Alejo Achaval

PHOTOS: Alejo Achaval

LOCATION: Barcelona, Spain

Away from the commercial areas of Barcelona, there’s a hidden place for those who are truly passionate about the cycling world’s past.

As if trapped in a time bubble where everything around it started to evolve and change the same way plants and fungus grow around a very ancient tree in the need for survival. Everything adapting to its actual conditions, layering over the past until you lose track of what was actually there in the beginning.

Somehow this place exists, as if we peeled back those layers of time to reach the center, the beginning of it all. This past that once flourished and somehow got overshadowed and forgotten. It is here where its owner, Fernando Tome Giulietti and his project, Monsieur Velo, lie. More than an idea, it was a necessity from within to bring the past back to life and make it shine once again.

How and when did your passion for cycling start?

It began at a very early age. I remember all the bikes I had since the first one I got from my parents as a present. During my adolescence in Mar del Plata, Argentina it was quite normal to use a bike to move from one place to the other, carrying our boards whether it was for surfing or skating. Bikes were unconsciously forced into our way of life back then, as it was our only means of transportation available at that age. As a cycling fan, the Curuchet brothers were our biggest idols. They are Argentinean track champions who represented our country worldwide.

For different reasons after a few years, I distanced myself from bicycles for a while until I arrived to Barcelona in 2009. It was the perfect city to move around with a bike so it was a natural thing for me to step back into that world. My passion for them grew even more when I moved to France for one year. I got automatically immersed into the cycling world’s capital.

Where does the name Monsieur Velo come from?
The name emerged in France and I thought it would be right to choose something representative of its place of origin along with my philosophy about bikes. I wanted this name to sound like it was a single man’s craft and not a company. As of today, I’m the only one working on this project.

Talk to me about the origins of Monsieur Velo. How did it all begin?

I started buying bicycles in antique shops and little markets in France. Knowing that the main idea was to go back to Barcelona, I took everything I acquired and began my project in Spain. Once I settled, I started posting my products through social media by combining bikes with my other passion, which is photography. After a while I opened my shop and this lead me to new opportunities that enhanced the potential of my work. I was able to obtain unused old stock of bike parts from the best brands in their original package along with old bicycles that have never been used. This was a pivot point for Monsieur Velo, and I was able to access some old warehouses embedded with a lot of history behind them. Although I can’t give much information about those places, getting there was probably one of the most exciting things I experienced so far since I’ve started. Now I was able to get to know the story behind each object and that for me was what Monsieur Velo was all about.

Why did you choose to restore old bikes knowing that you are working with a finite resource which eventually will run out of stock. Wasn’t it better to just make new bikes the way you wanted?

For me the philosophy of restoring antiques is not only about bicycles. I think that no matter what you do, it’s all about bringing an object back to life along with the history behind that piece. I believe that the story of the object is what makes it even more beautiful and being able to bring that back, even though many years may have passed, is the most satisfying thing about this job.
As for bicycles, I think we can still find antique parts with better quality than the ones we might come across today. I’m not trying to say that what’s made nowadays is not good. On the contrary, many times I choose to combine contemporary parts with old ones to achieve a unique bicycle.

Do you work with conventional tools that one could find in a typical bicycle shop today or you also use old ones which were implemented in the past with the bikes you restore?

Lucky for me, from where I got most of my stock, there was also a beautiful working table with a huge set of high quality tools that were specifically used for cycling in that era. Having said this, I get a lot of clients sent from other bike shops because they don’t have a specific tool to dismantle a bike part in particular. This equipment I have is the same as the ones that team mechanics or craftsmen used to work with back then. I believe this is one of the most important characteristics of Monsieur Velo.

What do you think about what cycling has become today? Is there any trend or idol you identify with?

Cycling is a sport that has being properly recognized for years now, but I believe nowadays it’s booming in both professional and urban fields. I think this is something very positive for our planet.

As for an idol, I have quite a few such as Eddy Merckx or Jacques Anquetil (whose frame specs I had tattooed on my arm from when he obtained his fifth Tour the France title).

I don’t really feel identified with anyone in particular regarding what I do. Though there are people doing similar things, I always search and try to make something different. To do so, I tend to follow the work of artisan frame designers and get surrounded by good professionals so as to collaborate with them. I like to do that as well with photographers and all sorts of artists. I believe that collaboration is a very important part on what I do and it also helps me to get inspiration outside of my own way of thinking or seeing things.

What emotional contribution do you gain from what you do? Do you think you are giving something back to the world?

I get an enormous feeling of satisfaction when restoring a bike according to my view. I also get that while doing a photoshoot once the job is finished. To be honest I’ve never been more motivated at work than I am today, although obviously not every day is the same, ha.

I believe that recovering things from the past is no doubt giving something positive to this world. Especially in a consuming era, as it is today where humans tend to use, toss, and buy new things on a daily basis. I think resources must be appreciated and reused as much as they can for the wellbeing of this planet and therefore the wellbeing of us humans. I also believe that bicycles are one of the healthiest ways for people to transport along short distances, which also helps us reduce our environmental footprint.

Do you have any plans in mind for Monsieur Velo’s future?

I have many plans for the future on the way involving other artist’s collaborations with the objective of not only showing the bikes but also reflecting the lifestyle surrounding the cycling world today.