This bike came to me as a frame, fork, fenders, shifters, headset and rack. It is a 1970s Meral 650b Randonneur. The Meral shop, located in France, built custom bikes up through the mid 80’s. Their custom racks and fenders are as beautiful as their frames. This frame features double rack mounts front and rear so that Meral’s custom camping racks could be added. Note: these photos were taken before final assembly and QC – the brake holders are mounted backwards. The closed section of the holder should be facing the front of the bike, so that the pads don’t slide out! (Everybody knows that, right?)
The fenders are stainless steel – and looked beautiful after just a bit of polishing. I needed a number of parts to get the bike completed, and ended up deciding to build the wheelset using a set of NOS Italian Gnutti hubs, since the spacing at the rear was 120 mm. It can be difficult to find a nice wheelset with this spacing these days, and I didn’t want to cold set the frame to wider spacing, as I usually strive to keep a wonderful bike like this as original as possible.
I used Weinmann 650b rims, and removed the labels for a clean look. Even though this bike features through-the-frame dynamo wiring, I decided not to use a generator hub, both to save weight and to keep the bike simple and closer to original. I am not a huge fan of generator lighting, and find that for the riding I do I can use simple, lightweight, and inexpensive battery-powered lights.
The original cork spacers are still in perfect condition. However, my fender line needs some more work. Installing and fine tuning racks and fenders can easily take as long as building up the bike itself. This frame is designed with tight clearances, so I could only use 32 mm tires. I chose these Grand Bois Cypres tires from Compass Bicycles, and they are fabulous. The ride is really just about the smoothest I have experienced. The only down side may be their puncture resistance, which I haven’t put to the test.
I used Simplex Super LJ derailleurs, which are not only beautifully made, but work perfectly with this drive train. A Stronglight crankset and IRD 6 speed freewheel finish off the drive train. The IRD is just a placeholder – I no longer trust these freewheels due to their high failure rate, which I have experienced personally on two separate freewheels in use for under a thousand miles.
I used NOS Zeus pedals, which are some of the nicest I have seen, and Mafac levers to match the Mafac Racer centerpulls. The bars are Nitto World Randonneur and the stem is a French sized SR.
The frame was built with Columbus Aelle tubing, for a stronger frameset, or perhaps for a heavier rider. Even so, the bike weighs 26.6 lbs, including the rack fenders, Brooks saddle and pedals – that is amazing. The paint is still very vibrant and in beautiful condition. More photos of this bike can be found on my FB page.