1947 “Hawk Nose” Ideale Model 65 with duralumin rails
Ideale Saddles were often a builder’s or rider’s choice on quality bicycles produced from the early 1900’s to nearly the end of the previous century. The manufacturer,Tron and Berthet, began operations in France way back in 1890. While they made many highly prized saddles, some of the most interesting lightweight models feature these large duralumin rails. Together with the supplied duralumin clamp, these saddles were lighter weight than any competitors’ models, some weighing in at 250 grams less than a standard saddle. This Ladies Model 65 weighs only 15 ounces, or 425 grams. For comparison, the smaller standard Brooks B-17 weighs 540 grams.
It is a lovely saddle, having come equipped on my 1947 Camille Daudon, and was in nice condition for its 70 plus years of age. While the leather was a bit dry, there was no cracking and the leather had not separated from the rivets anywhere on the saddle. The seatpost is alloy also. I am guessing that the seatpost was custom made by Camille Daudon. It has a closed top, is feather weight, and should polish up quite beautifully.
And so, I was looking forward to cleaning and polishing the beautiful alloy Daudon seatpost and Ideale seatpost clamp. The entire Ideale clamp assembly is alloy, except for the axle and bolts, which are steel.
Even the round washers are alloy. However, there is a down side to these lightweight components. As you can see above, one of the alloy clamp pieces has broken apart and the other is cracked. These seatpost clamps require a lot of torque to prevent the saddle from altering its position while cycling over bumps and other surface anomalies. The alloy clamps probably could not withstand the torque needed to keep the saddle in place while riding. That means sourcing some undamaged clamps to fit these wide duralumin rails.
If you are interested in the history of Ideale saddles, you might want to check out this postfrom Eric Anschutz (ebykr), who recently published an overview of the company’s history.
Hello. As a blogger, cyclist, wrencher, and a few other titles that reflect my interests, sometimes I worry that my blog posts stray over a variety of topics, and that I have “buried the lead”. Burying the lead is a classic journalistic “mistake” that, for me, is hard to avoid. Possibly this is because I love a good mystery, and like the idea of being strung along while that facts and intrigue unfold. Or, possibly, I am just a bad writer.
I have been musing over how to discuss the latest bike in my restoration queue – a beautiful blue 1980 Méral.
Is this discussion about Méral bicycles? Or is it about 650b conversions? Or Vitus 788 tubing? Maybe it’s also about seat post lug details, unusual components, frame geometry, and bottom bracket height.
So, now that I have buried the lead, let me get into the dilemmas and intrigue involving this 1980 Méral Randonneuse that I recently acquired, having been shipped from France and looking no worse for the wear. Why is this bike not a Randonneur? Well, the French have a rule that bicycles are feminine, regardless of shape or size – and so all randonneuring bikes in France are called by their proper feminine adjective. So, maybe this post is also about the strange gender assumptions and biases that bog down the cycling industry.
My 1980 custom Méral is shown above in the foreground. Behind it sits its recently acquired sibling, also purportedly a 1980 model, though not custom, and obviously much BIGGER. The larger Méral came to me as a complete bike, and has offered some new experiences: a rare J.P. Routens seatpost with slanted clamp, Vitus 788 tubing, a Belleri stem and bars with decaleur clamp bolt, among other nice components including Campagnolo hubs and a drilled Stronglight triple crankset.
This really is a lovely bicycle, and far outside the norm of production bikes of this era. As pictured, it weighs a little over 24 lbs. Considering the Brooks Professional saddle, the fenders, and front rack, that is impressive. The tubing is Vitus 788, which by the 1980s was apparently a butted tubeset with a 7/10 top tube, and 8/10 down and seat tubes. The bike has the classic mix of components from this era (long before the Gruppo days) – Huret derailluers, Simplex downtube shifters, Stronglight drilled triple crankset, Campagnolo hubs laced to Mavic 700c rims, Mafac Racer centerpulls and Universal levers with gum hoods.
This bike was designed for tight clearances around a 700c wheelset. The bike is equipped with 23mm Michelin’s. The very pretty custom steel fenders provide for a small bit of clearance for a larger diameter tire – possibly 25 mm. While certainly not every 700c bike from this era is a candidate for a 650b conversion, I wondered whether this bike might have the right frame geometry and clearances so that it could be enjoyed with wider and more comfortable tires.
BB drop measurement
BB height measurement
The bottom bracket drop for this bike is quite significant – almost 80 mm. That’s quite a bit more than I would normally think as ideal (I recommend under 70 mm) for a candidate frame for a 650b conversion. The BB height with 23cm 700c tires is almost 28 inches. So even with the big BB drop, the BB height will not be a concern when converting this bike to 650b, if that is what I decide to do.
