Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Motobecane Grand Touring, Town & Country Edition

Motobecane Urban Grand Touring
The Co-Habitant has been riding his Motobecane redux creation for the past month, and as far as what he was looking for it is a mission accomplished: The bike is nice enough to enjoy riding, but not so nice that he is unwilling to leave it locked up in the city. 

Motobecane Urban Grand Touring
This project started out as a game of sorts, where the idea was to build up a complete bike using only parts we already had.

Motobecane Grand Touring Frame
The frame is a Motobecane Grand Touring that an acquaintance gave the Co-Habitant a year ago. Made of Vitus 888 tubing, it is nicer than the Super Mirage model of his former roadbike. Being a touring frame, it is also somewhat more relaxed, so it made sense to build it up as a transportation bicycle.  

Motobecane, Fender Attachment
Many of the components were moved over from the other Motobecane frame. 

Vintage Belleri Porteur Bars
Others had been acquired in the past, waiting for the right project. It was particularly nice to finally have occasion to use these original Belleri handlebars. Surprisingly, they fit bar-end shifters. The combination looks eccentric, but it's convenient. The stem could be longer, but this one was already filed down to accommodate the French  sizing, and we did not want to ruin another one.

VO City Levers, Shimano Bar-Ends
Fizik handlebar tape, in brown. The only exception to the "must already own it" rule, I bought this in Vienna (the brown and honey colours are not sold int he US). "City" brake levers from Velo Orange - these are very convincingly "vintagey."

Sugino Alpine Crankset
The least vintagey part of the bike is the Sugino Alpina crankset. We figure that the out of place crankset and bar-ends lend a sense of humor to a bike that may otherwise have come across as too perfectly French. This way it feels more approachable. 

Vintage Brooks Colt
Speaking of approachable, initially we were not sure whether this vintage Brooks Colt I'd acquired some time ago could ever be made ridable, as it had a nasty ridge along the center. I'd tried the "blocking" (water soaking) method, but the ridge persisted. However, the Co-Habitant managed to flattened it after a couple of rides on the water-softened leather and reports that it is now quite comfortable. 

Spanniga Pixeo Tail Light
He mounted a Spanniga Pixeo tail light on the rear fender, and uses a removable CayEye headlight on the handlebars.

Motobecane Urban Grand Touring
In the future there might be a rear rack in this bicycle's future, but for now it sports a roomy (but rather inconvenient to open and close) Minnehaha saddlebag.

Locking Up
I have to say that I am thoroughly enjoying the existance of this bicycle: Finally we can go out and leave our bikes locked up in the city for hours, without the Co-Habitant constantly worrying about his. It is by no means a "beater," but it is sufficiently unprecious for him to relax about its fate.

Motobecane Urban Grand Touring
An additional benefit of having built up this bike, is that it showed us how different two models from the same manufacturer and vintage could be. This Grand Touring frame is exactly the same size as his former Super Mirage, but the front wheel on this bike is considerably "further out" - probably a combination of a more relaxed headtube angle and more fork rake. Unfortunately, he no longer has the other frame to compare exact measurements or to photograph them side-by-side. And while he expected for a bike with Vitus 888 tubing to feel nicer than a hi-ten bike, the difference between the two (with the same wheelset and tires) still managed to surprise him. The ride is considerably cushier and the bicycle is much lighter in weight (26lb with the build shown, not including the saddlebag). Having ridden this bike myself and enjoyed it a lot more than any other '70s-80s Motobecane bike I'd tried earlier, I am now curious to try the mixte version. A number of readers have written me about being disappointed with the ride quality of the vintage French bikes that one typically finds for sale in the US, so this might be a good model to look for. More pictures of this bicycle here, for anyone interested.

37 comments:

  1. I would be very tempted to install a front rack (frame mounted of course) on this bike together with a wine crate. But that's just me. The bike looks nice, although I couldn't imagine riding a bike with handlebars lower than the seat. Tried it once for some time - hated it. I also must say that the deraileur spoils it all for me. It's so supermarket-like...

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  2. Do you mean that you dislike this specific derailleur, or derailleurs on city bikes in general?..

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  3. As long as everything works, it's a good build. Well done! That rear derailleur model was a workhorse during the late 70's and early 80's and often ended up as a replacement for many of the less functional derailleurs which came on Motobecanes. I must agree about the stem needing to be longer. When drop bars are replaced with other models one almost always needs to add some extra length to the stem in order to get into the proper position. But this bike with a rear rack -- for city use -- perfect!

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  4. Despite the French handlebars and fenders, the derailleur gearing and the bar ends, there is something about this bike that gives it the look of a pathracer. Am I wrong? Maybe DH needs to pick up a 531 Raleigh "beater" for his next project.

    Bill

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  5. Those are some nifty handlebars!
    I had a Super Mirage set up as a fixie for a while and was never quite happy with the feel of it. It wasn't terrible just... meh.

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  6. Maybe it's because I'm older now but the riding posture of this bike makes my neck and back cry for.....mercy!! :^(((

    Give me a simple Cruiser any day!! :^))

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  7. This bike is lively. Stem is 10cm now. Would be better with a 12cm (but actually more like 15cm which doesn't exist) stem, but I don't feel like sanding down a new 12 just for 2cm gain. If a used one shows up, then sure.

    The bike is light-ish as shown, around 26 lbs. That's including vintage 27" wheels, steel belted Gatorskins and old-timey seat clamp.

    The Vitus cromoly frame feels nicer than hi-ten Supermirage although I am not sure how different the geometry really is. It's a softer ride. Floats over bumps in the road. My other road bike has Fat Franks, so my expectations for a smooth ride are quite high.

    The narrow saddle works with the low grips, but I can think of more comfortable positions to be in for a 20-30+ mi ride. This bike isn't meant for such long distances.

    It's got a good range, 34x32 to 48x14. Shifting on the 5 speed is butter-smooth. Going to this crank was the best decision ever as far as the build goes. Perfect gears (old was 50 x 42 or something like that), excellent mechanical shape, noiseless.

    And best of all, this frame has better clearances with these Honjos that are installed perfectly this time around, with fire trail clearances.

    Woo!

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  8. The frame is small for him, so despite the positioning of the handlebars he is fairly upright.

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  9. Of course the stem could stay and the handlebars change, making for a little better reach.

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  10. glad to see grease on the chainring! bike is almost too clean and perfect for me to believe it gets used.

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  11. Nice build. Very tasteful and practical.
    It takes me back to my first tenspeed, a Motobecane Mirage that I bought when I went off to college. Everybody I knew rode Motos and Peugeots, Raleighs and Schwinns in those days. One of my roommates was a racer and let me ride his Grand Jubilee, a great ride, after he scored a Masi. Now that was an amazing bike.
    MT Cyclist

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  12. Anon 8:08 - I think the photos blur out the imperfections. Both the frame and the components are well used. Only new thing is the handlebar tape.

    Anon 7:27 - What handlebars do you see working here, Albatross?

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  13. I am not looking for alternative bars. This bike is meant to be more leaned and aggressive.

    If I get tired of this, it will be back to drops. I don't like mustache bars. Not a big fan of Albatross bars. These bars are perfect (close second are VO Porteur bars and perhaps even better are the Bella Ciao city bars). I have north roads on my Pashley pointing down like these here, but they are somewhat higher relative to saddle.

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  14. I recently acquired the mixte version of this bicycle and I also have a mixte super mirage of a similar vintage. I will try to do a little comparison once I get the grand touring up and running, but at first glance, I don't see a huge difference in geometry between the two. Maybe the mixtes are different than the diamond frame re geometry?

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  15. I have a Moto Grand Sprint from somewhere around 1980, also with 888 tubing, set up as a fixie. I too rather like the ride quality. Flexible and light. Plus it's a beautiful burnt orange color, really turns heads. Actually, that's not true, but I think she's about the most beautiful bike in town, and that's what really matters.

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  16. That front derailleur w/ the row of graduated holes and swoopiness looks French enough, even if we know it's Japanese. Those are very nice period details. Get some patina on that very mechanical looking crank and it will pair better & better with the FD. It all looks good.

    The reversed seat clamp has a period air as well but wouldn't you rather sit back? Must be some reason for this. Turning the clamp around would also get you further from the bars.

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  17. Love the bars, I have similar Philippe ones on a Peugeot. I realise bike fit is a personal thing, but to my eyes this machine looks too short for its rider. Before looking into stem length, I'd try shoving the saddle backwards. It will take weight off the hands so you could probably lower the bars too, giving more stretch as well as comfort overall. Just my two cents. The bicycle is lovely.

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  18. It's called Vitus 888 because the three main tubes are straight gauge with wall thickness 0.8mm. Butted tubes at 0.8/0,5 are lighter but will ride about the same. This is as light as anyone would normally go for a rider of MDIs stature. It's very unusually light for a production frame.

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  19. Amanda - mixtes usually *are* different (and not in a good way) from the diamond frames, not only because they are mixtes but also because they usually come in smaller sizes, necessitating changes to the angles. I would still be very interested in how the Super Mirage & Grand Touring mixte compare. Please post pictures as well!

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  20. Re the saddle placement - yes, he likes it forward. Has it that way on all his bikes.

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  21. Can you give a quick review of the Spanniga Pixeo taillight? Seems perfect.

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  22. Anthony - There is a very thorough review from Somervillain on Boston Retro Wheelmen; see the comments as well.

