Riding the Old Peugeot 650b Mixte

Peugeot 650b Mixte

I have put off making some final adjustments to this vintage Peugeot 650b mixte, knowing that I needed to dial in the Jeay brakes and work out the other little bugs that always come up during a frame up build.  But with today’s unnaturally warm weather, I decided to take the bike out into the wiles of Portland.  Even though this Peugeot is positively a city bike, Portland’s traffic scene and “bike culture” are in no way conducive to safe and leisurely riding on this type of machine.  So, a weekend trip along Springwater corridor and through the Eastbank Esplanade is the most enjoyable way to learn the handling characteristics of a new ride such as this.

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I am not sure why it is so tempting to think of a 70 year old bike as clunky and incompetent, but riding this machine today reminded me again how well the cycling industry had developed by the time the Germans occupied France in 1941.

First of all, this is no clunker.  It weighs 28 lbs as pictured (without bag), and that includes the fork mounted dynamo, fenders, and heavy Gauthier leather saddle.  Not bad!  The frame is made with Vitus Rubis tubing, which was used on higher end models in the 30’s and 40’s. The front end had no unpleasant “wobbly” feeling as can exist on some mixte frames, and handling was easy at all speeds.  Maybe the long wheelbase and super slack seat tube angle provide for the comfortable ride – but it is really fun to corner on this bike.  Kind of like riding on a roller coaster.  Whee!

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The Simplex Tour de France rear derailleur works perfectly out on the road, with accuracy, and no trimming.  Of course, there are only 3 gears here.  And what big gears they are, ranging from 54 to 75 gear inches.  I have to wonder about these giant gears on older machines that I encounter.  Were people stronger then?  Did they simply walk up the hills?  Is France totally flat?  Ha.  I can lower the gearing a bit by going up to 24 teeth, which is the maximum that this derailleur can handle.  Or maybe I’ll just tough it out for now.

Simplex Tour de France

It is very difficult to find builder information for bikes manufactured in France during the occupation years.  Based on some reading, I have learned that the cycling industry in France actually experienced a “bike boom” because petrol was unavailable to the populace, so driving was no longer really an option for most people.  And, there is a lot of shame surrounding those businesses who benefited financially during those terrible times, even though they may have been among the resistance on a moral and intellectual level.  The disruptions to normal business practices during the Nazi occupation, as well as this shame and possibly the need for secrecy has meant that it is nearly impossible to determine what exactly was going on in some of the cycling shops in France during the time.  I have found it interesting that there were sudden innovations (Simplex derailleurs) and new companies emerging (Mafac) right after France was liberated.  I suspect that research and innovation was in fact occurring during the occupation years, but went on, undocumented.  (Jan Heine has an interesting blog post about this topic here.)

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Correctly dating this Peugeot has been challenging.  Peugeot catalogs during the late 30’s and 1940’s cannot be found.  There is very little information about what was happening at the Peugeot factory during the occupation, with the implication that they actually shut down.  Some websites claim that the factory did shut down during the occupation, but I think they may be referencing only the automobile factory, as by this time the bicycle factory had been separated out as a distinct division, located in Beaulieu (Mandeure), France.  So, my best guess based on its original components and on the frame characteristics is that this bike dates to sometime in the late 30’s through the 1940’s.

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I was worried that the wood grips, which are very comfortable, would fly off the handlebars during vigorous climbing, as they are connected to the bar only with a conical cork insert located inside the grips, which I tapped into the bars with a mallet.  They held fine.  The Gauthier ladies leather saddle was shockingly comfortable – no changes were needed there.  I was also concerned that while the brake levers are quite lovely, the shape would inhibit emergency braking, with their slight arc in the middle restricting the movement.  As it turned out, braking was quite noisy!  This alerted others to my presence.  I had installed Kool Stop orange pads on the front, but had left the old funky Mafac pads as is on the rear.  Big mistake!  This bike needs Kool Stops front and rear, plus a complete cleaning and sanding of the rims to eliminate braking squeal, which I have now done.

