Of all of my content on this site, the most read on a daily basis, and from people from all over the world, is the stuff I’ve written about Cilo Cycles. I get regular emails or messages through social media from people in all time zones asking me questions about Cilo Cycles. Questions not just about any Cilo Cycle, but their own Cilo Cycle. Cilo owners usually want to know the actual age of their bike through the serial number and/or any special frame features. Occasionally people ask me about the value of a certain vintage Cilo and whether I think the price is a good one and would I recommend that the person buys it, like I’m an expert on ‘everything Cilo’, which of course, I’m absolutely not.
Whilst 90% of the emails and messages that I get are about an old Cilo that has some personal family story to it, or because a Cilo has turned up in the loft of a house that someone has bought and they can’t find out anything about it, the killer question that nobody asks is “Can you describe and tell me about the area and location where Cilo Cycles were made?”. This is actually quite important in all aspects of the history of any product or object. People usually want to only know about the product, maybe the designer, and possibly a rough location of where it was made, but nobody ever asks questions about the actual business location, its geography, culture etc. The closest I’ve ever come to this is seeing a programme about the Ford Model T and being given a virtual tour of that huge derelict Ford site and factory in Detroit, which the presenter is trying to illustrate whilst walking through broken glass on the floor, and in what was a massive 5 storey, but now roofless production plant building. The presenter claims he can hear the machinery ghosts in the building. Hmmmm.
So, I’m going to ask the question for you and give you the answer, and we’re going to do it through a virtual and imaginary journey, and on the vintage Cilo in the photo below.
Here’s the question again “Can you describe and tell me about the area and location where Cilo Cycles were made?”, and here’s the answer, so picture this……..
We are sitting astride our virtual Cilo and looking out across the beautiful Lake Geneva to the mountains of France on the other side. The sun is shining, the roads are dry and it’s warm-ish. The border between Switzerland and France runs down the middle of the lake. Behind us lies the city of Lausanne and which has vineyards all around it with beautiful and ancient terraces, which are rightly recognised as a World heritage Site. Our cycle ride to the location of the now closed, Cilo factory, is 7.5 Kilometres or 4.6 miles away, and it will take us about 40 minutes. It is an uphill ride from our start point by the lake. The lake shoreline is 373 metres or 1223 feet above sea level and the factory is 220 metres or 720 feet above the lake. In Swiss cycling terms, this is a fairly flat ride and the gears on this old Cilo will get us up there without too much effort.
As we turn around and face inland, we see the home of the International Olympic Committee and the museum full of Olympic stories and memorabilia. Cycling uphill past beautiful houses that form this part of the Swiss Riviera, we reach the magnificent train station, and dismount the bike to walk under the tracks and station complex through a wide walkway. As we are not passing through at a very busy commuter time, it’s a quick walk through with the bike. We then take the steep and small cobbled road up through the city centre whilst avoiding a tempting call into one of several great patisseries for a fabulous pastry and coffee. Lausanne has a 12th Century Cathedral which looks down across the town and over the lake, and we have a choice of two routes to get beyond the Cathedral; one is to cycle on the road and the other, which is more exciting in my view, is to put the bike over our shoulder ‘à la cyclo-cross’, and take the small ancient stairway which winds its way around the Cathedral. There is a world-class and specialist hot chocolate cafe on this stairway route. The hot chocolate is exactly that. Thick, melted chocolate in a small mug that is consumed with a spoon and then a little hot milk added to clear out the mug of any remaining chocolate.
We now cycle into an area of Lausanne where the Olympic stadium is, and which was built in 1949. The stadium is also close to Lausanne Airport, which is basically a small airfield with some hangers full of small, vintage and modern aircraft. About another 10 minutes of cycling and we get to the address of the Cilo factory, which is found on Chemin de l’Orio and in an outlying part of the city called Romanel-sur-Lausanne. Looking at the factory today, it is clearly no architectural gem. It’s a building that has been changed much over the years by the different businesses that have used it since Cilo Cycles closed down, but it still is the place where the bike we’ve been riding was made, as well as the Cilo that you maybe own.
What interests me, and probably you too, would be to find out what it was it like at the Cilo factory? Was the Cilo company an employer of choice, training skilled crafts people whilst recognising diversity and promoting equal opportunities? I don’t know. Unfortunately, I have never met anyone who worked at the factory, but if I do, I’ll hopefully get an interview done with him/her. Cilo Cycles was a well respected company in the area and employees would have probably worked there for many years, particularly the skilled frame designers and builders. In this part of Switzerland, French is the main language, so that would have been the primary communication at the factory. I like to think that there would have been a buzzing pride at the factory and a focus on product quality and performance. Whilst Cilo produced a wide range of cycles, they also produced some special, made to measure and individual specification bikes for track racing and other cycling segments. I have heard from some cycle dealerships in the area that the bond and relationship between them and the Cilo factory was very strong.
So, if you have a Cilo somewhere in the world, you now know a bit more about where your bike was born, and finally, if you want to visualise what I have described in this post and the area where Cilo’s were made, just search for Lausanne and look at the images available.
My feature photo was taken from the flight path into Geneva Airport which goes straight over Lausanne, so you can see the landscape where Cilo cycles were both made and ridden in.
All photos by the Author