The revival of the French-inspired 650B Porteur/Randonneur (P/R) concept, conceived and “curated” by Matthew at Kogswell and Jan Heine of Bicycle Quarterly, will officially move over to Anthony of Longleaf Bicycles in North Carolina. Anthony discusses the move and solicits feedback on the Longleaf website:
Matthew at Kogswell and I have agreed that I will take over the Kogswell 650B P/R production and design. Kogswell has decided to concentrate on 26″ framesets and when Matthew told me he didn’t plan to continue production of the 650B P/R it seemed like a natural fit.
The P/R concept garnered a lot of attention when it first came out, and although Kogswell’s reliability fell off with some production problems, the P/R continues to inspire front-load geometry with both custom orders and among the major manufacturers. The excellent contributions to the Kogswell Flickr group, no doubt, also inspired a lot of utility and distance riders to bring P/R concepts into their own builds.
The porteur was a post-war French delivery bicycle, and the randonneur is a bicycle constructed for long distance events. Taken together, the P/R would be able to function in either capacity, with different fork options, depending on the desires of the rider. A 50mm trail fork would be appropriate for long distance riding without a front load, and a 40mm or 30mm trail fork would be used to handle very heavy front loads without influencing steering control. The history of the P/R can be read on this page, buried in the Kogswell web archive. Here’s an excerpt:
By late summer Jan had a set of dimensions ready. And he surprised us with a bit of geometric good fortune: the only difference between the Porteur bike and a good Randonneur’s bike was the fork offset. So he asked us to supply the bike with three different fork geometries which would allow the owner to configure the bike for many different roles. With a simple change of fork, a city bike could be made into a long distance touring bike.
Sample frames and samples of forks with three different offsets were produced. And then in tribute to the man who had done the real engineering of this bike, Rene Herse, Jan suggested that we test all the fork geometries thouroughly to be sure that we had gotten them right. So road test were performed and the results were fed back into the production specs.
Interestingly, Matthew also discussed the P/R as inspired by the utilitarian British 3-speed, which I’ve always held in high regard:
The Kogswell P/R draws its inspiration from three bicycles of the past: the English 3-speed, the English racer, and the Parisian porteur bicycle.
It has the practicality of the 3-speed. The fenders keep the rider clean and dry. And, like the English racer, it is built of light steel which means it performs well. And the geometry has been lifted straight from the porteur bikes, the bikes that were used to deliver newspapers in Paris during the middle of the twentieth century.
All of those design elements combine to make it a bike that truly can be used in place of an automobile. It’s safe and easy to ride, it won’t get your clothes dirty or wet and it is designed to carry your stuff up front where you can watch it and get to it.
The P/R has inspired many new projects, from Trek, Specialized, and Velo Orange. The core concept is in good hands with Longleaf, which I expect to put out highly refined and highly useful utility and distance bicycle.
It all comes down to this – what bicycles will have the simplicity, utility, and aesthetics that will bring more folks to drive less and ride more for everyday matters in the U.S.? Considering our health, climate change, and quality of life, the right bicycle can invite many people into the idea of changing their lives and the way the cities operate. The P/R has always done this, and its continued production will continue to inspire modern utility cyclists and bicycles to keep going.