The Wonderful Polyvalent Posted on 04 Feb 09:16 , 0 comments
Polyvalent seems a curious name for a bike, especially to those with a scientific education, but in French it means "Multipurpose". As you may know, Velo Orange was originally inspired by classic French bicycles and the Polyvalent is the most French of their frames.
In the UK since before the 2nd World War, bicycle development has followed 2 main tracks. The classic rod-braked heavyweight roadster, as typified by the Raleigh Superbe and the lightweight "racer". Since the war, until the introduction of the mountain bike in the late eighties, the only other mainstream bike was the "Tourist Model": the typical medium weight, hub geared, cable-braked machine used for decades for riding to school, work or shopping with the occasional day ride into the countryside.
These tourist models, despite the name, were suitable for pretty much any use, except for cycle touring! Serious UK cycle tourists typically used "racers" with sturdier tyres and a large saddlebag.
In France however, cycle development followed a different path. "Constructeurs" were building specially designed machines aimed at cycle tourists and randonneurs. These were somewhat different to those available in the UK and USA and now have a great following in those countries. These French "hikers" had 650B wheels and 42mm tyres and importantly were designed to carry weight at the front. I remember back in the 70's when I first got interested in cycle touring and started reading up on the subject, it was mentioned in the literature that "the continentals" preferred to have front mounted panniers. This seemed crazy to me as my experience of bikes with heavy weights at the front was that they were most ungainly. The only exception was "trade bikes" and their large carriers were mounted firmly to the frame, rather than the forks. A the time I just thought "crazy Frenchmen" and fitted a rear rack and panniers. However I should have thought "clever Frenchmen".
The difference of course was the geometry of the frames and design of the forks was different and these "low trail" frames were optimised for carrying weight at the front. So, back to the Polyvalent: Velo Orange spent much development time on this frame ensuring that it is suitable for carrying weight at the front as well as the rear. It has "low trail" geometry and is for 650B wheels and cantilever brakes.
I built my Polyvalent in 2014 and it is truly the most versatile bike I have ridden. I built it specially for touring and have since used it on 3 tours, however it gets used for everything: club runs, day rides, shopping trips and my stable of half a dozen other bikes don't get much use now.
If you If you only have room for one bike in your life, the Polyvalent is it. View more builds here