Quick Look: Boxer Camponneur

Update 1/22/15: Boxer’s website has been down for some time. This Boxer Camponneur may become an even rarer machine.

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When I saw Mitch Hull’s Boxer Camponneur at the 2012 Bob Galloway Memorial Amish Country Bicycle Tour, I recognized a bicycle that would be right at home in the pages of Bicycle Quarterly, one of my favorite cycling magazines.

In fact, Mitch asked me right away whether I was familiar with Jan Heine’s publication, which, among other things, promotes randonneuring, which is the practice of participating in self-supported long-distance events run, not against other people, but against the clock.

I certainly was. Jan is a big fan of French bicycles from the 1950s, fully equipped machines sporting wide, lightweight tires to cushion the rider over long miles in the saddle.

Mitch’s Boxer is from the same philosophical mold, and even though it was built this past spring, it has the same details that the old French constructors were celebrated for, including well-integrated fenders, racks and lighting.

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The handlebar bag on Mitch’s bike rests on a rack attached to the front forks and rides well below the top of the handlebars, which lowers the bike’s center of gravity and makes the map case on top of the bag easy to see. He can also attach panniers to the lower portion of the rack. Unlike weight carried on a rear rack, a load on the front wheel is easy to handle when climbing out of the saddle.

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Welcome to information central. The yellow gauge is an inclinometer for measuring the angle of a climb and confirming what one’s legs already know: low gears are a good thing.

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Zanesville, Ohio, where Mitch puts in most of his mileage, is not flat. He and his knees appreciate the extra-low gears made possible by a triple crank with 42, 34 and, yes, 20-tooth chainrings.

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Mitch gestures toward the carbon-fiber Campy brifters up front. A bit exotic, perhaps, but it’s what the right-hand lever is connected to that makes this machine especially interesting.

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Yep, a Shimano rear-end. There’s a Dura-Ace hub under all those cogs and at least one less cog than this hub would normally carry. That’s because the smallest cog isn’t a cog at all: it’s a stainless-steel chainrest attached to the frame. Shift the derailleur all the way outboard, and the chain rides onto the rest and stays there while the wheel is removed. The wheel is reinstalled in the usual fashion, but there’s no need to manipulate the chain with one’s fingers: it’s already where it needs to be.

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The Camponneur is a brand-new bicycle, but the long-reach centerpull brakes are at least 20 years old. Mafac disappeared in the late 1980s. These brakes are similar to cantilevers and V-brakes in that the pivots on either side are attached to bosses brazed to the seatstays.

Links: Dan Boxer, the Camponneur’s builder, discusses the bicycle’s unconventional drivetrain. Get an idea of what makes Bicycle Quarterly a little different than, say, Road Bike Action Magazine. Jan Heine also maintains an excellent blog that keeps readers up to date on developments at Bicycle Quarterly and at Compass Bicycles, the company he founded to make it easier to find specialized parts and accessories such as the Gilles Berthoud bag on the front of Mitch’s bike. Remember the Peugeot UO-8? Remember the brakes? Then you remember Mafac.

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About 16incheswestofpeoria

Former bicycle mechanic, current peruser of books, feeder of birds.
This entry was posted in Equipment, Other bicycles and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Quick Look: Boxer Camponneur

  1. woo says:

    How elegant looking bikes were, today they are well made well engineered drive trains are amazing , but they just don’t have the same elegant look & lines that steal bikes once had.

    • The Boxer is a real stand-out on a ride like the Galloway. There just aren’t many road bikes with 650B tires and hammered fenders rolling around in central Illinois. I spotted this bike as something different from quite a distance. Off-road, 650-size wheels have been getting some press. You have any 650 mountain bikes in the shop, Robert? How are they selling?

  2. woo says:

    no 650bs yet. but I think for touring or utility bike or a short mnt sized they are the bomb whats old is new again

  3. mitch hull says:

    Sam,

    Thanks for the write-up on my bike, very well done. I especially enjoyed your reference to “Information Central”—I hope to get something like the Garmin 850 to clean it up, but the bike budget is already pretty well busted for this year (and maybe next, too).

    I agree with woo about the esthetics of these bikes. I used to have a 1971 Motobecane Grand Record which was a joy to look at (and ride), as was a 1982 Trek 720 camping bike and also my 1983 Santana tandem was also lovely before it got all scratched up from general use and garage storage abuse. More recent bikes before the Boxer were functional but ugly so I really wanted a beautiful ride for this, my first (and likely last) custom bike.

    I lived in Decatur IL for 19 years and loved the prairie. It was odd, riding the Galloway ride in Arthur (which is even flatter than the Decatur area just north), to not have to leave my “large” ring even once all day! However, I don’t miss the wind—there, every ride for me considered very carefully how to minimize exposure to the wind. Checking the wind direction and speed on the computer was always more important than the temperature.

    I like your blog-website very much. You’ve a nice range of topics and write and photograph well. As for the principle site theme, I’ve never (once past childhood) ridden a small-wheeled bike, but since my job will soon involve considerably more cross-country flying, I may be looking into folding bikes to enable me to keep riding during the business trips.

    I never made it to Peoria for a bike ride but used to use Caterpillar’s photo lab in the very early days of digital photography for scanning my slides.

    Thanks again

    Mitch

    • Thanks for the note. Glad you liked the story.

      I used to have a couple of Motobecanes, a Champion Team and a Grand Touring. And I had an early Trek 720, too, maybe one of the most comfortable road bikes I’ve owned, at least once I put on an extra-tall Technomic stem. Nearly zero fender clearance, though.

      As far as small wheels are concerned, my tikit is temporarily sidelined by a stem recall. Great ride.

      The Tern I tried out this year had larger wheels than the tikit (20 inch versus 16) but folded to approximately the same length. Great ride, just a bit taller when folded, but perfect for carrying around in a car trunk. Non-dérailleur models wrap the chain in plastic: highly recommended given that the chain is exposed when Tern bikes are folded.

      Brompton is upgrading its cranks and brake levers in 2013. Smallest folded form factor for a bike you’d want to ride more than a few miles at a time.

      If I had some mad money, I’d add a Brompton to the lineup. I’d like to try fitting one into a piece of pull-behind luggage. It would be totally incognito when I switch into pedestrian mode.

      • mitch hull says:

        I’ve read Velouria’s blog posts on the Brompton, sounds very interesting.

        Where do you travel with the folding bikes?

        The only time I’ve flown with a bike was with aforementioned Santana from Toronto to London, returning from Frankfort, in 1983. The bike went in a thick clear plastic bag, pedals off and bars turned sideways. Not even a scratch! The Air Canada clerk on the return leg protested that was not allowed, but the letter I produced from the head office melted her resistance.
        Probably not too practical today….

      • Haven’t traveled anywhere with the folders, except to carry them in the car. Interesting to have a bike that I can put inside the passenger side of a Miata. One of the days I’m going to pop off the wheels and see if I can get it in the trunk.

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