European brands for the past 10 years, but for many reasons, I decided to become a frame builder. In the end, I was mainly focused on E-bike designs, adding more and more complexity to a bike…
Coming from BMX racing, I like simple bikes that just do what you want them to do. Framebuilding allows me to work closely with customers to make them exactly the bike they need, not more. In addition, now I no longer need to take flights anymore to see underpaid people manufacturing my designs.
I’m a big bike commuter and I travel by bike but not too far from home to avoid airplanes, and haven’t taken one for years. But it’s okay, I live in Les Vosges, a French region close to the mountains, where it’s so nice.
The CDM 2021 topic was interesting for me: making a bikepacking MTB with an environmentally friendly way to get to the site. That’s my vision of bikepacking. Traveling differently also means thinking about the travel between your house and the destination.
That’s is why I created “Sakarouille.” In French, it’s a combination of “handbag” and “rust.” Let’s say it could be called “rust bag” in English. Yes, this bike has a real rusty finish, a way to show that steel is a noble material and a bit of rust on a bike won’t prevent it from riding! It’s also a good way to show the handcraft work to let the brazing and the stainless steel appear naturally.
And “bag” because the main idea was to be able to carry this bike as a handbag in a very small volume without any wobbly components and by using pieces of the bike itself to hold everything. In seven minutes, the bike can be folded or unfolded by using just three axles: the front wheel, the rear wheel, and the seat clamp.
Also, everything has been thought of prevent the bike from damages. All pieces are stainless, including the logos, to protect the frame and the fork. 3D-printed pieces hold the front light and protect the handlebar while the bike is upside down, and the wide head badge protects the headtube from the cables on the sides.
The bespoke bags have been made by Atelier Tangent. They have been designed to get the best compromise between riding feeling and compactness. The 68.5° fork angle allows keeping a good riding feeling even with a 4kg front bag, which can be turned into a backpack while the bike is folded. The fork height allows compatibility with a 130mm suspension fork without changing the geometry.
As a BMX rider, I like small bikes with small wheels. The geometry gives a reactive feeling to play on the side of the trails, packed or not. The twin plate fork crown offset allows the legs to keep the water bottles close to the steering axle to keep a good ride feel and save space while the bike is folded. The rear tyre has less grip than the front to make it as versatile as possible, even to be able to ride on the tarmac without losing 999999 KW.
Finally, here’s how the bike is packed down. See the accompanying carousel images below:
Step 1: Unscrew the clamps under the bottom bracket
Step 2: Remove the wheels
Step 3: Fold the handlebar
Step 4: Remove the 12mm tightening axle from the seat clamp
Step 4: Reuse the 12mm seat clamp axle and screw it at the back to tighten the chain
Step 6: fold the rear triangle and use the wheel axle to screw the wheels on each side like a big cheeseburger
La Fraise Cycles (Roubaix, France)
Andreas Behrens: I knew that this year’s Concours was going to take us into mountain bike terrain, but living in the flat north of France and having a client from here sponsoring the bike, my entry had to be adaptable also to the gravel roads of our region.
So, I decided to equip the Randonneur Tout Terrain with drop rather than flat bars to give more options for riding positions. I also wanted to use the Concours as an opportunity to test out the Pinion gearbox in heavy terrain and for low maintenance, and I decided to couple the gearbox with the Gates Carbon Belt Drive, a decision I did not regret when the bike fell over on the drive side into a big puddle of mud. Rinse off and done. To pair the Pinion C1.12 with a drop bar, I went for the Cinq shifters from Tout Terrain, developed in collaboration with TRP.
On the front wheel, there is a SON 28 dynamo hub that powers a new charger by Velogical, hidden in the down tube. Thanks to the Pinion bridge, there is great access to the down tube to hide all kinds of stuff. That also allowed the integration of the USB plug in the top tube, an important detail because the bike had to be folded rinko style to fit French Railway restrictions (a charger in the steerer increases the complexity for that). There is just one cable connector under the down tube and the fork can be removed easily to reduce the bike to minimal pack size.
The pannier racks can be adapted to create a porteur front rack on the gravel version with 650 x 47mm tires and Honjo H80 fenders.
