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!

Sourcing Vintage Cycling Components and Hardware

 

As part of reviving and restoring any vintage bicycle, it may become necessary to replace components with period correct counterparts.  Replacing fasteners and other hardware can also present challenges, given not only their special purpose, but also their one-off threading, which may be French, not-so-French, Italian, and other threading anomalies. Over the last 10 years I have restored a number of vintage bicycles that presented challenges in both the component and hardware categories.

Huret derailleur

Simplex chain stay mounted bell crank derailleur

The mid-century Mercier Meca Dural that I restored a few years ago was fitted with an incorrect wheelset and rear derailleur.  The Huret unit, depicted first, was installed on the bike’s vertical dropouts, yet this rear derailleur is designed for horizontal dropouts.  This was an example of modifications made to the original bike, with bad results.  The incorrect Huret derailleur mounted on the vertical drop-outs resulted in no chain wrap, and poor shifting.  After seeing that the bike had also been modified with an incorrect and too large wheel size, I took to French eBay to source a NOS chainstay mounted Simplex bell crank derailleur – a component which was standard fare on vintage Mercier Meca Dural bicycles of this era.

When the NOS derailleur and shifter arrived, I rejoiced in how beautiful and functional this vintage component was.  Searching foreign language sites broadens the scope of your endeavor, and may make the difference between success and failure.

Simplex was notorious for using oddball threading on its components.  The 2nd photo above shows a Simplex shifter with M6 x .8 threading – instead of the standard M5 x .8 on all other shifter bolts of this era.  I have a tap and die set of tools in my shop to use in the event that re-tapping is necessary.  However, I try avoid this if replacement vintage components can be found with the original threading.

Sometimes, things work out well, as was the case with this mid century mystery French mixte with Oscar Egg lugs.  The Simplex components on this bike were clearly all original and worked perfectly once the bike was overhauled.

If you will need to add or replace fenders on a vintage bicycle I recommend exploring Velo-Orange, Rivendell, and Compass.  These vendors offer different products and hardware from a variety of manufacturers, and you may be able to find just the right fender width and hardware for your application.  Fender stays, bridge mounting hardware, and daruma and eyelet bolts are usually included in your purchase of new fenders.  Meanwhile, I can’t think of any manufacturers today who are making a fender resembling these lightweight and well engineered steel fenders shown on this early 1980’s Meral, above. These fenders mount easily with the original hardware and work fine with a 650b conversion.  They are an example of the unsurpassed beauty and utility of vintage components.