Grenoble, France
6.27.2010
   

     Liberia was the brand name of cycles...and once upon a time, in the firm's
early days ...the motorcycles built by the Grenoble-based company MFC
- *M*anufacture *F*rancaise Cycles.  I say 'was' because like many other
regional French bike companies, it went out of business in the early 1990s
having been founded in 1918.

   The firm was the brain-child of Antoine Biboud, who had been the co-founder
of the first cycle and motorbike company in that region - Magnat-Debon. On
leaving the army at the end of WWI he set up the company with a view to
building high quality hand make bikes - one of his sayings being 'Don't
follow the peloton, lead it!'

   In 1925 the firm had outgrown its current shop and workshop in the centre of
the city, so Antoine moved out to rue de Mortillet a street that crosses the
bulge of land in the NE corner of the city that is caught up in a meander
of the powerful River Isere, an area called L'Ile Verte. The move made the
company notch up from artisanal production to an industrial scale.

   The firm grew into a typical French regional bike producer, much like
Lapierre in nearby Dijon or Mercier in St Etienne, but it seemed happy to
restrict its sales to the south of France in order to be able to control
quality.

   Control of the company passed down the family to Antoine's children,
Suzanne, Jean, and Gerard, who were still running the show at the time the
firm had to close - a victim of the Taiwanese bike invasion.

   Frame construction adapted hand-building techniques to industrial methods,
but all frames were accurately mitred, had their tubes thoroughly cleaned
prior to torch - brazing and their lugs filed correctly. The firm had an
ultra-modern electrostatic enameling system.

   Antoine was a keen cyclist who had co-founded the Brevet Randonneur des
Alpes, but he also liked to be involved in cycle-racing and LIBERIA often
had a sponsored team in the French peloton post WWII, from 1948 until 1962.
During that period riders such as Henri Anglade, Pierre Brambill, Jean Dotto
wore the team's colours, Anglade becoming French Champion in 1959. The firm
returned to the peloton in 1988 as a co-sponsor of the RMO team. alongside
MAVIC, with riders such as Mottet, the Madiot brothers, Virenque, Caritoux,
Claveyrolat.

   Unfortunately, much like Mercier's fate, a return to the peloton could not w
increase sales sufficiently and the firm disappeared in 92/93.

   Some of the firms earlier bikes - 1960s and 1970s were attractively built and
finished, but later models, although well-built tended to be bland with poor
transfers. Occasionally decent frames, with engraved crowns and top-eyes
even in Reynolds 753 appear on French Ebay, and about a year ago I bought,
by chance, a superb late 40s randonneur, worthy of most constructeurs.

   The head badge - almost an Art-Deco Rising Sun seems a little odd as it gives
the frames, at first glance something of an Asian appearance.

Norris Lockley
 

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