The Aesthete’s Choice: Boyaux Naturel

Tradition and innovation are the two opposing edges that cut our evolution through the fabric of our sport. Tradition grounds us, while innovation ensures we advance ever forward. The problem with tradition is that it is comforting and familiar, often shielding us from adopting newer, improved practices and technology. The trouble with innovation is that its freshness can blind us from being able to distinguish non-functional novelties from material improvements. We must learn to distinguish between a reluctance to change and an appreciation for a well-refined way of doing things.

When it comes to the evolution of aesthetics, a clouding factor are the fads that intersperse fashion trends. Trends tend to have a cyclical nature to them as they come in and out of style, each iteration mutated slightly from the previous. Fads, on the other hand, are blips on the continuum that tend not to reappear. Unfortunately we often can’t tell the difference until some time later, when we are left with distressing photographic evidence of our failures to tell the former from the latter. Fluro colors are an example of a trend (whose reemergence we are currently experiencing) while parachute pants are an example of a fad (whose reemergence would presumably signal the coming apocalypse.)

In Cycling, colored tires emerged innocently enough, allowing for riders to playfully match the color of the tire’s tread or sidewall to the color of their frame or kit. Or to nothing at all, depending on the savagery of their personal style. Prior to the mid-nineties, tires could be any color you wanted, so long as the tread was black and the sidewalls tan; they matched every paint scheme imaginable and always Looked Fantastic.

Colored tires introduced a stylistic weapon whose power most riders did not possess the aesthetic nuance to control, like young Luke Skywalker heading off to Bespin to face Darth Vader. Chaos ensued, limbs were lopped off. In the right hands, the colored tire could be wielded like Jackson Pollock wielded an overloaded paintbrush. Marco Pantani’s 1998 Bianchi was an aesthetic masterpiece which has yet to see its equal. But the damage done by misguided overuse left lasting ripples (and in some cases trauma); eventually this unwieldy power was returned to the fiery depths of Mount Velomis.

The lasting effect that we feel to this day is the advent of the black sidewalls; when combined with the modern deep section wheel they makes for a monolithic mass of rim and tire. This is by no means a bad look; when deployed in the right circumstances it has a Spinal Tap Black effect which can be used for intimidation. The natural sidewall, on the other hand, gives a clean delineation between rim and tire, harkening back to the days when tires came in every combination of black tread and tan you could ever want.

Having options gives the illusion of freedom when in fact it is the choice to simplify that truly leads to liberty. Choose natural sidewalls and your bicycle’s simple beauty will emerge gracefully. And always remember: friends don’t let friends ride clinchers.

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79 Replies to “The Aesthete’s Choice: Boyaux Naturel”

  1. @Teocalli

    @RobSandy

    Riding tan sidewall tyres, riding tubs and riding latex tubes are all still on my ‘I have never’ list. I recently crossed off ‘riding a carbon-framed bike’ from that list.

    Are latex tubes faster?

    Tan sidewalls are definitely faster………

    I like em. But have never felt cool enough get away with them.

    Bit like waistcoats.

  2. @RobSandy

    @Teocalli

    @RobSandy

    Riding tan sidewall tyres, riding tubs and riding latex tubes are all still on my ‘I have never’ list. I recently crossed off ‘riding a carbon-framed bike’ from that list.

    Are latex tubes faster?

    Tan sidewalls are definitely faster………

    I like em. But have never felt cool enough get away with them.

    Bit like waistcoats.

    The thing with both is that if you are old enough they look appropriate without having to feel cool!

     

  3. Vittoria Corsa SCs with latex tubes on my Casati Laser. Oh man, riding on smooth roads with this bike is a joy. Oh wait, riding it at all is pretty damn fun.

  4. @Randy C

    @fignons barber

    WOW ! What a gorgeous bike in white. I love black bikes and the Canyon. But that Cyfac bike is brilliant. Is that an alloy bike or is it C ? It’s nice.

    A Cyfac? Chances are it’s steel with a Carbon fork, methinks? But yes, very, very nice indeed.

  5. @fignons barber

    @Teocalli

    @fignons barber

    It cleaned up nicely then.

    That’s the thing with these modern black bikes. You can’t tell if they’re dirty. I know it’s time to clean it when I spill so many drinks on it that I stick to the TT when I touch it.

    Read @Teocalli‘s comment again, think, count to ten and then laugh. He did not say what you thought he said. (not giving away any more clues).

     

  6. @ChrisO

    Mind you there are times when I think all black works pretty well.

