1941 Goeland: Disappointments and a Decision

Louis Moire founded Goeland Cycles at 44 Rue Etienne Marcel in Paris in 1935.  He intended to offer high quality frames which could be built up around lower cost components.  He called himself a “constructeur”.  In reality, Goeland frames were probably outsourced to other builders.

1950’s Goeland advertisement.

A few years ago I purchased a Goeland bicycle on eBay.  I knew from the photos that the bicycle needed some minor frame repairs, but judging from the seller’s photos, nothing seemed catastrophic.

The seat stay rack attachment had failed, and the mixte sloping top tube attachment to the right side seat tube had also cracked.  Another brazing mishap involved the rear rack – one of the brazes had failed.

But, after preparing the frame to be cleaned and waxed, I saw that the Cyclo derailleur mount on the drive side chain stay had also failed.  I hadn’t noticed this before, but if you look closely at the above photo of the right side derailleur mount braze to the chain stay, you can see that it has detached.

That made me think about this bike’s history.  While theorizing is probably something to be avoided, I do believe that this frame was built in 1941 (at least the Durifort main tubes which are beautifully brazed with nicely filed Oscar Egg lugs).  The frame and fork feature numerous “41” markings.  However, some of the components indicate that this bike was built up for riding in the late 1940’s.  The brake levers and calipers are MAFAC, a marque not introduced until 1946 or 1947 according to my research.

Mafac brake levers to engage the Mafac cantilevers.

Rigida 650b 1940-41 rims

The wheelset for this bike dates to 1940 or 1941.  Since all the other marks on the frame are “41”, I have  concluded that this bike is a 1941 frame.

I have theorized that this Goeland’s Durifort main tubes were brazed in 1941, and as you can see from the above map of occupied France this bike may have not been built up during the occupation.  Perhaps the bike was never assembled until after Paris was liberated in 1944.  At that juncture, manufacturing and other activities that had been halted during the occupation would have been put on overdrive, due to pent up demand.

As was typical in cycling workshops of the time, experienced builders would assemble the main tubes, and apprentices would be assigned the job of the “simple” brazing – rack mounts, and other braze-ons.  Perhaps this particular apprentice needed a bit more training.  If the final assembly of this bike occurred after Paris was liberated, that would help to explain the MAFAC brakes (A new marque, previously known as Securite).  However, the numerous frame failures on this Goeland are notable.  And, I think they do relate the sketchy history that accompanies the Nazi occupation of France during the mid 1940’s.  One possibility is that since metals were in low supply during the occupation, the less important brazes got minimal silver or brass for their brazes.  The bike has no dents or bent tubes, and is not out of alignment, indicating that the failures were not the result of a crash.

Annie Laurin, original owner of this Goeland.

My goal now is to honor Annie Laurin’s bicycle.  I have decided NOT to repair the frame, but rather to preserve this Goeland in its original state, serving as a map to this Goeland’s history.  That history includes brazing errors, which possibly contain some important information.

Goeland 650b Date Mystery Solved

Goeland Mixte 650b

When I first purchased this Goeland in 2013, I was told by the seller that he thought it was all original.  Later, I discovered photos of this same bike on the web, but with a different, and apparently much nicer wheelset – Maxi car hubs on Rigida Chrolux rims – instead of the heavily corroded no-name set that was shipped with the bike.  The seller insisted that that wheelset was just an idea for a rebuild and that the bike he shipped was likely all original, but that he wasn’t sure of the manufacture date.

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I photographed the bike, then began disassembly in the summer of 2013.  I noted that there were a number of “41’s” stamped on the bike – on the rack tang, on the steerer tube, and on the bottom bracket.  But, since the seller was fairly sure that this was NOT a date code, I proceeded with my assumption that the bike was a late 40’s or early 50’s model.  And, there was also a 305 code stamped on the drive side drop-outs, front and rear.  In retrospect, it is interesting how one can ignore the obvious.

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When I purchased the bike I knew it needed a few small frame repairs.  Since I hadn’t yet made up my mind about how to proceed on that front, I set the project aside.  Then, the seasons passed.  Finally, the right moment came so I turned my attention first to the funky looking wheelset.  Right away I noticed some unusual features.  First of all, the rims are actually painted yellow, inside and out, with parallel black stripes running along the spoke bed.  When I removed the braided rim protector, I noticed a starburst pattern on the spoke nipples, and the use of washers.  I then noticed that the spoke heads bore the same pattern. Then, to my surprise, I noticed that the spokes were double-butted!  As I was handling the wheel I became aware of how light weight it was, even though made of steel – in fact, I had to use my magnet just to confirm this for myself. The unbranded hubs are very nicely machined, although the chrome plating is now rusted and pitted.  I started to work on removing the corrosion from the hub’s outer surfaces, and on trying to remove the crud and corrosion from the rims.

