Mid Century Mercier Meca Dural

2017-01-16-036

2017-01-16-020 2017-01-16-011 2017-01-16-006 2017-01-16-022 2017-01-16-021 2017-01-16-0232017-01-16-044

2017-01-16-0382017-01-16-015

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.

2017-01-16-026 2017-01-16-025 2017-01-16-0292017-01-16-001

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.

2017-01-13-0092016-01-07-0142017-01-13-004 2017-01-15-003

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!

2017-01-16-060

Ideale Model 80 leather saddle

2017-01-16-064

Simplex shifter

2017-01-16-057

Luxor headlight bracket

2017-01-16-055

Luxor 65 headlamp

2017-01-16-053

C.M. calipers with reversed hardware

2017-01-16-052

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.

2017-01-16-059

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.

2015-12-31-009

Before

2017-01-16-049

After

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.

2017-01-16-014

 

When in Doubt, Accessorize

2016-12-18-029

2015-12-17-026

Late 40’s/early 50’s Mercier Meca Dural, as originally acquired – with incorrect 700c wheel size and various missing parts.

To counteract the too frequent headaches and setbacks on the mechanical side of bringing this Mercier Meca Dural back to life, I decided to focus on the “extras” that are often regarded as nonessential accessories – chain guards, lighting, and racks.  As fashion experts know, it’s the extras that really make one’s ensemble come together.

2016-12-18-042

Baffling chain guard hardware.

Mounting a chain guard, however, proved daunting.  I had a nice aluminum Rigid-branded guard from this same era, which fit well around the 46T Louis Verot chain ring.  But, one of the odd things about this bike is that all the frame mounted braze-ons and brackets are missing.  I had this chain guard hardware set, shown above, that included a baffling assemblage of clamps, threaded bolts, and numerous nuts and washers, but I couldn’t determine how to make this hardware work on this bike and with the Rigid-branded chain guard.

mounting-of-chainguard-example

Creative chain guard mount – spotted in downtown Portland.

Fortunately, while downtown waiting to catch a train a while back, I spotted this wonderful Raleigh Sports with an interesting chain guard mounting solution.  I snapped this photo with my iPhone so that I wouldn’t forget what I saw.  Meanwhile, I searched the internet for chain guard mounting lore.  Velo-Orange came to the rescue, with a nice discussion of different kinds of frame braze-ons for chain guard mounts, as well as how to configure hardware when your frame lacks such mounts.  You’ll note in the photo above that this cyclist has mounted the chain guard using eyebolts on the guard, which make it easy to adjust the chain guard when used with the long threaded bolts – with the threaded portion attaching the the frame clamp.  Using these ideas, I anticipate that I’ll get the Rigid chain guard mounted properly, but I can see that I’ll need a bit more in the way of hardware.

2016-12-18-009

Luxor 65 headlamp.

2016-12-18-011

Creases at back of lamp to hold cables in place.

2016-12-18-013

Very pretty branded Luxor stem clamp.

Moving on to this bike’s lighting system, I re-installed the front Luxor 65 headlamp back on to its Luxor branded stem mounting bracket.  Luxor lighting is very well thought of, and there is even one enthusiast who loves Luxor 65 so much that  the cyclist machined a copper heat sink for their beloved Luxor light so that LED’s could be used with this system.

I don’t plan to go that far, but I am impressed with the quality of this light.  When I was setting it up, I noticed creases at the back of the headlight shell that I thought were caused by the shell being dropped and dented.  But once I had the light mounted, I could see that the creases were in the perfect position to hold the front brake cables in place.  I don’t know if these dents were a fortunate mishap – but it works for me.  You’ll note that I used red cable housing for this build.  These housings are vintage from the 1970’s – they are a darker red than the new red Jaguar cables, and match the dark red color in the Mercier head badge.  Hopefully, the fashion police will agree with my choice.