    “All black” with a fair bit of white you mean? Lovely machine. Is that one of those Adamo saddles? How goes it? I remember having the cheapest, lightest saddle on my 80s TT bike. After a 50 I could barely walk or feel my bits.

  7. @wiscot

    @ChrisO

    Mind you there are times when I think all black works pretty well.

    “All black” with a fair bit of white you mean? Lovely machine. Is that one of those Adamo saddles? How goes it? I remember having the cheapest, lightest saddle on my 80s TT bike. After a 50 I could barely walk or feel my bits.

    I just meant the tyres, as opposed to ones with a sidewall and the black of the rims.

    Although perversely I love the sidewalls on my HED Stinger 6s which are deep, but not quite as deep as the Cosmics.

    Yes it is the Adamo saddle.Seems to work pretty well but I’m pretty easy on saddles.

    IIRC we put it on there because the stubbiness also helps fit into UCI regulations, although I think I’ve probably changed it since then and would struggle to pass a strict test.

  8. @ErikdR

    @Randy C

    @fignons barber

    WOW ! What a gorgeous bike in white. I love black bikes and the Canyon. But that Cyfac bike is brilliant. Is that an alloy bike or is it C ? It’s nice.

    A Cyfac? Chances are it’s steel with a Carbon fork, methinks? But yes, very, very nice indeed.

     

     

    No, it’s aluminium. Made by Francis Quillon. He built frames for Fignon, the Badger, even Chiappucci. He started Cyfac, but is now honorary president. When Fignon passed, I contacted him to build a Fignon tribute bike. We put our heads together, and came up with a design like the old Super U bike. Three weeks later, it was on my doorstep.

     

     

     

     

     

  9. @Ron

    Vittoria Corsa SCs with latex tubes on my Casati Laser. Oh man, riding on smooth roads with this bike is a joy. Oh wait, riding it at all is pretty damn fun.

    Ooosh, I’m done. That’s such a beautiful bicycle.

  10. @fignons barber

    @ErikdR

    @Randy C

    @fignons barber

    WOW ! What a gorgeous bike in white. I love black bikes and the Canyon. But that Cyfac bike is brilliant. Is that an alloy bike or is it C ? It’s nice.

    A Cyfac? Chances are it’s steel with a Carbon fork, methinks? But yes, very, very nice indeed.

    No, it’s aluminium. Made by Francis Quillon. He built frames for Fignon, the Badger, even Chiappucci. He started Cyfac, but is now honorary president. When Fignon passed, I contacted him to build a Fignon tribute bike. We put our heads together, and came up with a design like the old Super U bike. Three weeks later, it was on my doorstep.

    Wow!  Amazing.  Chapeau!

  11. @fignons barber

    A bike has to be awfully special when it’s coolness shows thru, it reaches out and grabs ya, in a photo posted on the inter webs. Never mind being seen in person. And that bike has it. I love it. Cheers.

    … and… get this, so I’m taking one last look at the bike right before I’m about to post this when right now my daughter comes up behind me, takes a peak… “Whoa!” she says…”I want that bike…”

    And the young lady has a special appreciation for cool bikes. She knows ’em when she sees them.

  12. @ChrisO

    @gilly

    Oh no! A feature on coloured tyres has reignited the clincher v tubs debate. I must be some kind of philistine. Try as I might, I genuinely could not feel the difference between latex and butyl tubes or tubs over clinchers, although in my defence the latter was riding a mate’s bike so there were other factors to consider. Is it just me? I’m feeling a little inadequate here.

    No, I’m in the same camp when it comes to clinchers and tubs.

    I’ve run Open Corsa clinchers with latex tubes on Enve 3.4s and now I’m running Corsa tubs on HED Stinger 6s, both on the same bike, and I really don’t think there’s much objective difference between them, at least not from the tyres.

    However despite my lack of sensitivity in most wheel/tyre comparisons I absolutely can feel the difference between latex and butyl tubes in the Corsas. It’s not just the noise, it’s the way the tyre shapes and grips.

    Maybe it wouldn’t be the same in other tyres – the Corsas are supposed to be just an open version of the tub so I guess it would make sense they felt best with the stuff that they were designed to have inside them.

    With the nice wide rim you have, the tire doesn’t deform as much so I’m not surprised there’s little difference. For me the biggest difference was cornering on 23mm tires; the tubs don’t deform as much when you’re leaning it into the corner, so it handles better. I also noticed that they were more responsive climbing since the whole casing is one unit.

