Col de Pavezin

Col de Pavezin

Vélocio, the founder of the cyclotouring movement in France, has long been a great inspiration. Imagine my delight when I suddenly found myself on one of the maître’s favorite roads!
I was riding from the Rhône valley, where I had visited La Tante (the Aunt) just weeks before her 100th birthday, toward Clermont-Ferrand, where I was to meet another friend. As I climbed one of the many hills of the region, I suddenly saw a sign for the Col de Pavezin.
The Col de Pavezin was one of Vélocio’s favorite meeting points, where he met with his friends and readers of his magazine Le Cycliste. Of course, I took the sideroad that led up to the col. I discovered a beautiful road that wound its way up the valley side, shaded by trees. It led past ancient farmhouses that had changed little since Vélocio rode on these roads a century ago.
I could see why Vélocio chose this col on his rides from Saint-Etienne to the Rhône valley and southern France. It was less steep and allowed a better rhythm than many of the other climbs of the region. However, even here it became apparent why Vélocio was one of the first proponents of multiple gears: You really need them in the Massif Central region of France!
It was a moving experience to ride on the same roads as Vélocio. When I reached the col, I stopped at a small cafe and reminisced of the great meetings this place had seen. I recalled how the riders from the Groupe Montagnard Parisien had rode here to meet Vélocio. After the master’s death, the riders from Paris carried on his work. They not only took over the editing of Le Cycliste, but they also organized the Technical Trials that led to the well developed machines of the constructeurs that we admire today. In fact, my own bike owes much to the meetings that took place on the Pavezin.
I tried to find the building where the photo was taken that showed Vélocio with Jacques and Yolande Oudart, who had ridden their tandem from Paris. From memory, it was hard to tell, and I settled for a photo of my bike in front of this wonderful old stone barn.
After a brief stop I continued my way. As I approached Saint-Etienne and the steep hills beyond, I rode on roads that Vélocio had used to test his bikes and develop his ideas more than a century ago.

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Comments (13)

  • Daniel

    With all of the technical innovations and lightweight gear that we now have access to, it’s amazing to consider the people who rode these climbs and decided that they could make equipment to make the climbs easier. I’m happy just training the people who make the tools to enable the mapping of our rides and routes.

    July 18, 2013 at 4:06 am
  • Paul Ahart

    Jan, Thanks for this wonderful story. It really makes me want to brush up (considerably) on my French, and spend time on the back roads of that wonderful country before I become too old.
    I read with enthusiasm the stories of the vibrant lives of these early cyclists in your wonderful book about René Herse, and was particularly taken by Madame Porthault and Lyli Herse.
    Thanks again!

    July 18, 2013 at 7:21 am
  • JPI

    Note the right name is “col dE Pavezin”. Each year, on the last Sunday of September, a meeting in memory of Vélocio still stands in this col.
    Moreover, even years (2010, 2012, 2014…), another meeting stands the same day at the col de la Croix du Mazet (a few kilometers away from the col de Pavezin). This meeting assembles 650B enthusiasts… as the altitude of the col de la Croix du Mazet is 650 meters! After a brief reunion there, we all ride to the col de Pavezin.

    July 18, 2013 at 11:39 am
  • RosyRambler

    I have always loved the articles and references from “Le Cycliste” magazine in Bicycle Quarterly. They provide a wonderful trip back in time, and are a vital historical reference that should be preserved.
    I know you are multi-lingual Jan, do you own some of the original “Le Cycliste” magazines? I’ve often wondered how you’re able to use material from them. Is there any possibility of creating printed or online versions of all of the editions in English? What a gem of a book that would make!! Velocio is just as important as any early 20th century constructeur, and I believe there is enough interest for such a book to exist.

    July 18, 2013 at 2:39 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      I am lucky to have Le Cycliste back to the 1930s, and access to the rest. In fact, I know somebody who has Vélocio’s own collection of the magazines, passed along to friends after his death, and to him after their’s.
      Yes, Vélocio is a great source of inspiration. Raymond Henry’s book (in French only) is a great read. Some day, it might be worth while to write about him in English.

      July 19, 2013 at 1:50 am
    • Matthew J

      With all the data storage people around the Seattle area perhaps you could find someone willing to make digital copies of your Le Cycliste collection.

      July 19, 2013 at 6:02 am
      • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

        Hardly. It would be a huge amount of work, as the magazine was published for almost 100 years and consists of many thousands of pages…

        July 20, 2013 at 1:38 am
      • Matthew J

        Imagine so. For some reason someone felt it worth the effort to digitize the entire Sears catalogue collection though. This would seem at least as valuable an addition to the internet.

        July 20, 2013 at 4:33 am
  • Alexander

    Is there any chance of an online archive of Le Cycliste?

    July 19, 2013 at 6:32 am
  • Rory

    It would be a lot of work but i think everybody who would want to read it would be willing to pay for it .Whoever does it is a hero.

    July 20, 2013 at 9:39 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      In the mean time, we have translated and reprinted some of the best articles from Le Cycliste in Bicycle Quarterly. My favorite is “Côte d’Azur Rapide: 506km in 24:30 hours” from 1908, which was reprinted in Vol. 8, No. 3. An amazing story of riding from Saint-Etienne to Nice on a bi-chain bicycle.

      July 20, 2013 at 10:32 am
  • Robert Barr

    It is an amazing story – I think it is time to read it again!

    July 20, 2013 at 7:37 pm

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