Thursday, 29 October 2009

Velosolex, Montrichard

October 29. Eighty years ago Wall Street crashed, marking the beginning of the Great Depression... Since the UK hasn't come out of recession yet, maybe I should try to find something a bit more cheerful...
1390: first trial for withcraft in Paris. Among the accused, Jeanne de Brigue was sentenced to be burnt at the stake... Maybe a bit too gruesome and I don't think I've got any painted sign for barbecues. Let's try something else...
1618: Sir Walter Raleigh is beheaded. Not really cheerful either but at least, Raleigh had a castle in Sherborne, and I've got a couple of pictures of nice mosaics from there. Still, let's check if I can't find anything else...
Ah! Here we go: 1959, Asterix first appeared in the comic magazine Pilote! To be honest, I always preferred Tintin to Asterix but I still enjoyed some of the adventures of the little cunning Gaul, who for better or for worse, has become a symbol of France.
Of course I don't have any painted sign with Asterix, but I've got one of a highly symbolic French product of the second half of the twentieth century, and like Asterix its name ends with an X: the VéloSoleX ! I know, the link is tenuous at best but I don't have much time today, so that will have to do.
The VéloSoleX, or SoleX as it was commonly called, was a moped with a two-stroke motor placed above the front wheel and a maximum speed of around 30-35 km/h. Originally a roller drove the front wheel, but it was replaced later by a cardan joint. Produced in France between 1946 and 1988, it sold more than seven millions. For decades those little black (different colour schemes were introduced later) mopeds became a common sight around high schools, university campuses, and factories. Sometimes one would also turn up in the middle of the countryside, to Mr Bean's delight. Thanks to the simplicity of its design, production costs and consequently retail prices were kept relatively low. In the 1960s a SoleX only cost twice as much as a simple bicycle. Additionally their consumption was limited. They ran on petrol and oil for two-stroke motors, a mixture that ended clogging up the motor. However to avoid cleaning the motor every 4,000 km or so, users could buy the ready-made mixture Solexine sold by BP. To start the engine, one had either to pedal or to push. Since there was no electrical switch, one had to use the decompressor to stop the motor.
I once rode on a friend of mine's SoleX but after 20 metres decided I preferred the good old bicycle I had inherited from one of my mum's uncles.

Sadly most of this sign has disappeared, but one can still clearly read VéloSoleX on it. Actually there is more than just the moped brand to it, but since I've got to check a few things for a day-long course for this coming Saturday, I'll come back to it at a later date.

Location: Rue du Pont, Montrichard, Loir-et-Cher / Picture taken on: 29/05/2009

1 comment:

geodaszner said...

Le Solex : à essayer en temps de neige. ( la neige se glisse entre le galet moteur et le pneu et.....on avance plus.