25 April, 2007

Velo Le Chemineau

One of the neat things about running Velo Orange is corresponding with other folks who love bikes and hearing their stories. For example, David e-mailed me asking for fenders for a brand of bike I had never seen, a Le Chemineau.

I asked about it and David wrote:

"The Chemineau was a production bike made by Joanny Panel in St. Etienne. They were sold for $135. in the 50's, which was expensive, but not compared to custom bikes. Mine did not come with racks, but the 650B version had racks and the hammered aluminum fenders."

Be sure to look at the rest of the photos here; there are some great details. And here is a little about this particular bike:

"As I said, I really like the hammered fenders, but I had never seen any on 700C bikes until recently. Of course, when I got the bike, in 1955, it was very unusual. It seems almost everyone on the AYH rides were on English 3-speeds at that time. The person who first told me about the exotic French lightweight Le Chemineau bikes was my high school friend, Peter Lagerstedt. He bought one from James Armando, who was selling them out of his cellar in the south end of Hartford. Mr Armando was very instrumental in promoting cycle racing in this area, and is mentioned in Peter Nye's book "Hearts of Lions", along with Joe Tosi whom he coached.

Peter L. still has his Chemineau, which is similar to mine, except it has close-ratio gears with steel cranks, and tubular tires. Mr Armando thought these bicycles were ideal for racing because of the indexed shifting. However, as you can see from my bike, the frames were made for touring. He also sold "touring" Chemineaus that had 650B tires, hammered aluminum fenders, and front and rear racks. When I first put a rear rack on my bike and showed up for an AYH ride, Mr. Armando came over to me and said "can I interest you in a touring bike?" He was upset that I had put a rack on what he saw as a racing bike, even though the bike in question had been ordered with wide-ratio gears.

Anyway, I gave Peter L. a call and asked if he could describe and measure his fenders, and he said they measured between 42 and 44mm, were smooth with longitudinal ridges. He said I should buy the smooth Honjos from you, but I think I'll go with the hammered ones. I was also thinking of changing the tires to 32mm. The 35mm ones on the Mavic rims don't seem all that wide, but I think the 32s would be a little easier to push up our New England hills.

I would be honored to have you post some pictures of my Chemineau, especially after I finish installing the fenders and rack(s). The Henri Gauthier saddle that I got from French eBay is in need of some reshaping, and I am reluctant to try this myself for fear of spoiling it, so that is causing some delay. However, Peter Neiman is sending me another one from his collection, and hopefully it will be usable as is."

So here is someone still using a classic French bike he bought in 1955. Wow! This illustrates the wisdom of getting a sensible and good quality machine rather than chasing after the lightest and newest. I hope our customers use their Velo Orange bikes that long.


Andy said...

Great bike, great story, great post.

Matthew said...

The front derailleur on that bike is pretty interesting. I like the idea of a built-in shifter lever. Was this style common (i.e., any chance of me finding something like it on ebay some day)?

Anonymous said...

It is great to see such a veteran still on the road. I too wondered about the lever f/d, and if it was needed to shift such a large tooth difference between the front chainrings.
I have seen similar ones on French e-bay. Looks like a long reach to me!
D Wagner

johnson said...

lever operated ft mechs have a long history of touring use. before rosa made a reliable touring ft mech, most tourists shifted with a finger. many french custom builders made thier own lever operated mechs. most used a longer lever. it was really only the mech manufacturers, huret and simplex, who used such short levers. my guess is this: longer levers have more leverage... therefore they would put alot of strain on the mech if it was clamped rather than brazed on. brazing the lever and mech on allowed two rather than one contact point for the mech. by this i mean, the cage was brazed to a push rod which in turn was mounted in a steel sleeve. this sleeve was brazed to the frame. the lever itself had a pivot brazed higher up the post, transfering the stress of the shift to that braze on rather than the mech itself. make sense? i wouldnt recommend buying a clamp on unit like the one in the photo. that is a super long reach, and for what? the mech itself is probally heavier than a newer one, and the lever is probally about the same weight as a DT shifter. I think the custom mechs are cool, light and while not practical, certainly more usable. but the clamp on ones lack refinement in many ways. check out this contemporary rendition of a rod mech, and you'll see just how clunky that old one is.

