When in Doubt, Accessorize

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Late 40’s/early 50’s Mercier Meca Dural, as originally acquired – with incorrect 700c wheel size and various missing parts.

To counteract the too frequent headaches and setbacks on the mechanical side of bringing this Mercier Meca Dural back to life, I decided to focus on the “extras” that are often regarded as nonessential accessories – chain guards, lighting, and racks.  As fashion experts know, it’s the extras that really make one’s ensemble come together.

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Baffling chain guard hardware.

Mounting a chain guard, however, proved daunting.  I had a nice aluminum Rigid-branded guard from this same era, which fit well around the 46T Louis Verot chain ring.  But, one of the odd things about this bike is that all the frame mounted braze-ons and brackets are missing.  I had this chain guard hardware set, shown above, that included a baffling assemblage of clamps, threaded bolts, and numerous nuts and washers, but I couldn’t determine how to make this hardware work on this bike and with the Rigid-branded chain guard.

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Creative chain guard mount – spotted in downtown Portland.

Fortunately, while downtown waiting to catch a train a while back, I spotted this wonderful Raleigh Sports with an interesting chain guard mounting solution.  I snapped this photo with my iPhone so that I wouldn’t forget what I saw.  Meanwhile, I searched the internet for chain guard mounting lore.  Velo-Orange came to the rescue, with a nice discussion of different kinds of frame braze-ons for chain guard mounts, as well as how to configure hardware when your frame lacks such mounts.  You’ll note in the photo above that this cyclist has mounted the chain guard using eyebolts on the guard, which make it easy to adjust the chain guard when used with the long threaded bolts – with the threaded portion attaching the the frame clamp.  Using these ideas, I anticipate that I’ll get the Rigid chain guard mounted properly, but I can see that I’ll need a bit more in the way of hardware.

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Luxor 65 headlamp.

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Creases at back of lamp to hold cables in place.

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Very pretty branded Luxor stem clamp.

Moving on to this bike’s lighting system, I re-installed the front Luxor 65 headlamp back on to its Luxor branded stem mounting bracket.  Luxor lighting is very well thought of, and there is even one enthusiast who loves Luxor 65 so much that  the cyclist machined a copper heat sink for their beloved Luxor light so that LED’s could be used with this system.

I don’t plan to go that far, but I am impressed with the quality of this light.  When I was setting it up, I noticed creases at the back of the headlight shell that I thought were caused by the shell being dropped and dented.  But once I had the light mounted, I could see that the creases were in the perfect position to hold the front brake cables in place.  I don’t know if these dents were a fortunate mishap – but it works for me.  You’ll note that I used red cable housing for this build.  These housings are vintage from the 1970’s – they are a darker red than the new red Jaguar cables, and match the dark red color in the Mercier head badge.  Hopefully, the fashion police will agree with my choice.

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Installing the lighting meant coming up with a fork mounted dynamo, which this bike would have originally had (as there is no dynamo mount on the seat stays).  I located a vintage dynamo fork bracket, and installed it on the fork blade over some black cloth handlebar tape, to protect the steel fork.  For now, I have set up this very lightweight and free spinning Soubitez Argil dynamo, which is not from this era, but dates probably to the 1960’s.  If it works well, I’ll keep it.  If not, I’ll source a dynamo from this era.  You’ll see that the fork bracket includes a grounding set screw in the middle of the bracket.  This provides the electrical ground for this system, so it needs to contact the steel fork. But, you don’t want to screw it in too far, as it could damage the fork.

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Finally came the ideas for a rear rack.  I have had this interesting 1940’s steel rack in my shop for awhile.  I haven’t found the right project for it.  I dry mounted the rack on the bike and found that it seemed to fit well.

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This steel rack is reasonably light weight and features fully adjustable stays, so that it should fit on pretty much any configuration.  It is a bit rusted and needs to be cleaned and polished.  It’s not the strongest rack out there, but should work well for this bicycle, which was designed for city riding.

