With the number of retro-inspired bikes expanding, just about every style of veteran machine seems fair game for a ‘heritage reissue’. The Bruno offers a convincing take on the classic French artisan-constructeur bikes of the mid-20th century.
It not only gives you a great excuse to join up with your local veteran cycle club or the Rough Stuff Fellowship (www.rsf.org.uk) – this bike will take you places your lightweight skinny race whippet couldn’t dream of, yet still produce a decent turn of speed when the need arises. It conjures up images of a time when cobbles weren’t covered in tarmac in the name of progress: Paris-Roubaix, Tour of Flanders circa 1955, and unpaved mountain passes. Just run the super-sized Kenda Kwest 700x35 tyres at 65psi and enjoy the comfort.
Featuring a well thought out and cleanly executed chromoly steel frame, comfort and stability are given centre stage thanks to a generous combination of extended wheelbase, relaxed geometry, springy pencil seatstays, those large profile tyres and a long-railed saddle. Keeping it all under control is a short 22.2mm quill stem clamping a classic Maes-bend handlebar modified with long forward-reaching drops.
The result is an upright position on the flats but with the option to hunker down into a stretched racing stance when fighting a stiff headwind. A selection of eyelets allows for the attachment of racks and a mudguard. High-speed stability was superb, and our chosen pace and line remained unperturbed by crosswinds, gusts or road surface irregularities.
When faced with the rough stuff the Bruno was in its element: gravel towpaths, country tracks and forest singletrack were all taken in its stride. While the traditional cantilever brakes could do with a bit more bite, shifting was unashamedly old fashioned, straight out of the 10-speed racers section of a 1970s bike shop catalogue, and strategically located on the stem within easy reach of hands and kneecaps.
Eight indexed gears at the back and a retro-friction double up front keep gear changes satisfyingly robust and positive. One wheel drive is better than four: it’s back to the future with the Bruno.
This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine.