Monday, October 10, 2011

Vintage French Redux

Unexpected Project
Here is a bike tinkerer's parlour game for you: Assemble a complete bicycle using whatever wayward frame and spare parts happen to be in your possession at the moment. You can't go out and buy anything - not even cables or bolts. And you have exactly one evening. What would you come up with? The Co-Habitant ended up with something kind of neat. And mostly French. And both of us could ride it!

We have this Motobecane Grand Touring frame that we considered selling, but in the end decided to keep. The frame is too small for him and too large for me, but we were curious about the Vitus tubing and wanted to compare it to other Motobecane models we'd ridden. Maybe some day we'd build it up just for the heck of it, we thought - though not really expecting this to happen. But sometimes, things fall into place. Say you're cleaning, and you notice a box full of stuff you'd forgotten about. And then remember another box, with more stuff. Then out comes the frame and in a matter of hours a bike is born. Vintage touring wheels, Suntour derailleurs and original Belleri Porteur bars were mixed with a modern Sugino Alpina crankset, VO city brake levers, Tektro sidepulls, and Shimano bar-end shifters. We found a sanded-down stem from another French bike, a seatpost that happened to fit, and an old saddle. It was getting too late in the night to mess with fenders and handlebar tape, but we do have some.

Unexpected Project
The result so far is unexpectedly lightweight - especially compared to the Super Mirage the Co-Habitant had earlier. We took turns riding the bicycle around the empty neighbourhood in the middle of the night and marveled at how nice it felt. I've ridden lower end Motobecane bikes and have also tried a couple of higher end ones - but this one feels different from either. No toe overlap on the 58cm square frame. 

Not sure what we will do with this bicycle, but he may keep it as his fast city bike - especially since he is infamously nervous about leaving his Pashley locked up on the street. I will post daylight pictures once it's fitted with fenders and handlebar tape. Not bad for a neglected frame and a box of spare parts!

34 comments:

  1. Ah, the mutt bike! Many of us have one and they become quite fun. Not perfect, not matching, but who cares, you love it for what it is :)

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  2. Nice lookin bike ya built up:) Love to get my hands on a ole roadie frame next year and do up a classic old bike.
    Cheers
    Jim

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  3. I knew you didn't mean it when you said no more vintage road bikes!

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  4. Anon - Well, it's not a roadbike! And I was speaking only for myself : )

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  5. "FrankenFrench"

    Ooh that's a good one!

    The only thing that looks blatantly mutt/franken here to my eye is the modern crankset. We have a period-correct vintage one, but it doesn't work with the BB that's in the frame. The bar-ends on the Porteur bars are a bit eccentric too, but I think they're fine.

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  6. I has Belleri bars, your argument is invalid.

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  7. The crankset looks fine. Please post a daylight shot of the handlebars and shifters when you have a chance. Glad to see you guys playing around with vintage bikes again.

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  8. So this replaces his 50 lb Pashley as his fast city bike? What does he consider a slow bike?
    I volunteer at a bike co-op and it's all about this, except that they do have parts to sell at good prices, too, if you need them. It's a lot of fun, looking for the stem that will fit, trying out different cranks to find something that will fit the chainwheel you want, etc.

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  9. I need to get them taped first. Thinking of trying fizik white (or silver). Not sure.

    Will probably buy something this evening. Any suggestions? The frame is blue, the eventual saddle is probably going to be honey.

    Imagine the bike with silver hammered/fluted Honjos.

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  10. He can go pretty fast on the Pashley actually. But this has a sportier geometry to it, is lighter and has derailleur gearing. No carrying capacity, but maybe he will put a rear rack on it if he ends up keeping it. So maybe more like a very nice version of a "beater" that he will hopefully be willing to leave locked up without worrying about : )

    MDI - Both white and silver could look good. Also maybe red.

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  11. I like red tape, it would also make it faster. But then what about saddle?

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  12. If she's going to be a city commuter, I'd put the silver or red tape on and not white. White shows so much dirt and is a pain to clean. My hubby's bike has white hoods to boot and they look so grubby.... of course, from 20 feet away they look nice. :P

    She looks like a good comfy bike.. honjos would look lovely with the silver accents!! I say doooo eeeeeet

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  13. Did it, doesn't look nearly as classy as what you got.

    http://cog-nitivedissonance.blogspot.com/2011/10/built-from-stuff-literally-lying-around.html

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  14. COGnitive dissonance, brilliant : )
    One of my favourite psych topics!

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  15. "Not sure what we will do with this bicycle, but he may keep it as his fast city bike - especially since he is infamously nervous about leaving his Pashley locked up on the street."

    This sentence says it all. It will become a very functional fast bike that you won't ever worry about.

    Only bike aficionados would stay up half the night to build a bike. You've come along way baby...

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  16. There's this thing called clear shellac. Over either white or red tape.
    Lots of old tool handles, pingpong paddles, cheapo golf clubs, have white twill tape and clear shellac.
    Done by many a geezer who speaks no French.
    Clear has slight amber color. Makes a good grip

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  17. We know about shellac, but you can't put it on the (plastic) Fizik tape which is what he's thinking of using.

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  18. I'd much rather ride this than a "centrist" offering of the other day's post.
    Plain gauge, small diameter tubing, long chain stays, relaxed angles = smooth.
    Wait, that reminds me of an old Raleigh transpo.

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  19. Looks worthy. I did a similar frankenbike project awhile back with a French 1973 Fontan (Elvish) road frame. Then again later with a late 90s LeMond Zurich frame. The Elvish became an urban assault night bike and the Zurich used briefly as a commuter. Both bikes being built up from scrounged and discarded parts. Though honestly I did do a few new things such as tires, cables, brake pads, bearings, chain. Both bikes worked really well for beer runs.

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  20. It sounds like this bike is something like my Jeunet:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/7516215@N03/5569199223/

    Once a fast, light French racing bike, now a fast, light city bike with porteur bars and a big front rack. The riding position is perfect-- semi-upright, but with enough lean to get proper power to go fast. The ONLY problem that I see with my setup is that I can't fit tires wider than 28mm with fenders. I've come to appreciate fatter tires for city bikes, and doing a 650B conversion isn't possible with this bike. So, it's going to get turned back into a road bike while a "proper" 650B city bike conversion is in the works...

    IS MDI going to be happy riding around the city with all its bumps and potholes on road tires? Have you checked to see what's the widest tire you can fit on this bike with fenders?

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  21. It's going to be 27"x32mm with my old Honjos. These wheels are like butter. Uh, except butter is slow. How about butter shot out of a cannon?

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  22. Better watch out, MID, on those hot summer streets that butter is going to sizzle.

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  23. Step away from the butter.

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  24. This is the Iron Chef of bike building. Take whatever you got, and voila, you get a French bike? On s'amuse pas...

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  25. It seems like a very nice ride. Reminds me of my Puch alpina that is assembled almost like this one you have.

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  26. Looks great! Love those long chainstays.

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  27. Nice work! Here's my version of same.

    http://i259.photobucket.com/albums/hh301/atticus119/photo.jpg

    The frame's a Sekai Special--Japanese bike boom model from the mid-seventies, designed in part and imported by Yellow Jersey in Madison. Components are mostly a Suntour Sprint group that came from a garage sale bike that I got for $15. I stripped down the bike and sold the frame and brakes for $65, so I actually made money on that one! The Sekai frame came from a grad student of mine as a gift. Most of the parts were just sitting around. Converted the drivetrain to a 1x6, added VO hammered fenders, a VO Porteur bar, MKS track pedals, and Tektro inverse levers. Had to buy a few of these things, but net cost of about $100=not bad for a speedy daily commuter.

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  28. I am impressed with your mechanical handy-ness!

    I can't believe it would all go together and work... even getting the brakes to fit properly all in one go.

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  29. Gee, it wasn't that hard. No need to be impressed. It's always easier to just build up a bike from parts than to fix something. Only takes a few minutes to adjust brakes and derailers. The whole assembly can go very quickly if there are no problems.

    In this case, I had to modify/replace some parts like wider loops for mountain brakes to go around road width bars, rebuild headset and figure out the vintage seatpost and French stem situation (uh), so it chewed up some time. Fortunately, I already had a nice properly-sized BB in there.

    But assembling a brand new frame with brand new parts is really simple and quick. Especially if the BB threads are chased and headset cups are already pressed, and you have the right tools + components, it is definitely a low effort, high reward kind of activity. Except fenders. :)

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  30. Very cool build. I recently rebuilt and Sold a Nomade II - the base model in the Motobecane 10 speed Line-up. And man that bike was so smooth and comfortable I seriously considered keeping it. Instead I took meticulous measurements and vowed to keep my eye out for a model with some Vitus tubing -like a Grand touring for instance ;-) Glad to see you not only kept the frame but purposed it. Here is a shot of my Moto http://www.flickr.com/photos/ryans_rando/6234497133/in/photostream

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  31. looks like a cute bike and nice ride! keep it, keep it,especially if you or your husband are afraid of your loved bicycles being stolen or vandalized in the city.Its always a comfort to know you have a cheap runaround as a plan B;-)

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  32. I wander off for a week and when I come back you guys have built a new bike! Neat.

    It's pretty interesting that you have gotten to the point where you can build a whole bike with just the stuff you have laying around. I love it when that works out, although yours has charm and mine usually have what the charitable might call "personality".

    It really is like cooking as one of your other posters mentioned. Sometimes we go shopping for just the right ingredients to make something wonderful and sometimes we just have to eat what we have and hope there's no weevils.

    Spindizzy

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