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