11 January, 2018

Prepping an Old French Frame to Ride Once Again

by Igor

This is Gerard. He's 61(ish) years old and hails from St. Etienne, France.



From the late 1800s to the early 1960s, St. Etienne in the Southeast of France was a hive for frame, component, and accessory production. Some the biggest marques that we know today were once headquartered there: Mercier, Stronglight, Automoto, Simplex, Vitus, and Lyotard just to name few.


Many bikes and frames out of St. Etienne were mass produced and sold domestically as well as overseas. Once the frames were in the hands of the shops, they would apply their own transfer decals and any other ornamentation. This is why you'll see so many nearly identical looking frames with different marques on the down tube.


Not much is known about the Gerard Cycles shop from Rue la Fayette in Paris. Searching The Web for various permutations of Gerard along with Porteur, Randonneur, and all the rest of the '-eurs brings up a lot of Peugeot "Captain Gerard" folding bikes from WW1 - which are cool in their own right.


This frame and fork was built in a classic touring style. It features an integrated hanger for a wide-range Simplex Rigidex rear derailleur, braze-on for a rear bottle-dynamo lighting, downtube wire guides to the front, and double dropout eyelets for racks and fenders. Given the condition of the paint and wear-points, I'd say someone enjoyed the heck out of the bike. 


The construction is straight forward and very typical of French bikes at the time. 26.1mm top tube, 28.4mm down tube, and 28.4mm seat tube. The selected tubing is straight gauge which makes a sturdy and comfortable ride over long distances, especially over cobbles and unpaved roads. The fork has a lovely, traditional French bend. Pairing a 73.5° head tube angle with a 74mm raked fork, the trail is about 21mm on 38mm 650b wheels.


This is an old French bike, so everything just has to be different - which all becomes clear during the prep process:
  • the fork is ~94.4mm spaced - I suspect it should be 96mm, but who knows what happened over its 60 year life
  • 120mm rear spacing - pretty standard for the time
  • French threaded bottom bracket shell - good thing we have French Threaded Bottom Brackets!
  • 25.6mm seat post - because of course...
  • Narrow cantilever spacing - the frame came with period Mafac brakes, so that is handled
  • Luckily both dropouts accept normal 10mm and 9mm hubs for rear and front, respectively
  • Steerer is ~22.18 - so a normal quill will work with a tad of sanding. French is 22.0mm.

To get the frame and fork ready for Frame Saver, the headset has to come out. The upper cup was stuck in place, so we put it into a vice to give it a bit of persuasion. The reason the headset was so hard to turn became clear very quickly: the bottom cup was missing one bearing and the top was missing three, the grease has calcified, and the races pitted. No matter, I'll pop a new French Threaded Headset in.



So here is how he sits as spokes are coming in and the frame is being Saved. Ultimately, Gerard will get the Porteur treatment and ride once again!


3 comments:

mike w. said...

What size wheels? 650B or 700C ? Some patient research on the Really Big Auction site could yield a 22mm stem (Cinelli and IIRC, Gran Compe made them, and there seem to be a few Atax, AVA, and Belleri stems out there.) Or also, the steerer could be reamed out to 22.2 (had that done on a Peugeot PX10 with no ill effect.)
Are you going with an IGH or are you going to try to find a Simplex derailleur?

Looking forward to seeing the finished product!

VeloOrange said...

Mike,

It uses 650b wheels. I'm going to go with a single speed for simplicity around town as it's pretty flat around. The steerer may have already been reamed at some point as a regular 22.2 stem fits pretty well. The quill may need a tiny bit of sanding to be perfect.

-Igor

Ted Durant said...

If you are updating components, Shimano CX-70 brakes are brilliant for older, narrowly spaced canti posts.