PBK Saddle Bag

Bertin Publicity Card Most bikes need at least a few tools, a spare tube, patch kit and such like in case of a repair or adjustment being needed far from home. Often, we store them in either a handlebar bar if a tourist or randonneur or in an under the seat saddle bag of some sort if we are a sport rider travelling light. 

Saddle bags vary tremendously in both configuration and capacity. Some are large enough to store what’s needed on a weekend tour and others are minimalist configurations with just enough room for necessities. I tend toward the minimalist type and do not want anything that will shift around impairing the handling or large and bulky enough that it snags a leg when mounting the bike.

What prompted the search for a new saddle/tool bag was a pre-ride inspection last summer. I was looking over the bike for issues and noticed that the tools on my oldest bike had worn through the nylon fabric of the tool bag which would now need replacement. After search multiple sites on line, I discovered that almost all the bags were complex, overly large, expensive or all of the preceding. However, ProBikeKit had a PBK house branded bag that was simple, inexpensive and elegant and looked just the right size. 


I liked the look and capacity and ordered two, one for each of the Bertin C 37s. Shipping was prompt and the bags arrived well packaged. Once unpacked, they looked like this:

Opening the protective inner wrap revealed a bag exactly as advertised on the PBK website.

One of the issues raised by other buyers in the comments section of the PBK catalogue was the tendency for the velcro closure strip to be too short and not hold securely if the bag was fully loaded. I determined to test this and packed the bag with the materials from the now worn out Cannondale predecessor. Everything fit beautifully with the Mafac tool kit being perfectly sized to the dimensions of the bag and the 700C x 28 tube tucking in comfortably.

On the subsequent ride, I discovered the stability concerns were true as the bag fell off on a large bump. The velcro had not held the weight of the tools and tube so I determined to have the problem fixed. I went to a fabric store and found matching black velcro tape in the notions section. It was 19 mm / 3/4″ wide and a perfect match for the PBK strap width. A quick trip to a local dry cleaners had the seamstress sew on the velcro to both of the PBK bags with the result that the whole strap now supported the weight as the bags would hang on the saddle rails.

If you look carefully in the images below you can see the before, in the top photo, and the after, in the bottom photo. (Click to enlarge.)

Each of the bags fit comfortably and tidily between the saddle rails of a Brooks B 17 and a Selle Italia Turbo. (See the photo below.) In both applications they are completely stable and secure and do not rattle or shift over road bumps. Also, due to their compact size, they do not chafe the thighs and are completely out of the way when swinging a leg over the seat for mounting. I fact, I liked them so much, I bought three others and had them modified as well to put on my other bikes.

LED Light Conversion Part 3

Back in November of 2017, I wrote a post on converting an old Soubitez halogen headlight and a tail light to LEDs. The details are here. I was dissatisfied with the performance of the resulting conversion and over the next year attempted to find low cost and low complexity means of improving the results which are outlined here in a post from December of 2018. The results were improved but in my conclusion I commented, “The changed front reflector is a considerable improvement in beam shape but the 140 Lumen output of the LED may simply be too low for serious use. The up side is that things are better and still look period correct.” However, “better” is not the same as satisfactory. The beam intensity was still too low and the headlight beam itself did not fully cover the immediate path ahead because it seemed biased to the left.

My immediate thought was that if 1W and 120-140 Lumens of the Nicelite LED insert is good then double that should be much better and would still leave plenty of wattage to run the taillight. When I again consulted the Nicelite product page for dynamo lights, I found the following products:

None was of greater than 1W unless it had DC or some other polarity issue. Puzzled, I wrote Nicelite/Reflectalite and received a courteous and prompt reply explaining that older, traditional type lights such as I was converting were made with largely or completely plastic housings often with a small brass bulb mount or an entirely plastic mount. These designs lacked sufficient metal to act as an adequate heat sink for an LED of greater than 1W capacity. Higher output conversion LEDs such as a 2W would simply overheat, fail and, quite possibly, melt the the light housing or reflector. He went on to share with me that there were no plans to produce a higher powered LED conversion either now or in the future. So much for more Lumens from the current Soubitez reflector and housing.

Since more light was not an option, better focused light seemed to be the only route to improvement left. The problem with the Soubitez headlight was that the mounting base was plastic unlike the earlier Soubitez which had a crimped metal mount as shown in the photo on the right. The TA rack mounted on the C 37 attached to the Mafac Competition pivot bolts but did not have a mounting attachment rod with which to attach the light itself. That job was handled by a cro-mo custom made lamp bracket as seen in the photo. Unfortunately, the bracket did not fully clear the support rod of the TA rack and the result was it slightly tweaked the alignment of the lamp from straight ahead to a leftward bias. That was not a problem with the original chrome Soubitez shown in the photo as the steel mount was easily twisted to align straight forward. Unfortunately, the larger lamp with its black plastic mount was twisted left and this was wasting useful light and it could not be bent to align straight forward because the cro-mo mount was too strong to bend without damage. Realistically, I either had to replace the large Soubitez with another steel based lamp or change the TA rack/bracket arrangement to retain the reflector.