    I also have a post specifically about using the auto setting on this and other lights with that feature here that might be useful.

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  23. Seeing his bent wrists, I worry about our man in the riding pictures on Flickr. I used to place my saddle forward too, thinking less reach and "a bit more upright" equaled "comfortable". In fact I was cramped, and it put too much weight on my hands. My wrist were bent, and the nerves in there too. I learned the hard way by my little fingers going numb for months. Shoving the saddle back has shifted my weight to the butt and off the hands. This allowed me to lower the handlebars, so my hands can be in line with my underarms. No more stress on the wrists. I stretched like that, and I've never been this comfortable.

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  24. Robert - I would have agreed with you a year ago. Now I think it depends much more on the individual cyclist (not only their anatomy, but also their muscle tone) and on the frame's tubing & geometry.

    My own preference has shifted from wanting the saddle as far back as possible to preferring it more forward - which has corresponded with me gaining more abdominal and arm muscles, as well as with riding nicer frames. I think this whole issue is more complicated than most of us realise.

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  25. I really like how this bike turned out! Well done.

    It reminds me in many ways of my Jeunet, which started life as a road bike (a very light Reynolds 531 road bike of 22lb) and has wound up as a semi-upright porteur-ish bike with porteur bars, a front rack, fenders, saddlebag and hub dynamo lighting. I continually marvel at how comfortable I am on this bike, and how confident I am riding it in any sort of traffic. Even in its current form, it's lightning quick and only weighs 27lb. It's comfortable over bumps (to a degree-- the 27mm tires are kind of limiting). It's also sufficiently "used" with a hodgepodge of parts and lacks any real collector's value that I don't really care what happens to it when it's locked up... it gets ridden in all weather and often gets left out at night (it only gets put away if the forecast calls for heavy rain through the night). It has a durable yet unrefined powdercoat finish, so I don't worry about scratching and scraping.

    It's an example, much like your Moto GT, of how a "frankenbike" can be so much more than the sum of its parts, and a more enjoyable bike than it was originally designed to be.

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  26. I was trying to ride in circles at like 2mph on wet uneven grass in these pics. I don't usually sit like that, or hold the brakes the entire time either.

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  27. Agreed V, it's highly complicated. I wouldn't dare to generalize on saddle positions, my little note should read "bent wrists and how I dealt with them".

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  28. Love the Old Motobecanes and you have done a great job with this Grand Touring. I built up a Nomade II this summer and seriously considered keeping it because it fit so well and rode so smoothly but sold it and have decided to pursue a Grand Touring or Jubliee in the same size. Your comments only confirm my plan thanks for the post.

    The Nomade
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/ryans_rando/6235021502/in/set-72157627746570869/

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  29. WOWEE! Another neat bike for pennies. I love it.

    I understand the desire for a "nice" bike that is also not so dear as to break your heart if it goes home one day with a "snapper-up of unwanted trifles", but I think I'd be less distraught to lose a brand-spanky-new Surly or equivalent than this neat old thing(assuming a adequate insurance settlement of course).

    I was also going to jump in with the Vitus 888 de-code but was beaten to it. Damn. Not too many opportunities on this forum to be the expert pedant anymore.

    Spindizzy

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  30. So, uh, Somervillain, where do you park this Juenet? Just asking, no reason...

    Spindizzy

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  31. I think it's a gorgeous daily rider bike (and always LOVE projects),it turned out nice,congraulations :) Thanks for the post,the second best thing about other people's bike pjects is follow-ups to read how they like them.

    Disabled Cyclist

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  32. So, uh, Somervillain, where do you park this Juenet? Just asking, no reason...

    Ha, well not included in that "27lb" comment is the 10 lb accessory I carry everywhere with it: an Abus "Amsterdam-proof" chain lock, with which I lock the bike. So knock yourself out...

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  33. Hey, didn't he swear off vintage bikes too? just can't help yourselves...
    lovely build. And did that belleri handlebar come from ebay? I was watching one, but didn't have the clams to actually buy at the time...great handlebars! And there's a mixte version? Oh je veux ca bicyclette! I aim to someday find a mixte or small person bike with higher end tubing...

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  34. Not ebay, just sort of fell into my lap... Ahem.

    And I never swore off vintage bikes, although I generally think they are a pain, especially if you need to worry about French sizes, etc. I have Phil cups in Swiss size, who else makes that? Nobody. Weird seat post size. Weird stem size. At least the BB interface is now standard. Vintage bikes like this one are always "projects."

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  35. I'm looking for touch-up paint to match the blue on the 1981 Motobecane Grand Touring, the same color as the bike pictured here. Can anyone suggest a place to find it?

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  36. Oh I'll second that. I have this exact Moto GT and would be interested in the touch-up paint, if such a thing exists...

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