by Dora Haller
When a navy blue Aston Martin with a cream-caramel interior stopped in front of Heritage-Paris' atelier, founder and owner Cyril Saulnier figured the driver must be lost. Turned out it was a new client, wishing to order a bicycle that would match his car. When it was finished, he took the navy blue made-to-order bike (with a cream-caramel saddle) home to hang on a rack on the wall of his garage, right above the Aston.
"This story demonstrates well that what we do is in the intersection of art and traditional craftsmanship of everyday objects,” explains Saulnier from his studio, where his dark grey everyday bike sits alongside a mint green masterpiece reserved for “Sundays and other special occasions." Both are one-of-a-kind, as are all of his creations—the bespoke bikes surpass the functional and transform the everyday into objets d'art.
Heritage-Paris was founded in 2011 with the goal of creating unique custom bicycles (and other athletically inclined objects) that could be handed down from generation to generation. “All of our frames are made of steel, and are handcrafted in France with the purest respect for the cycling tradition,” says Saulnier. “They can be repaired if necessary, can be used for years and eventually given to your children. They are made for life”.
Buyers can participate in every stage of the manufacturing process. He or she can choose the color(s) of the frame, the saddle and the handlebars. Then, they can follow the bike as it takes shape personally in the studio, or online. As of today, there are 20 unique, custom-made pieces.
“By pushing personalization to its limit, we have to deal with the most extreme demands from our clients,” says Saulnier. “One that clearly stands out was commissioned by Le Cabinet de Curiosités of Thomas Erber for an exhibition at Andreas Murkudis in Berlin in 2012. For the occasion, we created a bicycle partly soaked in 24-carat gold called '007 Goldfinger' as a tribute to the greatest of all secret agents.”
“We received another unusual order from a professional triathlete, who wanted us to make her a bicycle that matched her shoes. We worked on this model in collaboration with the winner of the Best Bookbinder in France, who (in 70 hours of work) enveloped the frame in three different types of black leather.”
Last year, the company decided to pay homage to the Tour de France, which was marking its centennial. The studio designed an exclusive piece, inspired by Steve McQueen and his mythical Enduro bike, painted in khaki and charcoal gray. The saddle and the handlebars were given a vintage look. Inspired by this experience and adhering to the motto, "The patina is an artwork that makes objects alive,” Saulnier decided to launch a line of customized Brooks England and Gilles Berthoud saddles—each with a distinct patina—so that every seat could become just as unique as the frame.
Design your own Heritage-Paris custom bicycle online where you'll be involved in each step. Prices for a frame vary between $2,900 and $4,300.
Images courtesy of Heritage-Paris