I’ve completed my rebuild of this lovely R. Ducheron. When I received the bike as shipped from France it featured a newly painted framed, and a mix of components dating from the 1950’s through the 1970’s. Determining when the frame was actually built has proved challenging, and for a long while I couldn’t figure out which direction I would go with my restoration.
Sadly, the bike was not shipped in a standard bike box, perhaps to save shipping charges. And, the seller did not protect the drop-outs, so the fork ended up with some alignment damage, as well as the rear triangle. A little strong-arming took care of this. Then, I took to evaluating the components to determine when this bike might have been built. The Normandy round hole hubs, with “Normandy” in quotes, and the style of Super Champion labels on the rims would date the bike to the 1950’s or early ’60’s. But, some of the other components “original” to the bike were not consistent with this time frame.
After disassembly, the frame and fork weighed in at a respectable 5.5 lbs. Rear spacing is 120 mm, with the front at 95 mm. The effective top tube length is 53 cm, with a 49 cm seat tube. With fork rake at 45 mm and the top tube angle measuring a slack 72 degrees, trail comes it at a very high 66 mm with its “original” 700c wheelset.
The style of the Huret drop-outs would mean that the bike had to have been made on or after the time that Huret introduced its first parallelogram rear derailleur in the late 1950’s.
But, this puzzling tab on the downtube, which would have been for aligning the clamp-on downtube shifters is accompanied by brazed on shifter bosses. And that would mean that someone brazed the bosses on later than when the original frame was built.
But finally I decided to forget about all of that and just build the bike into one that I would enjoy riding on my Portland commutes, while remaining true to its French heritage. While the bike was shipped with 700c wheels, it seemed to cry out for a 650b conversion. To accomplish this, I used a set of 1960’s Maxi-Car hubs laced to Super Champion rims, along with Mafac Raid brakes.
For the drivetrain, I was stuck with Huret, but decided to use a more performance oriented component group than the Huret Alvit set which came with the bike. I happened to have a matched set of Huret Success rear (titanium) and front derailleurs which were in good shape.
Since I wanted to have the shifters close to my hands, I installed some Shimano shifter pods (sorry!), and used some French threaded bolts to attach them to the Huret shifter bosses. From there, using a wonderful hinged stem clamp from Rivendell, I mounted some Simplex Retrofriction shifters. They work amazingly well with the Huret derailleurs, and make up for any shortcomings in the derailleurs themselves.
I installed a 5 speed Maillard 14-30 freewheel, which coupled with the original Stronglight 49D crankset provides a nice gear range for the hills I encounter on my commute.
The original Ideale saddle is a Rebour model, and it is in excellent condition. It’s mounted to a Simplex SLJ seatpost, also looking quite lovely.
For the rest of the build I kept the original custom steel front rack with alloy stays, but discarded the oddball Ava stem (with its 7mm bolt) and Phillipe porteur bars in favor of these comfy V-O tourist bars with a tall Nitto stem sanded to French size. I also discarded the original Weinmann levers in favor of the Mafac model, to match the Raid brakes. The rear hanger already featured a Mafac piece for use in threading the cable from below as is needed on a step through frame such as this.
Here’s a photo comparing this bike to one of Ducheron’s competitors – Camille Daudon. While the Ducheron is not a mixte frame, lacking the extra set of stays to the rear drop outs, I did not experience any unpleasant frame flex on my test ride today.
Riding the bike today I was pleasantly surprised to be enjoying the smooth ride, comfy Rebour-blessed saddle, and well-performing drive train, even though the Mafac brakes squealed like crazy (after adjusting for toe-in and sanding the rims and brake pads.) So, I’ll be trying out some different brake pads, and I still need to mount the original fenders, and add a frame pump and bottle cage. I’m looking forward to getting this bike out on the road and putting some mileage on this lovely artisanal masterpiece.