A short ride through lockdown London on 1946 Alex Singer Porteur

As we are allowed an exercise ride or walk each day, I chose to have a quick ride through central London, making sure to keep well distanced from other cyclists and walkers. I equipped the Singer Porteur with my Sologne fishing basket to carry my camera and a drink. First stop was Trafalgar Square, which was deserted, with only a security guard visible in the above photo.

Piccadilly Circus was similarly very quiet, with only a handful of people walking and cycling. There were very few cars on the roads generally. Buses were quite frequent but carrying very few people.

Piccadilly Circus

Moving swiftly on, I rode back through Shoreditch where I passed through quiet streets, one lined with graffiti.

A graffiti lined street in Shoreditch, with an advert for Gucci from the campaign photographed by Martin Parr

In Brick Lane I was surprised to see the 24 hour Beigel bakery open, but then I suppose they would probably only close in the event of nuclear war!

Good to see that the queue was keeping well distanced.

Just around the corner, in Redchurch Street, is one of my favourite shops, Labour and Wait. It’s an old fashioned style hardware store, where you can buy all manner of traditionally made household items including brushes, enamel ware, tools, and even some very nice work wear. The outside is finished in beautiful Victorian green glazed tiles.

The porteur has everything you could need in a city bike: Good Mafac brakes with Koolstop pads, mudguards, mud flap, chain guard, and a big front rack! Four gears are more than enough for London, which doesn’t really have any significant hills. It’s light and quick too, on Grand Bois 700c x 28 tyres.

I found that quite a lot of cyclists, in our current unprecedented situation, have failed to grasp the idea of passing other cyclists 2 metres apart. Because of the very light traffic this was easy and safe to do, but a number passed me annoyingly close. I kept moving quickly so that it was mostly me doing the passing, at the required distance, hanging back if necessary until traffic conditions allowed.

London is looking very unfamiliar, but the most noticeable thing for me, apart from the lack of vehicles, was the difference in air quality… and the quiet. The air was very noticeably fresher, and the few vehicles and absence of aircraft overhead made it pleasantly though uncharacteristically quiet. Perhaps we can learn some lessons about our environment from the current crisis. Personally, I think we should have one traffic free day per week in central London and other major cities, so we can enjoy the benefits of clean air and the quietness of being vehicle free, and some respite from the norm. This should have the added advantage of encouraging the use of bicycles, which is always a positive!

Anjou Velo Vintage 2013 – Team Alex Singer to the rescue!


This year’s edition of Anjou Velo Vintage was an enjoyable affair, despite the weather trying its best to spoil it. Many hundreds of vintage bicycles gathered at Saumur, in the Loire Valley, for the weekend rides. There are many images of the event on the internet which capture the atmosphere far better than I could, but I’ve found no better than Romain’s fantastic photographs here. Tomoko was riding her Barra whilst I was on my 1948 Alex Singer. During the 87Km ride I glanced down at my Stronglight chain ring and saw that one of the bolts was coming undone. At the crest of the hill I stopped where a bunch of cyclists were congregated. By extraordinary chance they turned out to be Olivier Csuka ( the owner of the Alex Singer shop in Paris ) and ‘Team Singer’, all on beautiful Singer bikes, including a superb 1950 chrome tandem and Ernest Csuka’s personal bike, both illustrated in the ‘Golden Age’ book. An 8mm spanner was quickly produced and Olivier insisted on tightening the chain ring bolts for me. After many handshakes, the ‘Entente Cordiale’ was strengthened and I was on my way to complete the ride despite some vicious winds and heavy showers which necessitated hiding under a tree for a while.

Many thanks to Olivier Csuka and Team Singer!

Olivier Csuka lamenting my technique
Come on, let me do it!
Nearly there!

Robergel Trois Étoiles Spokes

Robergel were located in Perruel, on the river Eure, not far from Rouen. They made the nicest and best quality spokes that I have ever seen…. Trois Étoiles, or three stars. The quality of these extra light stainless items is superb. The transition from thinner gauge to thicker is very smooth, where they are butted at both ends. It’s no wonder that Herse and Singer both used their ‘rayons’ as far back as the 1940’s. On the head you will find either a three pointed ‘star’ or an ‘E’. The packaging is beautiful too, being a triangular carton on which they are claimed to be ‘pratiquement incassable’ – practically unbreakable – and ‘absolument inrouillables’ – completely rustless. Even the nipples were contained in a little triangular box. I remember the late Neville March, the collector of wonderful French bicycles of the ‘Golden Age’, telling me that he had never broken a Trois Étoiles spoke during the disassembly of numerous wheels. I recently acquired a stock of various lengths which should enable a number of French touring bicycles to be restored to original specification…. Merci Patrick!

Alex Singer 650B Randonneuse c.1970

This is a fine example of an Alex Singer 650B Randonneuse constructed by Ernest Czuka in 1970. It has the Singer fillet brazed handlebar stem, internal expander seat post, and front and rear racks. Huret gears, Mafac cantilever brakes, TA triple cycletouriste chainset and lyotard pedals, Singer bottom bracket, internal dynamo wiring, Super Champion rims on Maxicar hubs. It was in one family ownership before I acquired it and the gentleman that it came from also gave me the original Sologne pannier bags, and the petite front bag. Everything works as it should, including the excellent dynamo lighting, and the bike, although not particularly light, rides beautifully. The previous owner, the son of the original owner who ordered the bike from the Singer shop, was a real pleasure to deal with (merci Gerard!) and this is definitely a ‘keeper’…… since it fits me so well, rides great, and the experience of acquiring it was such a joy.

Click on pictures for large scale detailed images

Alex Singer 1970

An excellent example of the work of the great Paris constructeur Alex Singer, or rather Ernest Csuka, who took over the business when Singer passed away. Dating from 1970 it has beautifully filed simple spearpoint lugwork and is finished in the house pale blue metallic with part chrome stays and forks. This randonneuse is on 700c’s and is fitted with the Singer hand-made stem and front rack, and chainstay protector braze-ons. Mavic rims on Campagnolo hubs, Spidel derailleur and simplex retro-friction changers. TA cyclotouriste triple chainset and 6 speed block. Maillard 700 pedals. Mafac Racer brakes. Brooks Professional saddle on Simplex alloy post. Lined alloy mudguards with Singer custom mounting reinforcements. Shellac coated handlebar tape.