To spend the night out, I used the cyclon.cc bike tarp tent, and a tent that uses the flipped around bike as the supporting structure, which I developed with a friend for the 2018 Concours de Machines and which, after heavy testing and development, is now commercially available. With the help of cyclon.cc, we developed the set of pannier bags using Fidlock fixtures. The pannier bags can be transformed into a backpack that allows you to carry the bike on your back, pass hunter style.
Edelbikes (Grenoble, France)
I’ms François Cau of Edelbikes in Grenoble, France. Besides building frames, I also teach framebuilding classes over one-week sessions, which I’ve been doing for the last three years. Last year, Alexandre Antrope took this opportunity to build his frame, and he’s now riding it on bikepacking events – successfully, as he finished second on the new Sea-To-Peak event this summer.
This project was carried out mainly in the form of a training course, so it was jointly built by its owner, Alexandre, who also rode his finished bike during the 2021 competition.
In December 2019, Alexandre won a place for the Highland Trail 550. He contacted me at the start of 2020 to begin the project. At the first meeting, we talked about the Concours de Machines. It turns out that the project fit the specifications, so it made sense to present a customer’s bike, one that was designed to be ridden over long-distance races.
After various COVID-19 related delays – the Highland Trail was also postponed – the training course eventually started in November 2020. Here are some details of the frame: the downtube is Deda Zero Uno (38 by 0.8/0.5/0.9). The top tube is Deda Zero (31.7 by 0.6/0.45/0.6). The seat tube is Columbus Zona (28.6 by 0.8/0.6/1.2). The head tube is Columbus conical, the chainstays are Deda, seatstays are Columbus Zona, bottom bracket is BSA 73mm, and the rear axle Boost 12×148. The fork is Bombtrack’s BPC carbon.
The framebag, saddlebag, top tube bag, and handlebar bag are made by Alexandre. The total cost of the bike is 3,316 Euros, of which 1,500 Euros is for the frame. It was the lightest bike in the contest, at 9.7kg without bags. With all the mandatory equipment required for the Concours, it was still 2kg lighter than the other competitors.
The tent was made by Alexandre, attached to the standing bike on one side, with a tiny pole on the other end. The tent is two-walled, which greatly reduces condensation issues and problems with insects! The whole tent, including aluminum pegs, is 500 grams and takes less than three minutes to be set up. Alexandre also made his own rain jacket, long sleeve jersey, and alcohol stove.
Brevet Cycles (Burgundy, France)
Sebastien Klein: Mountain-biking and gravel randonneur riding are my original passions as a rider. Adventures in wild places, camping, being out in nature, connected to the terrain, and fully present in my environment. For many years, I wanted a bike that I can use to do mountain biking and camping – what’s now called bikepacking. This year’s theme for the Concours de Machines was the right moment for me to test out some of my ideas that have been brewing for some time.
I had a few essential requirements when designing this bike:
1. A bike that handles nicely when going uphill on small rough trails even when fully loaded.
2. Is comfortable to spend all day riding on.
3. Is fun to ride when the terrain goes downhill.
I wanted to make a bike that is low tech and minimalist, designed to travel, adaptable, and easy to repair in unusual situations. Working on the geometry to find something to match these requirements, the solution I came to was this low trail mountain bike; making turning easier and making it possible to be more responsive on the trail. It has a slightly slack seat tube so the weight of the rider is pushed back and gives a more upright position. A lighter front end to make the bike more fun, agile, and easier to handle. The Jones handlebars also play a role because of their shape, allowing multiple positions, moving the rider’s weight more to the back to go downhill and more on the front to go uphill.
The H-bars are not only great for the different positions they give to the rider, but they also allow you to attach lots of things. On this setup, I put two Tangent Atelier pouch bags, where I could stuff snacks, a water bottle, and other essentials, and the SON Edeluxe front light in the middle. The GPS is inside the H-bar so it’s protected from damage, and I can easily plug it into my power bank. On either end of the H-bar, I put the Wolf Tooth Encase multi-tool system, which contains everything I need.
