This Bertin was supposedly owned by a California bike shop owner’s wife. Based on its overall condition it looks like it was only modestly used, but very well cared for. The bike is nearly 100% original with the tires being the only update I can see.
How’s it ride? Well, from my short time spent on it, I’d say just about typical for a lower-to-mid range 1970’s bike. I don’t feel a lot of difference between the Bertin and, say, a Peugeot UO-8; that is, with the exception of the rims. Where most 70’s bikes ran soft, heavy steel hoops, the Bertin has wonderful aluminum Milremo rims. It might seem a small upgrade, but the wheels do feel stiffer and braking is much more “grippy” (see, “much less scary”). …And though the rim sides still have perforations, they don’t have the jet engine scream of textured steel rims. The Milremos sound more like a modern business jet as opposed to a Century-series fighter.
If my research is correct, this Bertin is a model C31. Hopefully someone will chime in if that’s not right. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been wrong, nor the one-thousandths, nor the millionth…
(Thanks to the gang at the Reno Bike Project for providing both parts and some really special bikes over the years.)
This DS was commissioned by its original owner in 2002 and found its way here in 2014 where it joined the semi-official Della Santa museum. I say “semi-official” because Roland doesn’t have much use for bikes that just sit around. He builds them to be ridden and scoffs at bikes that are mere garage queens. You can thus imagine how he feels about a gaggle of them.
He also doesn’t consider his bikes art in any sense and tends to go off on people who nerd out over his framebuilding. You know, people like me. Knowing him for 34 years and living within a mile of each other, he’s had many opportunities to make his opinion clear, but that doesn’t make me like him or his bikes any less. Probably more, in fact. Thus, the semi-official museum that exists without his blessing.
…And now that this particular bike is out and sitting here with me, maybe I’ll honor him by taking it out for a ride this afternoon. It’ll no-doubt be like riding rolling art, after all.
Mt. bikes seem to have been given short shrift here on the ol’ Buzz Bomb site. Nearly 9 years and 82 posts and I’ve never mentioned anything about any number of mt. bikes around here. Today it ends with a post about a more recent arrival.
While visiting thedropoutbikeshop.com about 8 months ago Chad had pointed out a Univega mt. bike that had been traded it. It had been updated with a few modern parts while also being “uglied” by its previous owner. The worst sin were a pair of Scott AT-4 mt. bike handlebars. I hated those things in the day and they’d never grown on me. I know form follows function, but honestly, those bars were too ugly to be useful. Because the bike was still pretty clean and also because I couldn’t stand to see it soldier on with those awful bars I decided I was going to buy it up.
I don’t recall having a flood of memories when I first laid eyes on it, but since then it’s caused me to reflect back on my Univega days at College Cyclery. By 1989 we were selling lots of Fishers and thus high-end Univegas were understandably taking a back seat. With so many beautiful Hoo Koo e Koos and ProCalibers in the shop, I don’t think we even stocked Alpina Teams by 1989. Looking at one nearly 30 years later I’m thinking the Alpina Team was a really nice bike for its day, though. It was light, using double-butted Prestige mt. bike tubing, the bike was relatively quick with its trendy straight fork, and finally, it was well appointed with Deore XT throughout. It also cost less than a similarly equipped Fisher.
Sure, the speckled paint job wasn’t the most attractive and today makes the bike look really dated, but even Fisher hadn’t been immune to the look, splatter-painting their Hoo Koo e Koos. I guess I fell for it twice because there’s one of each here.
I keep thinking I’ll take the Alpina Team out into the Sierra mountains just to the west of here. It might be fun to spend some time on a rigid mt. bike for the first time in many years. Then again, I’ve never been great at trail riding and the only thing that’s increased is my waistline. Sad as it sounds, this might be one of those times when nostalgia is better left in the shop.
This poor old Sterling showed up at the Reno Bike Project a couple months back. Raymond Eliot was nice enough to call me to come get it before, well, I’m not sure what would have happened to it. Probably nothing good. (Thanks, Ray!)
As you can see, a fair amount is missing or is wrong; I’d need to hunt down wheels and grips (the existing are incorrect). I’d need tires, saddle, seat post, grips, chain, pedals, parking stand, parking stand clip, rear reflector, some missing bearings, spacers, etc… Also, an original chainguard in matching blue and white with the right amount of patina, the hardest part by far.
I was thinking I’d pass it on to someone who’d be willing to find all the missing parts and put it back together all original-like, but then again, uhhh, isn’t that what I’m supposed to be able to do?
Damn. I guess I’m now working on an old Sterling.
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.