I’ve had a long and interesting relationship with this early 1980’s Meral Sportif. It’s actually the bike that inspired me to start this blog. I acquired it as a frame and fork back in 2012. It was going to be the platform for a 650b conversion – the first one I had attempted.
While the conversion to 650b went fine, there were some issues with the bike: the frame was slightly too small for me, and the bike had serious toe overlap with the fenders I had installed. I later changed the build in a number of different ways, installing upright bars and different fenders that had a flush connection to the front stays, so as not to engage my shoes. I put a lot of miles on the bike, and enjoyed tweaking the components, but a couple of years ago I stripped it down to the frame, and set it aside, not knowing what I would do with it.
Recently I have been searching for a project that I could actually start and finish within a reasonable period of time, having become frustrated with a number of other vintage builds presenting road blocks at every turn. And, I have been wanting to move toward selling many of the bikes in my too large collection. Due to the pandemic there’s not only a shortage of new bikes and parts, but also a renewed interest in cycling. So, this seems the perfect time to thin out the stable.
My first thought was to accept the bike as it is: a small frame designed around 700c wheels. I focused on making the bike true to its French heritage and to its original purpose as a sport riding machine, but with enough all-rounder gear to make it useful for all kinds of riding.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that even with these 32mm Paselas, there’s enough room for fenders at the fork crown and rear brake bridge. I installed a set of beautiful Shimano 600 side pulls, which work very well with the Dia Compe levers on the Phillipe bars. The bike has its original Shimano 600 headset, French sized, so I didn’t mind mixing all kinds of components, both Japanese and French.
The drive train consists of a Sugino GT crankset with 50/45/34 rings, paired with a NOS Suntour Ultra 13-30 6 speed freewheel. This gives a wide gear inch range of 30 – 104 – perfect for full speed blasting and hill climbing. I used a Shimano Deore long cage rear derailleur, the same one I have always used with the bike, as well as a vintage Shimano front derailleur.
Gear changes are seamless with these Suntour stem-mounted ratcheting shifters. It’s nice to have the shifters close at hand rather than on the downtube. Previously I had installed a converted Huret shifter clamp, allowing Shimano pods to be mounted.
The “new” 700c wheelset consists of vintage Campagnolo Record hubs laced to new Mavic Open Pro rims, a set that I built a while back. As expected, these wheels are smooth running and spin forever.
The rear rack adds utility, but with the porteur bars up front, a front rack would fit nicely as well. The frame size is 49 cm (seat tube) X 51 (top tube), perfect for someone about 5’2 to 5’4, but with a shorter inseam than my 30 inches. I’ll be listing this bike along with some of my others over the winter months and I hope its new owner gets to enjoy it as much as I have.