SunDog said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SunDog said...

Now HERE's something I'd like to see in stock at Velo Orange:


Not my auction, just never seen anything like it.

C said...

I've ridden a lever FD on a Singer and also a Simplex clamp-on model. They work surprisingly well. I love the modern version Tony Pereira created for the NAHBS.

johnson said...

i think a shifter operated rear dynamo has more use value than the lever mech. and i say that as a fan of the lever mech and all things impractical.

JoelMatthews said...

The detail is amazing. A chain oiler ... wow. The bike could be placed aside any newly made contraption and not look out of date.

Anonymous said...

The chain oiler is cute, but I've been told that oiling a dirty chain
(without taking it off and cleaning it first)is one of the best ways to accelerate drivetrain wear!
I think at least one of my bikes deserves a lever front derailleur, so hopefully Chris will find an NOS stash somewhere!

David Moskovitz said...

Chris, and David:

Thank you for posting the pictures and narrative. Some part of my occationally missing identity is tied up with bicycles, as I suspect is the case with many who read and post here. This type of history helps me put myself in contex. And those brake levers are THE BOMB.

Related to the front derailleur mechanism, MF at ANT has been making interesting extended levers for switching lights on/off. I think we'll see the contemporary craft-builders (constructeurs?) do more stuff like this--functional fun and elegant. One part rube goldberg, one part eccentric bike-nut, one part skilled craftsman. Shake well. This is such a great time for bikes. The diversity of offerings is staggering, and increasing.--David

neil berg said...

David M.(or anybody),
This is a great bike!

Dumb question: With the short front mounted FD lever is it possible to shift with your heel?

johnson said...

if you put prolink in the oiler, it would eject the old crud quite well. i clean and lube my chain with prolink.

David Lester said...

The front shifter is a bit of a reach, however, when properly adjusted, it is all but fool-proof. Never throws the chain off, and goes right onto the chainring smoothly.

The rear derailleur, I think, is much more historically interesting, as it known to be the first commercially available derailleur, invented around 1911 (see pages 84 to 87 in Frank Berto's "The Dancing Chain").
there is also some information on the French site, tontonvelo.com about the Chemineau bicycle and it's builder, Joanny Panel who raced it the Tour de France (and other races), in an effort to prove that multi-geared bicycles were superior to fixed, but it took many years before they were officially allowed in the TDF.

I rode the Chemineau in a vintage ride yesterday, and the bike glided along smoothly and quietly, just like it did when it was new. It's great to own a piece of cycling history, even better to have been able to ride it for over 50 years!

Anonymous said...

Great bikes!! I have two Le Chemineau touring bikes in good, clean original condition for sale!! One owner bought new from Mr. Armando. One for his wife(green) the other for him(yelllow). Both men bikes. I am in Connecticut. Please write in blog if you are interested.
Thank you

Anonymous said...

Great bikes!! I have two Le Chemineau touring bikes in good, clean original condition for sale!! One owner bought new from Mr. Armando. One for his wife(green) the other for him(mustard). Both men bikes. Please write in blog if you are interested or want more information.
Thank you,

David L said...

Sorry I haven't been following the blog lately. I am looking for a touring Chemineau, but it must be in my size, which means a 24" seat tube length. Mr Armando was, if I remember, quite a bit shorter than I. I would very much like to communicate with you about these bikes, however. Contact me at festiva90lx@yahoo.com

David L

David L said...

That email address may be confusing. It is Festiva90LX@yahoo.com

David L

Stockmaster said...

My mother and father were members of the AYH in the Hartford Council and knew Jimmy Armando. They purchased two le chemineau bikes from him from his basement shop. I was in my teens then. I still have them, one mans and one womans bike. Both in good condition. I have no idea what they might be valued at. I would consider selling. They are both 10-speeds and the mans bike has the stitchup tubes in the tires. It is nice to see so much interest in these bikes.

David L said...

Please contact me if you own a Le Chemineau or know someone who does. I would like to start a web page, blog, or something to keep track of these wonderful bikes. Also, I am interested in buying another one. I can be emailed at festiva90LX@yahoo.com That is nine zero LX, in case it doesn't show properly.