2016-12-18-016 2016-12-18-020

Installing the lighting meant coming up with a fork mounted dynamo, which this bike would have originally had (as there is no dynamo mount on the seat stays).  I located a vintage dynamo fork bracket, and installed it on the fork blade over some black cloth handlebar tape, to protect the steel fork.  For now, I have set up this very lightweight and free spinning Soubitez Argil dynamo, which is not from this era, but dates probably to the 1960’s.  If it works well, I’ll keep it.  If not, I’ll source a dynamo from this era.  You’ll see that the fork bracket includes a grounding set screw in the middle of the bracket.  This provides the electrical ground for this system, so it needs to contact the steel fork. But, you don’t want to screw it in too far, as it could damage the fork.

2016-12-18-036   2016-12-18-032

Finally came the ideas for a rear rack.  I have had this interesting 1940’s steel rack in my shop for awhile.  I haven’t found the right project for it.  I dry mounted the rack on the bike and found that it seemed to fit well.

2016-12-18-037

2016-12-18-040

This steel rack is reasonably light weight and features fully adjustable stays, so that it should fit on pretty much any configuration.  It is a bit rusted and needs to be cleaned and polished.  It’s not the strongest rack out there, but should work well for this bicycle, which was designed for city riding.

600-mercier_mecadural

One of the fun things about this Mercier Meca Dural, is that it served as the inspiration for Public Bike’s Champs-Elyisees d8i bicycle. The above photo provided their inspiration.  When I have completed the restoration of my Mercier Meca Dural, I hope to be equally inspired, and inspiring.

1950 Huret Competition Rear Derailleur

2016-12-16-011

This Huret Competition rear derailleur was equipped on the Mercier Meca Dural bicycle I have been restoring.  When I removed the derailleur from the frame, I wondered whether it was original to the bike.  And, I really didn’t like it – with it’s rigid connecting arm and weird large upper opening which is supposed to connect to the space above the frame’s vertical drop outs.  Perhaps I am a Simplex snob.

2015-12-31-013 2016-12-16-034

This plunger/pull-chain derailleur is similar to the Simplex TDF and Simplex Juy derailleurs of this era.  But there is an important difference:  there is no upper pivot on the derailleur arm, so it cannot move under chain tension.  During this era, Simplex offered this extra feature on its plunger/pull-chain derailleurs, and I have enjoyed restoring a number of fine Simplex derailleurs from the early 1950’s which work well out on the road.  Instead, this Huret derailleur mounts with a rigid arm extending from the chainstay.  But because this Mercier Meca Dural has vertical dropouts, is the derailleur in the correct position?  The Daniel Rebour drawing shown above shows this derailleur mounted on a frame with semi-horizontal dropouts.  The position of the upper pulley in Rebour’s drawing, allows for more chain wrap, as opposed to my project, with its vertical dropouts pushing the derailleur down, with less engagement of the freewheel cogs.

2016-12-16-014 2016-12-16-013 2016-12-16-010 2016-12-16-009 2016-12-16-007 2016-12-16-006

Even so, I decided to overhaul the derailleur and keep my misgivings at bay.  The pulleys have ball bearings – a really nice feature – which I overhauled by removing the pulleys from the cage, and cleaning and lubricating them. Each pulley has a set of cones under which the ball bearings reside, which can be tightened or loosened.  I decided to leave the cone adjustment as found, but I did note that one pulley’s cones were quite a bit looser than the other’s.

2016-12-16-012

I also cleaned and lubricated the pull chain – removing it completely from the derailleur and, cleaning and greasing it,  then re-threading it.  The re-threading is a little challenging – it takes patience to get the threads to re-engage.

One of the challenges with these types of derailleurs is to get the pulley cage in the correct position.  Simplex even offered a drawing in its owner’s manuals to help cyclists install these derailleurs correctly.  Generally speaking, the derailleur should be installed so that the monikers appear upright and/or readable, as shown below:

2015-12-31-014

I’m not enamored with this derailleur, but after researching its origins, I believe it may be original to the bike.  Even so, I may decide to replace it with a nicer Simplex model from this same era.  First, I’ll test this derailleur to see how it performs.