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One of the fun things about this Mercier Meca Dural, is that it served as the inspiration for Public Bike’s Champs-Elyisees d8i bicycle. The above photo provided their inspiration.  When I have completed the restoration of my Mercier Meca Dural, I hope to be equally inspired, and inspiring.

It’s Always Something

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F. Fiol rear rack

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F. Fiol front rack

Last Thanksgiving, in pre-holiday mode, I got on my 1980 Meral and rode to my local grocery store to stock up on a few supplies needed for our holiday dinner. One of the nice things about being a vegetarian means not carting around a 20 lb turkey.  However, I did discover that veggies can also be quite heavy.  When I loaded them into the panniers I had thrown over these modest F. Fiol front and rear racks (which mount only to the fenders and not to the frame), something bad happened.  The bike went nowhere.  The rear rack sunk down into the fender, and moved the wheel out of its dropout. I had to dismount and carry the bike to a sidewalk where I could troubleshoot the problem.  Unfortunately, the rear fender had altered its position so significantly that I could not ascend back home. I had to call for help.

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Blackburn rack

Once I had the Meral back at my shop, it became clear that I needed to replace the F. Fiol rear rack with something more robust.  Racks are very tricky, as most mechanics know, and it can be challenging to find the right rack to work with your bike to provide the utility you need.

I eyeballed a number of racks that I had on hand, and decided to go with this Blackburn rack which I had previously taken off a 1980’s Miyata touring bike.  It’s very strong and has a number of useful features.

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Nitto clamps

The rack fit perfectly to the frame, and was level without any modifications needed.  I used P-clamps to mount the rack stays to the seat stays (because this frame has no rack mounts).  I used these Nitto clamps, pictured above, which were leftover from another project.  These clamps are very robust, and protect the frame’s paint.  Even so, I taped the frame underneath the clamps with electricians tape, just in case.  Because…things can go wrong.

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Broken seat post bolt, removal slots created with Dremel

As I was putting the frame into the work stand, I managed to break the seatpost bolt head right off.  That might be one indication that I’ve put this frame in the shop stand too many times.  The ensuing panic finally resulted in relief when I took my Dremel and cut screwdriver slots into each side of the remaining bolt.  It took quite a while to rock the bolt in and out using a screwdriver and vise grips, but I finally got it free.   Yeehaw!

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Brake hangers – Surly and Problem Solvers.

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New seatpost bolt.

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Smooshed Mafac hanger.

I had contemplated changing my “smooshed” Mafac rear brake hanger with a different application.  Unfortunately, nothing else was suitable.  It is challenging to mount a rear hanger on a smaller frame.  The Surly hangers would have been perfect, except they were too long and didn’t allow for the requisite 20 mm of clearance above the Mafac straddle cable.  And, the Problem Solvers hangers were too thick at the seatpost mounting ring, so could not be used with the Meral seat post clamp.  (Problem Solvers is great resource and worth checking out.)  Fortunately, the Mafac hanger works just fine.

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Beautiful new T.A. 44-28 chainrings

Now that the bike was in the shop stand, it was time to think of other modifications that I had been contemplating for this bike.  I had been using a T.A. triple crankset with 48-40-28 rings.  The big ring had a massive wobble that I had corrected a few times by smashing it between two planks in my vise.

I decided that it was time to go with a smaller big ring, and convert the crankset to a double.  T. A. cranks, with their tiny bolt circle diameter should only be used with smaller chainrings, because the small diameter bolt circle can cause the big ring to flex under load.  So I sourced these beautiful new rings – a 44 and a 28, and converted the drive to a double.

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Shimano ac-7speed cassette – 11-28

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Acceptable chain line

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Simplex Super LJ front derailleur

Changing out the front rings meant an evaluation of the rear cassette.  I decided to use a 7 speed Shimano 11-28 cassette, to help adjust the resulting chain line.  The Simplex Super LJ is very happy with this double chain ring set up, and was designed to shift rings with large teeth differences.  Now, we’ll see how this works out on the road.