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.
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.
This winter’s crazy weather in Portland, Oregon finally gave me the time and focus needed to complete the restoration of a very interesting bicycle – a late 40’s/early 50’s Mercier Meca Dural. The frame is constructed with aluminum tubes joined with ornate aluminum lugs and internal steel expanders. The front fork is good old steel, but the rest of the frame is 100% “duralumin” – the same stuff that blimps were made from.
Once I finally had the rear wheel’s axle spacing and dishing issues resolved (the 650b Mavic rims/F.B hubs wheelset installed replace the incorrect 700c wheels on the bike when I acquired it), I could devote time to mounting the 650b tires and dealing with fender line issues. This bike’s beautiful hammered Le Martele Lefol fenders were meant for tires a bit larger than the Panaracer 40 mm Col de la Vie tires I mounted to the the vintage Mavic rims. That meant spacers. And, my favorite spacers are wine corks. Therefore, it was necessary and advisable to open a couple bottles of champagne (the higher priced, the better), to obtain the corks needed to meet this objective. The photos above show the champagne corks installed on the front and rear fenders.
Another issue was the chain line adjustment. Once I had the rear derailleur installed – a NOS Simplex Grand Prix – it became clear that even after adjusting it to push the derailleur as far in toward the frame as possible, and after re-spacing and re-dishing the rear hub, the chain line was off. It was going to be necessary to push the crankset away from the frame, by a few millimeters. Fortunately, with this unique frame’s method of joining of the bottom bracket with brass bolts to the chain stays, I determined that I could remove the bolts, and then re-position the bottom bracket accordingly. I removed the bolts from the frame, lubricated the bottom bracket shell – which is a beautifully machined aluminum cylinder, then began the process of moving it slightly over to the right. This took the work of a mallet as well as my Lozan BB lockring wrench, but finally I moved the BB cylinder enough to provide the chain-line I needed. One of the many interesting things about this bike is that the BB axle is hollow (to save weight) and the crank bolt on the left side is threaded backwards. Something not to forget in the future!
Ideale Model 80 leather saddle
Luxor headlight bracket
Luxor 65 headlamp
C.M. calipers with reversed hardware
Vintage french rack, Huret wingnuts
The bike’s leather saddle – an Ideale Model 80 – might be worth more than the bike itself if eBay seller pricing is to be believed. The saddle is a little dry, but after reconditioning it, I think it will prove to be very comfortable. The “C.M.” brake calipers are a long reach mechanism from the 40’s that I used to replace the incorrect CLB 700 brakes that were on the bike when I purchased it. You’ll note from the photo above that I reversed the hardware on the rear brake to accommodate this bike’s brake routing – to allow the cable to enter from underneath the caliper. I also installed a French rear rack from this same era, as the original rack was missing.
The above photo shows that the seat post lug is pinned, as compared to the rest of the lugs on this bike which are joined with internal steel expanders. There were other methods of joining aluminum tubes back in the day when these bikes were built, but I think these Meca Dural examples are likely to survive the test of time. We’ll see once I get this bike out on the road.
It’s funny (but not really) that the before and after photos of this bike don’t look that much different. Perhaps what’s different is my perspective – the bike is now ready for a test ride, with appropriate components, and a period-correct restoration to make the bike 100% rideable. I threw my leg over the saddle today just to see how the bike felt and I was startled to find that this bike fits me perfectly. I can’t wait to get it out on the road. For that, the weather gods must provide.