A Tale of Two Three Speeds

Last fall I relocated our offices to the Laurelhurst neighborhood in Northeast Portland.  Now, I commute to work in a lovely and historic part of Portland’s awesome east side, leaving behind the stressful and gnarly traffic surrounding our old Victorian on SW 5th near PSU.  I usually commute on one of my daily riders, but also keep extra bikes on hand at the office for errands and lunchtime rides through the neighborhood, including my two favorite 3 speeds:  a 1950 Raleigh Sports Tourist, and a 1947 Peugeot PH55.  I restored both bikes many years ago, but the Peugeot was a more involved process because many of its original parts were missing.

The restoration process involved sourcing a vintage 650b wheelset and fenders, as well as handlebars, stem, brake levers, saddle, dynamo, lamps, and saddle.

My goal was to come as close as possible to the bike featured in this 1947 Peugeot catalog, and to err on the higher quality side when possible.

I think I achieved this objective and am happy with the way the build came together.  The NOS Ducel dynamo lights work well without excessive drag.  The bike is much lighter than its Raleigh counterpart, weighing in at a respectable 28 lbs. compared with the Raleigh’s 45 lb. bulk.  This is because the tubing is high quality Rubis, and the bike features many alloy components.

The Peugeot’s drive train is all original, with a 19-24 “Twister” freewheel, Simplex TDF rear derailleur and Peugeot 46T crankset.  That puts the gear inch range, with its 650b wheel size, at 50 to 63.  Very narrow and with no low or high gears.  The Simplex TDF shifts just fine, but needs a bit of correction both shifting up and down the gear range.

The Raleigh’s drive train is, of course, a Sturmey Archer internally geared hub, mated to a 46T Raleigh crankset, which is fully enclosed in its full length chain guard.  The AW hub with its 17T cog gives a gear inch range of 52 – 93.  A much wider range than the Peugeot, but mostly very high, especially given its bulk.

The Raleigh has steel rims, as compared to the Peugeot’s lightweight alloy Super Champion rims.  Both wheel sizes are similar, and both bikes feature full length fenders.  The Raleigh’s are steel (of course!) and somewhat mangled from years of use, and the Peugeot’s are lighter weight alloy.  All of these elements contribute to the significant weight difference between the two bikes.

1950 Raleigh Sports Tourist

So, what bike wins my vote?  Believe it or not, it’s the Raleigh.  While it is MUCH more challenging to conquer hills on the Raleigh, the comfort and quality of this machine is no match for its highly competent counterpart.  The bike kind of self-propels once it gets going, due to the inertia of the heavy wheels.  And, the convenience of shifting whether stopped or not adds to this bike’s appeal.  It’s the bike I most often select for neighborhood jaunts, even though I may have to stand up and stomp to get it up the hills.  It’s a pleasure to ride and gives me a great workout.  And, it’s a reminder of what it’s like to experience the quality and craftsmanship of this era’s legendary Raleigh marque.

More Clearance with Single Pivot Sidepull Brakes

Shimano 105 dual pivot sidepulls

I’ve been wanting to mount some wider and more comfortable tires on my 1990’s Terry Symmetry, which was built during the sad era of zero brake clearance for wider tires.  Even after switching from the 650c rims which the bike was designed for, down to 26″ 559s, I had no room for fenders with the 32 cm (actually measuring at 28mm on my rims) Paselas I was using.  But, since I mounted the fenders without going underneath the fork crown and brake bridge, I wondered if I could use some wider tires which might provide more comfort than the competent but harsh riding Paselas I’ve been using.

So, I purchased a set of Schwalbe Kojak 26 x 1.35 tires.  Since, there are almost no tire options available for road bikes running 26 inch tires, and while I usually do not care for Schwalbe’s offerings, I was left with these Kojaks as the only choice as an alternative to the Panaracer Paselas.  The Elk Pass tires offered by Rene Herse Cycles that I had previously tried proved to be so flat prone that I could no longer tolerate them.  When I mounted the Kojaks, which were very difficult to install on my rims, the Shimano 105 dual pivot brakes contacted the tires, so I knew I was going to have to figure out a different brake option that would provide better clearance.

Dura Ace single pivot sidepulls

Fortunately, I am not the first cyclist to crave wider tires on a road bike, and to push the limits of tire clearance.  There are many forum posts and websites devoted to finding solutions to this problem.  A number of possible solutions to the tire clearance problem exist, but the clearest path involved choosing single pivot sidepulls, which can generally offer better tire clearance than their dual pivot counterparts.  While dual pivots are super easy to set up, I’ve never been put off by single pivot brakes, except for: see below!

Weinmann 600 sidepulls

First off, I tried these Weinmann 600 brake calipers, which were sitting in a NOS box in my parts bin.  Handling these calipers and using their hardware proved shocking:  these brakes come with very low quality bolts, and some of the nuts had been cross threaded.  So, this low quality brakeset has been set aside.

Dura Ace Centerpulls

But, then I thought:  what about switching to centerpull brakes?  That would mean installing front and rear hangers, but could be an option to consider.  I dry mounted these first generation Dura Ace centerpulls but they actually proved to have less clearance than the Shimano 105s.

So, I tried out a number of different options ranging from the very nice Dia Compe BRS 200s (which didn’t have quite enough brake reach on the rear brake), to these oddball Dia Compe AC 600s (pictured last), which feature a strange offset angle for cable routing, apparently to reduce wind resistance, which is nothing short of ridiculous.  And, they have no quick release mechanism, a must for any brake caliper.

Rear caliper installed backwards

Front caliper with much more clearance.

Finally, I settled on a set of Shimano 600 single pivot sidepulls which are actually the matched set to the Shimano crankset I’m using on this Terry.  But, there were several problems to deal with.  There as less clearance in the rear than in front, so I mounted the rear brake backwards, which provided a few more millimeters of clearance.  Since this bike is designed for recessed brakes, it was also necessary to deal with the too wide opening for the nutted bolt.

Bikes designed for recessed brakes should not use nutted brakes unless care is taken to find a way to center the bolt inside the too wide opening.  In this case I used a leather washer which snugs into the recessed area, and then a larger washer to cover the area.

At the rear, clearance is good (relatively speaking) and performance seems okay for now.  Cable routing was odd, and I’ll think about a different solution, as there is some friction on the rear cable.

Here’s the bike with the Kojaks installed and the Shimano 600 single pivot brakes, with the rear brake installed “wrong” on the front of the seat stays.  We will see what happens when I take this bike out to test both the tires and the brakes.  I’m hoping for a more comfortable ride on the Kojaks and no decline in braking performance.  A long test ride will prove illuminating.

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.