The Truss fork is made to handle powerful braking without being too heavy, and it also gives extra capacity to strap more bags than a traditional fork. When mountain biking on a technical trail, not having luggage behind the saddle means it’s easy to quickly lower the saddle, giving you the freedom to move and shift your weight to the back.
Using a curved seat tube allows the bike to have short chainstays, making the bike fun to ride. The combination of that rear end and low trail geometry creates a bike with a small wheelbase, which is an advantage when it comes to packing the bike for travelling by train. The frame uses a double top tube, not only for aesthetic reasons but also to internally route the derailleur and brake cable/hose and allow me to use a wider frame bag to maximize the packing capacity. For packing the bike, I stuck to my original manifesto, “simpler is better,” so I used the Rinko method, not a foldable frame. I end up with a compact package, which fits the Ostrich Rinko bag. The final dimensions are 110cm long, 81cms hight, and 27cms wide.
All the bags have been custom made by Tangent Atelier and are designed to fill all the space in the main triangle. This gives enough room to carry water, clothes, and food. We also designed a simple front dry bag to attach to the handlebars and the fork, which opens at both ends, allowing easy access to gear. The saddle is a prototype from Berthoud Cycles made from linen fibres and bio-resin.
Riding this bike and testing out new ideas has been refreshing. It’s really comfortable to ride, even on tough terrain, really agile and reactive, climbing very well, and super fun on the descent. A performance-oriented bike was not my intention for this project. Rather, I wanted a bike that gives a ride full of character and satisfaction and makes you want to hit the trail. Simpler is better, and it needs to be fun to ride.
SOUM Cycles (Hautes Pyrénées, France)
SOUM bikes are made by me, Rémi Couderc, in the Hautes Pyrénées, which is a fertile ground for exploring high-performance off-road luggage solutions. I’ve ridden bikes since my childhood, and I came to mountain bike from competing with big downhill bike. Today, I want to explore mountain trails but also keep the pleasure of downhill riding. I want to promote mountain bikepacking. This July, we made a big trip in France, crossing the “Hautes Alpes” self-sufficiently, principally by singletrack.
A typical “Enduro” bike, the SOUM machine has been designed to hurtle down steep mountain trails, carrying everything you need for two days of autonomy. Emphasis has been placed on ease of use and practicality. In fact, in the mountains, complex situations arise regularly, the machine must be the ideal companion.
The geometry is developed around the “mullet” format. The 29-inch front wheel provides stability and safety while the 27.5 rear wheel makes the bike more maneuverable. A bike that reassures in the rough and at high speed while allowing to be reactive in the turns. The “all-rounder” aspect is central to the design, making it easy to go from long trekking to bike park/enduro.
In order to distribute and suspend the masses as well as possible, the idea of integrating an inverted fork into the machine emerged. In fact, limiting the unsprung masses is a relevant strategy. It will be necessary to limit the distance of the mass to the axis of rotation to limit the moment of inertia of the assembly.
The design of the rack had to make it possible to minimize the space required above the wheel. In mountain biking, steep passes require you to go “behind the saddle” for greater comfort. The 900 mL titanium cooker is integrated into a fixed position behind the seat tube on the same rack. Inside there is a Trail Design stove. It allows us to use wood, alcohol, or a burner for only 350 grams with the cooking pot. The central advantage is that the straps are kept slightly tight for ease of fitting and tightening. This also allows the straps to be kept in the “unloaded” position.
The bicycle has a central function in the assembly of the tent. In addition to securing it, the assembly makes it possible to use its cockpit to obtain a sufficient height. A Dyneema canvas allows a significant weight reduction. The mast is integrated into the “One Up” steering cover, thanks to a center ring and O-rings. The three-part mast integrates with the frame bag with hook-and-loop fasteners on the inside.
If you’re as stoked about the Concours de Machines and its format as we are, you’ll be pleased to know there are still a couple of posts to come! We’ll be following up this roundup with deep dives on the remaining winning bikes to join our post about the second-place PechTregon Luguru. With thanks to all the frame builders for sharing their words and photos, and to Magali Paulin for the studio shots.
Make sure to dig into these related articles for more info...
Please keep the conversation civil, constructive, and inclusive, or your comment will be removed.