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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
I have dated this bike to the early 1950’s. It is most likely a 1953 model, given the “53” code on the Fratteli Brivio (F.B.) hub cones, the “53” code on the Regina 4 speed freewheel, and the Simplex Tour de France rear derailleur, which matches visually to photos of other TDF models I have located dated as 1953 models (and includes a few features not seen on the late 40’s models). However, there is also a “51” code on the Melas fork mounted dynamo, but an earlier date code for a component such as this doesn’t necessarily indicate the bike’s date of creation.
Oscar Egg lugs. Note the small diameter tubes.
I say “creation” instead of “manufacture”, as clearly this unique mixte, with its Oscar Egg lugs, was a custom build. Unfortunately, there is no headbadge, nor are there logos of any kind present on the frame. However, some barely visible white and orange paint artifacts still remain on the seat tube indicating the presence of transfers which have either faded or were removed. And, on the headtube there is a shadow of what was once an oval or triangular sticker.
The fork is likely not original to the frame. Its brake reach is 7 mm longer than that of the rear brake reach, necessitating the use of longer reach Weinmann 810 sidepulls on the front (with the rear using a Weinmann 730). In addition, the downtube shows evidence of a front impact, further supporting my theory that the original fork was replaced. The fully chromed fork, although in beautiful condition, is not as nicely finished as the rest of the frame, with crude file marks still visible on the inside of the fork crown lug.
The use of a longer fork than original means that the headtube angle is slacker than originally conceived. I measured it at 68 degrees, compared with the 71 degree angle of the seat tube. According to this helpful guide from Damon Rinard, you can determine the effect of using a longer or shorter fork on your bike’s original frame geometry. Conclusion: even fairly large length differences don’t matter all that much. An 11 mm difference in fork length only changes the head angle by .64 degrees. In this case, the slacker angle increased the wheel flop a bit, but the trail measurement of 58 mm and the wheel flop of 20 mm are still well within the normal range.
Ideale TB 14 Saddle
City style Scheeren bars, highly polished, with original grips
Clement tubular rims
Fratelli Brivio (F.B.) hubs
This bike is a study in contrasts. It is built with top end, very light components. As pictured it weighs only 22 lbs. The use of the very best hubs available at the time laced to the Clement tubular rims indicate a rider who wanted speed and comfort, and was willing to pay for it. The timeless Marcel Berthet Lyotard pedals include Christophe toe clips and leather straps, further evidence that the bike was meant for spirited riding. On the other hand, it has slack geometry, city style bars, and a heavy, but comfy Ideale TB 14 saddle. It is also a larger mixte frame, measuring 55 cm x 55 cm, with a very long 109 cm wheelbase. Although there are single fender eyelets front and rear, there are no rack mounts. When cleaning the bike, I found evidence that a rear saddlebag support had been clamped on the seat stays.
The Regina drilled 4 speed Model Fulgur 15-17-19-21 freewheel was an especially nice bit to find on this bike. The teeth show no wear, and with a little oil and cleaning, it looks and sounds brand new. Some freewheels, such as SunTour and Regina, emit an incredibly pleasing sound, and this one is no exception.
Simplex TDF rear derailleur mounted to the model specific Simplex drop out
After setting up Simplex TDF plunger/pushrod style rear derailleurs more than a few times, I have finally got the hang of it. For this build,the derailleur responds extremely well and shifts as quickly as any modern derailleur, without any over shifting required. Fortunately, I had the original chain, so I was not left to guess about chain length, and I think that helped a lot. The new chain is a bit longer than I would have cut it if I had not had the original.
Titan seatpost, gold lined lugs
Favorit PWB (Prague Warsaw Berlin) crankset
Highly polished stem, bars, and headset.
All of the components had been highly polished, even the Weinmann sidepull calipers. Cleaning them was very easy. The frame took more work, as there was a heavy layer of gunk over the paint. The resulting sparkle was well worth it. I was very surprised at how nicely even the silver paint on the stays cleaned up. The bike really does look impressive. An unusual feature is the curved rear stay, to allow the brake cable to lay flush against the frame.
Curved rear stay
Through the frame wiring for the fork mount dynamo, not yet installed.
This was one of those bikes that I wanted to keep as original as possible. However, the frayed brake cable housings had to go, as they were not usable. I have a stash of vintage cable housing in various colors and from various periods. I have found that this silver colored housing which I believe dates to the 1960’s has a really nice vintage-y look. I had a length that was in good condition, so used it to replace the brake cable housing. I decided to keep the shifter cable housing original. Although the outer casing is cracked in areas, far less forces are exerted on shifter housing and the interior coils were fine, so I lubricated the original shifter housing and installed a new cable, which had to be sanded down a bit in order to fit into the Simplex shifter mechanism. I did not install the Melas fork mount dynamo – it had probably failed long ago and was not useable. I hooked up the pretty rear lamp, and will now try to source a fork mount dynamo from the period which has an integrated head lamp.
I’ve got some friction in the rear brake cable, and I suspect I’ll also have a bit of noisy braking when I venture out. So, there’s more effort still to make in getting this bike back on the road. It will be interesting to see how the bike rides, given its contrasting features.
This vintage bicycle has challenged my research abilities. I purchased it recently on eBay and had this basic info from the seller: a post WWII Oscar Egg lugged mixte, no marquis, but probably French built, with top of the line components, including tubular Clement rims laced to F. B. hubs – plus a number of other interesting components that were new to me.
Immediately, I began to wonder about when this bike was made and why there is no marquis or headbadge to indicate the builder. But, I’ll put aside that weighty question, and present these photos taken before disassembly:
Favorit PWB cottered crankset – Prague Warsaw Berlin
Simplex shifter with cable stop
Fratelli Brivio (F.B.) hubs
Bluemels Lightweight Mudguards
Oscar Egg Mixte lugs – note the very small diameter tubes
Weinmann sidepulls – an 810 on the front and a 730 on the back
The bike shop in Kern Frankfurt, Germany where the bike was ordered.
An extraordinary Titan seatpost
Seatpost lug with gold paint to match the lug lining
Frame paint detail
An ornate pump peg, plus evidence of a front impact. The tubes appear straight and undamaged, however.
Frayed cable housing, french headset.
Clement 700c tubular rims.
A 4 speed Simplex Tour de France rear derailleur mounted on the model-specific and quite robust Simplex dropout. A real contrast to the delicate downtubes and chainstays.
Rare Scheeren alloy handlebars.
Oscar Egg head tube lugs.
Curved seat stay, presumably to allow the rear brake cable to lay flush against the frame
Lugged chrome fork, way more clearance than needed by these narrow 20mm tubulars
Melas fork mount dynamo. The front light is not original.
I am looking forward to having the time to undertake this fascinating restoration project! I have been involved with restoring a number of late ’40s bicycles. This one, I think, will add some depth to my knowledge base.