What’s in edition 115 of Rouleur?

The new Rouleur magazine, the Design issue, is now available. Editor Edward Pickering tells us what’s in the magazine.

Good design is invisible, so they say. The very best design happens when form and function work with each other to make something that not only works perfectly and looks great, but is just right. Like the iPod, or an anglepoise lamp, or a Wurlitzer jukebox, Or Rouleur. The writer Elmore Leonard, who created the influential ‘10 rules of writing’ summed them all up with an 11th: if it sounds like writing, rewrite it. The same goes for design. If you notice it, it’s not quite done its job.

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Image: The Ribble Revolution pages 136-143

Is there any other sport in which design is so intrinsically important as cycling? Many of us obsess over the latest bikes and tech; many more of us obsess also over old bikes and tech - I still think the best looking bikes of all were those of the 1980s, at that point where they’d worked out that brake cables needed to be made invisible, but before they turned brake levers into gear changers. Then again, some of the modern aero bikes are so sleek, with such clean lines, and function so well that you could argue bike design in its truest sense is currently at its zenith. We also judge the new team kits at the start of every season: Bora-Hansgrohe and Canyon-Sram were the winners this year, while Jumbo-Visma combined panache and success on a racing level at the Tour de France with a terrible race-specific kit that had the dubious distinction of actually being even worse than their usual black and yellow. And design is important with bike races as well: I’m writing this on the day that the Tour de France are announcing their routes for 2023, and we’ll speculate for months about how the route design will influence the racing.

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Image: Tom Ritchey in the feature California Dreaming page 39-47

This edition of Rouleur is taking a deep dive into design. Of course, we could fill several magazines with features only about bike tech, and we’ve got our fair share in Rouleur 115, such as the Enve Melee, the Canyon Ultimate and BMC Masterpiece. But we’ve also looked at race design, how riders plan and put together a victory and interviewed a rider who has a very successful side hustle in F1 helmet and clothes design. We’ve looked at some design classics of the past, talked to the architect of the Vigorelli velodrome and discovered what an iconic handlebar tape (three words that non-cycling-fans just wouldn’t ever put together) has to do with Greek mythology, fly fishing and Claudio Chiappucci.

So what’s in the mag? Our lead interview is with one of the most influential bike designers there has ever been. Tom Ritchey is a cycling version of Californian tech start-up culture, having been making bikes and bike parts for 50 years after his family made their home near Silicon Valley in the 1960s. Ritchey started making bikes when he was still a high school student, and was one of the pioneers of the nascent mountain biking movement which grew up in California. He entertained our regular contributor Andrew Curry and photographer Derek Yarra at home and took them on a whistle-stop tour of his career in bikes and also of the local trails where he had Andrew gasping for breath to try and keep up. At-home, in-depth interviews with really superb portraits is the very best of journalism and this feature sums up what we wanted to achieve with this magazine, but also with Rouleur in general.

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Free Radical

Image: Tiffiany Cromwell in the feature in Free Radical pages 60-67

What makes a good Tour de France? The standard answer might be: Alps, Pyrenees, a bit of Massif Central, a day or two in Brittany, a cobbled stage and some punchy hills. But what we and the race often ignore is right there in the middle of the country: a vast swathe of bucolic countryside and farmland which is known as La France Profonde. There’s another name for the bit of France that lies in the middle of the country, between all the interesting bits: la Diagonale du Vide, the empty diagonal. It is the bit of France that you have to drive through to get somewhere you want to go and it is sociologically interesting enough to have its own Wikipedia entry. Richard Abraham took his own bike ride across the Diagonale du Vide and reflected that perhaps we’ve been getting this part of France all wrong when it comes to bike races. Instead of the predictable, crowd-pleasing cliché of the Tour in the mountains, Richard argues that the more exciting stages happen in La France Profonde, which in lieu of backbreaking gradients offers intriguing, unpredictable, endless possibility.

We haven’t forgotten that one of Rouleur’s most important jobs is to interview racing cyclists, and we’ve got interesting conversations with three in the Design issue. James Startt chatted to David Gaudu about his aims and ambitions in the sport but also about his Twitch channel, the Coffee Ride. (If you don’t know what a Twitch channel is, ask your teenage children.) We’ve wondered for years, is Gaudu a grand tour rider or a classics guy? Turns out with third place in the 2021 Liège-Bastogne-Liège and fourth place, behind three winners of the race, in the 2022 Tour de France, he is both. Nathaniel Parish Flannery spoke to Simon Clarke specifically about how he put together his spectacular stage win in the cobbled stage of the 2022 Tour. And Rachel Jary interviewed the cyclist who perhaps more than any other has one foot planted firmly in the world of design: Tiffany Cromwell. Cromwell is an accomplished racing cyclist, with two Giro stage wins and a victory in Omloop Het 

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Image: Ralph Schürmann in the feature in The temple of dreams pages 126-134

Nieuwsblad to her name. But she has also designed cycling clothing following a fashion degree completed after school, and she is responsible for the artwork on her partner Valtteri Bottas’s F1 helmets. 

Also in the magazine: how Classicism and Modernism combined to influence the manufacture of Cinelli’s legendary cork handelbar tape; beautiful retro cycling componentry shot in Paris by James Startt; Edward Hopper and the quiet introspection of a moment in his 1922 work French Six-Day Bicycle Racer; the tragic story and inspiring legacy of Charlie Craig; Maghalie Rochette; Ribble; Hammerhead; the CycloTour de Léman and much, much more.

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