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On my many and varied wanderings around the Continent, I have never come across a greater concentration of VéloSoleXes than in Luzern last Easter. We headed for Switzerland through Paris and were lucky enough to spot four in the St Michel/Odéon area, all chained to railings and including a yellow one (You see, Keith, there is a prototype for everything!) but it was not until we reached Luzern that I realised what a cycling city it really is.
Outside the station, a terminus with some fifteen platforms, right across the imposing long frontage were cycle racks and these were full - and I mean really full, of cycles, mopeds and a few motorcycles. As we walked along past these I spotted a red 3800 which had seen better days and which remained locked up in the same position for the three day duration of our stay. A black 3800 was close by, jammed in between several other packed cycles; and then a veritable gem - I saw the word "Solex" on the frame of what appeared to be a moped - but it had no engine on the front. I had to look closely at this machine, for I didn't immediately recognise it - was it a shaft drive 6000, I wondered. But no, it certainly was a moped, chain drive. Then I saw it also said "Ténor" and I realised that it was an example of MBK's last effort in the Solex range (an 8000?) and one which is pictured in Bernard Salvat's recent fine French publication "Le VéloSoleX". I had never seen one of these before and regretted afterwards not stopping to photograph the machine although it was certainly not in an easy place to do so.
Checking these racks later in the holiday, it was not to be seen again, although the red 3800 remained. One other highlight there later was a recumbent bicycle, also jammed in the cycle racks - a most unusual sight to my eyes. Whilst walking through the quiet back streets from our hotel to reach the river and the magnificent and picturesque wooden bridges across it, we came across a church and in a cycle rack in its shadow was another black 3800. No one was around at the time and so it was felt that a closer examination could be made without arousing people's suspicions of being up to no good. A dealer's sticker was found on the saddle tube, indicating it to have been supplied by Noser & Co. This information was noted down for future use.
We crossed the river and window shopped, as all good tourists do, and found a store in one of the main high-class shopping streets with a couple of Harley Davidsons in the window - very posh and garish and featured in a display of expensive gents clothing. A further along the street we were amazed to find in the Big Mack Store, a window display advertising Levi's jeans and tee-shirts including a rather tatty VéloSoleX 3800 obviously straight off the street. Quite an interesting and possibly meaningful comparison. At the end of this street, close to the other wooden bridge, another 3800 was parked.
We ate. Later, on our way back to the hotel we passed the main post office and saw telephone directories in telephone boxes. Quite a novel and useful feature this and one which I seem to recall was prevalent in this country not too long ago. Why, I wondered, is this not the case now? Its says something for the Swiss that all the books in all the phone boxes were all in good condition! It didn't therefore take long to find that Noser & Co were at Obergrundstrasse 50 and the phone number was Luzern 22066. Surprisingly, the two line entry included not only the word Kinderwagen (prams) but also VéloSoleX. I perceived something of importance was going to be discovered when we found the place, which turned out to be only ten minutes walk from our hotel - as we found out immediately after le petit déjeuner the following morning.
On the pavement outside the shop were three VéloSoleXes along with the ubiquitous cycles. Included in these was a loop-frame 2200. Inside the shop, which was a full-blown VéloSoleX repair agency, were no less than seven machines in various stages of repair (or strip down). All were 3800s apart from the one older model outside. A glance around revealed several shelves with new spares on and also on the workbenches, several of those impossible-to-obtain bits. I bought some, running up a substantial bill in Swiss francs. It turned out later that they were expensive compared to French purchased items - but if they are not available in France, then one has to pay the asking price - and at least a further source has been established for VSX parts.
A very nice MBK/VéloSoleX poster was on display in the shop and also one of the yellow and black blow-moulded plastic large size relief pictures of a 3800, both of which the proprietor was pleased to allow me to photograph. The final item of interest was a VéloSoleX workstation in one corner, which appeared to contain a pair of electrically driven roller at the front and clamps for the rear of the cycle to enable the front wheel to be spun to start the engine and run it up in the workshop.
The next stop was the station, to change some more travellers cheques and then back to the hotel to leave our "prizes" prior to our next port of call - the Luzern Transport Museum - where more of interest, including yet another VéloSoleX - this one a c1952 Swiss built under licence by Hispano-Suiza of Gèneve was to be found.
First published - April 1992
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