Here it is, all shined up and ready to ride. The Brooks saddle is now dyed a shiny black, new Carlton decals have been installed and the bars have been re-wrapped with original white plastic tape. The bike rides well enough, though the handlebars are a bit narrow for long rides. Still, a pretty bike that was definitely worth the time.
Here’s a new arrival, a one-owner bicycle purchased by the widow’s husband in the late 1960’s. “My husband rode it maybe three times before he decided he was over it,” she stated, “over it” likely meaning the Gitane specifically, since the couple had a pair of Schauff folding bikes that looked well used.
The Gitane, on the other hand, was fresh as a proverbial daisy. That is, except the foil seat tube decal, which had been squashed in a repair stand at some point. When I asked how the decal could have been mauled she said, “He used to have it tuned every so often, just in case.”
A fairly comprehensive search turned up zero decal replacements; no originals, no remakes. …And then the other night I was sitting, watching the scrub jays badger Marmalade, our large tabby when it occurred to me that I might have a few lying around myself. A concerted hunt in the official repair area/cramped half basement and lo and behold, I discovered not only a few various Gitane decals, but indeed a whole shoebox full (I need to get better organized). In the mass was a shiny new seat tube decal, all sassy and red.
So, you might be thinking I titled this write-up because the bike is now so fresh it looks like it came out of a time machine. A little perhaps, but the real impetus was the decal I noticed on its drive-side chainstay, “email luxe polymerise”. Email? Really?
A quick translation turned up “polymerized luxury email” which is obvious nonsense. A little further down the rabbit hole I found a bicycle forum that stated the term referred to the type of paint used. There were also other funny posts about similar Gitanes having the same strange decal.
In the end, I guess I’ll have to believe the paint story for many obvious reasons, not the least of which is, if these bikes had traveled to the future you’d think they would have benefited from it somehow. If anything, 1960’s/70’s French bikes with their heavy tubing, cottered cranks and onerous components were a step backward.
Jeez, if the average number of bikes sold each year is 15, that’s 375 over the course of 25 years. I guess it’s a good thing we have the sale; otherwise we would have been buried underneath a pile of steel years ago.
This nice old Carlton showed up last week. Already pretty clean, the “Before and After” transition won’t be as dramatic as some, but that’s not to say it’s ready to go. It’s missing tires and most of its decals, the grease in the bearings is petrified, and the original Brooks B15 saddle has lost most of its color and suppleness. In other words, it’ll still be in the work stand for 8-10 hours.
Based on workflow I’m guessing it won’t be ready for it’s “After” shots for about a month. If you like Carltons it should be worth checking back, though.
Ahh, my first bike, a second-hand 20″ single-speed with a rattle-can red paint job and dented fenders. It was nothing to look at, but I loved it nevertheless. I rode it everywhere, or at least everywhere a 5-year old could. Pretending it was a top-fuel dragster, I’d purposely high-center the rear wheel between its training wheels and pedal with all my might, executing the dirt equivalent of a burnout. I’d use more or less the same method but creep slowly forward, digging long trenches in our driveway, much more efficient than using my Tonka backhoe.
I understand why folks have a strong connection to their first bikes. Like the beat-up little Schwinn-built B.F. Goodrich girl’s bike that showed up here one day 7 months ago. It wasn’t rare, it wasn’t collectible per se… Heck, it wasn’t even a full-size bike, but rather a diminutive 24″ wheel model. The fact that the customer had kept it for 69 years was no accident, though. …And any attempts to talk her out of a full restoration fell on deaf ears: Sometimes a bike is restored not because it’s rare or valuable, it’s love, pure and simple.
The B.F. Goodrich went into the shop queue and soon enough was underway. I discovered there’s something liberating about restoration without worrying about the cost vs. subsequent value. It’s a good thing because the Goodrich threw the scales off almost immediately and never looked back.
So here it is, all shiny and running like a champ. No garage queen, the owner says the bike still fits her so she’s gonna ride it. Maybe I’ll teach her how to do a burnout when she picks it up.
I recently pulled this prewar Schwinn New World from storage to have the paint matched for another restoration here at the shop. While it was out I thought I’d photograph it and give it a little air time.
Bike folk don’t seem to pay much attention to prewar American lightweights. They just don’t attract the attention of their balloon-tire siblings, mere moths amongst the pretty butterflies that were all around them back then.
In an era where beauty trumped everything, lightweights stood out as bikes you could actually ride, though. I’m a huge fan of the balloon-tire era; one glance around the shop and you’ll see that, but you won’t find me riding more than 10 miles on one. As I said, I’m just a fan of the aesthetic, not a slave to it.
There are a few other 80+ year old lightweights of one make or another hanging around here. I’ll try to post them as they either go out on rides or are getting work done.
A final note: I’ve seen many a bike with their registration plate still attached to it, but I’ve never seen one with this low a number.
I’m usually not very excited when the average 1970’s French bike rolls in the door. Plastic Simplex components, heavy frames, hard plastic saddles, narrow steel bars… And French threading. Yechh.
This Mercier caught my attention though, not because it was any great shakes quality-wise, but Lord, those decals. It was also pretty much new and very intact, but that alone wouldn’t have been enough. A couple of pretty Peugeots and a fine little Gitane Tourister came in about the same time and none of them joined the ranks of the Buzz Bomb collection. Lord, those decals.