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!
What 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 He was and is a cyclotouriste and came to the U.S. in 1981 on a Leleu, a bicycle originally made in Lille.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 Shimano, 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 convenient 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!