Well, at least that’s what I thought the head badge said.
Turns out that the name on this little folding bicycle is actually “Brillant,” without the extra “i.” And that might make a world of difference in trying to figure out who made it, where it was made, and when.
I haven’t had a whole lot of interest in folding bikes – I’m mostly intrigued by road bikes and drop handlebars. In my mind, folders are somewhat akin to clown bikes. That is, I know, a patently unfair and very biased opinion. But a friend of mine rode a vintage folding bike on our spring Tweed Ride and so I was at least made aware of them as a legitimate rider. Since that time I’ve read about folding bikes in a recent magazine article and read a couple of posts on a blog about a fellow who actually tours on these things.
In this case, I’m really more interested in the mystery behind the bike. (There’s no way I will fit on this tiny little thing.) With matching brown vinyl mattress saddle and handlebar grips, the cottered cranks, and the patterned French rims, I figured the production date to be somewhere in the 60’s. But a fellow bikeforums member pointed out that the drops look more like those popular in the 40’s and 50’s. Someone else posted an example of a Cycles Brillant poster.
These are both tantalizing clues to the folding bicycle’s origins.
A Google search with the correct spelling led me to a Cycles Brillant poster design illustrated by one of my favorite artists of the early 20th Century, A.M. Cassandre.
Cassandre’s illustration dates to 1923, but there are other earlier examples, including one from 1899.
But while I’m locating some beautiful examples of the poster designer’s art, I’m not finding a whole lot of information about Cycles Brillant – or whether I am even correct in my presumption that this bicycle is a product of their making.