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I tried all kinds of products, and ended up using Menotomy’s oil with some super fine steel wool (Grade 00000).  As I was patiently (sort of) working away at the corrosion, I spotted what looked like some lettering, and started to feel a sense of excitement as I gradually rubbed away enough gunk to make out the writing:  Rigida DECO B Fabrication 1940-41!!!

I had to do some research on the web to confirm that DECO was indeed a Rigida model, and that it was Ridiga’s practice to put a date of manufacture on its rims – both things turned out to be true.  The rear wheel has what I think is a Cyclo model 3 speed freewheel, but I cannot make out the model name, nor the engraving on the spoke protector:

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Meanwhile, the work on the rims is coming along.  They will never look great, but they will have an interesting “patina” and the hub cones and axles are definitely salvageable.

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And, it was fun to bring the frame back out to look at it again and to appreciate its build quality.  I had forgotten about this nice finish work on the seat lug and mixte seat tube stays:

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I ended up concluding that the “305” code stamped on the drive side drop-outs is the serial number.  One idea is that they used a simple sequential numbering system, but I don’t have a way of knowing how many frames per year the Goeland company would build.  I haven’t been successful at finding any information about Goeland serial numbers.

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1941 Goeland 650b Mixte

But now that I know the date of manufacture, I really am impressed by how well this bike has survived, and now feel more motivated to bring this project to completion.

1940’s/50’s Goeland 650b

001 Here is a wonderful example of the work of Louis Moire, constructeur and founder of Goeland Cycles.  The idea behind Goeland was to offer a high quality hand built frame, but allow the customer to choose mid range components to help keep the cost reasonable.  Of course, high end components could also be chosen.  There isn’t much information about Goeland Cycles on the web, and there is definitely plenty of misinformation.  For example, one website claims that Goeland went out of business in the 1950’s.  Fortunately, I have a Daniel Rebour catalogue from 1962, where Goelands are prominently featured.  And, I have been able to confirm through various collectors that Goeland Cycles continued up until about 1970, having begun business in about 1935.  This Rene Herse site has some nice examples.

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One of my favorite things about Goelands are the beautiful logos.  Goeland means “gull” in french, and the headbadge and downtube logo feature a white seagull surrounded by clouds, flying over blue waves.   I can’t help but wonder if this name was chosen to combat the Raleigh Heron.

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The owner’s name tag is still intact (this was a requirement on all french bicycles of this era).  It would be fun if I could locate her family.  There is some confusion about the model year of this bike.  There are photos of this bike elsewhere on the web which identify the bike as a 1941 model, probably because there is a “41” stamped into the mounting tang of the rear rack.  However, based on discussions with the seller and by reviewing the components, I think it is probably more likely that this bike dates to the late 40’s or early 50’s.  Components include a Cyclo rear derailleur and shifter, Mafac cantilevers and levers, a Phillipe alloy bar and stem, Super Champion color matched aluminum fenders with JOS lamps, and a 650b wheelset with mystery steel rims and hubs, and a mystery freewheel as well.

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The original white rubber block pedals are lovely.  The crankset is unbranded except for this sweet logo of a bicycle stamped on the back side of the chain ring, along with “46” to indicate the number of teeth.

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The frame’s lugs are very fancy, and there are lots of nice features such as braze-ons for the Radios dynamo, chain guard, and pump pegs, an RGF bottom bracket, as well as double eyelets front and rear.  And, there is blue box striping on almost all the tubes.  The paint is in very good condition for its age.

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Unfortunately, there is damage to the frame – the drive side rack mount braze has failed.   There are also two other spots that need repairs as well:  the rack has one joint that needs re-brazing, and the sloping top tube lug has a small crack at the connection point to the seat tube (see below).  Sometimes it is hard to know whether one should proceed to make the repairs, not only because of the expense, but also because the bike will be “less original” when finished.

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Even though I have completed a frame building class, I know that I am not the one to do these repairs.  Frame building and this kind of problem solving are best left to those with many years of experience.  Fortunately, I have my favorite builder and I am hoping that he will help me select the right frame painter for this project.  The frame only needs to be re-painted in the areas where the repairs are made, fortunately not anywhere near the logos.

017While the frame is being repaired and the paint touched up where needed, I can start cleaning and overhauling the components.  A project like this can have many stops and starts, but I hope I can have this one completed before the end of the year.  My goal, of course, is not only to preserve this rare machine but to also make it rideable again.  While not a bike I will ride regularly, I plan to keep it in my permanent collection, for now.