    Question, though: are both the wheels using latex or does one have butyl?

  13. @Randy C

    @fignons barber

    A bike has to be awfully special when it’s coolness shows thru, it reaches out and grabs ya, in a photo posted on the inter webs. Never mind being seen in person. And that bike has it. I love it. Cheers.

    … and… get this, so I’m taking one last look at the bike right before I’m about to post this when right now my daughter comes up behind me, takes a peak… “Whoa!” she says…”I want that bike…”

    And the young lady has a special appreciation for cool bikes. She knows ’em when she sees them.

     

    Thank you, Randy. That bike is my workhorse. I’ll race on the Canyon but do all my solo training miles on the Fignon bike. It probably has 20,000 miles on it now, rain/mud etc.  Last summer, the Canyon was broken in a crash, so for 2 months I raced on the Cyfac until I got the replacement. I have to admit I was a bit more attentive within the peloton.

  14. Oli – Thanks, my man! Coming from a guy with a good eye and a number of superb bicycles, that is a very nice compliment. As with all my bikes, I’m just happy to own such a nice tool for freeing my mind.

    Pretty good story behind the bike too. Guy bought it as a frameset and built it up, only to decide he wanted something faster, a carbon frame. I nabbed it at a severe discount. Took me a few years to finally make all the parts swaps (got it as a complete bike) and get it to the current state. Had these wheels built last year. Original owner had put mismatched Open Pros on it. Ugh.

    The ride quality and fit are superb. Had the good fortune of meeting the Casati family/staff at the Handmade Bike Show the other year. They were very kind. I also like this bike because it isn’t that flashy and only true connoisseurs pick up on it’s subtle awesomeness. The hidden lugs and the internal seat post collar are particularly nice touches.

  15. @Oli

    @Ron

    Vittoria Corsa SCs with latex tubes on my Casati Laser. Oh man, riding on smooth roads with this bike is a joy. Oh wait, riding it at all is pretty damn fun.

    Ooosh, I’m done. That’s such a beautiful bicycle.

     

     

    That is a good looking bike. I especially like the way the threadless stem matches the classic frame. Well done!

  16. @frank

    @ChrisO

    @gilly

    Oh no! A feature on coloured tyres has reignited the clincher v tubs debate. I must be some kind of philistine. Try as I might, I genuinely could not feel the difference between latex and butyl tubes or tubs over clinchers, although in my defence the latter was riding a mate’s bike so there were other factors to consider. Is it just me? I’m feeling a little inadequate here.

    No, I’m in the same camp when it comes to clinchers and tubs.

    I’ve run Open Corsa clinchers with latex tubes on Enve 3.4s and now I’m running Corsa tubs on HED Stinger 6s, both on the same bike, and I really don’t think there’s much objective difference between them, at least not from the tyres.

    However despite my lack of sensitivity in most wheel/tyre comparisons I absolutely can feel the difference between latex and butyl tubes in the Corsas. It’s not just the noise, it’s the way the tyre shapes and grips.

    Maybe it wouldn’t be the same in other tyres – the Corsas are supposed to be just an open version of the tub so I guess it would make sense they felt best with the stuff that they were designed to have inside them.

    With the nice wide rim you have, the tire doesn’t deform as much so I’m not surprised there’s little difference. For me the biggest difference was cornering on 23mm tires; the tubs don’t deform as much when you’re leaning it into the corner, so it handles better. I also noticed that they were more responsive climbing since the whole casing is one unit.

    Question, though: are both the wheels using latex or does one have butyl?

    True I am mainly using 25mm and the Enve and HED are both wide rims. Definitely latex in both tyres – unless I’ve had a puncture.

    I usually carry a butyl tube as a spare, and some stick-on patches as an extra-spare. But I would only use the butyl to get home, then change to a new latex tube.

  17. I find myself in a difficult conundrum and in need of some second opinions. I currently have two wheelsets, Mavic R-Sys SLR and Campagnolo Bora Ultra 50s. I have some older black tires that I’m trying to use up currently, and a brand new set of Vittoria Corsa G+ in skinwall.

    Which combination would look best on my particular bike? I’ve included the skinwall on the aluminum wheels and the black on the Boras here for some context.

    Right now I have black Michelin Pro4 Comps (not pictured) on the Mavics for training duties. I’m considering getting some of the new anthracite/black Vittoria Corsas or Corsa Speed tires for the Boras and putting the skinwalls on the Mavics once all the old tires are cleared out.

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