Sourcing Vintage Cycling Components and Hardware

 

As part of reviving and restoring any vintage bicycle, it may become necessary to replace components with period correct counterparts.  Replacing fasteners and other hardware can also present challenges, given not only their special purpose, but also their one-off threading, which may be French, not-so-French, Italian, and other threading anomalies. Over the last 10 years I have restored a number of vintage bicycles that presented challenges in both the component and hardware categories.

Huret derailleur

Simplex chain stay mounted bell crank derailleur

The mid-century Mercier Meca Dural that I restored a few years ago was fitted with an incorrect wheelset and rear derailleur.  The Huret unit, depicted first, was installed on the bike’s vertical dropouts, yet this rear derailleur is designed for horizontal dropouts.  This was an example of modifications made to the original bike, with bad results.  The incorrect Huret derailleur mounted on the vertical drop-outs resulted in no chain wrap, and poor shifting.  After seeing that the bike had also been modified with an incorrect and too large wheel size, I took to French eBay to source a NOS chainstay mounted Simplex bell crank derailleur – a component which was standard fare on vintage Mercier Meca Dural bicycles of this era.

When the NOS derailleur and shifter arrived, I rejoiced in how beautiful and functional this vintage component was.  Searching foreign language sites broadens the scope of your endeavor, and may make the difference between success and failure.

Simplex was notorious for using oddball threading on its components.  The 2nd photo above shows a Simplex shifter with M6 x .8 threading – instead of the standard M5 x .8 on all other shifter bolts of this era.  I have a tap and die set of tools in my shop to use in the event that re-tapping is necessary.  However, I try avoid this if replacement vintage components can be found with the original threading.

Sometimes, things work out well, as was the case with this mid century mystery French mixte with Oscar Egg lugs.  The Simplex components on this bike were clearly all original and worked perfectly once the bike was overhauled.

If you will need to add or replace fenders on a vintage bicycle I recommend exploring Velo-Orange, Rivendell, and Compass.  These vendors offer different products and hardware from a variety of manufacturers, and you may be able to find just the right fender width and hardware for your application.  Fender stays, bridge mounting hardware, and daruma and eyelet bolts are usually included in your purchase of new fenders.  Meanwhile, I can’t think of any manufacturers today who are making a fender resembling these lightweight and well engineered steel fenders shown on this early 1980’s Meral, above. These fenders mount easily with the original hardware and work fine with a 650b conversion.  They are an example of the unsurpassed beauty and utility of vintage components.

A Velo-Orange Shipment

I order components from a variety of sources, but one of my favorite suppliers is Velo-Orange.  Even though its founder, Chris Kulcaycki, sold the company earlier this year to two of his long time employees, I haven’t noted any negative impacts on the quality and variety of products offered.  I think the company is well positioned amongst its competitors, namely Compass Bicycles – Boulder Bicycle – Rene Herse (all owned by Compass Bicycles/Jan Heine), Rivendell (Grant Peterson), and Harris Cyclery (Sheldon Brown’s shop), as a purveyor and innovator of bicycle frames and components for cycling enthusiasts, and especially for those who appreciate the quality and reliability of steel frames, comfortable, wide tires, and retro-inspired components.

My haul today included some of the parts needed to complete the 650b/city bike conversion for the early 1980’s Meral Randonneur bike I recently purchased.  In my box of goodies was a full length chain guard, Velox rim strips (more on that later), V-O thumb shifter mounts (competing with Pauls’ Thumbies), Tektro brake levers, and a new KMC 8 speed chain.

I also ordered an extra 8 speed chain (you can never have enough chains), as well as my favorite brake pads:  V-O’s non-squeal smooth post pads, which work really well with Mafac long reach brakes.

I also use these bake pads on any bike with cantilevers – they really are almost 100% squeal proof and provide excellent stopping power.

But what prompted this order was the extraordinarily bizarre experience I had attempting to mount a set of Grand Bois 32 mm 650b tires to the Velocity A23 650b wheelset I had purchased from Harris Cyclery for $289.  Yes, that was the price for both wheels, which feature Shimano Tiagra hubs.  Well, you get what you pay for.  I purchased these wheels as a placeholder to see if a 650b conversion would really work for this bike, so that is why I went with the cheapest offering out there.  The downside was discovering the the holes drilled in this narrow rim end up partially on the upper edge inside the rim where the tire’s beads need to mount.  Installing the necessary narrow rim strip meant not covering these very sharp edged holes completely, which I knew would lead to flats and blow-outs later on.  I tried installing a wider strip, but that interfered with the Grand Bois tires’ beads.  Many swear words ensued at this point.  Finally I took to the internet to see who else had experienced this problem.  Turns out – everyone.  The best advice I read was to use three narrow rims strips on each rim, carefully positioned to cover the holes without interfering with tire mounting.  We will see how that goes (subsequent blog post forthcoming!).

Meanwhile, I am looking forward to setting up the other components, such as these very elegant Tektro brake levers.  Using 32 mm tires means that I will be able to re-install the lovely custom stainless steel Meral fenders.  It will also be interesting to try out the full length chain guard for this build which I envision with a single chain ring up front, as well as to experiment with V-O’s version of Paul’s thumbies.  Stay tuned.

French Threaded Shifter Bosses

While I usually love all things French, I was perplexed to discover that the shifter bosses on the early 1980’s Méral Randonneuse I am currently restoring are not threaded “normally”.  What is normal threading for a shifter boss?  Well, it’s the same  5 mm x .8 that you will find on much of the rest of your frame:  bottle cage mounts, rack mounts, etc.

Courtesy of Park Tools.

Fasteners have several elements that help identify their size, the two most important of which are: thread pitch, which is the distance from the crest to the crest, and thread diameter which is the outer measurement of the thread crests.  English threading is designated by the frequency of how many threads are counted along one inch.  This is know as “threads per inch” or TPI.  Metric threading uses the direct pitch measurement in millimeters, measuring between two adjacent thread crests.  A fastener designated as TPI is “standard”.  Unfortunately, some fasteners are “mix and match”, with both a TPI and a metric size, such as Italian bottom bracket threads labeled “36mm x 24 tpi”.  There are standard coarse metric threads which are designated with the letter “M” followed by the thread pitch.  For example M6 = 6.0 diameter with a 1.00 mm pitch.

This Méral has a shifter boss on the seat tube – for engaging a bottom bracket mounted dynamo.  When I acquired the bike, the lights and dynamo had been removed from the frame.  So, I planned on reinstalling a BB dynamo hooked up to a friction shifter on the seat tube.  That’s when I discovered that the threads on the shifter mounts did not match any threads on any shifters I tried, even including some Simplex shifters from this era.

Simplex Shifter with 6 mm x .8 threading

That’s because these shifter bosses are tapped with 6 x .8mm threads (not 5 x .8), as you can see from the above nomenclature on the bike’s Simplex shifter boss bolts.  These Simplex shifters use a nonstandard threading on the boss. My research indicates that Simplex used a variety of threading standards for its shifters:  5 x .8, 5 x 1.0, as well as 6 x .8, shown above.  Classic Lightweights has a discussion of these sizing anomalies.

Soubitez BB dynamo

Here is one idea for a BB dynamo for this bike – a Soubitez which is in good shape. I’ll need to set up the seat tube shifter, and given that the boss threading is non standard, it’s back to the drawing board for now.