1954 Stella 040I have just added a 1954 (estimated) Stella Tour de France model bike to the website.  This is the production version of Louison Bobet’s 1953 and 1954 Tour de France winning bikes.  It is currently shown in its “as found” state with some later 1960ish Campagnolo parts fitted.  It will be brought back to original spec, or to Louison Bobet racing bike spec, over the next few months.  Louison Bobet was the first rider to win 3 consecutive Tours de France, the first two in 1953 and 1954 were on a Stella branded bike.  His third win was on a Louison Bobet branded bike in 1955 when he was contracted to Mercier with whom he also had a contract for them to manufacture bicycles under his name.

I recently gave a talk to the Cheshire Section of the V-CC on “Simplex Racing Gears“, which was very much an overview of the different models of racing derailleurs from the 1930s through 1980s.  I make no claims of scholarship or thoroughness with this – it was meant as a general interest piece with pictures of riders and bikes as much as of gears.  If you have anything to add or correct, please send it in and perhaps we can develop a useful resource for people interested in Simplex.

1940s_Helyett (1)I have just added some pictures of a 1940s (I think) Helyett Speciale.  It is a very well preserved bike with original finish and mostly original parts

I would be very grateful for any information you may have that would help me tie down the date more accurately (please use the form on the Contact page).  My current thinking is that it was made a year or two after the end of WWII – much later and the 3-speed Simplex Champion du Monde derailleur would be thought very outdated on a classy racing bike (I am assuming that this is not quite “top tier” because Helyett’s best bikes typically had an all-Reynolds 531 frame, but only a notch below it with its 531 butted main tubes).  I have no idea when Reynolds 531 tubing exports got back in gear after 1945, but, with Britain being somewhat indebted, there was a major push on exporting anything that could be exported, and raw material supplies were prioritized for export industries, so supplies would likely resume with little delay.

I am sorry that we have been having trouble with this website and haven’t added to it for a while.  We still have some issues with the navigation but think that it is possible to get where you want to go.  We will be checking this out over the next few days/weeks.

Now that we are back, we would really like your contributions – there must be some great bikes out there that would fill some of the gaps in this website.  A lot of great manufacturers are still not represented here.

Raleigh1988-1We have just added a copy of the 1988 Raleigh Lightweights catalogue to the site.

This catalogue contains the top of the line RRA Moderne, with a frame of Reynolds 653 tubing, the Road Ace Select, the Competition, with Team Banana decals and other models: Corsa, Quadra, Ritmo, Triathlon and a few less lightweight bikes.

World Cycle Decals has decals available for some of these models and is developing others, so click HERE if you are interested or need any.

1950s Bartali Racing BikeI have at last built up my 1950s Bartali race bike with mostly period-correct parts.  The brakes callipers are both Universal Extra, but the front one is of a later type, and the levers may be too, though they didn’t change much over the years.  The saddle is a later style Brooks B17 and I am not sure of the vintage of the Ambrosio bars and stem.

I am not overly concerned about correctness as long as the bike is in the spirit of the age.  An original bike with original finish deserves to be correctly fitted out, but a bike that has been refinished and lost all its original parts should, in my opinion, be ‘in character’ rather than 100% period correct.  However, it is nice to have good Campagnolo Gran Sport hubs and Sheffield Sprint pedals which were fitted to many fine Italian bikes ‘in the day’

I have just added some preliminary photos and details of a 1978 (estimated) Motobecane Tour de France bike.  This was the top-tier hand-made Motobecane racing bike, known in the USA as the Team Champion or Champion Team, with different decals from the European version.  The bike spent years in a shed and needs cleaning and servicing, after which I will get some new photos posted

A couple of years or so ago I took a punt on a bike on eBay that was very badly described and that had no more than a non-drive side overall photograph. But Mercier and Campagnolo were mentioned by the vendor who read the names off the fork crown and headset.  The price only went up to about £80 and I became its happy owner, having to drive 75 miles to pick it up.

What I found was a rather drably painted bike with brazed-on saddlebag support, dynamo and lamp brackets.  Closer inspection revealed drilled Campagnolo dropouts, a racing number tab under the top tube and a first generation Super Record rear derailleur, Record crankset and Record brakes.  I had struck gold!  Clearly this was someone’s much-loved racing bike and rather than sell it and buy a touring frame, he had it converted into a tourer.  The standard of workmanship was very high and the cost cannot have been much less than a new frame – it even had a 1″ steerer fitted in place of the 25mm one so that a modern headset could be used. It should also be pointed out that the workmanship on the basic frame was superb too with nicely filed lugs – definitely “Fait Main”, definitely “Service Des Courses”

But my passion is racing bikes, so I stuck the bike in the loft to await restoration back to racing spec.  The first obstacle was that nobody was making reproduction decals at the time. A set of OEM decals came up on eBay but I missed out.  Then Cyclomondo started offering them but they did not have the narrower lettering on the seat tube decal as used on team bikes in the late 1970s and the head tube decal was a bit out of shape. So I patiently waited for a Mercier frame with the correct decals to come up on eBay at a reasonable price so that I could get the decals copied (the things we do for our hobby!). I ended up buying two – one for the head tube decal, one for the other decals (both will go on sale soon, so let me know if you are interested) and got the decals copied by bicycledecals.net.

Roll on another year while I was preoccupied with other things, then I dropped the frame off at Atlantic Boulevard in Bury together with the other Mercier frame for colour match.  And a couple of days ago I called by there and saw my frame with all its touring bits removed and a new coat of paint – and it looked gorgeous.  It still needs its decals, but then it will be full steam ahead to build it up as the real racer that it once was.  I can hardly wait.

I have just added some pictures and details of a 1963 (probably) Helyett Speciale.  This bike appears to have mostly original equipment and its original finish is in reasonable shape – their are small patches of lost colour and the chrome is so-so but the general impression is not too bad.

1955 Viking Severn ValleyI have just added details of a 1955 Viking Severn Valley.  This was an extremely competent factory racing bicycle, although not Viking’s top model at the time – that was the Viking Tour of Britain model that was introduced following Ian Steel’s victory on a Viking in the first Daily Express Tour of Britain in 1951.  The Severn Valley model had an only slightly lower specification than the Tour of Britain – both were made from Reynolds 531 butted tubing – and being at a lower price point was more popular.

Viking discontinued the Severn Valley model in 1956 and then in 1957 they discontinued the Tour of Britain model and reinstated the Severn Valley as the top tier model with Nervex Professional lugs, which is how it remained until the original Viking company ceased trading in 1967.