05 June, 2007

Motobecanes


Of the mass produced French bike-boom era cycles, Motobecanes have always been my favorites. The design and quality was always, at least to my eye, a bit above equivalent Gitanes and Peugeots. Of course there were some excellent smaller brands like Urago, but they are hard to find. Motobecanes can be easily and cheaply bought at yard sales, swap meets, and on E-bay.

My favorite Motobecanes were the Grand Record and Jubilee. They have decent construction of Vitus or Reynolds 531 tubing with Nervex lugs. The handling is comfortable and stable, as a rando bike should be. In fact I currently use a Jubilee as my everyday city bike and have a Le Champion frame in reserve. The Grand Record and Jubilee make very good budget classic randonneuse and are probably the least expensive way to approach the feel of a constructeur bike. This Classic Rendezvous page explains the full Motobecane model line-up.

David Barnblatt obviously appreciates Motobecanes as he has transformed the two Mirages and the Grand Record shown into truly lovely machines. His Grand Record is probably a better rando bike than most any complete production bike available in the US today. Check out the gold Mafac competition brakes and levers, Honjo fenders, and Simplex seat post, not to mention Campy high flange hubs and Velo Orange racks. More photos of his bikes can be found here.

The last photo is of my own Jubilee city bike which is still waiting for the prototype large porteur rack and VO fenders. It may also get 650B wheels.

31 comments:

'Brian' aka 'BG' said...

I always disliked the name. Moto is slang for a motorcycle. That said, we know what Shakespeare said about that rose of another name.

Anonymous said...

Chris or David, what bars are those on the Jubilee/Mirages? Is that the TTT model which inspired the Jitensha flat bar?

Chris Kulczycki said...

Yes, that is the Jitensha flat bar. I've been experimenting with various and I do like this one for fast riding.

Jim G said...

There was a guy who was riding a nice black/red MB on this years SFR 300k, I don't think it was the same bike pictured (the one I saw had a larger frame, I think) but it was one of the standout bikes of the day!

James said...
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James said...

Wast the crank rubbing against the chaincase? You know, some of the generic chaincase of this style you find in german cataloges have a cut out that allow you to move the rear of the chaincase towards the frame a bit to bring it in line with the crank.

Anonymous said...

I like dat!

Chris Kulczycki said...

James,

I've been messing around with various mounting systems and in some cases the crank did lightly rub on the case. That little mark will polish out. One important thing I found is that the rear mount must be tight or it's too easy to kick the chaincase out of plumb, and then it can rub. We may switch to a rear mount with two bolts.

Anonymous said...

The year was 1978. The birthday was 13th. I got to leave school early to go get my 1st 10 speed.

It was to be a Motobencane. Alas, someone intervened to warn my dad of the pricetag spoiling my plan and leaving me with a Takara.

I never forgot that day. It probably had something to do with my splurging on a Riv. I searched for the blue/silver Nomad on eBay for months but was disappointed over and over again due to the decline of the real Motobecane and special sizing requirements.

The 2 silver bikes are beautiful and photographed very nicely. Thanks.

Joel said...

Oooh. A Takara over an MB. I feel your pain.

My family story is pretty sad to. My older brother had an MB. I had a Paramount. We both got the post College world travel bug and both sold our bikes to help fund our voyages.

20 years later we can hardly remember (heck, we could hardly remember 20 days later) what we did in Europe and South America. Whenever we get together we still talk about those bikes though.

39Cross said...

I have a soft spot for MB's too. used to hang out at the local bike shop as a teen and cast desirous looks upon said Grand Record. To this day, a black and red paint job, gold-lined Nervex lugs and polished TA cranks make my knees wobbly.

David B. said...

Thanks for the complements. The Grand Record I restored reminded me of the Super Mirage I had when I was 13 in 1978! Black and red... rode it everywhere.
Back then I didn't really look at the line-up that Motobecane offered, I guess I was happy with what I had. Maybe that's a good thing, beacuse had I known about a GR or Le Champion I would have wanted one.
I took the photos near where I live in Santa Monica... I've been a photographer (as a hobby) for a long time. ( I had an Olympus OM-1, along with the Motobecane in 1978!)
Bikes are a little dificult... you have to separate them from the background... so use a long lens!

Joel said...

Well, now I am really jealous.

Not only do you have a troika of Motobecanes, but you live in beautiful Santa Monica!

Thanks for the lense tip. I have a lot of trouble getting decent shots of my bike.

I have been thinking about going to the Chicago Photography Center for some lessons. I am a little afraid to. Based on my bike experience, I know if I get started with photography I will start buying up Leicas, Hasselblads and a smattering of retired brands.

James said...
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Matt said...

I got a Motobecane Grand Record for my high school graduation present in 1975. I still have it. I wrote a page about this bike at Bike Touring Circa 1980. Did anyone else tour on sewups?

Mark said...

My dad's early-70s Nobly is sitting in my sister's basement. I've been debating about turning it into a singlespeed or just not touching it and letting it become a museum piece. Anyone know about the Nobly frame? Think it's worth the effort?

david b. said...

