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.