One of my all-time favorite bicycle graphics features a squirrel rolling a bicycle wheel. This squirrel was the longtime signature of the now-defunct French maker, Cycles Roold. When your brand mascot is a squirrel, even a rather industrious one, it’s hard to take yourself too seriously. Nothing says fun mixed with mischief quite like a squirrel. Over the years, the logo seems to have evolved from friendly furry squirrel with paw on an acorn-shaped wheel, to a more angular art deco squirrel (who could also pass for a rat or a bat), with sinister diamond shaped eyes that seem to say, “Do not even think of stealing my nuts or my ball-bearings monsieur!”
I became aware of the brand on one of my very last trips to Al Shoemaker’s yard (See the story about Al’s bikes here). Al’s daughter Mary was getting rid of car parts, and going through a shed of household collectables, when she said there were a couple of frames I should look at. By that time, the good bicycles were mostly gone, save for a few kids bikes returning to earth. Hanging under the eves of his porch, next to an old refrigerator, was a rusty Roold frame without a fork. It has the remains of a Vitus tubing sticker, Simplex dropouts, and a “Super” designation. What is left of the paint scheme features seatstay caps with the French flag treatment, and unusual lug-lining with the lines painted on the lugs themselves rather than in the shorelines as is more typical. I believe the model I have to be an upper end example as it sports partially chromed seat and chainstays.
I couldn’t find much information about Cycles Roold, but here is what I know. They sponsored a racing team with Dunlop tires in the 1930s. One of their riders, Van. Ingelghem, is touted on their poster as the, “Vainquer de Championnnat de vitesse de Belgique,” which if my (completely winging it) French translation is correct, it means that Van. Ingelghem was the Belgium national champion. Go squirrel! Some Roold city or cyclotouring bikes came with chainrings that depicted a squirrel rolling a nut (or wheel?), these chainrings were central to a cool art deco poster made for the brand (see image below).
I posted a query about Roold on the Classic Rendezvous site, and was forwarded an interesting note from French bicycle aficionado, Norris Lockley:
The firm was based in Quimper, a lovely little seaside town in NW France and, as such, was one of the very few bike manufacturers in the region. Not too far to the north, and south of the Loire estuary, you had companies such as Stella and Gitane whose ranges were far more comprehensive than ROOLDS’.However when the company first set up in business just after WW1, it would have traded very successfully, providing a range of utilitarian and sports bikes to the local public, at a time when people tended to buy locally produced goods and nation-wide distribution channels were rare.I have come across quite a lot of ROOLD town-bikes,, porteurs and the like from pre WWII..but few racing or thorough sporting models, although I have come across one really classy randonneur.I am guessing that ARROW took over the ROOLD business in the 60s and rebranded the bikes with a less ‘regional’ name. I have been told that many of the frames in the ‘standard ranges’ were imported from manufacturers in St Etienne and possibly Remiremont in the Vosges area, but that certain ‘top-end’ models were built on site.
Commenters over at Bike Snob NYC use the word “podium” (and variations of it) to compliment a particularly well rendered blog post. Here at The Beautiful Bicycle, I propose we adopt the term “golden squirrel” as our phrase of high praise for a post or comment. In my writing, I promise to try to live up high standards of playfulness and mischief–even golden squirrel standards. As an abbreviated alternate, we could just say “roold,” as in “that post roold!”
I’ve posted a gallery of photos of the Roold frame from Al Shoemaker, as well as a collection of photos of Roold graphics and headtube badges that I extracted from various auctions and dusty corners of the interweb.
Dan HebererJuly 21, 2017 at 6:30 pm
I have always been intrigued by the Roold name and very nearly purchased one at the local bike shop in Urbana, IL back in the 70’s when I was at school. Later realizing that these were scarce bikes, I always regretted not buying the bike because I never saw another one. Thankfully 3 years ago on Ebay I found a beautiful Roold racer, pumpkin, and fitted with all Campy components. It was my 57th birthday present and just love riding around the neighborhood, just me and my squirrel.
The Beautiful BicycleJuly 21, 2017 at 7:21 pm
Dan, Thanks for adding your experience with your Roold racer to the discussion. Golden squirrel!
EricSeptember 15, 2017 at 1:02 pm
Good day to those that can even remember Roold. I bought mine in 72 at Steve’s Cycle Shop. 3 piece db tubing with chrome in the rear and on the forks. Crushed by Greyhound coming back from NM to Ohio. Mavics with 28 tubie cross tires and just bottom of the line Campy for the gears. Veloce? Sugino cranks sure sold me on the feel over steel crank sets and them old clinchers. Haven’t been able to afford another bike yet due to games now. I thought they were partners with Gitane.
The Beautiful BicycleSeptember 22, 2017 at 7:01 am
Thanks for the comment. I hope you weren’t on the bike when Greyhound crushed it.
ScottNovember 20, 2017 at 1:45 am
I just bought one white don’t know shat its worth and its not easy finding out
Merritt RobertsonNovember 25, 2018 at 7:00 pm
I also recently acquired a Roold “Super” frameset with Vitus tubing and Simplex dropouts. It’s aqua green with chrome on the rear forks & chrome on the lower half of the front forks. I believe it maybe from the 70’s but not sure.It’s in pretty good condition. I would like to know more about these bikes – their value and their history – as mentioned above, not much is posted about them on the internet.
Thomas CooperJune 6, 2020 at 11:46 am
I bought a beautiful blue Roold in 1973, in Dallas. IIRC it had Vitus tubing and Simplex (Criterium) shifters. What a sweet ride! Unfortunately, it was stolen in Ohio four years later while I was at college.
Damian S VigoritoFebruary 17, 2020 at 12:29 pm
I have one for sale
Kevin PorterJanuary 26, 2021 at 7:15 pm
Just seen an episode of” Shed and Buried” on British tv in which a Roold cycle complete with golden squirrel was found and purchased for£40 from a man in Cornwall. After being cleaned up it was sold for a small profit to a cycle shop in Oxfordshire.
The Beautiful BicycleJanuary 27, 2021 at 10:12 am
I will have to look up that episode.
DavidPApril 11, 2021 at 1:13 pm
Found a child’s Roold tourer in a bike shop in Cambridge about 4 years ago. Even though I knew it would be ages until my daughter grew into it (she’s about an inch away now), I had to have it. It’s polished up beautifully, my daughter loves it (feels very grown up) and I can’t wait to see it on the road.
Bert van der WielJuly 5, 2021 at 4:43 am
Te koop bij Vincentius Boxtel, retro racefiets van het merk Roold, framemaat 61 cm., zie onderstaande link. Donderdags ben ik zelf in de winkel a.d. Stationsstraat 18 aanwezig vanaf 09:15 uur.
≥ Roord racefiets – Fietsen | Racefietsen – Marktplaats.nl
Of zoek op Vincentius Boxtel Marktplaats, of Vincentius Boxtel Facebook
Bert van der Wiel