St Etienne Bikes – the Brand
Who were St Etienne Cycles? Who made St Etienne bikes? There’s little information on this obscure company, even on French websites and forums, which is a sign that this marque was never a significant player in racing nor were prestigious models in France. They’re rare enough for many that the most common question raised about them by their owners is “who were St Etienne Cycles?”.
They were taken over by Mercier in 1991, at least I’ve discovered that much; they made a range of models, mostly low and mid range bikes which were exported for a few years across to the United States; I used to surmise that they were made by the Manufrance brand, but now I’ve discovered that they were made by Cycles France-Loire, which branded them as “St Etienne Cycles” after buying the original company named Sibilia, in 1960. During the bike boom in America in the 1970’s the brand of St Etienne Cycles took advantage of the vast numbers of French bikes and parts bought across the Atlantic. The French city at that point must have been a hive of industry as exports of bikes increased five fold in just a few years. This example, a simple, functional 10 speed, was sold in France and was not an export.
The City of Bike Building
The first French bike was built in St Etienne in 1886. Simplex, Vitus, Mercier, Stronglight and Lyotard were just some of the famous brands based in St Etienne. The city has a tremendous heritage of bicycle building, parts manufacturing and racing, but alas this bike was not adorned with the high quality parts of its city. Instead it was built with a Solida cottered crank, Sulky brakes, a basic Simplex transmission and its pair of tubular wheels are were not original. The paint had suffered from exposure to the elements and I could tell the quality of the finish was not up to the standard of its more prestigious contemporaries.
Lost in Obscurity
Nevertheless this bike weighed only 24lbs, which begs the question of whether it was made of Reynolds or Vitus tubing. Although there is no decal, I suspect this could be the case. The Peugeot UO8, in comparison, weighed 28lbs, and many of the better Peugeot models made with mid range parts and full 531 tubes, weighed no less than 24lbs. Not bad for a bike for a cottered crank, and some of the more utilitarian parts of the French bicycle industry. Who were St Etienne Cycles? I would love to know more, but I do know that they once contributed to that great bike building city of St Etienne, even if they are one of the forgotten brands of French bicycle history.