Setting Up a French Cyclo Rear Derailleur, Part II

Cyclo rear derailleur with cable installed – 1941 Goeland

The 1941 Goeland I have been gradually “restoring” (translate: preserving and making rideable again) was equipped with a French Cyclo rear derailleur.  The French model is not to be confused with its British counterpart.  Although the two derailleurs operate with a helical sliding bolt and friction shifting, the set-up of the cables and shifters is different between the two country’s versions.  The French model features a c’est la vie attitude:  no cable stops; no housing; set up success determined by your close connection to someone in the know.  The British version has cable stops at both ends and cable housing for the entire length of the one piece cable (often described as a two piece system) which has a nipple welded to the middle of the cable to fit the slot in the helical bolt.  The two Cyclo models seem to be a case of British pragmatism vs. French ingenuity.  I think both are to be enjoyed and experienced!

A British Cyclo 3 speed model

According to Classic Lightweights, the Cyclo rear derailleur was first introduced in France in 1924.  It was the most widely used rear derailleur from the 1930’s through the early 50’s.  Disrealigears has a more extensive discussion of the company’s history which you can read about here It seems that while the British version of this derailleur thrived in the 1920’s through the 1950’s, the French version was under attack by and ultimately succumbed to Simplex.  That may explain the difficulty involved in setting up the French version of this rear gear changer.

 

Shifter cable routed through derailleur spring.

Once you have sourced an appropriate cable (I harvested a NOS cable from a British Cyclo, which had its nipple welded on to the cable – you can also source a nipple that can be threaded on to any tandem length shifter cable), one of the most baffling elements of the set up is how to keep cable tension on the rear nipple, which must engage the helicoid bolt in order for the gear to shift.  The photo above from a 1956 advertisement shows that the cable is routed through the derailleur spring. This definitely helps keep the cable nipple in place, but it is not a perfect solution.  Nevertheless, this is how I set up the shifter cable for the 1941 Goeland.

The 1940s Cyclo shifter is a pretty little thing, weighing about nothing, but looking very nice.  The arm of the shifter angles away from the frame just enough, but the length of this shifter’s lever is short compared to others of this era. The entire device is made from aluminum alloy, except for the outer steel cover, shown above. 

This is the “conjoiner” which connects the two shifter cable ends together.  It is probably actually some kind of evil spirit.  No joy can be derived from working with this little device.  It fits into the slot on the inside of the shifter.  I can’t really comment from here except to say:  watch out!

Here is the conjoiner coming out of its slot  (of course!) on the shifter.  I had become too confident when I thought I had my cable tension dialed in. So, when the conjoiner popped out of the shifter, I realized that where was no way to avoid the double wrapping and shifter twisting steps that I used when setting up a 1947 version on my Camille Daudon.

French 3 speed freewheel prior to cleaning and lubrication.

Rigida 650b wheelset with 1941 rear hub – a flip flop version with butted spokes.

I am still in the process of restoring the 1941 Rigida Deco 650b wheelset.  That has involved re-tensioning the spokes, cleaning and reviving the rims, and rebuilding the hubs.  The freewheel has now been removed, cleaned and lubricated.  The threads on the filp flop rear hub are in good shape, so once I have the freewheel back on the rear wheel, with a period correct chain installed, the set up of the rear derailleur should proceed with haste – or so I hope!

Mid Century Mercier Meca Dural Restoration – a Brief Test Ride

Mid Century Mercier Meca Dural – Autumn 2017

MId Century Mercier Meca Dural – Winter 2017

Today I ventured out for a test ride on this Mid-Century Mercier Meca Dural – a bike which had been incorrectly modified when I acquired it last fall.  I spent the winter restoring it and replacing many of the incorrect and missing components. But, I hadn’t had time in my schedule to get the bike out on the road for a test ride until now.

Vintage Rigid Chain Guard

Carradice Long Flap saddlebag – stuffed with all the possible tools need for a first test ride.

Unfortunately, I chose a bad moment to take the bike out to Sauvie Island – one of my favorite low key cycling jaunts.  It’s the weekend before Halloween, which I realized only too late upon arriving at the Sauvie Island parking lot where cyclists normally unload their bikes for a journey around the bucolic beauty of this little island treasure near Portland.  That meant hordes of cars heading to the Pumpkin Patch – a place where kids can enjoy all kinds of thrilling Halloween activities.  There are no shoulders on the flat roads of Sauvie Island, so cyclists who venture there rely upon the good will of the Island’s drivers, which is usually just fine.  Today, however, was not the right day to take an untested bike into this environment, and that realization dawned on me after just a few minutes of cycling on the Meca Dural’s duralumin frame.

Original alloy Guidonnet Levers.

The ride I cut short to avoid the stress of a steady stream of vans and SUVs passing too close provided some valuable information.  One thing I learned was that these original guidonnet aluminum alloy levers have an unusually long reach, so if you need to brake suddenly and don’t have gigantic hands, you may not stop as quickly as you would like.

C.M. long reach calipers.

