A Bertin C 37 Story

Jim’s Bertin C37.

A long time friend was at our house for dinner last weekend and we were discussing bikes, as might be expected. My friend has a full carbon fiber road bike with SRAM Red and a cyclocross bike of uncertain pedigree. We had been looking at some work I had done to my personal C 37 (see the accompanying photograph).

He asked me when I was going to replace it with a “modern” bike and I told him I intended it to be a lifetime bicycle despite it having been made in the mid-1960s. I reviewed the kinds of changes made by previous owners and pointed out the durability of steel compared to carbon fiber. He politely scoffed at this indicating that carbon fiber bicycles are deemed to have a 3 year service life under racing conditions and that was plenty because they were obsolete thereafter!

I pointed out that modern bicycles are desperately narrow in their focus and that his racing bike was useless for any other application whereas my Bertin had been a racing bike, a touring bike and a randonneuse in its long history and wasn’t done yet!

se Bertin Dominique Grand CanyonWhat my friend did not know was that I was in the middle of corresponding with Dominique, a reader here, who was asking for help in identifying his Bertin. As it turned out, he had a Bertin C 37 as well.

The bicycle had originally been purchased by Dominique in Lille, in Northern France, in 1978. He was and is a cyclotouriste and came to the U.S. in 1981 on a Leleu, a bicycle originally made in Lille. Once he had finished his American tour, he returned to France and his powder blue Bertin. Originally equipped with Reynolds 531, Mafac, Ideale, Stronglight and other all-French equipment, the bike evolved over time as Dominique followed his career with ClubMed.

As a ClubMed cycling instructor, he worked in France, Spain and Mexico. As Dominique’s career went, so went the Bertin. As parts wore out they were replaced, primarily with se Bertin DominiqueShimano, as the half-chrome fork and original blue paint faded, they were replaced as well with a red, white and blue tri-colour paint scheme that acknowledged both Dominique’s and the Bertin’s French origins.

Over time, as riding needs and habits changed, Dominique’s  Bertin gained and shed equipment to the point that today, 34 years into its career, the Bertin retains only the original frameset, seatpost  and handlebar and stem from its original specification.

Currently, Dominique lives in Arizona and has configured the Bertin for personal sport riding rather than the heavier touring it used to do so it was off with the rack. A dry climate meant the fenders could go but personal preference kept the tri-bars clipped on to allow more se Bertin Dominique Current appearanceconvenient shifting.

So, over the course of 34 years, Dominique’s bike has, like my C 37, been a adaptable and flexible source of enjoyment that continues to meet the evolving  needs of a dedicated cyclist. It seems likely to me that Dominique will be riding his Reynolds 531 steel C 37 long after today’s 11 speed carbon fiber wonder bikes have been re-cycled into pencil leads!

4 comments on “A Bertin C 37 Story

  1. I Love this story! Bravo to Dominique for great continuity of ownership and commitment to proven technology. His bike sounds like the original Irish pick-axe joke: “……the same one my father used, had 3 new heads and 5 new handles”
    I am a keen photographer and have watched the manufacturers of cameras and fiilm try to change the game with new formats, new technology and new ways of storage in the effort to make us buy their products again and again. I have several analogue cameras, none of them rely on batteries and the oldest, a 1952 Voigtlander Perkeo, takes beautiful images on a film format that is still available. These images can be printed in a darkroom on silver paper that is still available and scanned into a digital format for distribution using modern technology if required. I have digital cameras but i don’t love them like the analogue equipment, and I know that great marketing minds are conspiring to tempt me to buy the next generation for no substantive gain. I expect all my analogue photographic equipment to survive my children – no digital camera will do that. Likewise, I have 3 steel bikes and expect all of them to survive my children, no carbon bike will do that.
    I rode a 65 mile sportif on Sunday on a 1982 steel framed bike that, like Dominiques, has replacement brakes, drive chain, wheels, tyres and even handlebars (I have the original track bars), but to me it is still the same bike. I saw several other steel bikes among the wave of carbon and I sense a revival of interest for now. Let’s hope this revival is permanent.

  2. Ditto bravo to Dominique! There are so many really nice vintage bikes out there that can be restored for a fraction of the money the new carbon stuff cost. I’ve reconfigured my C37 several times. I’ll send a photo of the latest iteration. I’m sure that the C37 will last longer than me.

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