Follis, ca. 1960’s

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.

Specs

Frame
Bottom Bracket
Shifters
Brake Set
Brake Levers
Size

 

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24 thoughts on “Follis, ca. 1960’s

  1. Wayne Taylor says:

    Thanks for posting these pictures. I bought an 072 new, in the mid 70’s– yellow with black trim– and had some of my most satisfying rides on it– even though it had supposedly inferior straight gauge tubing, plastic Simplex derailleurs, etc etc.
    You did a great job restoring it.

  2. Landon LeMoine says:

    This Follis looks great. I just used one just like this for a track frame project. I was wondering if you had the decals made or if those are the originals? I want to put the decals back on it. Thanks!!

    • I was only able to save the original decal in pieces unfortunately. (Although I’m pleased with the results, I would probably not destroy the original finish today, quite honestly.)

      I did recreate the original decal myself using waterslide media and archival giclee printing technology. With patience, this seems to work very well. If you’d like to use the seat tube artwork, it is posted to a Google Group at http://sports.groups.yahoo.com/group/bicycle_decals/ This group has been set up for vintage road bicycle enthusiasts interested in archiving and trading vector art files for the reproduction of decals, stickers, and graphics used for restoration. As a graphic designer, I have a great interest in the authenticity of styles of lettering and illustrations – even the inherent foibles of the printing processes of the time that ultimately led to colors that were out of register or “less perfect” than the production processes we use today.

      • Landon LeMoine says:

        Thanks a lot for the info. i joined the group that you mentioned. Would it be possible to pay you to make a whole set for me? Or did you end up salvaging every decal besides the seat tube one?

  3. @Landon, I’ll check to see what all was salvaged – I don’t recall at the moment how I resurrected the downtube lettering. I presume, however, that I’ve artwork for everything and, if so, I can get you together with my printing vendor easily enough.

  4. Alberto says:

    cannot find the Follis seat tube art on the yahoo group.Any possibilities you can send it my way?….Thanks in advance,…Alberto

  5. Steve says:

    Hello, I sold Follis bikes back in the early 70’s. I owned a Follis 472 that I road from Indiana to NY. It has thousands of miles on it. They were very good bikes. Glad to see yours.

      • Albert says:

        are the Follis bikes model numbers stamped somewhere?..if so where? i have what i believe is a mid-70’s mode.Thanks

      • Steve says:

        Azorch: Yes, I do still own my 472. I rode it till 1984 when I built a custom bike up. I did ride it last year after I went through it and painted it.
        Albert: My 472 has no serial numbers on it. The components should help tell the age. Mine had Campy Record drive train except for the crank and it was Stronglight. The brakes were Universal 68’s. I had to replace the crank in the late 70’s and put in Campy

  6. @Albert: do you have any photographs of your bike? Some sharp drive side views would help to maybe narrow it down a little. I’d be happy to share them on the blog if you’d be willing to provide them.

    @Steve: it’s great that you still have your 472. There’s something to the idea that when we hang onto things with sentimental attachments, the “story” is that much better. Maybe we could feature some photos of your bike and Alberts?

    • Albert says:

      Im on vacation out of state so no laptop but have lots of pics in my phone.I can email them to you so you can post them and tell me what you know.One of the pixs show 3 letters on the front of the bike.Havent found any other numbers or letters on it.My email is betanal at hotmail dot com.Email me and ill send you all detailed pics of my Follis.Thanks!!….Albert

  7. ed baumstark says:

    i too have a complete ridable Follis..i got it in the late 70s and kept it. still hanging in the garage as part of the fleet..Mine is a blue green with chrone stickers on the seat tube. mayfac racer brakes, simplex ders.

    • I’d love to see photographs of your bike if you’d be willing to share. I’d like to eventually create a sort of rogues gallery of Follis bikes here on The Early Morning Cyclist.

  8. marty jacobson says:

    I also found a old grey Follis racing bike with faded paint from 1963 and chrome drop ends .I used Mothers polishing paste on the entire frame and fork and it came out with a stunning new look . it turns from an ugly duck into a great vintage bike . Marty

      • marty jacobson says:

        I also have a spot for old FOLLIS . When i was 14 years old i wanted to work in a bike shop near UCLA where i grew up so i asked Ed Lynch who had westwood cycles ,and i had a job . IT WAS A GREAT SHOP . As it turns out Ed was a dealer for Follis bikes and quess what , i ordered a new bike from him which i to this day still ride . Pictures of both will fellow . Marty

  9. Matias says:

    Hi how are you doing. could you send me the decals to my email. i have the same bike and i cant find the decals to complete my restoration

    thanks i advance

    Matias from Argentina

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