An R. Ducheron City Bike

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.

R. Ducheron – Sneak Preview

I’ve purchased another artisanal French bike to add to my collection, this one built by Robert Ducheron, who I had heard of but didn’t know much about.

While the bike arrived in a well taped box, charmingly covered with these oddball postage stamps, it had been packed using Styrofoam.  I wish that product had never been invented.  The stuff broke apart all over the frame and components, leaving its tiny carcinogenic particles embedded in every nook and cranny.

Unpacking the bike, I was amazed at the attention to detail at the drop-outs and seat stay.  I can imagine the hours of file work needed to produce the beautiful crescents at each drop-out.  The concave seat stay attachment was a Ducheron signature.

This is a step-through frame with a sloping top tube, not technically a mixte.  The attachment lug of the single sloping top tube to the seat tube is a design I haven’t seen before.  I’m excited to ride the bike and see how this method feels, and whether it helps to control the wobbly feel that some sloping top tube frames exhibit.

Other custom details include through the frame cable routing for the rear brake, and a custom from rack.

The condition of the paint surprises me, and I wonder if it has been re-painted.  If so, someone did a fabulous job.  The R. Ducheron logo is hand painted, and the rest of the sky blue paint is pristine.

I’m not sure how to date this bike.  The components appear to be a mix of late 50’s to mid to late 60’s.  The wheelset appears oldest, with the round hole Normandy hubs (logo in quotes), mated to yellow label Super Champion rims.  The freewheel is a Cyclo 64.  The crankset is a Stronglight with Dural rings.  The drive train is Huret, with a rear Allvit, a derailleur which works very well but suffers from being regarded as low-end.  The Phillipe porteur bars are a nice touch.

Advert from the 1950’s

Advert from the 1970’s

Some preliminary research into Robert Ducheron (b. 1910) bicycles indicates that he was an active builder before and through the WWII years, up to the late 50’s.  There seems to be a hiatus, and then he reappears again in the early 1970’s.  In the 1970’s advert, there is a reference to A.H.R. tubing, which seems to be a proprietary tube set developed by Ducheron, or exclusively licensed to him.  I’ll be curious to see if I can determine the type of tubing used to build this custom frame once I get the bike disassembled for restoration.

Winter Ride Around Canby, Oregon

For the past several years, I have been drawn south to Canby from my Portland home base for winter cycling.

The Willamette River bends in a sharp s-curve at Canby before heading north toward its confluence with the mighty Columbia River.  Its beauty calls to me.  Fall colors, winter which promises spring, and the mesmerizing quiet of the ride offer a compelling contrast to cycling in Portland.

Today, I followed this little town’s cycling loop, rather accidentally.  I’ve ridden here a lot, and have ventured east of town up onto the plateau that sits above the river, and boasts the best of Oregon farm country – hazelnut groves, vegetable crops, and horses, cattle, sheep, and llamas a-plenty.  The basic route depicted above is a totally flat 11 mile loop.  It’s easy to add side trips to your journey, as there’s lots to explore around this sweet little town.

I’ve recently converted my 1980’s custom Meral 650b bicycle to more upright style handlebars.  On today’s ride one of my goals was to evaluate the bike’s ergonomics with the new Velo-Orange Tourist handlebars.

I wasn’t sure how to think about the brake levers for this bike – I wanted to stay true to its French heritage, and resisted purchasing new brake levers for the upright bar.  I finally settled on these black vintage Mafac levers.  I also removed 3 cm of bar material from each bar end of the V-O tourist bars.  I have found that modern upright style bars are generally too wide and long, and without cutting them down can give your bike an out of balance appearance, not to mention being uncomfortable.

To keep the bars free for additional hand positions I opted for stem mounted shifters.  These SunTour ratcheting shifters performed just fine, but I did have to adjust the position of the rear derailleur on down-shifts, whereas upshifts were near perfect.  I may replace these with some stem mounted Simplex Retrofriction shifters once I have a mounting option identified.

Oregon City Falls

The City of Canby sits along the Willamette River, upstream from the falls and locks at the historic town of Oregon City.  Today, the river was swift moving.  Maybe, I was too.

My 1980’s Meral is built with Reynolds 531 tubing, with a fully chromed fork (and with chromed main tubes underneath the dark lavender paint). That, plus converting the bike to 650b has made it one of my most treasured bicycles.  Happy riding in 2019!