1920s MAD French Cross-frame (Manufacture Ardennaise?)

A MAD French Cross frame 

(Velo Manufacture Ardennaise?)

22″ Frame

28 x 1 1/2″ Wheels

Bilis Freewheel

I bought this unidentified French cross frame three years ago because it has a unique design. Cross frames were popular in Britain, and also Holland, but not generally elsewhere. This was the first French one I’d come across.

The two extra tubes, which are half the diameter of the other tubing, join the headstock between the top and down tubes. They join the top and down tubes two-thirds of the way along.

The joint at the bottom bracket has a triangular metal brace; likewise the joint between the top tube and the seat tube. Small protrusions in the top and bottom triangular braces create points to mount an inflator pump. This machine was obviously designed with extra frame-strength in mind.

This being a somewhat incongruous affair, and unidentified, I decided to fit a loose badge I’d bought five or six years ago, which seemed appropriate because it says ‘MAD.’

UPDATE September, 2017: I’ve now bought an identical model from a friend in France which is badged as a ‘Manufacture Ardennaise’. The only information I can find on that company is as follows:

Manufacture Ardennaise, Marcel Cosset Magasins , bureaux & ateliers – 4.6.10 & 12 Rue Demarquay à Paris . Usines à Mouzon – Ardenne. Production annuelle de 30 000 bicyclettes , motos , cadres ou series de piéces détachées ( 160.000 cycles vendus de 1895 à 1903 )



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…The Bilis, a French expanding chainwheel introduced in 1925 and used by the winner of the Ploy de Chanteloup, soon faded from memory (Berto 2009, 128)

Bicycle Design; An Illustrated History, by Tony Hadland, Hans-Erhard Lessing

Bilis chainwheel 1925

The Bilis geared chainwheel, illustrated above, was this components maker’s best-known product. This mystery bicycle has a Bilis freewheel. By the way, the phrase ‘Brevete SGDG’ which you see under the Bilis name on the chainwheel above means ‘patented without government guarantees.’ It was a legal statement releasing the state from liability, a legal requirement until 1968. This text is the invention of Napoleon Bonaparte, according to the Decree of 27 September 1800.


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Manufacture Ardennaise