I had a lovely surprise when I opened my email in the first week of February. It was a notice that Mariposa Bicycles had reopened as a viable builder and that the core team of Mike Barry and Tom Hinton had been augmented with Michael Barry, Mike’s son and by daughter-in-law Dede Barry. Since this site is named Bertin Classic Cycles, it is reasonable for you to wonder just what the Mariposa announcement has to do with Bertins. In my experience, a very great deal.
When Mike Barry and business partner Mike Brown opened Bicyclesport at 175 King St. E. in Toronto in 1971, they were attempting to recreate the classic British bike shop with the retail out front and a bespoke frameshop in back. It was about this time that my brother and I discovered the shop. It was fully worth the 160 km trip to get there. This was the magic kingdom! Parts and framesets, whole bikes like those of Jo Routens only ever seen in Cycling or other exotic publications! When the shop moved to larger premises at 179 King we followed along and here the frameshop was relocated and Mariposas really began to be popularized. They were raced with the Queen City Bicycle Club (QCBC) and toured with the Toronto Randonneurs, went through Paris-Brest-Paris and the Raid Pyreneen ably ridden and promoted by Mikes Barry and Brown. It was there that I purchased a Ron Kitching frameset from Mike. It was actually a Durifort built Bertin, relabeled as a RonKit, and I loved it. Mike told me it was too small and after riding it for a year, I finally had to agree and resold the bike.
Shortly afterward, in 1988, Mike decided to close Bicyclesport for a variety of reasons and I thought that I had missed for good any chance at a Mariposa. I went to the closing sale and stocked up on all the exotic French parts I needed. Enthusiasts throughout southern Ontario mourned the loss. But Mariposa wasn’t entirely gone. Mike quietly, almost covertly, reopened in a back alley off Front Street in a new store called Bicycle Specialties. It was small-scale, enthusiast oriented and, once again, Mariposas started to be built downstairs but painted off site.
About 1995, the store move to Millwood Road to a larger premises and it was there I purchased a used Mariposa from Mike.
I loved it but, again, Mike warned me that it was too small. I proceeded, nonetheless, and rode the bike until after Mike had, once again, relocated the business to an industrial condo on Canfield Drive. Finally, I gave up and asked Mike to resell the bike. At 58 cm, it was just too small. While at the store, I saw a bike in a 60 cm frame size and decided to get it as replacement for the silver Mariposa since I couldn’t afford the wait time or cost of a new one and so, I purchased my first known Bertin.
For the restoration, Mike built the light bracket and the fender stays out of tubular cro-mo steel, the bag support having been made by him for the bike’s previous owner.
Tom Hinton did the all the custom braze-ons and paint. Mike arranged for custom decals to be made and when it all came together it looked like this:
I have enjoyed the bike tremendously but still, in the back of my mind, I had always thought there would come a time when I would take another shot at a Mariposa. However, in 2007 just like with Bicyclesport in 1988, Bicycle Specialties closed and Mariposa production ceased.
Now, for me and many other cyclists, there is real reason to celebrate as Mariposa and Bicycle Specialties come back on stream. Once again their racing, touring and city bikes will be available as will their meticulous restorations of classic bikes all accompanied by the considerable experience and knowledge of the team which will build or renovate them. Don’t underestimate the importance of experience; if I had listened to Mike, I would have had a properly sized bike the first time but then, I would have missed out on two cool Bertins!