Extra chainstay bridge for BB mounted dynamo
Dynamo control lever mount on the seat tube
This Méral has an extra chainstay bridge at the bottom bracket. I believe this was intended to allow mounting of a bottom bracket dynamo. The fenders have dynamo wiring installed, which routes through the frame. The seat tube features a braze-on for a shifter which would have been used to engage the BB dynamo. The frame also features rack braze-ons, front and rear, so the Méral’s custom camping racks could be added.
So, while this post was about many different topics, one take away is that Méral bicycles were an interesting offering. The company built bikes from 1974 to 1983, and after that Francis Quillon, master builder, continued his frame building acumen with his own company, Cyfac, which continues to this day.
I haven’t written much about bicycle saddles, and there is a reason for that: saddle preference is a matter having little to do with “cycling lore” and much more to do with your body, the bike you are riding, and your riding style. Just because I like a particular saddle on a particular bike does not mean anyone else will feel the same way. That simple fact must be maddening for saddle manufacturers, which may explain the vast array of saddle choices available in the marketplace.
Leather saddles have survived the test of time, and are enjoying a resurgence of popularity today. I ride on a couple of leather saddles on a regular basis. However, there have been a few leather saddles that I have simply had to remove from my bike due to the astounding discomfort I experienced. Over time, I have developed my own technique for breaking in leather saddles, which is probably true of many cyclists who prefer leather over other materials. Daniel Rebour had his proprietary break-in technique as well. I also ride regularly on some leather and non leather covered plastic base saddles, which I have found to be on par with the comfort offered by some leather saddles. Comfort being a relative term.
WTB Deva saddle with cro-mo rails
One of the plastic base saddles that I find very comfortable is this WTB Deva saddle with cro-mo rails, shown above as mounted on my 1972 Mercian. Bearing a strong resemblance to an ironing board, it is a saddle that many riders would probably eschew. But, actual comfort is counter-intuitive when it comes to bicycle saddles. Thick padding decreases comfort. Wide and heavy saddles with large suspension springs may not necessarily be comfortable either. I discovered this WTB Deva saddle only because it arrived on a frame and fork I had purchased a while back. I was going to donate that well-worn saddle to the Community Cycling Center, but decided to try it out first on one of my bikes. I was amazed at the comfort the saddle provided – it supported my bum in all the right areas, and was equally comfortable on a bike with low handlebars as well as a bike with a more upright riding position. I tried riding the saddle with jeans, and after experiencing no discomfort, decided to purchase several of these saddles to keep on hand in case I wanted to install them on some of the bikes I ride regularly. One thing I have learned about cycling components is that if you like an item now, buy several, as you may never find that model again.
One saddle that I could never make peace with is this beautiful Brooks Team Pro saddle. I have never ridden on a more uncomfortable saddle, and I’ve ridden on a lot. This Brooks would not break in, even after years and miles of use. It has been treated, lubricated, left in the sun for days, pushed and pulled, but the saddle has never relented.
Here is the Brooks Team Pro on my old Davidson. On this journey, about a decade ago, I decided to explore the cranberry bogs of Bandon, Oregon. Unfortunately, the saddle became so unacceptable on my little tour, that I cut it short and headed home. Bad, bad, saddle.
But, there have been several Brooks saddles that I have loved, two of which were used on my Cannondale T2000 for many years – a Brooks Champion Flyer and a Brooks B-17. Both saddles broke in easily and provided many miles of service.
Because of the inconsistency in Brooks saddles I have used, I currently ride Cardiff leather saddles. Shown above is the Cardiff on my Meral (left) and the Cardiff on my Panasonic (right). These saddles resemble the Brooks B-17 saddles, but have a slightly different shape, as well as longer saddle rails. This model is the “Mercia” which is 10 mm wider at the back than its Brooks B-17 counterpart. As with all leather saddles, each one is different, even though the same model. The darker saddle on the left is actually far more comfortable than the saddle on the right. Why? It could simply be that the saddle mounted on my Meral is more optimized for a less upright riding position than that of my Panasonic winter bike.
From my own experience, Ideale leather saddles seem to have it all over Brooks and other competitors. The saddles shown above are just a few examples of the many models manufactured by Tron and Berthet – a company founded back in 1890 and which went out of business 100 years later. Too bad. These are probably the nicest leather saddles ever made. Below is an advertisement dating to the 1960’s. Each time I have ridden an Ideale saddle on one of my restorations, I have been pleasantly surprised by the comfort Ideale saddles provide.