South Salem Cycleworks, 4071 Liberty Road South
Salem, OR 97302-5752
(503) 399-9848
Hours: Monday - Saturday 10 AM to 6 PM; Closed Sunday

Motobecane Grand Record Restoration

My third European road bike was a Motobecane Grand Touring, which I purchased in the mid-’70’s.  It was gun-metal grey, with a contrasting black headtube and seat tube panel, and the lugs were outlined in gold.  I rode it for 14 years as a commuter and touring bike.  It hitch-hiked with me to the Atlantic ocean off Florida in 1980, and made more than a dozen trips up and down the Washington/Oregon/California Coast.  When the head tube lugs developed cracks, it wasn’t worth repairing, as it was made of Vitus tubing, but the frame is still tucked away in a corner of the shop.  At that time Motobecane was not longer a manufacturer, but despite knowing that, I returned to the dealer where I’d purchased the bike, only to be told “Michael, you’re an adult now.”!  I purchased a used Cilo with French dimensions to transfer the parts to as a replacement commuter bike.

Somewhere, about 15 plus years ago, a former employee brought this Grand Record in and sold me the frameset.  It was also from the mid-’70s, and while Motobecane offered two models above it, they used Prugnat lugs, not the ornate Nervex lugs on the Grand Record.  Now, most folks know that French bikes are like women of ill-repute — you know better, but you just can’t stay away!  The adventures I had had on the Grand Touring led me to take on the building of the Grand Record.  This frameset was also tucked away in the shop, until I was in City Bikes Coop in Portland on another quest, that I stumbled upon a Nishiki with gold anodized Simplex SuperLJ derailleurs and downtube shifters.  I bought the Nishiki, knowing that the Grand Record’s black frame, with red head tube and seat tube panels, and gold outlined lugs, would be a perfect match for the SuperLJ gold components.  And thus the search for gold anodized French components began.

Motobecane

I mounted the shifters and the rear derailleur, but the front derailleur cracked when I installed it.  The smaller French diameter clamp had been stretched on the Nishiki’s English diameter seat tube and didn’t like being confined to the French diameter.  The SuperLJ is unique in that the cable uses a tunnel through the hinge part, leaving a very delicate formation of aluminum for the hinge.  I started looking on EBAY for a replacement immediately and found it to be fairly expensive.  Upon receiving the first one, it was already cracked at the hinge, which was true for the second one I bought as well.  After that, I decided to wait for a new/old stock to come along at a reasonable price, and lost track of time!  One of my customers, Tony Vassallo, offered to look for one on a trip to France, and he found one in a shop, or rather the shop still had the box it came in, but were unaware that the derailleur was no longer in the box!

Stronglight crankset

I kept the Stronglight 49D crankset and bottom bracket, replacing worn or damaged pieces.

I did find a gold Mafac Competition 2000 brakeset in the shop in nearly new condition, but had to have some straddle cables made for it.  I also did some detective work to order spools of gold cable housing from Taiwan as none of my distributors carried it at the time.  I knew it existed because of Cannondale’s Black Lightning road bike using it earlier. I had some Huret cable housing clamps and derailleur cable guide to complete this.

Motobecane head tube

I accidentally found a pair of never-built Pelissier 2000 Professionel hubs in gold, and cheated by lacing them up with some Japanese-made Araya gold rims.  I’d heard that Mavic made some tubular gold rims at one time, but I really wanted to feel free to ride the bike without the potential replacement process of a tubular tire. And I cheated once more, using an old SunTour Winner 7s freewheel from the early ’80’s.  It’s still a work of art, as it’s one that you could adjust the play in the freehub body using the special SunTour wrenches.  And pulled another rabbit out of the hat — I found a nearly new Sachs Sedisport chain, again made in France!

Pelissier hub

Somewhere, I acquired a pair of Mavic quill pedals, and while not gold, they weren’t black or silver either, leaning more toward gold than otherwise.  I installed a pair of black alloy Ale toeclips, with the colorful decal, and a pair of toestraps, with toestrap tabs.

