I like this bicycle. It doesn’t fit me, I’ve never ridden it and I don’t own it.
Let me explain.
I like the idea of this bike. First, it’s a randonneur bike. That means when I first saw Mitch Hull’s Boxer Camponneur in 2012 in Arthur, Illinois, it was the first bicycle of its kind I’d seen outside of books and magazines. I’m not sure I’ve seen another since.
Because it is what it is, it has everything you need: lights, fenders, a rack for the handlebar bag and lightweight, supple 42-mm tires for paved and unpaved roads. Want to replace all the bicycles in your basement with one machine? Well, of course not. But if you did, you could do worse than a bike like this one.
The frame is handmade. In this case, handmade means Dan Boxer, the owner of Boxer Bicycles, was also the constructeur. He built this bicycle for Mitch, for a specific customer. He built a different bicycle before this one and a different bicycle after this one. Handmade is different, and–despite the miracle of social conviviality that is interchangeable parts, production lines and extended supply chains–different is good.
Handmade is good.
Is it possible to copy a handmade item? Sure, consider Grant Wood’s painting “American Gothic.” There are a lot of copies of Gothic–even more parodies–but they’re copies, and everyone knows it. When you see a copy, you recognize the structure that defines the original. When you see the real thing, you see time rolling backward, into the past, back into the world that summoned up the work.
When you look at this Boxer, you’re looking at the real thing, even though this real thing alludes to other real things that emerged from France in the 1940s and 1950s.
You might not see time rolling backward yet, but you will in a few more years. For one thing, Boxer Bicycles has apparently closed. Its website has disappeared, though Dan’s Flickr account is still up.
Does that make this an increasingly rare bicycle? Maybe. But no one who creates handmade bicycles is turning them out in the millions. They’re all rare.
Don’t get me wrong: You want production companies turning out bicycles in the millions. More bikes is a good thing.
But if you like small business, if you like focus, if you like different, you should like handmade bicycles.
I like this one.
Why? Maybe it’s the style. Maybe its the craftsmanship. Or maybe it’s all the chrome that’s been added since I saw it last.