Route des Cyclotouristes

The Route des Cyclotouristes in Villars, a suburb of Saint-Étienne, celebrates the concept of the ‘Cyclotouriste’ - the brain-child of Paul de Vivie (pen name; Vélocio). In the early years of the 20th century Vélocio and his Cyclotouriste disciples, known as the École Stéphanoise (the Saint-Étienne School), collectively played a key role in the development of the derailleur. As well as Vélocio, the École Stéphanoise included both Joanny Panel (of Le Chemineau) and Albert Raimond (of Le Cyclo).

However Vélocio’s concept of the Cyclotouriste extended well beyond the, then radical, idea of meandering across the country on a bike that combined a lightweight frame with strong tyres and a wide gear range. It was a complete philosophy of life. Wikipedia quotes Clifford Graves as saying:

“Velocio's influence grew, not because of his exploits on the bicycle, but because he showed how these exploits will shape the character of a man. Velocio was a humanist. His philosophy came from the ancients who considered discipline the cardinal virtue. Discipline is of two kinds: physical and moral. Velocio used the physical discipline of the bicycle to lead him to moral discipline. Through the bicycle he was able to commune with the sun, the rain, the wind. For him, the bicycle was the expression of a personal philosophy. For him, the bicycle was an instrument in the service of an ideal. For him, the bicycle was the road to freedom, physical and spiritual. He gave up much, but he found more.”

Anyone who has ridden any bike any distance has caught at least a glimpse of Vélocio’s road to spiritual freedom. But somehow his Cyclotouristique commitment to discipline led Vélocio to go further, to become a vegetarian with many highly ‘developed’ theories about nutrition, to start every day by reading The Classics in the original Greek, and, most tellingly of all, to be an avid speaker of Esperanto. Suddenly it becomes clear that the true translation of the French word ‘Cyclotouriste’ is the pungently evocative English phrase ‘rampant bicycle nutter’. And all readers of this web site will know that the rich tradition of the rampant bicycle nutter is alive and well and positively flourishing - not least in ourselves.

In addition to the Route des Cyclotouristes, Paul de Vivie, Joanny Panel and Albert Raimond have local streets named after them personally. In their time the Cyclotouristes were a famous bunch.

The full address is: Route des Cyclotouristes, 42390 Villars, France.