Iver Johnson of the USA held the original patent for the truss-bidge design of bicycles; it was in force for 17 years, from 1900 to 1917. They awarded Labor the licence to supply truss-bridge frames in France, but not every cycle company paid their patent duty to the Labor. Hence the inference in their advertisement (below) that monkeys might copy the design, but they would not be as good as the original.
1920s Garrouste Truss-bridge Road Racer
Cycles Garrouste, Châteaurenard, Bouches du Rhône, France
It’s a shame that no records survive of the cycle shop that built this machine. But throughout the first half of the 1900s, the majority of bicycles in France were badged by small local concerns like this that supplied a very local market. Numbering in their thousands, these shops faded into obscurity after they closed, and it’s only in the past few years that French enthusiasts have started to compile a history of their cycle trade.
Introduced from America in the early 1900s, truss-bridge frames enjoyed a resurgence of interest in France in the 1920s due to their use in the Tour de France. This 1920s truss-bridge Road Racer, built by a small regional bicycle shop ‘Cycles Garrouste‘ in the town of Châteaurenard in Bouches du Rhône, is in very good all-round condition. Its design is slightly different to the Labor; I’m not sure if it was built under Labor’s license, or if the Labor patent had expired by the 1920s.
This Garrouste Truss-bridge is a lightweight road racer, a style that was pioneered in France prior to the Great War. An interesting feature is the extra strengthening on the front fork; though bolt-on ‘truss’ fittings became popular on American bicycles, I’ve not seen one before on a French machine. The rear wheel has three gear sprockets – I assume this is because the cycle shop that built it is in a mountainous area of France. Once I’ve adjusted the chain, it will be ready to ride.
TRUSS FRAME HISTORY
World champion cyclist Major Taylor used Iver Johnson truss-bridge bicycles when he raced in France in the early 1900s to escape racial prejudice in America. As a result, the design became popular in France and Labor introduced their own truss bridge bicycle in 1906. Other French companies also marketed the model, some paying license fees to Labor and others ignoring the Labor license.
The Truss Frame continued to be sold in France throughout the 1920s. The illustration below shows Maurice Dewaele of Belgium, 2nd in the 1927 Tour de France with his Labor.
1906 LABOR CATALOGUE EXTRACT FOR COMPARISON
IVER JOHNSON: THE ORIGINAL TRUSS-BRIDGE