On this Friday evening, with the gentle cool breeze blowing across my summer garden, I thought it would be nice to share some of my favorite photos of my bicycle restorations from the 1920’s through the 1950’s:
Finding new vintage bicycle catalogues is a joyous occasion, especially when they feature a bike in my collection. I really love vintage Peugeot bicycles – they are particularly enjoyable due to their emphasis on rider comfort, as you can see depicted in the drawing above.
I restored this 1940’s Peugeot without knowing its date of manufacture. The bike came to me with many missing parts, including a missing wheelset and fenders.
One of the things that made me want to restore this incomplete collection of parts into a complete bicycle was the presence of the two original keys to the fork lock – very unusual, given that many other parts were missing.
This 1947 Peugeot Mixte is built with high end Vitus Rubis tubing, with an H75623 serial number. A while back a Canadian cyclist contacted me with a Peugeot Serial Number spreadsheet which indicated that this bike was a rare 1947 model. I reviewed his analysis and agreed with his conclusion.
But that was before I had any 1947 Peugeot catalogues. Now, with the the 1947 catalogue newly available, I believe that the bike is indeed a 1947 model. – the PHL 55 model depicted above, and not the other mixte offered in 1947 – the PRD model.
Many thanks to the BikeBoomPeugeot site for sharing this catalog – this site is a wonderful resource for Peugeot enthusiasts. The 1947 catalog features many interesting bicycles from the post WWII era after France was liberated and bicycle production in France was once again underway.
While problem solving a fork issue on the 1940’s/50’s Mercier Meca Dural that I have been restoring, I thought about changing its headset so that I could mount a different fork with a slightly shorter steerer tube.
That effort was, sadly, unsuccessful. But in the process, I had to compare various French headsets that I had on hand to determine which one might solve the problem of needing a slightly shorter stack height.
One of the headsets in my bin was a 1950’s Stronglight Competition headset. The rest of the French headsets I had one hand were 1970’s French headsets – probably all of which were made by Stronglight, but which are unbranded. When I began comparing this older headset to the (relatively) newer ones, I was amazed at the difference in quality.
The cups and races are beautifully machined, and are of much higher quality than the their 1970’s counterparts, shown below.
The photos don’t quite do justice to the quality differential. But, if you hold these cups and races in your hands and look at them with bare eyes, the difference is clear. According to this helpful post from Classic Lightweights, the 1950’s Competition headset is made from hardened chrome nickel steel, and feature V shaped races which provide for more bearing contact (thanks to Jim at Bertin Classic Bicycles for clarifying this important distinction). The newer 1970’s versions are made from lower grade steel, and have U shaped bearing races.
The nice branding on all of the pieces really motivated me to try to make this headset work on my restoration project.
The original fork was seriously compromised with rusting and pitting on the fork blades. I had sanded off the pitting and have been searching for the right solution which would result in either an original newly chromed fork, or an original newly painted fork. I was not able to find any painter or chrome-plater in the Portland region that I wanted to trust with this vintage fork. So, I looked around at the forks I had on hand. One of them was a 1970’s fork from a silver Peugeot. The steerer tube was shorter than the original fork by about 5 mm. Drinking some Kool-Aid, I decided that maybe I could make this work, after all, the fork looked perfect with the Meca Dural aluminum frame, as you can see from the above photo.
After doing a bit of research, I determined that I could eliminate the lock washer and instead apply some Locktite to the steerer threads. That would save about 2 or 3 mm. But, to make this work I needed to Dremel off the pin on the top of the 1970’s headset that I originally envisioned as my solution to the problem. Okay, that was easy.
Unfortunately, when I dry mounted the fork into the headtube, I forgot about the space that the 5/32 inch bearings would need. So, I ended up with only 2 or 3 threads showing on the steerer tube above the upper cup, after installing the bearings. That’s not enough. You really need at least 5 or 6 threads showing in order to feel confident that the steerer tube will stay in adjustment, especially if you are going to remove the lock washer.
So, it’s back to the drawing board with the fork. I either need to find an appropriate replacement fork, or the right company to chrome-plate or paint the original fork so that the bike can be restored to its original glory. But, the 1950’s Stronglight Competition headset gives further evidence to the quality of vintage cycling components as compared to their modern day counterparts.