some of you, predominantly in london village, will recall tour de ville, a bike shop that looked pretty much nothing like a bike shop in an obscure corner of the capital city. rather than stepping off the pavement and in through the front door, tour de ville was reached through an open courtyard, with the shop name writ large on a brick wall separating it from next door. at the time i visited in 2009, it looked less like a cycle store and more like a work in progress, but for all i know, that was a deliberate ploy.
rather than offer the latest in carbon fibre frames and electronic trinketry, tour de ville concentrated on vintage european cycles and a varied selection of new old stock italian and european componentry. in short, it was a cyclist's dream; it was hard to know just where to look next, and it may have helped the prospective customer if they'd provided wheelbarrows at the door instead of carrier bags. unfortunately, tour de ville is now no more.
however, on my sole visit to the establishment, while mentally adding up the cost of all the bicycles i couldn't possibly afford, let alone the thought of mrs washingmachinepost actually allowing me to bring any of them home, i came across a rather delectable steel colnago with the letters rdv engraved in the chrome fork crown.
roger de vlaeminck.
rdv rode for gis-gelati in the early 1980s, from which time i presume this particular colnago dated. however, the period of his career with which roger is mostly identified were the years from 1973 to 1977; the brooklyn years. during that period mr paris-roubaix won the cobbled classic three times, having preceded these victories by an edition previously won in 1972 when riding for dreher. de vlaeminck was not only highly successful in the giro d'italia, winning the points classification three times, but also put his excellent bike handling skills to good use by winning the belgian national cyclo-cross championships on three occasions.
though he retired from professional racing in 1984, rdv hasn't deserted his beloved sport, nor has he found it necessary to restrain from offering one or two firm opinions on the modern incarnation of the sport "...cycling isn't as hard as it used to be." in short, the very character that the cycling cognoscenti would like to have adorning the front of a t-shirt.
satisfying this latent pelotonic need, mick and andy at prendas ciclismo commissioned esteemed illustrator ('cycling anthology') simon scarsbrook to provide an appropriate characterisation to screen-print on the front of this desirable garment. backed by a variation on the iconic brooklyn chewing gum logo, scarsbrook has achieved a remarkable likeness, a factor quite frequently missing from retrospective t-shirts (i'm sure we can all think of a few that fit that description.
"I was able to collect a good amount of references. The finished illustration was made from about five different photos (all of them 3/4 view!), but I also had a couple of side-on views from different times. The likeness I did find tricky, but it is something I seem to be getting better at (after 30 years, off and on, of life drawing helps)."
when at art college, i was quite besotted by the art of the caricature, oddly something that was actively discouraged by more than just one of the lecturers. however, achieving caricature rather than a photographic likeness were two aspects that mostly escaped me. if the opposite turned out to be true, it was more likely by sheer luck rather than by design. simon scarsbrook, however, seems to have it down to a fine art.
"I think it is a case of exaggerating some aspects, leaving
out others, letting the eye fill in the rest. You can't go too far wrong with
those side-burns though.
I also think some things come almost unconsciously; I looked again at (the t-shirt) today and saw how much his profile stands out isolated against the blue. I must have thought about that and planned it that way; but I don't remember!"
simon kindly sent over the initial sketch for the t-shirt design (done on the train to work) as well as another that was rejected for being 'a bit too cartoony'. i've included them above.
with the heavyweight cotton t-shirt available in sizes from small all the way up to xxl for only £19.95, you could likely wear this as an ironic comment on modern racing strategies. or you could just wear it because it's pretty darned brilliant.
grateful thanks to simon scarsbrook for his assistance with this feature and for his early illustrations.
tuesday 10 february 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................