Vintage Peugeot

Peugeot 650b resting at home

Thank you to Shawn at Adventurepdx, for this nice old Carradice bag which goes perfectly on this Peugeot.  I don’t use saddlebags much, and was shocked just how much you can jam into this thing.  It is the perfect addition to the bike and adds all the utility needed to make this a useful commuter and weekend rider.

Peugeot 650b Mixte Restoration

1930's Peugeot Mixte

Spanning several years, my work on this restoration project is now complete.  This 1930’s (or possibly 1940’s) Peugeot came to me like this:

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The frame was pretty dirty, but seemed otherwise intact, with all the brazing in good shape and no serious dings or dents.  It is made with Vitus “Rubis” tubing, a type used on higher end bicycles in the 30’s and 40’s.  As many enthusiasts know, Peugeot serial numbers appeared to follow no rhyme or reason and cannot be used to successfully date older models.  So, the main clues to its provenance are the “H” in front of the serial number, the tubing type, the decals, and the components.  The drive side chain stay has a braze-on for a derailleur spring, but when I purchased the bike, it came with a Simplex Tour de France derailleur, a model which doesn’t use such a spring.  I think this was a later upgrade to the bike, as these derailleurs were first introduced in the late 40’s.

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Peugeot Serial Number

Vitus Rubis tubing

Vitus Rubis tubing

In two previous posts I documented the process used to create a rideable machine out of the original bike plus as many period-specific parts as I could source.  I added 650b wheels, hammered fenders, a Henri Gauthier leather saddle,  a polished aluminum stem, custom levers, and aluminum handlebar with wood grips.  My final quest was to set up the lighting.  I needed a full lighting system, and after going through a number of possible dynamos I finally found a Ducel fork mounted system that was NOS from the 50’s, that looked just about perfect.

 

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Ducel fork mount dynamo

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Ducel headlamp

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Ducel rear lamp

Riding this bike is really fun – it is very comfortable with its super long wheel base and the 650b tires.  It is quite the attention getter and conversation starter and was really rewarding to work on.  Here is the bike now, and it will be up for sale in my new on-line store – coming soon.

Aluvac pedals

Aluvac aluminum pedals

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Very light cottered crankset

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Simplex Tour de France rear Derailleur – working perfectly

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Through the frame cable routing to the Jeay brakes

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Henri Gauthier leather ladies saddle

 

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3 speed Cyclo freewheel

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Pivo stem – highly polished and very pretty

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Buy now!

A Peugeot PR 65 Arrives from France

Bluemel's Fenders

When I spotted what looked like a complete and all original 1978 Peugeot PR 65 on Ebay, I was thrilled.  Even though the bike would have to be shipped from France, I had purchased bikes from the seller before, so I wasn’t worried about its journey across the Atlantic.

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However, when this package arrived, looking like a giant turtle, it was with some trepidation that I began the process of opening its contents.

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The amount of labor involved in packing the bike was probably only exceeded by the amount of time it took me to get all the protective wrapping off.  However, even part way through the 1 1/2 hour process, when I finally caught sight of the paint and components, I was pleased.

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The bike came through just fine, thanks to the protective materials used.  I wasn’t sure whether the component group would match the PR65 in this catalog, but as it turned out, all of the parts are original, including the polished Mavic 700c aluminum rims, high flange Normandy hubs (with helpful 1978 date code), Stronglight TS 3 arm crankset (very pretty), and a complete Simplex drive train.  The frame is built with Reynolds 531 7/10 tubing and Nervex lugs.  I believe it is the only Peugeot mixte frame built with Reynolds 531.

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This bike came with a small TA front rack which mounts to the Mafac brakes and the fork crown, as well as lovely Phillipe porteur style bars.  The Phillipe logo is in great condition – its the image of a racer seen from the top, bent over his narrow racing bars.

The seller also installed drop out protectors to help insure that the fork and rear drop outs did not get smashed during shipping.

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Even so, the rear drop outs were slightly misaligned such that it was difficult to install the rear wheel.  A little “wanging” solved that problem.

All these photos were taken before restoration, a process I am now beginning.  In the meantime, this little Peugeot is hanging out in my shop with her sister.

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