Sunday rides are a ritual for me, even in winter. But today’s glorious sunshine accompanied by a warm spell (60 degrees!) made getting out on a bike today a real delight. I often ride out Springwater Trail, along the Willamette River, to visit Tadpole Pond, and the wetlands of Oaks Bottom, accompanied by a swing through Portland’s bustling Sellwood district. Today, I decided to stop in at Oaks Amusement Park, one of the oldest continually operating parks in the U.S.
Being an amusement park, there are fun rides, including this swooping roller coaster which now induces a slight feeling of nausea, even though I once relished joining my pals for a spin on this magnificent, multi-colored joy machine.
But in addition to having the option to get sick, Oaks Park also offers picnic areas along the river, an historic wooden-floor roller rink complete with a Wurlitzer pipe organ, and is the home of the Herschell-Spillman Noah’s Ark Carousel, which is itself listed in the National Register of Historic Places. I like visiting the park in the winter, when it’s closed, to enjoy the quiet river views and to marvel at the nostalgia-inducing feel of the place.
I’ve been riding my 1975 Centurion Semi-Pro, which I converted to 650b about a year ago. I re-used the Sunshine Pro-Am hubs, laced to V-O rims, and installed Mafac Raid brakes to accomplish the conversion.
The Grand Bois Cypres 650b 32 mm tires are holding up well. They are a nice alternative to tires offered by Rene Herse and Pacenti. However, it appears that these tires are no longer available, although some models can still be purchased on eBay. Below are photos of the bike’s features and current components. In addition to re-using as many of the original Dura Ace pieces as made sense, I tried to stay true to the bike’s 1970’s roots.
Original Dura Ace FD
SunTour thumb shifters with bare helical casing
Stronglight 99 with 47/34 rings
Mafac black washer RAID calipers
Fender spacers – split to facilitate the installation of wider tires
My ride was capped off by watching a hawk flying overhead, chased by a murder of crows, only to land nearby with its prey in its talons. My iPhone camera was no match for that photo opp, but the memory of that scene will live on, accompanied by many other memorable Sunday Rides.
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.
Simplex chain stay mounted bell crank derailleur
The mid-century Mercier Meca Duralthat 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.
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.
I was humming Don McLean’s tune as I was working on this 1980’s mixte with questionable provenance, a bike which I had recently accepted back into the fold after years of hanging at a friend’s business location as a display bike.
I have come to embrace this Don McLean lyric, at least with regard to consumers and their bicycles. Notice, I did not say riders. Too many Americans buy things which they do not actually use, and that means that buying a bicycle does not make you a cyclist.
The irony, nuance, and humor of McLean’s lyric resonates with me. There are so many ways to experience the value vs. outlay idea.
I had planned on simply donating this mixte to my favorite bicycle charity: the Community Cycling Center. But, when the bike arrived unexpectedly at my office, several interested parties emerged, especially after learning that I planned to donate the bike immediately. This made me think about what it means to “give”, as well as what risks and rewards are involved in giving a bicycle away. I was feeling especially philosophical as I pondered these questions. The antidote to that was to get the bike into my shop and give it an overhaul.
The first problem was that the headset’s grease had congealed into something resembling hard wax that got left in the can too long, and the steerer would barely turn. Possibly the bike was hanging near a heat vent during the last 5 years? I couldn’t imagine sending this bike out without having at least applied some fresh grease to the headset, but after 5 years of not being ridden, anything was possible. The headset condition made me do a complete evaluation of the whole bike, which I had apparently converted to a single speed, lo those many years ago.
Stronglight crankset with 42 T ring.
Shimano single speed 18 T freewheel. Nice forged dropouts.
There was a time when I tried out single speed riding. I found it didn’t suit me, although not having to worry about shifting was kind of nice in its own quirky way. Recently I had a single speed adventure on my 1929 Griffon, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. So, I may re-think my aversion, but for now I focused on my task which was to make sure the bike was safe to ride and properly set up. The gearing on this bike, with its 42 tooth front ring and 18 tooth cog yields a 63 inch gear (or 4.7 gain ratio), given its 27 inch wheels. As an all-round gear, maybe that’s okay for a reasonably fit rider using the bike on surface streets.
This is a Saint Tropez mixte built with Ishiwata 4130 Chro-Mo tubing. It is not a low end frame, but what I remember about the bike is that it had a number of low end (or unknown) components, as originally configured. Like so many mixtes, this bike is NOT designed for a small rider. The effective top tube length on this bike is 56 cm, even though the seat tube measures 50 cm. I will reiterate again that mixtes are for people who want to step through the frame rather than swing a leg over the bike. Mixtes are ideal for cyclists who prefer riding in street clothes or business attire. Mixtes ARE NOT automatically ideal for smaller riders.
SunTour mountain bike levers.
Araya 27″ alloy rims laced to Suzue hubs.
Polygon brake calipers.
Chain stay/fender zip tie attachment.
I set this bike up with upright bars and mountain bike levers. There was no bridge at the chainstays, so I zip tied the fender bracket to the seat tube. The bike has single eyelets front and rear, and braze-ons to accommodate both center pull and side pull brakes. The gray Dia Compe replacement pads work well with these Araya alloy rims – there is no break squeal and they are very effective at stopping the bike without being grabby. Probably they would work well with steel rims as well.
But what the heck is this bike? It appears that Saint Tropez was a Japanese marque which seemed to exist in the 80’s and possibly early 90’s (and maybe the late 70’s). The SN on the bottom bracket indicates that this might be a 1985 model, which corresponds with the bike’s appearance and components. The engraved seat stay attachment is a surprising feature, given the simple lugs. The gold sparkle and black paint scheme is really attractive, though.
So, as a “gift”, what is this bike worth? Will it be valued by its new rider, or will it have no value, because nothing was paid for it? I do hope that its new owner enjoys riding it. I hope it is worth more than what was paid.