Velo Classique: A la recherche du temps perdu
Velo Classique is a vintage/custom bike specialty shop in northern Virginia with deep roots in the history of cycling in the Washington, D.C. metro area.
Velo Classique is a vintage/classic/custom bike specialty shop in the far-western Washington D.C. suburb of Purcellville, Virginia. Founded in 2009 by bicycle collector and distributor Wayne Bingham, the shop recently moved to new quarters just across the street from its previous location, and celebrated the grand re-opening on a cold February day with a party attended by Baltimore, Maryland-based framebuilder Chris Bishop, among many other regional bike collectors and afficionados.
Wayne Bingham (left) with Chris Bishop Photo: Dave LaMay
Shop owner and proprietor Bingham also runs Mel Pinto Imports from the same facility. Mel Pinto (born 1923) hails from Tangiers, Morocco, and learned many languages in school, including Arabic, French, English and Spanish. As a young man in the early 1940s he worked for the U.S. Army after they invaded German-controlled North Africa, largely due to his English proficiency. After the war, Pinto made his way to the Washington, D.C. area, where he began to import Gitane bicycles to the U.S. He opened his eponymous distribution business in 1958, and it specialized in French brands such as Simplex, Specialties T.A. and Stronglight. Pinto also became the first U.S. importer of Shimano Dura-Ace components.
In 2009, the aging Pinto sold MPI to Bingham, and the residual stock of francophone and offbeat European brands permeates the shelves and display cases at Velo Classique. Need a vintage Sachs-Maillard freewheel? Have a hankering for a complete Edco Competition groupset? Want to choose a roll of Benotto cellotape from the rainbow of bright colors on the display rack? Velo Classique is your go-to shop.
Interest in retro bikes is booming right now, but Bingham didn’t necessarily forecast the rising tide of vintage bike popularity when he opened his doors in 2009.
“I honestly didn’t think I’d still be around seven years later,” said Bingham. “I signed a multi-year lease at the previous building, thinking that was overly optimistic. So the fact that we were forced to move is a sign of our success.”
Hanging on the walls and populating the stands at the new location are vintage bikes from Bianchi, Peugeot, Raleigh, Trek, a Roland Della Santa-built Greg LeMond and several Bob Jacksons, as well as custom bikes from Bingham’s personal collection: a Bruce Gordon road bike and an Ellis Cycles gravel road bike for the many miles of gravel paths throughout surrounding Loudoun County, Virginia.
Velo Classique also works with many custom builders. On a recent visit to the shop, a beautifully finished DiNucci frameset was posed on the wall, waiting to be built up with a 50th anniversary Shimano Dura Ace groupset, specially ordered for a customer. Bingham and his team specialize in making bicycle dreams become reality.
To complete the Velo Classique experience, browse the racks of vintage wool jerseys, pour through old issues of Winning: Bicycle Racing Illustrated touting the World Championship and Tour de France victories of Greg LeMond, and look up at vintage posters of the National Capital Open on the walls: the Washington, D.C.-based race on The Ellipse adjacent to the White House that was revived in 1960 through the efforts of Mel Pinto, and which was last held in 1988.
Velo Classique is best experienced in a visit to the shop, but if you can’t make it to the Washington, D.C. area in person, many unique and vintage components can be purchased online at the Mel Pinto Imports website.