Until this past summer, I was completely unfamiliar with the French built Follis bicycle. They were a relatively small bicycle company and there’s not a lot of information I’ve been able to track down about the company other than they had a reputation for their tandem frames, and that Follis only a couple of years ago ended several decades of building.
To be honest, I paid far too much for the frame and decrepit parts that in some places was hanging loosely from the relatively heavy tubing. But I was intrigued and had this strange idea that I might re-envision the frame as a sort of faux-randonneur.
I felt pretty overwhelmed with the project at first. Everything seemed so… rusted. I feel like kicking myself now, but I wanted the challenge of repainting a frame and this one was available. So I wound up deciding to strip the flaked blue gray paint in favor of a pearlized emerald green.
I thought the head badge decal was kind of cool, in a retro-Federalista sort of way, but I couldn’t get it off without destroying it. So I planned to mask around it with high-tac air brush frisket paper. The tube decals were removed, but in pieces, so I scanned the remnants and had new decals created in a metallic gold. My rationale was to build a bike that had the benefits of the relaxed French sports geometry coupled with a quasi-updating of the graphics. I took this concept as far as to faithfully recreate the seat tube decal using a warm tan color for the background in place of the original metallic foil. (I reasoned that if I ever wanted to return to original, I had the art and could easily manufacture a tube decal with metallic foil substrate.)
The handlebars looked to me as though they might be bent and I decided to hang them up on the wall. I searched for, and found, a vintage wrapped French bar and stem that had been built up but had never been previously installed.
I’m pleased with the finished bike. It’s very attractive and is a comfortable neighborhood rider. Nevertheless, I am conflicted as I ponder what might have been had I kept the original paint and – perhaps – replaced the decals with faithful replicas.
This is also the bike project that taught me how to use steel wool and Never Dull to bring a lackluster finish back to life again. I spent hours polishing wheels and spokes and bits of chrome. Although I have Simplex components on the shelf that would be both period correct and accurate for the original build, I decided to go with Suntour components. The brake levers are Weinmann and the calipers are Mafac Racers. The frame is a comfy, spread out 59cm and I’ve currently got a Selle Italia saddle mounted; however I recently located a wonderfully aged Ideale and I think it might look right at home on the finished bike.