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1896 Slavia Bike with No Brakes Takes on Tour de France Stage

Bicycles were among the very first products Václav Laurin and Václav Klement made more than a century ago in Mladá Boleslav, Kingdom of Bohemia. The two motoring pioneers that put the basis of what is now known as Skoda had a thing for these two-wheeled machines. And now one of their original designs comes back to take on a monumental challenge.
1896 Slavia bike replica 1 photo
For most cyclists, the Tour de France is the biggest undertaking there is. 21-day-long stages spanning for 3,500 km (2,200 miles) push both men and ride to their limits. That’s why the competition is open only to professionals.

One stage though, held over mountain roads in either the Pyrenees or French Alps, is open to the public so that everyone can feel the taste of the competition. Each year, around 15,000 people gather at the starting line for the event called L'Étape du Tour.

This year, on July 21, among those thousands is Czech Vladimír Vidim. He will attempt to complete the hundreds of kilometers on a home-made replica of the Slavia bicycle, the very first vehicle built in 1896 by Laurin and Klement.

Vidim, who is 54 years old, used historical photographs to replicate the machine. It took him about four months to do it, but he came up with a very similar two-wheeler, a bike that has no gears and not even brakes.

Skoda, seeing how someone is striving to bring back the nameplate’s former glory, took notice and handed Vidim a brand new Superb for him to use to get to and from France.

This year’s L'Étape du Tour spreads for 135 km from Albertville to Val Thorens. In addition to covering this distance, riders will have to climb 4,563 meters (14,970 feet) and then descend back down to the finish line at 2,365 meters (7,759 feet).

We’re curious to see how Vidim will handle the descent with no brakes.


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