A search for a used, NOS or contemporary headlight that had a steel mount provide fruitless. The ones available had lens like my original, chromed, poorly performing Soubitez or had plastic bases like my large Soubitez with the added disadvantage of requiring a ground wire connection and attachment rather than the single wire with frame as ground format of older headlights. Since it did not look possible to find an alternate lamp, it seemed I would need to find an alternate rack on which to mount my current lamp. This was no small issue.

The original rack was made by TA in France about 35 years ago. It is steel wire, brazed together and then chromed. The racks are excellent for supporting handlebar bags on randonneuse bicycles without using special braze-ons and command used prices of at least $50 US if in good condition. Not only are they still in demand, they are found in multiple different formats some of which are rarer than others and therefore pricier. The photo to the left is my then current one showing the mounting struts and brake center bolt attachment point. There are two other models in that style and they differ by having a dropped strut that hangs down on the left side of the rack to permit the attachment of a headlight. They differ in that one version has a brazed-on threaded M5 socket which permits a light to be bolted directly on along with an anti-vibration washer to prevent slippage. This can be seen in the photo to the right.

I have used this type before on a Peugeot PF 40 and the mounting is simple, robust and secure in normal use. The wire mount is flexible enough to allow bending to fine tune headlight alignment but stiff enough to avoid vibration in the light field when riding at night. This was the version I was looking for when I decided to look for an alternate TA rack based on my previous experience with the Peugeot and the ease of mounting. Checking on line with both EBay and vintage bike stores, I found prices for poor condition racks needing re-chroming at around $60 -70 US. Good condition racks ran up towards $100 US. This was not the solution I had anticipated when trying to solve my headlight problem.

An alternative TA rack looks the same with the dropped headlight support rod but it lacks the braze-on M5 screw mount. Instead, the L shaped rod is plain and unthreaded like the example seen to the left. This requires a special clamp on style of compression mounting that allows the light to sit above the rod but which does not seem as secure a mount as the threaded version. This format looks like it will rotate if the headlight is too heavy or not tightened down thoroughly. Searching on line with EBay reveals that the rod type are in the $55 – 90 US range which was even worse.

Thankfully, the problem was solved through a contact on Bike Forums who had a front TA rack with light mounting post for half the price of the commercial offerings and in very good condition. Furthermore, the post was already threaded with an M5 thread for the previous owner’s application. A price was agreed on, PayPal payment made and the rack delivered by mail.

A quick clean with Autosol and the rack was shining. An attempt to quickly remove the previous TA rack and mount the new one failed because the fender mount at the fork crown required attention and alignment so up on the work stand and then finished. Once the rack was mounted and the nuts and bolts all tightened down, I trial fitted the Soubitez headlight to the mounting strut on the rack. The threaded area accommodated the mount but there was no room for jam nuts or the outer Nylock that was needed to hold the Soubitez in place. The thread needed to be extended.

Out came the tap and die set as well as the cutting oil. A trial fit confirmed that the thread was M5 so I assembled the M5 die to the handle, lubed the die, the threads and the chromed rod and carefully threaded the die onto the rod. The fit was much smoother than the dry trial fit and the die cut into the chromed rod readily, to my surprise. The original thread was about 1/2 inch long (1 cm) so I doubled the thread cut to just over an inch or slightly more than 2.5 cm. Once the swarf was cleared and the tools put away, I brass brushed the threads on the rod to clean them and refitted the two inner jam nuts to act as a stop. I added an anti-rotation washer, the lamp and then another washer and the 10 mm M5 Nylock nut. Everything bolted up perfectly and there was a slight excess of threads. The details are in the labeled photo to the right. I tested the light with the generator and the front and rear LEDs lit up exactly as they should and then, later, did a preliminary lamp aiming and adjustment.

With the new TA rack with the drop strut mounting rod, the aim of the mounted light was directly toward the front with no lateral offset to the left. Once weather permitted, I took the bike out on exactly the same bike path as previously had been the case. Riding showed a tight beam that had little throw to either side and lit the path from edge to edge. The Soubitez lens and the aligned bracket, refreshingly, put the light where it needed to be.

Conclusion: The light beam realignment provided by the new TA rack bracket allows the most effective use of the light available. The light remains bright white and is highly visible from the front and the rear stand-light functions very well. This is probably the best it will get with upgraded period technology and is now satisfactory for normal riding in level or slightly rolling terrain. Fast downhills? Still not recommended.


