1970’s Meral 650B Randonneur


This bike came to me as a frame, fork, fenders, shifters, headset and rack.  It is a 1970s Meral 650b Randonneur. The Meral shop, located in France, built custom bikes up through the mid 80’s.  Their custom racks and fenders are as beautiful as their frames.  This frame features double rack mounts front and rear so that Meral’s custom camping racks could be added.  Note:  these photos were taken before final assembly and QC – the brake holders are mounted backwards.  The closed section of the holder should be facing the front of the bike, so that the pads don’t slide out!  (Everybody knows that, right?)




The fenders are stainless steel – and looked beautiful after just a bit of polishing.   I needed a number of parts to get the bike completed, and ended up deciding to build the wheelset using a set of NOS Italian Gnutti hubs, since the spacing at the rear was 120 mm.  It can be difficult to find a nice wheelset with this spacing these days, and I didn’t want to cold set the frame to wider spacing, as I usually strive to keep a wonderful bike like this as original as possible.

2032 2026The hubs are very pretty and look a lot like older Campy hubs.

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I used Weinmann 650b rims, and removed the labels for a clean look.  Even though this bike features through-the-frame dynamo wiring, I decided not to use a generator hub, both to save weight and to keep the bike simple and closer to original.  I am not a huge fan of generator lighting, and find that for the riding I do I can use simple, lightweight, and inexpensive battery-powered lights.


The original cork spacers are still in perfect condition.  However, my fender line needs some more work.  Installing and fine tuning racks and fenders can easily take as long as building up the bike itself.  This frame is designed with tight clearances, so I could only use 32 mm tires.  I chose these Grand Bois Cypres tires from Compass Bicycles, and they are fabulous.  The ride is really just about the smoothest I have experienced.  The only down side may be their puncture resistance, which I haven’t put to the test.

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I used Simplex Super LJ derailleurs, which are not only beautifully made, but work perfectly with this drive train.  A Stronglight crankset and IRD 6 speed freewheel finish off the drive train.  The IRD is just a placeholder – I no longer trust these freewheels due to their high failure rate, which I have experienced personally on two separate freewheels in use for under a thousand miles.

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I used NOS Zeus pedals, which are some of the nicest I have seen, and Mafac levers to match the Mafac Racer centerpulls.  The bars are Nitto World Randonneur and the stem is a French sized SR.


The frame was built with Columbus Aelle tubing, for a stronger frameset, or perhaps for a heavier rider.  Even so, the bike weighs 26.6 lbs, including the rack fenders, Brooks saddle and pedals – that is amazing.  The paint is still very vibrant and in beautiful condition.  More photos of this bike can be found on my FB page.

8 thoughts on “1970’s Meral 650B Randonneur

  1. Nola, is the cork on the chainstay bridge what comes stock with that particular brand of fender? I ask because the sad, little leather washers Velo Orange provides do not hamper sound or rubbing enough for my liking. That giant, hunk ‘o cork looks like it would do the trick on my rigs.

    • Hi Josh,

      The fenders are custom ones made by Meral. I believe the cork spacers are original. I have been carving up wine corks to use as spacers and it seems to work well as long as the cork is pretty intact already. Yes, I haven’t found the leather washers to be particularly good at damping. The best part is getting to open another bottle of wine…

  2. hi nola,great bikes you find and recreate/restore to a stunning level….your bikes just “look right” ! where do you get them? is the “80 meral still available?seat tube and top tube lengths? bob

    • Hi Bob, thanks for your kind words. Both of the Merals I have were purchased from a French eBay seller. The 1980 model is my own personal bike. I will post the geometry for this bike in case you are interested in it.

  3. Who makes the low rider rack you have on this bike in your gallery photos ? Looks like a fairly adjustable rack as far as the mounting goes.

    • Hi Cory, the low rider front rack is a Zefal. Probably made in the early 80’s. Unfortunately Zefal doesn’t make this rack any more. It is very light weight.

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