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!

1930’s/40’s Peugeot Mixte 650B – Part II

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I have just about finished my recreation of this 1930’s/40’s Peugeot Mixte.  The bike was incomplete, as shown above, so I set about locating the appropriate parts to bring this old bike back to life and to make it rideable.  Right now, the bike looks great, but there’s a little more work to do on making the braking system stop the bike effectively.

This particular model is built with Rubis tubing – a Vitus brand that was used on higher end bicycles beginning in the 1930’s.  Unfortunately, over a decade of Peugeot bicycle catalogs are not available – from 1937 to 1950 – so it is not possible to determine which model this is, or what year.  During the war years, the Peugeot factory was under German control for a time, and there is very little information available as to what was happening in the cycling industry during the German Occupation. The serial number at the left rear drop-out includes an “H” so it is likely this is an H model.

The frame was in remarkably good condition, with all the brazing intact.  Although I tentatively dated the frame to the late 1930’s, I believe that it was later upgraded with the 1940’s or 1950’s Simplex Tour de France derailleur that was included when I purchased it. The frame has braze-ons for an earlier style of derailleur, however.

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I wanted to use the 4 speed freewheel shown above, but the Simplex TDF derailleur did not have enough cage swing capacity to cover all 4 cogs.  In fact, it measured out as exactly equal to the 3 cog freewheel shown above right, meaning of course that it was built as a 3 speed derailleur.  In a separate post, I discuss the procedures and issues related to setting up a Simplex Tour de France rear derailleur – no small feat.

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Through the frame cable routing, Jeay brakes

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Simplex shifter

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Possibly the original pump

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Another view of the Jeay brake cable routed through the frame – a nice touch.

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Full chainguard with blue pinstriping. The crankset and pedals are very lightweight – pedals are aluminum but unbranded.

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Peugeot logo still very vibrant

 

Vitus Rubis tubing

Vitus Rubis tubing

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Pin striping still evident on the fork legs. The wheels are not original, nor are the fenders.

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Jeay Brakes

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Headtube badge in nice condition

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The aluminum bars with wood grips and custom aluminum levers were a perfect addition to bring this bike back to its glory.

I harvested the 650b fenders and wheels from another French rando bike.  The hubs are by Normandy laced to 650b Wolber Super Champion rims. The aluminum fenders are unbranded.  The frame has some nice features, including the braze-ons for the Jeay brakes and the thru-the-frame cable routing for the rear brake.  I still need to install the rear and head lamps on the fenders and mount the dynamo, and get the lighting wired up.  But that can happen after its first test ride, coming soon.