A Visit to Ben Le BatardJan Heine
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.
The entire bike is an amazing piece of fabrication. The custom-made stem-cum-aerobar combo was inspired by René Herse’s stems…
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.