23 September 2009

One Lucky Girl's Motobecane Le Champion

The question of building up Dad's bike has made me new friends. I think you'll all enjoy this rags-to-restoration story of a Motobecane saved from the dump. It's a very chic bike, J's 'not-chic' protestations notwithstanding!

Motobecane Le Champion
I'm not particularly chic, even when riding a bicycle, however, I offer this anecdote which may be of interest. In the spring I refitted a Motobecane Le Champion that I had found at my local town dump / recycling center last year. This was a bicycle that had been neglected for some time and deposited next to the scrap metal dumpster at the dump. I noted the chromed fork, seat and chain stays and thought it might have a higher end pedigree.

 Motobecane Le ChampionIndeed, it was a 1968 Motobecane Le Champion. This was Moto's top Reynolds 531 frame with Campagnolo drop-outs, comparable to Raleigh's Professional model and built with Campagnolo Nuvo Record components when it was new. I wasn't sure what to do with this, too small for me, 52cm frame, until my daughter expressed an interest in having a more refined city bicycle, an upgrade from her old Bridgestone. She lives in NYC, is an occasional recreational rider on the Henry Hudson Green Way and Central Park; the benefits of commuting to work have yet to become apparent to her.

The finished bicycle fits her well, provides a good ride and she likes it, much to my relief, as I had spent a considerable amount of time messing around with it. To sum it up: precipitous in cost, but fun.

Motobecane Le Champion drivetrainAttached are some pictures of the bicycle built up as a fixed gear / single speed and my notes and descriptions of the components used. This might suggest some ideas or offer inspiration for refitting your Raleigh Competition GS, which, in my opinion, would be lovely built up with the original paint work in a black and silver theme.

Motobecane Le Champion

Motobecane Le Champion frameI neglected to photograph the frame in the as found condition, so this picture is of the Motobecane Grand Record frame, (with Nervex professional lugs, comparable to the
Raleigh International, but without the chromed rear stays) and is similar to what the paint scheme was originally like. The pictures of the bicycle with the fenders and chain guard were from an early configuration. Later, I had to remove the bottle cage to the down tube and move the rear fender attachment as close as possible the chain stay bridge behind the bottom bracket to allow for easy removal of the rear wheel.

I'm a Brooks fan, and if you have an everyday relationship with your bicycle with a Brooks saddle you will eventually become best of friends with it. Many riders are unwilling to work through any initial discomfiture to reach that point. Occasional bicycle riders will have a more difficult time liking a Brooks. I wanted my daughter to appreciate Brooks and that is why I splurged on the Brooks Imperial saddle, which is fairly comfortable from the start. If you ride a lot with this particular saddle, it is necessary to keep the lacing properly tensioned so that the seating area will not hammock. Rather a bother, and if riding daily and willing to persevere, one would probably be better off starting with a B-17.

Rene Herse porteurIn building the Motobecane Le Champion up I was influenced by the beautiful Rene Herse Criterium des Porteurs depicted and described in Jan Heine's book "The Competition Bicycle". Picture from book here, but also refer to Bicycles of the Porteurs des Journaux -and- Rene Herse for many more examples.

Motobecane Le Champion
The 1968 Motobecane Le Champion--

  • Frame: Reynolds 531 double butted frame, fork & stays, Prugnat lugs. I considered having the frame repainted as the existing paint work was very poor, but opted for glossy black powder coating, which is a much less costly alternative.

  • Headset: 25x1mm, french threaded, Stronglight Competition V4. Was able to use some of the bits from the headset as found on the bicycle, being one of only two of the original components that were salvageable.
  • Motobecane Le Champion
  • Stem: 8.5mm, 22mm French head tube diameter, Philippe aluminum forged. The French answer to Cinelli.

  • Handlebars: 50cm Nitto "Dove Bars" (much like a Northroad bar) with Origin-8 "Ivy" rubber grips with Velox bar end plugs.

  • Brake levers: Early 80's long lever Dia Compe Mountain bike levers. Yes, inverted Mafac or CLB levers would be cool, but she didn't like them.

  • Seat post: Simplex aluminum 26.4mm.

  • Saddle: Brooks Imperial, womens model. This is the cut out model patented in 1898, so far no complaints.

  • Brakes: Universal 61 center pulls, original to the bicycle. Nice looking, good working brakes. Black brake cable housing. Original Universal cable clamps.

  • Bottom bracket: Phil Wood, french threaded 35x1mm cups, 110mm spindle, 5mm drive side offset. The original spec. Campagnolo BB and cranks were long gone. As found Spidel BB was toast. An expensive upgrade.

  • Crank set: Sugino Mighty Touring, 110mm BCD, 170mm arms, 44 tooth Sugino black BMX 1/8 chain ring. This is a very nice, versatile 110 BCD, crank set.

  • Chain: Izumi 1/8 silver track chain.

  • Pedals: MKS Stream.

  • Wheels: Mavic Open Pro 700c 32h black rims laced using silver DT butted spokes to Formula black high flange 32h hubs, solid axle - bolt on (don't forget your 15mm or adjustable spanner when riding), rear hub is a flip-flop with a White Industries Eno 19 tooth freewheel / Euro-Asia 17 tooth fixed gear cog. This provides a 62" and 69" gear inch, respectively.

  • Tires: Hutchinson Top Speed 700cx28, folding kevlar, black wall.

  • Bottle cage: TA clamp-on black top chrome steel. Klean Kanteen stainless steel bottle.

  • Fenders: Honjo 43mm smooth fluted aluminum.

  • Bell: Universal brass bell.

  • Chain Guard: English Mfg. chrome steel.

  • Seat Bag: VO Croissant bag, looks like a Berthoud, but like that it straps on and costs less. Two spare tubes, tire levers, Lezyne tire pump, (the Zefal hp X is the best frame pump ever made, but the Lezyne works well and fits in the bag) Park chain tool, adjustable wrench.


Filigree said...

A Motobecane Champion in the dump? I am speechless! Lucky girl; this is a once in a lifetime find! The bicycle looks beautiful.

Trisha said...

Great story, beautiful bike -- thanks to you both for sharing!

Jon said...

Awesome bike, well-appointed. You are a good Dad!

cycler said...

Wow, that's a beautiful bike!
I'm partial to the version with the fenders and chainguard, but it's all good.
I need to send this post to MY dad....

JPTwins said...

I love how you followed up a post about a daughter giving her father a bike with an equally wonderful post about a father giving his daughter a bike.

full circle!

beautiful bike, btw, great job!

spiderleggreen said...

slick bike!

Kristin Tieche said...

The original frame looks like my rouge et noir! Bravo on the renovation!

2whls3spds said...

Fantastic! Amazing what dad's do for their progeny...


Pierre Phaneuf said...

Wow, that is one beautiful ride!

kfg said...

"Bottom bracket: Phil Wood, french threaded 35x1mm cups . . . An expensive upgrade."

VO now supplies a basic sealed, French threaded, JIS taper BB. For all practical purposes the same price as the Phil mounting rings alone.

Of course a PW bottom bracket is a PW bottom bracket, but perhaps a bit of expensive overkill on a townie.

Charlotte said...

kfg, I imagine that J wishes he'd waited 'till VO came out with that bottom bracket, but until a couple of months ago Phil Wood was the only option for French bikes (other than tapping the threads, also expensive).

Thanks to VO, a Peugeot mixte is once again a possibility in my future. Hurray!