1962 Cycle Competition Cyclotourisme by Daniel Rebour

I purchased this 1962 Daniel Rebour Cycle booklet from Jan Heine about 5 years ago.  Back then I carried it with me whenever I took public transportation to work (TriMet) so I could peruse its French language pages and stare longingly upon its Daniel Rebour drawings at my leisure. While I have never taken a French language class, I studied Spanish extensively in my youth and was at one time fluent in that language.  That made it easier to have a rudimentary comprehension of what I was engrossed in while bumping along toward downtown Portland on the bus. Eventually I realized that I didn’t want the pages of this rare vintage publication to become dog-eared, so I set the booklet aside in my special bin for special stuff not to be messed with.

Unusual through the frame cable routing for rear centerpull Mafac brakes.

I have consulted this little tome a few times since then when I needed some background information on components and bicycles produced in the early 1960’s.  Recently, I dug it out because I had remembered an odd through the frame cable routing for a rear centerpull (Mafac) brake.  And even more recently, I wondered if this little booklet contained any information about French Cyclo rear derailleurs.  I figured probably not, as these derailleurs were becoming obsolete by the late 50’s.  And, I was right about that.  But, I once again was drawn into this publication, which is organized by bicycle component categories:  Frames and tubing (Le Cadre); Bottom Brackets (Les Roulements); Cranksets (Le Pédalier); Chainrings (Les Plateaux); Pedals and Toe Clips (Pédales et Cale-Pieds); Wheelsets (Les Roues); Tubular Tires (Les Boyaux); Derailleurs (Les Derailleurs); Brakes (Les Friens); and the remaining chapters on saddles, handlebars, and accessories.

Sunglasses in your kit – 1962!

Mudflap with 3 point attachment.

Classic Rene Herse 3 arm crankset.

A 1961 Goeland.

Daniel Rebour’s treasured drawings are featured in a number of print publications.  One of these is Frank Berto’s The Dancing Chain.  I frequently consult Berto’s book for insight and guidance on setting up vintage derailleurs.

Daniel Rebour contributed significantly to our understanding of vintage bicycle components.  He left a legacy that all cyclists benefit from, especially those of us committed to preserving the legacy of vintage bicycles, and we are all the better for it. I am grateful for his contribution.

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!

Simplex Bellcrank Derailleurs

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Why did Simplex use a bellcrank on some of its vintage derailleurs?  I pondered this question as I was cleaning and lubricating a Simplex Rigidex derailleur, which was original equipment on this 1953 Follis:


Sadly, I missed my calling as an engineer (I am a CPA in my day job), so I had to research the question of what advantage a bellcrank mechanism would have over a simple direct pull with a cable on the device that moves the derailleur cage.  Fortunately Wikipedia, and of course, Sheldon Brown came to the rescue.

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The Rigidex was one of several models to use a bellcrank, and was the lower end version of the Grand Tourisme model.  Other bellcrank models included the Lux and Gran Prix.

Simplex Grand Tourisme

1954 Simplex Catalog, courtesy of disrailigears.co.uk

You can see from the catalog scan above that the shifter cable lies inside the curve of the bell crank, and is anchored below with a screw.  When the shifter cable is engaged, the bellcrank mechanism moves against a pushrod/plunger that is housed inside the cylinder, and it pushes the pulley cage inward toward the wheel hub, moving the chain across the freewheel sprockets.  Since it pushes, instead of pulls, that means that it is a “high normal” derailleur. At rest, the derailleur lands on the smallest rear cog.  Simplex TDF and Record Du Monde derailleurs are “low normal”, with the pull-chain pulling on the coil/plunger to bring the cage away from the freewheel. Interestingly, the Cyclo Standard and Tourist model derailleurs have a dual action shifter, which is never at rest, as there is always the same amount of tension on the shifter regardless of which position it is in, a result of its dual cables (or single cable wrapped around the shifter) which actuate a helicoid to move the cage.  So, I guess you can say that the Cyclo is a “no normal” derailleur.

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Mimicking the effect of limit screws on modern derailleurs, the above nuts (identified with white arrows), can be loosened to allow re-positioning of the mounting bracket, so that the derailleur can shift properly over the particular freewheel installed on the wheel. This derailleur has a cage swing capacity for 4 speeds.  So, this isn’t really a true limit screw adjustment, instead it’s a hub/freewheel adjustment.

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While there are two springs used for this model, only one of them affects the chain slack.  The mounting bracket is rigid, so there’s no arm which can swing under tension. Instead the larger outer spring is attached to a braze-on on the frame, and serves to act as the tension on the jockey (upper) pulley.  The smaller inner spring keeps tension on the plunger/pushrod, allowing it to return back to its resting position when the cable is slack.  This contrasts with Simplex’ TDF and Champion du Monde pull chain derailleurs, which offer swing arm tension as well as pulley tension.  Even though Nivex came out with its far superior parallelogram rear derailleur back in 1938, the breakthrough was slow to catch on, so that even in the 50’s and 60’s many derailleurs lacked the greater shifting effectiveness provided by the transversing arms of a parallelogram.  Even so, having ridden bikes equipped with these old derailleurs, I have found that they work surprisingly well when properly set up.

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Pulleys feature ball bearings – a nice touch.

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Chain must be broken to be removed – unlike the TDF and Record du Monde models.

I had originally thought that this derailleur allowed the chain to be removed intact, as is the case with the Simplex TDF and Record du Monde models which feature open pulleys at the back of the cage.  That’s not the case for this derailleur.  A nice feature, even on this lower end derailleur, are the ball bearings inside each pulley, instead of bushings.

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So, what benefit does the bellcrank offer?  As I learned from my research, a bellcrank increases the mechanical advantage of a linkage, because the angle of the arms changes as the bellcrank is actuated.  Bellcranks are actually still used in bicycle applications, though not as elegantly as this one.  You can find them on Shimano internal gear hubs, among other applications.

Sheldon Brown

Sheldon Brown – R.I.P.

Sheldon Brown had fun illustrating the mechanical advantage of a bellcrank by featuring a bell which is rung by a bellcrank!

Is this mechanical advantage really needed for a rear derailleur system? It may have been helpful on high normal models which pushed the derailleur toward the hub.  It will be interesting to try this derailleur out on the road, but their application is limited to bikes with brazed on fittings, or by using special brackets which are now difficult to find.