Friday, 24 July 2015

Cycles George Martin, Lyon

Georges Martin was born in Chamelet, Rhone Department, France in 1915 and died in Poule-les-Écharmeaux in 2010 aged 94 years. Georges rode professionally for J FOLLIS, Lyon. He is credited with one hundred victories according to the excellent Anciens Velos Lyonnaise website. Georges rode and won the Circuit de Six Provinces in 1946:- 
                                            1. Georges Martin,
                                            2. Pierre Baratin,
                                            3. Raphaël Géminiani.

Both Martin and Baratin were team mates for FOLLIS. Georges rode in the first post war Tour de France in 1947. The teams were national teams, but teams from both Germany and Italy were missing, an Italian team being composed of Italian-French. Georges Martin rode for a regional French Team – Equipe du Nord-Est.

The 1947 Tour started in Paris on 25th June 1947 and comprised of 21 stages, there were 99 starters, but only 53 riders completed the race, which was won with an average speed of 31.412km/hr. The top three podium places were all filled by French riders:-
                                            1. Jean Robic,
                                            2. Édouard Fachleitner,
                                            3. Pierre Brambilla.
Georges Martin rode in the 1948 edition of the Tour de France achieving 39thin the General Classification (G.C.) at the end of the race. The 1948 Tour was won by Gino Bartali in an average speed of 33.442km/hr. 

Georges rode the 1949 Tour improving his overall position to 35th overall by the end of the race. The 1949 Tour was won by Fausto Coppi in an average speed of 32.121 km/hr. The speeds seem slow by modern standards, but stages could be longer and the mountain stages were run on un-metalled roads. Georges Martin also rode the 1949 Classic Paris - Roubaix achieving a position of joint third with Frans Leenan and Jésus-Jacques Moujica

I have no information on the colour of the 1940s FOLLIS team frames and trade jerseys. There is some evidence that the 1950's FOLLIS team jersey was green with a wide grey centre band on which the lettering was red. The colour of the team bikes was a metallic grey, with contrasting head and seat panels in pale metallic blue. Forks were chrome plated along with the head lugs. Earlier frames had the 'J FOLLIS' metal head badge. It is known that FOLLIS supplied frames to the cycle trade. FOLLIS had been granted a patent for the manufacture of lugless frames in Janury 1949. A WOLHAUSER (Lyon) tandem lugless frame is known, which shows all the features of being made by FOLLIS but has a WOLHAUSER metal head badge and transfers. 

I now know that Georges Martin finished riding professionally in 1950, but he began selling bicycles under his own name firstly at 78 Rue de la Part-Dieu, Lyon, then at 101 Rue Moncey, Lyon and finally at Rue du Noir, Lyon. The Georges Martin bicycle in the Springhill Cycle Collection dates from 1952 and shows a lot of features of an early edition FOLLIS frame. The frame fittings and wrap over seat stays are typical FOLLIS, but the fork crown is unique to Georges Martin. Given his connection to FOLLIS and the fact they were known to supply frames to the cycle trade, the evidence points to Georges Martin's frames having been built by FOLLIS and appear to have been built from Vitus tubing. However, Georges Martin was interviewed by a French researcher before his death. The truth of some of his testimony is in doubt, as known facts are different to Georges' version. What is known is that Georges Martin bicycles are rare in France. The bicycle in the Springhill Collection is in original condition complete with period components, Simplex derailleur, Pellisier hubs and Ava rims, Beborex brake levers with 'San Giorgio' brake callipers, 'Radios' dynamo and lights, Mavic 'Inal' mudguards/fenders, Selle Anglais leather saddle. The machine has the original French tax plate with original owner's name and address still attached to the frame. The only replacement parts appear to be the Christophe leather toe straps. 

The machine has 700C wheels and appears to be set up for cyclotourist competitive events. The December 1950 issue of the CTC Gazette contains a report on the Paris Bike Show of that year. Their correspondent reports on the number of constructeur Demi-Course and Randonneur bicycles at the show.  A Demi-Course bicycle has mudguards/fenders and lights but no decaleur for a sacoche/handlebar bag. Recourse to photographs from the 1950s of the Poly de

Chanteloup randonneurs event, show machines being ridden with mudguards and lights but no racks or bags. Some of these machines have the alloy drinks bottles in a cage attached to the handlebar as per the Georges Martin in the Springhill collection. The 1950 Poly de Chanteloup was won by FOLLIS, Pierre Baratin winning the professional hillclimb and Roger Billet winning

the randonneur event for FOLLIS. Since the end of competative cycletourist hillclimbs, time trials and endurance events in France from 1977, the term Demi-Course now seems to refer more to cheaper mass produced machines made from Hi-Ten tubing, rather than a bespoke hand built bicycle around an artisan constructeur built frame for cyclotourist competition. The Georges Martin in the Springhill Cycle Collection is a lightweight steel frame built up with high quality, for the time period, components.

Joseph (Giuseppe) Follis was born in Alpignano, near Turin on 16th October 1911 and after living and working in Lyons became a naturalised French citizen on 11th March 1940, before Italy declared war on France on 10th June 1940. 

According to eye witnesses Joseph Follis had worked for Morel & Vana, Lyon in the 1930s and was responsible for the production of their FORTIS brand of bicycles. Following closure of the company, Joseph moved to the Rue du Dauphiné where he brazed frames in a wooden hut at the bottom of the garden. The Follis family were innovators who were granted patents for derailleur gears, manufacture of frames and bicycle brakes. The patent granted to the Follis family for a bicycle brake in November 1951 corresponds in principle to the locally (Lyon) manufactured BEBOREX brakes and levers. FOLLIS is perhaps not a French marque that is as well known as say LeJeune, Helyett, Peugeot, Mercier and Motobecane. The two known professional riders in the 1940s were Georges Martin, Pierre Baratin and André Mossière who rode cyclocross events. 

The FOLLIS professional team in 1954 ~ 1956 period included René Remangeon, Normand Christian Fanuel, Roger Chaussabel and Jean Forestiere. There were photographs of Roger Rivière with his bike published in 'Sport et Vie' in his last year as an amateur which identify it as a FOLLIS by the head badge. There is still more to be learned about both Georges Martin and the FOLLIS marque. 

George's daughter held a retrospective two day exhibition in Poule-les-Écharmeaux entitled in english – 'Georges Martin, the heroic years of the Tour de France' on 9 – 10th July 2011, the year after Georges had passed. I wish I could have been there. 

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