I’ll admit it, I like some things I can’t afford. I covet Italian superbikes that I’d need to mortgage the wife to buy; it’d be nice to have a pied-à-terre in Paris, but simply putting my pieds there once a year is about all I can manage; and pricey cycling kit attracts me, too. That’s why I follow Louison Bobet on Facebook.
The other day I noticed that their stuff was being displayed and sold at Maison Tamboite, near Bastille in Paris. I just happened to be in Paris (cat sitting – as close to that studio apartment as we’ll ever come), so we hopped on the #86 bus and rode over for a visit.
The first hint that this was no ordinary bike shop was that their website warned that they don’t actually have a store front – they are hidden from the street by a gate that gives onto a little courtyard, occupied by other artisans. Shoko and I went at lunchtime and were welcomed warmly regardless.
That warm welcome came from Frédéric, the owner, and descendant of a long line of bike makers, stretching back over 100 years, making Tamboite the oldest bike company I’d never heard of.
Even though I came for Bobet, I was immediately struck by these beauts in the showroom.
Just another beautiful hand-crafted urban bike, you say? Not so fast. The men’s bike on the pedestal, for example, has a Zehus hub that makes this bike electric-assisted (when needed), giving you up to an extra 250 watts, with a one-of-a-kind rechargeable battery. There’s an app that lets your phone choose your power mode and can lock and unlock the bike remotely. It even has a ‘hill sensor’ that will, in theory, allow you to give an even power output no matter the terrain – a kind of cycling ‘automatic transmission’.
But they also are beautifully-crafted urban bikes, with plenty of lovely wood, high-quality steel, stylish lugs, and my personal favorite, the stitched-leather cable housing.
At one point I innocently asked Frédéric if everything was made here in Paris, to which he replied by pointing over his shoulder to the atelier. I believe they have a young craftsman who makes all their bespoke bikes – lead time of 3 months if you’re thinking about an upgrade.
Finally, I tried on a Louison Bobet sweater that fit like a glove but had a price tag I couldn’t justify around French tax time. If you live in a more tax-friendly country, a hand-crafted, custom Tamboite urban machine will run you in the range of €11,000 – €15,000. They might even throw in a sweater if you ask. It’d be a great match.
Maison Tamboite. 20 rue Saint Nicolas, Paris. +33 1 40 21 94 18. http://www.maisontamboite.fr