Bertin C 37 Restoration Part 6

While the frame work on the C 37 has been taking place, the acquisition of parts for the build up was being completed. Should you ever decide to refurbish or do a full restoration, I would suggest starting with a fully complete or nearly complete bike, if possible. This is an especially true situation if your bike is French or Swiss threaded as these parts are difficult to come by as NOS, good condition used or aftermarket reproductions.  I began with a fork and frame only which resulted in a great deal of rummaging through my old parts bins and a very lengthy process of finding and acquiring the needed pieces for the C 37 through EBay and stand alone online stores.

Starting with a complete bike automatically gives you something to work with but if your restoration is to “as new” status the overall cosmetic and functional condition of the equipment will be very important. You need to have done enough research in period catalogues and advertisements to know that what is on the bike is correct for your purpose as either OEM or period correct. Next is triaging what’s there to decide if it is useful and restorable to the standard you wish to achieve on your restoration. Buying all new old stock (NOS) parts is still, barely, achievable for 1970s and early 1980s bikes but the cost is probably prohibitive  for hobby restorers such as we are.

For example, a bike with French equipment can be had for a relatively small price if it is a less well known, smaller volume brand like Mercier, Stella or Jeunet. The bike in the EBay illustration is available for  US $349 and is complete with a full 531 frameset,  high end French parts like the Stronglight 93 crankset and a Competition headset.

Mercier 300

Mercier 300

The same type of headset, shown below, was listed on EBay  as a NOS item at US $222 on the same day as the Mercier. Obviously, Stronglight V 4 Competition HS NOSstripping a donor bike of parts if you have begun with a bare frame is assuredly the way to go unless absolutely pristine originality is how you have chosen to proceed. Once the parts required have been salvaged, the balance of the parts like the frameset, can be resold on EBay, A Great Vintage or on Bike Forums’ Classic and Vintage Sales section (which does require a membership).

Essentially, this was my approach. I bought a very scruffy and abused Peugeot PX 10 for its Stronglight 93 crankset and the Competition V4 headset, both having been an OEM option on the C 37. The headset was chosen for historical accuracy and because a direct replacement meant that there would be no problems with threading compatibility or stack height incompatibility which would require cutting the steerer tube. As it was, spacers needed to be inserted because the C 37 originally used Mafac Competition centerpulls which Mafac Cable Hanger A # 1have a cable support sandwiched within the headset stack whereas I chose to use Mafac/Spidel LS 2 sidepulls which do not need such a support. Beware even the slightest change from what was originally there because seemingly trivial changes can produce annoying glitches when re-assembly time comes. Once the removal of parts was complete, the frameset was advertised on Kijiji and re-sold within the week recouping part of the purchase price and helping to defray the cost of other subsequent parts acquisitions.

If you are starting from a bare frame, remember to check the rear dropout spacing by measurement or trial fit of the new parts, check the seatpost for fit along with the stem, check the eyelet threadings for fenders and racks as well as the adjuster screw threads which are the same (except for Huret!) and the length of the seatpost binder bolt and the little notch that anchors the bolt against rotation – they are not all the same! Naturally, you will have threaded the bottom bracket cups in and out and screwed the headset threaded race on to make sure the stated threading is the actual threading which you have off the donor bike. There is nothing more frustrating than having collected all the pieces for your restoration only to discover that you only thought you had everything because something is incompatible. Do not ask me how I know this fact.

Even given the donor bike (admittedly a poor one) parts sourcing was literally from around the world. A new bottom bracket came Spidel Levers Before - Copyfrom Norway, brake levers from France to match the calipers from California with hoods coming from Cyprus. The Helicomatic freewheel was from Philadelphia via Virginia. The chain and bottle came fromSpidel LS2 before New York state with brake cables and tape from Maryland to complement the red bar end plugs from France. The other bits came from my parts boxes and hoarded items (thanks for the tires Tim!) Of course, once acquired, used parts need to be reconditioned but that is the subject of a subsequent post.

2 comments on “Bertin C 37 Restoration Part 6

  1. Run away from the Helicomatic hub and freewheel! Run, Run!! I have experience in this, my first true “racing” bike had the Helicomatic system, and I even (believe it or not) built up a set of racing wheels with Maillard Team Pro 700 Helicomatic hubs! I still have the front hub and it spins smoothly after 30 years of use (Maillard 700 hubs were very nice top of the line hubs) But the Helicomatic rear hub was TOAST within 6 months. The drive side bearings are too small and disintegrate quickly taking the cups and cones with them! If you want to use a French rear hub, I strongly recommend getting a regular threaded Spidel or Maillard 700 rear hub (or even better a Pelissier, or Mavic rear hub). It costs too much to build up a nice set of wheels only to be let down by a poorly designed rear hub.

  2. Tony-
    Thanks for the comment and the very heartfelt warning! I’m using these Helicomatic hubs/wheels which had previously been on my other Bertin C 37. I rode them for 6 years without problems. These will probably be interim hubs/wheels as I am currently using HF Maillard 700s/Velo Orange PBPs on my black C 37 and really like them. I have found that frequent (yearly) inspection, repacking and ball bearing replacement with Grade 25 bearings seems to help with longevity on the Helicomatics. It is sad that such a clever design was let down by quality issues.

    Jim

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