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Ancien Cycles: Inspired by the Oldest Bicycle Race in the World

Updated: May 24

The word Ancien is both a tag line and bragging right for a finisher of the Paris-Brest-Paris race, which is the oldest cycling event in the world (since 1891). It's a 1200 kilometer (approximately 750 miles) distance and participants must complete the race within 90 hours. It is held every four years in August (the race is currently going on as this interview is being conducted), drawing 5000 riders from all over the world that are socializing as much as riding hard. Limited to amateur riders, finishers are given the honorary title ancien (male) / ancienne (female).

The moniker is also the inspiration for the name of a Chicago bike shop on Milwaukee Avenue, Ancien Cycles, started by 2 time finisher and Ancien, Scott McIntosh. I recently met with Scott to understand more about this unique bike shop/cafe/lifestyle business.

Tell us about the shop and your customers?

We are an endurance road bicycle shop at heart. We are influenced by the races I mentioned, by touring around the world, and by the sense of fun and community from riding. The bikes we offer go from $460 to $10,000 varying from modern interpretations of Dutch-style cafe-cruises to aero-space grade titanium bikes. Our main focus is endurance road bikes that are well suited to day-to-day commuting. Bikes that have sense of power, speed and comfort that enable a person to carry provisions, access to fenders, bigger tires, and durable saddlebags.

Our shop is a cycling super-station, whether you need air, bike adjustments, or food/beverage to keep going. For people that are more serious, we conduct professional fittings. Our mechanics and sales consultants can help you just get started or get you where you need to go, whether you are a novice rider or 12 year veteran.

What is your favorite bike?

.That's hard to say. I have a Moots titanium bike which is our pinnacle brand. I used the bike to finish sixth in the Race Across America. I also used it to help us develop our own house brand, long-distance road bike which is made from steel.

Why did you open this bike shop?

I've been a cyclist for over 20 years, bike toured in 17 countries, and ridden across the United States twice, once as part of the Race Across America. Many of my friends and colleagues are cyclists who get around by bicycle. It's an important part of my life. In addition to cycling, my partners and I wanted to create an environment where people can enjoy food/beverage, share experiences, and build friendships.

Founder Scott McIntosh shows off one of the Ancien Cycles house brand models

How has bike commuting changed in Chicago?

There are more people riding every year. The safety issue is increasingly becoming more important to cyclist, pedestrians, motorists, and the CTA. The advocacy of the city has increased with the promotion of bike lanes. Cyclists need to be careful but we also need to obey the laws to get the respect we want and need to be safe. The greater community needs to be conscious of cyclists.

I'm pleased to see progressive businesses that offer incentives to their team members to ride to work. I am hoping to see, over the course of the coming years, more local businesses, government and bike shops collaborating to offer incentives to support bike commuting and to make it safer. Just like we talk about sustainability in food, there needs to be sustainability in transportation in the city and everyone needs to be vested. It's healthier and an investment in so many ways.

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