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 Job Well Done

1929 Griffon wheel hub overhaul

Spending precious time maintaining and overhauling stuff that already exists and can be replaced with something new and shiny is considered a waste of time in current U.S. culture.  Why not just buy whatever you want on Amazon and be done with it?  Then, your free time can be spent on other time-wasting activities that do not involve brain power, pride of workmanship, and plain old satisfaction in a job well done.  Instead, no analysis is given to the environmental cost of throw away technology, not to mention the cost to your creativity and skill set.

Mid Century Mercier Meca Dural bottom bracket and spindle

Even if you are not a Buddhist, you may be able to appreciate the joy one can derive from honoring the work of one’s elders.  Every time I overhaul a vintage bicycle I am overwhelmed with enthusiasm and respect for the work of those innovators who came before me.  Bicycle lore, including engineering concepts and technological breakthroughs,  was well established by the early 20th century, a fact which will shock many cyclists today.

Simplex bell crank actuated rear derailleur

Derailleur design, frame geometry, tubing construction, hub generators, gear ratios, and many other concepts were worked out long ago, and very elegantly. Modern components focus only on simplicity for the cyclist rather than on something which will endure over the ages.

A 1941 Goeland owned by Annie Laurin

Vintage components were designed to last over decades of use.  That’s what makes my job so restorative to my soul.

1975 Centurion Semi Pro

This evening as I walked into my shop I smiled with joy at the classic machines I am privileged to ride, including this 1975 Centurion Semi Pro.  Tomorrow will be a dry day here in Pdx, and I’m looking forward to my bicycle commute – and smiling because I don’t even know which bicycle I will choose.  Working on all these wonderful vintage bicycles is an honor, and I hope, a job well done.