A Mystery Vintage Touring Bike Courtesy of Fred DeLong

I discovered Fred Delong’s publications much too late in my life.  DeLong’s Guide to Bicycles and Bicycling, first published in 1974 (the year I graduated from high school), is a treasure trove of both technical and non-geeky information, and includes photos and material I have never seen elsewhere.

Fred was a lifelong cyclist, author, and bike guru, and was inducted into the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame in 2001, six years after he passed away in 1995.

His book is unusual for its time in American cycle publishing.  It features French, Italian, and British built bicycles, and includes discussions of 650b tires with supple sidewalls mounted on low trail camping bikes, avoidance of toe overlap on touring bikes, and the importance of clearance in frame builds to allow for wider tires, as well as eyelets and baze-ons for fenders and racks.  Sound familiar?

The above photos are close up crops of the original photo shown as figure 2.11 in DeLong’s 1974 guide.  While most of the other photos in the book contain credits or are otherwise referenced, this image was not referenced or credited anywhere in the book.  That means we don’t know who built this bike.

So, let’s start with what we do know about this bike.  According to DeLong, this bike’s features are as follows:

“Wide tubular platform carrier with pannier bags mounted…

Hollow aluminum alloy rims on Phil Wood sealed precision bearing hubs…

Alloy mudguards, front with sliding fender flap in raised position and built-generator lighting…

Mafac Cantilever tandem brakes, rear brake cable direct routing (200 degree cable arc) with hooded levers

Aluminum alloy Randonneur handlebars

531 chrome-molybdenum braze-welded frame – 71 degree head and seat tube angles

15-speed wide-range gearing (23-116) on TA alloy crank and chainwheel set.”

Remember, this book was published in 1974. The photos in the book are all probably from at least one or two years earlier.  Phil Wood founded his hub manufacturing company back in 1971 when, as a racer he became frustrated with hubs developing play and needing an overhaul after each competition. That led him to explore sealed bearing designs for hubs and bottom brackets.  By the time of the 1976 BikeCentennial, Phil Wood’s hubs were all the rave, with touring cyclists ordering up Phil Wood hubs for their wheel builds, in preparation for a cross-country journey.

The above photo depicts an extremely unusual (for the time) sloping top tube.  The builder’s logos are not clear enough to make out, but the down tube seems to indicate “XP SR”.  The seat tube reflects some circular and elliptical logos, presumably also indicating the builder/manufacturer and/or frame tubing transfers.  Is this a custom frame?  I think not.  A custom frame wouldn’t ordinarily have what appear to be model monikers on the down tube. As DeLong indicates in the text, the frame is made of 531 steel and is fillet brazed.  The rear brake features through the frame routing for the “200 degree” cable arc.  While not necessarily a custom feature, it is also certainly unusual for a non-custom frame built in the early 1970’s.

The other intriguing elements of this bike include:

An extension (presumably) on the Mafac levers

A cover (or something similar) on the rear derailleur

A front tire which appears to be wider than the rear tire

A very long reach stem – possibly to accommodate a shorter than desired top tube length

Generous fork rake combined with slack angles

Half step gearing with a tiny third ring

Who made this bike?  Ideas and speculations are welcome.  In the meantime, I discovered a bicycle ridden by DeLong which went up for sale a while back.  The photo below shows the bike, a French JB Louvet built with Reynolds 531 tubing, in disrepair.  But, it may give some clues about DeLong’s interests and preferences.

Fred Delong’s JB Louvet – courtesy of http://bikeville.blogspot.com/

 

Removing and Replacing Vintage Bicycle Grips

1947 C. Daudon blue Velox grips

The baby blue original Velox grips on my 1947 Camille Daudon were faded, dry, cracking and incomplete.  I usually love to re-use all original equipment on any vintage bicycle I restore, but these grips were damaged beyond repair.

Wood grips from the 1940’s

Earlier period vintage bicycles sometimes feature wood grips, which require a different algorithm for restoration and replacement.  The Daudon’s grips were rubber, and so I searched the internet for a suitable replacement.

I was lucky to find these French NOS Felt grips which matched the shape of original Velox grips exactly.  The blue color is very vibrant, and is a little bit lighter than the color of the original grips, which have faded and darkened over time.

The Daudon’s Stronglight crankset features matching blue highlights.  Even the crank bolt is colorized.

When I restore or “preserve” any vintage bicycle, I do my best not to ruin any original parts or accessories in the process.  I wanted to remove the original grips without damaging them. Parts that I remove and replace are kept for a future owner of the bicycle.  That’s the best way to document a bicycle’s provenance.  Using a surfactant, in this case Finish LIne’s pink bike wash, is the best way to soften the dry grips and begin the removal process.  By slowly and carefully inserting the blade of a small narrow screwdriver, and then spraying the bike wash into the opening, the dry grips began to soften.  After about 1/2 hour of this process I was able to remove both original grips intact without destroying them.

For installing the new grips, I will use that most mysterious of products:  hairspray.  An adhesive not to be messed with.

Before that, I will remove the brake levers and stem from the alloy bar, clean and polish all the parts, and then put everything back together.  This bicycle’s stem mounts directly to the steerer tube, and is fashioned from lugged steel, chromed, with sets of 8 mm mounting bolts on the stem and steerer sections.  The Daudon’s levers are alloy, but unbranded.  The handlebar assembly will be lovely and functional when completed, and then I can move on to the rest of the restoration process.

1947 Ideale Model 65 Saddle

1947 “Hawk Nose” Ideale Model 65 with duralumin rails

Ideale Saddles were often a builder’s or rider’s choice on quality bicycles produced from the early 1900’s to nearly the end of the previous century.  The manufacturer,Tron and Berthet, began operations in France way back in 1890.  While they made many highly prized saddles, some of the most interesting lightweight models feature these large duralumin rails.  Together with the supplied duralumin clamp, these saddles were lighter weight than any competitors’ models, some weighing in at 250 grams less than a standard saddle.  This Ladies Model 65 weighs only 15 ounces, or 425 grams.  For comparison, the smaller standard Brooks B-17 weighs 540 grams.

It is a lovely saddle, having come equipped on my 1947 Camille Daudon, and was in nice condition for its 70 plus years of age.  While the leather was a bit dry, there was no cracking and the leather had not separated from the rivets anywhere on the saddle.  The seatpost is alloy also. I am guessing that the seatpost was custom made by Camille Daudon.  It has a closed top, is feather weight, and should polish up quite beautifully.

And so, I was looking forward to cleaning and polishing the beautiful alloy Daudon seatpost and Ideale seatpost clamp.  The entire Ideale clamp assembly is alloy, except for the axle and bolts, which are steel.

Even the round washers are alloy.  However, there is a down side to these lightweight components.  As you can see above, one of the alloy clamp pieces has broken apart and the other is cracked.  These seatpost clamps require a lot of torque to prevent the saddle from altering its position while cycling over bumps and other surface anomalies.  The alloy clamps probably could not withstand the torque needed to keep the saddle in place while riding.  That means sourcing some undamaged clamps to fit these wide duralumin rails.

 

If you are interested in the history of Ideale saddles, you might want to check out this post from Eric Anschutz (ebykr), who recently published an overview of the company’s history.