I have a Nobly as a beater. It's just that... heavy all rounder. Just polish it up and ride it around town. The one I have has upright handlebars and metalic brown with fenders and a rear rack. Cool bike but not meant to go along distance... unless you want a good workout!

Mark said...

Thanks David. That's what I figured - his is all original, so I think it's best to leave it that way.

JoelMatthews said...

Speaking of Motobecanes:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&ih=004&sspagename=STRK%3AMEWA%3AIT&viewitem=&item=140125546162&rd=1&rd=1

(Not my listing - I am in Chicago, not France)

Unfortunately, I am too tall for the bike. If you are around 5'7" or so, 150 bucks plus shipping for a NOS frame. Not bad.

JoelMatthews said...

Oh and Matt: Answering your question: Not really touring, but in the mid-80's I brought my trusty Paramount with me to UofI. My High School sweetheart went to Southern (Ilinois).

Instead of breaking up like any normal guy, I would ride down and see her whenever I got enough time off. The sew-ups worked alright on those messed up Illinois rural roads.

I imagine my back and neck could take a lot more abuse in those days than now.

39Cross said...

Matt, that's a great piece you wrote on your touring trip and the bike, I've read it in the past and enjoyed revisiting it. Enjoyed your blog too - you are a very good writer.

Chad said...

I have a red and black grand record just like this one. I'm in the process of designing/building a removable porteur rack like this one: http://alexandchristine.smugmug.com/gallery/2400164#125762901

I'd love to know about the rack you're building

john said...

don't know if it's been mentioned, but the fact that motobecanes often have swiss threading makes them better... and worse! the fixed cup is installed correctly (left-hand, like english) so it won't unscrew all the time like french does, but swiss is also tough to find. still, you can use them without having to buy stock in loc-tite.

Dale Smith said...
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Dale Smith said...

Hi. I recently found an old French frame from the 1970s manufactured by a company called Elvish. Does anyone here know anything about this brand of bike? Would it be worth restoring to something usable?

Thanks

linc6 said...

Elvish...Hi Dale, I have one, I got it in 1972, cost about 150.00 back then and was rated as one of the lightest racers.Whats your frame like? Gary

Michael said...

Hi,

Within the past few months I've purchased two Craigslist Motobecanes. First is an early '80s Nomade II, Gold/Black, Suntour/SR/DiaCompe, steel Tiawanese rims with Maillard hubs, city-style replacement bar, replacement downtube shifters. I put steel fenders and a rack from an old Sears Free Spirit onto it, which makes it Gold/Red/Black/Chrome. I bought some old German textured-steel rims with high-flange hubs, and for spares I'm going to lace some Araya alloy rims around the Maillards. Paid $100.

The second bike is a '76 Super Mirage, all original, original owner. Aluminum rims from Belgium, Weinmann brakes, alumuinum 'Pivo' bars, replacement saddle. Haven't ridden it yet. Paid $50, I'm thrilled. I need to clean it up, replace the bar tape, tune up the wheels a bit, etc.

The Nomade is going to be my foul-weather bike (fenders) and shopping bike (huge rack, maybe baskets).

My main commuter bike is a late '80s Fuji 10-speed. I think the Super Mirage will be my 'fun' bike--it's a bit on the small side for me, but it is lighter than the others.

MBs Rock.

Mike

Courage De Leon said...

Thank you for posting this. I'm trying to rebuild/restore a Motobecane that I originally built at the Bicycle Kitchen. At first I was just going to get rid of it, but now I REALLY want to restore it. The problem that I'm having is finding parts! Any suggestions?

Jody Robins said...

This is a way old post, but hopefully someone is still watching. I just purchased a 1975 grand record on Craigslist and am setting it up for commuting. It still has the origanal wheel set. Can you tell me what size tires and fenders you are using? I am hoping to go with 27" x 1 1/4" tires but am worried there won't be room with fenders. Many thanks!

BJK said...

'The design and quality was always, at least to my eye, a bit above equivalent Gitanes and Peugeots.'
Another late, but hopefully apt, response.
No question as to the truth of this statement. I came across a 1983 Mirage out with the trash here in NYC, dirty, missing a chain, just unused for a few decades.
A bit of elbow grease later, and I was stunned as what I had: a solid, complete, classic road bike.
Sure, the frame is not Chrome/Moly steel, but nicely lugged, and with a beautiful, metallic-finish deep-blue paint job.
I have seen gold and green Moto's from this same period with equally great paint.
It is not an accident that they are a 'fixie-conversion' favorite, and becoming increasingly hard to find. Anything seen on ebay/craigslist seems through the roof.

Michael T. said...

While it may be no VO, I found a NOS motoconfort Le Champion on ebay. Think this is a good idea for my entry randonneur bike?

http://www.ebay.com/itm/NOS-MOTOCONFORT-touring-bicycle-55cm-New-Old-Stock-1970s-randonneur-motobecane-/190727799670?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item2c68434376