The C.M. long reach brake calipers have quite a bit of flex under hard braking.  This caused the front brake to jump a bit when I attempted to stop suddenly.  That may simply mean that the brake mounting bolts need a bit more torque – so that’s an issue to sort out.

Chain guard mounting hardware.

I also discovered that the lovely vintage Rigid chain guard which I had installed using a combination of new and vintage mounting hardware needed adjustment, as the chain rubbed against the guard in the lowest gear. Fortunately, this mounting hardware makes it very easy to adjust the position of the chain guard by turning the nuts on the long connecting bolts.

Vintage Simplex Grand Tourisme rear derailleur.

The 3 speed freewheel is mated to a 46 tooth Louis Verot chainring on Stronglight 49d crank arms.  The small cogs make for high gearing, which was almost too high even on the totally flat roads of Sauvie Island.  One solution will be to locate a vintage french threaded freewheel with larger cogs.  The bell crank actuated Simplex derailleur worked perfectly and can definitely handle larger-toothed cogs. Shifting was straightforward, with no noticeable over-shifting required. Since I didn’t have the original chain, I had guessed at the chain length.

The ride quality overall was comfortable. I attribute this primarily to these wonderfully preserved vintage Mavic 650b rims and the new Panasonic tires, inflated to fairly low pressures, as well as to the flex characteristics of the duralumin frame.  This bicycle’s frame design doesn’t include an extra set of mixte stays extending to the rear drop out.  Initially, I experienced a bit of a wobbly feel at the front end, which would likely become a non-issue once a rider gets this bike underway for a few miles.

Meca Dural ornate aluminum lugs joined by internal steel expanders. Kitty is optional equipment.

After this brief ride I know what is needed to make the bike more useful and reliable.  And, I didn’t worry about the Meca Dural aluminum tubes – they performed no differently than any steel framed bike I have ridden.  The bike as pictured weighs 24 lbs – very impressive considering the full fenders, chain guard, and dynamo lighting system.  The next time I ride this bike, I hope to have a bit longer and more enjoyable ride.

1947 Camille Daudon – Frame Details

My 1947 Camille Daudon bicycle, custom built for Irene Faberge Gunst, is currently in a state of disassembly, so this seems a perfect time to share some details of the frame’s construction.

While I have some information about this bike from the previous owner, I wasn’t sure about the steel tubing.  Because the previous owner had re-chromed the frame, all the original decals and transfers were lost.  So, I was delighted to see this VITUS logo on the steerer tube when I removed the fork.  This logo probably means that all the frame tubes are Vitus – a quality steel tubing made by the French company Atelier de la Rive.

The work done to create this frame is far beyond anything you would ever see today, except from a custom builder.  The creases in the chainstays, to provide clearance for the crankset and the wheels are beautifully executed.  And, the sloping downtube connection to the seat-tube is one of my favorite designs for mixte bikes that use a single, rather than double, sloping top tube.  This type of robust brazing firms up the frame, and gives the mixte bike better handling characteristics.  Peter Wiegle has continued this concept on the mixte frames he has built.

Pinned chainstays

Another interesting feature are the pins used to secure the chain stays, as can be seen by peering inside the bottom bracket shell.  Pinning the tubes was a method used by a number of builders of this era, and is even continued today by Mercian, whose process involves using a brick oven to heat the tubes for brazing.  I don’t know whether Camille Daudon used this heating process, as the only tubes which are pinned in this frame are the chainstays.

The finish work on the stays is beyond anything I normally see – simply extraordinary.

This frame has only a few braze-ons -the shifter mount, pump pegs, and shifter and brake cable routing.  Most notably, there are no braze-ons for a dynamo nor for a chain guard.  Since this bike was designed for commuting and city riding in San Francisco, that seems odd to me.

1947 Camille Daudon mixte, prior to re-chroming

Prior to being re-chromed, the frame looked as above.  As you can see, the chrome was seriously compromised.  Chroming a bicycle frame is a harsh process that may not yield the results you are looking for.  It is very labor intensive, and will remove some brazing material from the frame.  It is essential that the frame be thoroughly cleaned and the old plating removed before re-chroming.

The previous owner thought that he had prepared the frame correctly for the chroming process, but unfortunately a small section of the drive side seat stay developed a hole during the re-chroming, due to incorrect preparation.  This is an area of frame construction where failures can develop.  However, in this case it looks like the combination of incorrect preparation, along with the harshness of the re-chroming process itself, caused this hole to develop. While it is a small flaw, it’s something to take note of.

I haven’t decided yet whether I will try to re-create the Daudon logos which were original to the frame, as shown in the above photo.  I love seeing such a large head tube on a smaller frame such as this, which should provide for a comfortable riding experience.

Best of all about this disassembly process was seeing the codes engraved on the fork and rear dropouts – “471” which makes me think that this was the very first bicycle off the line from Daudon’s shop in 1947.  A nice, and interesting,  thought.

Frame dimensions:

Seat tube:  50 cm

Top Tube -effective:  52.5 cm

Wheelbase:  102.5 cm

Frame Weight:  5 pounds, 15 ounces

Material: Vitus steel tubing