I had an older Cinelli model 65 bar with the coat of arms on it, and ordered a black Cinelli 1R stem from EuroAsia in the French quill dimension in the extension I needed, knowing French-compatible stems were going to become more rare as time went by. 

And then things just kind of sat for a number of years, waiting for the front derailleur to make an appearance.

Motobecane

I was actually looking for a Campy Record 32h rear hub from ’99-2006 (had purchased the cult ceramic bearing set, and all of Campy’s matching 28h front hubs — but that’s another story!), and having no success, I explored the SuperLJ on a whim.  There was one in Belgium, used, that looked intriguing.  I contacted one of my employees to follow it as my PayPal account had expired due to my shying away from EBAY in frustration.  We were assured that it had not been mounted on a English dimension seat tube and there were no cracks in the hinge.

When it arrived, I found it had been shipped — not in a box — but in a bubble wrap envelope!  Fortunately, it appeared to have arrived unscathed, but I mounted it carefully and with bated breath.  Once that was installed, I found that I had saved a Campy Nuvo Record seatpost for it, but felt at this time the frame needed a French seatpost.  Doing some further exploration, I decided that a Simplex badged seatpost would be the appropriate choice.  There was one in Asia with a much lower price that was well preserved, but found that the freight caused it to be pretty expensive.  I found another in Portland, just up the road, that looked as nice and ordered it. 

When I arrived, it looked to be pretty short, and it was!  170mm shaft, which meant I’d have 10mm in the seat tube — okay for display, but certainly not for riding.  It turns out that was the length of all the posts of that model, as the shaft was made of steel.  I decided to take it to my long-time machinist, who had solved nearly all of my problems of this nature, but his lath chuck was not large enough to pass the head of the post thru after welding an extension on the shaft.  At his recommendation, another shop was able to weld and machine the extension on the shaft.  I left the $9.49 stickers on it!

I had two Ideale saddles to choose from in the my leather saddle stash.  A Swallow type in excellent condition, and a model 90R Competition using aluminum blades instead of typical saddle rails.  The Swallow’s rails fit the Simplex seatpost and the 90R’s did not, so the choice was made.  In my research, I discovered that the French made Ideale saddles were waterproof, unlike the English made Brooks, using some secret treatment, not that I would subject this bike to wet pavement anyway!

I still hadn’t decided as to wrap the bars in white Cinelli cork, or Velox cloth tape.  Finding some gold Cinelli end plugs solved that decision!  Inserting the quill of the stem into the steerer tube found a vaccum — it turns out that the former employee that had sold the frameset to me had filed out the steerer tube to fit English stems!  This was confirmed by another former employee who had witnessed the act in a now closed bike shop.  Going from 22.2 to 22.0 doesn’t sound like much, but I’ve seen what happens when folks raise the quill too high and place the expansion wedge in the threaded portion of the steerer tube — the top portion of the steerer tube snaps off and the handlebars no longer control the direction of the front wheel!  I tried to appease my anxiety with knowing I was burying the quill pretty deep, and that the Cinelli stem uses round tapered wedge as opposed to the more common angular wedge found on most quill stems.

I found my last pair of Vittoria leather shoes with cleats somehow, and ventured off one Saturday morning, attempting not to pull too hard on the handlebars on the inevitable climbs, and nervously descending afterwards.  The friction shiftering far exceeded the Campy Super Record I had put so many miles on decades ago.  I’d read somewhere that an authority stated that the Super LJ rear derailleur was the finest friction derailleur ever produced, and even while shifting a seven-speed freewheel — I’m certain it was designed to work with a six-speed — it was the smoothest and quietest friction drivetrain I can remember.  The brakes worked without squealing, and didn’t have nearly the resistance of the Campy side pulls I used back then.

Motobecane

I intended to ride it on the Monster Cookie’s 40th anniversary ride, but it looked like it might rain, so it got to stay home.  Looking forward to the next opportunity for a historic ride!