Understanding the priest bike

I have developed an odd fascination with priests’ bikes, that I swear are the forebears of full carbon racers. The mantra of performance frame makers is “lateral stiffness and vertical compliance”. This can be achieved by the way you align carbon fibres, or by using a spaghetti of straight tubes when welding together a lugged and braised bike made of steel.
Standard histories of the priest bike tell us this frame was developed because priets required extra stand over height, due to the low crotch of their trousers. Why then, did they not simply ride step-throughs? Or mixties? Why build bikes for these men that are strong enough to land off of jumps, that transfer power to the ground better than rally cars, and that provide the kind of vertical compliance one seeks in a bike they will use for a 24 hour off-road enduro? Why make the gentlest of men, the toughest of bikes?
This conundrum is actually quite easy to break. Just let your mind run with this claim: the priests of a century ago, would all be road racers if they were living today. Instead of robes, they would wear Lycra. Instead of delighting in strange stares from people with sex lives, they would secretly love the odd looks they get from people inside their cars, while they are out in the rain. But in every other respect their lives would be no different: pious, lonely, calorie deficient, and spent in the saddle, in self flagellation, all to be rid of an unnaturally high sex drive. I think all road racing cyclists can understand the feelings that drove those olden time priests, riding for hours to meet widows and offer some pastoral care. This, gentlemen, is where our current day priesthood could be doing more for those communities that we have been neglecting to serve (or do I mean “service”—I’m not 100% sure I have the right word).


  1. Luke says:

    I had wondered about a link between bike-racing and Catholicism, but this is a new one on me – I hadn’t heard of priest bikes (I had heard of lateral stiffness and vertical compliance, but still don’t want to know what this means).

  2. Hemp Bike says:

    But which format of Priestbike? They all seem to have a lowered top tube and a second downtube but from there the similarities vanish. Some toptubes are horizontal while others descend forwards. Some second downtubes run parallel to the first and end at the seat-stay; in others it is triangulated down to the crank; in others it runs Mixte-style to the rear hub. There are other configurations as well.

  3. Hemp Bike says:

    What progress on the BehovingMoving Quotidian?

  4. Sacred Vow says:

    I’m curious how your friend likes his achielle priestbike so far?

    • Steven says:

      He loves it, and is actually writing a few pages on the joy it is bringing him, that I will be happy to post here on my blog in a few weeks.

  5. Hemp Bike says:

    Looking forward to the Behooving Moving comparison review between it and the apparently otherwise matching Craighton Opa.

    • Steven says:

      I don’t know the Opa model so well. I saw my friend Scoop from a distance during Bike Hour, and honestly didn’t recognise him, he was looking so cool. He had the messenger bag think going on. He was a man transformed, I have to say. Then throughout Bike Hour I saw him riding around with a high profile radio announcer recording a story all about bikes. It became so much, I had to disappear into an ice cream shop with the family and pretend it just wasn’t happening.

  6. Hemp Bike says:

    Wonder how they made it 2kg lighter than the Velorbis Churchill that is itself about 3kg less than Gazelle’s Toer Populair. I reckon 16kg is pretty good for a steel-framed bike with mudguards, rack, lights, hub gears & brakes, sprung brooks leather saddle, etc etc.

    • Steven says:

      I’m shopping around for a new saddle for my racing bike at the moment, and quibbling over 20grams. Then I look at bikes of this sort, and would not even think about another 2kg. My hunch is nobody has ever actually weighed any of the bikes you have just mentioned, but are just plucking numbers out of the air.

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