Bertin Replica Jersey by Wieleroutfits

Several people over the last little while have asked about buying a Bertin team jersey. Typically, in thesleevless Bertin jersey recent past, you had to make do with what you could find on EBay that was vintage stock. These jerseys were typically acrylic or acrylic/wool and had embroidered or flocked graphics featuring sponsors. Their condition was variable Bertin Boulangerieand sizing, of course, was hit and miss but mostly miss. If you were or are looking for a Bertin trade style jersey for L’Eroica or one of the other vintage rides now going, then you really need some alternative.

Such an alternative is now available from Wieleroutfits in Arnhem, in the Netherlands. The styling is classic 50s-60s pre-Shimano Bertin. The fabric is not the knitted acrylic/wool of the past but some form of wicking, modern synthetic. You can see the jersey at their site here. That link takes you to the Dutch language page with the sizing dimensions. For an English version, go to the Union Jack in the upper left corner and click on it.

When I feature or test items here it is, usually, on the basis of personal purchase and review. That is not the case here. I have no personal knowledge of the product nor do I own one. The jersey is an attractive, full zipped model with ample rear pockets. However, the information shared here is provided as a convenience as a result of readers’ inquiries and should not be considered an endorsement. If you own one of these, please feel free to comment. For the rest of us, this may be just what we need in the way of Vintage looking kit.

Photo Credit: Wieleroutfits.nl

Photo Credit: Wieleroutfits.nl

Mafac Hoods – A Review


Mafac logowas a post World War II bicycle brake manufacturer based in the city of Clermont-Ferrand in the Auvergne region of south-central France. They remain known today among enthusiasts for their Criterium cantilever brakes , beloved of cyclo-crossers and early mountain bikers,mafac-cantilevers- criterium and their centerpull brakes like the Raid, Top 63, Competition, 2000, GT and the Racer. They also Mafac Full Hooded Lever Rebourproduced matching levers for these brakes which brings us to the central difficulty current users have with these products. Lever hood replacement.

This is a problem because people are rediscovering the excellent braking and modulation available with these centerpull brakesets, even the maligned and nearly universally used Racer. They are also discovering that the half hood and full hood rubber lever covers are virtually unobtainable as new stock. Contemporary lined brake cables like Velo Orange’s and JagWire along with Kool Stop brake pads (see test here) can greatly enhance the braking feel and power of these brakesets but whether for daily use or restoration, be ready to pay extortionate prices for new old stock (NOS) lever hoods. My recently restored (2015) 1970s Bertin C 37 has NOS gum rubber lever covers. With an auction purchase, shipping and import duties, the on-the-bike cost was $75 Canadian. Not what you would like to pay for hoods for your scruffy commuting Peugeot AO 8.

So, what to do? Scrounge old bike shows? Haunt EBay and look for used but not disgusting levers with hoods? Spidel Levers 2 BeforeRealize that as classic and vintage hobbyists, we are cheap but just take a deep breath and pay up for NOS? Go without?

None of those options are necessary any longer. While browsing on line, I ran across an online shop called Reciclone which sells NOS and reproduction parts for classic and vintage bicycles. The key word is “reproduction” because Jordi, the shop owner, makes molds for and Hoodsreproduction hoods for various brake levers, including Mafac. He has different style repros for Zeus, Campy, Universal, Weinmann, Shimano as well as Mafac. The full coverage lever hoodsMafac Half Hoods are offered on the site but half hoods are available by request if you email Jordi. These are correct to having the metal retainer clip molded into the half hood to retain the rear of the rubber cover to the lever body. (See the photo to the right.) The Mafacs are available in black or tan/amber in both half and full formats.



Having seen the hoods on line in Jordi’s shop, I determined to buy a pair. I had one pair of OEM (original equipment manufacturer) replacement hoods tucked away but spares are always good, especially for consumables like this that are damaged by sunlight and ozone. I went on line and placed an order for one pair of amber hoods through the shop. (Black is also available.) Everything proceeded smoothly. Although the shop price shows 35 Euros, the charged price was 28.93 due to tax rebate. Shipping was 15 Euros for tracked international shipping (which I would appreciate later in the process) coming to a total of 43.93 Euros/ $64.97 CDN.

When looking at the amount, please remember the sharp decline in the $ CDN in February, the tracked postage cost and the fact that these reproductions are all hand molded. This is Jordi actually doing the hand labour not some injection molding machine.  The order was mailed on February 9th, left Spain on February 11th and spent a furtherShipping Box 11 days crawling through Canada’s postal system including a 5 day stay in Customs. Jordi’s efficiency and helpfulness were exemplary, Canada Post – not so much. When the parcel arrived, it had been carefully bubble packed and shipped in a clearly marked and classy box. The whole package was undamaged and could have been installed directly out of the box had I wished it. Included was a clearly written and illustrated set of instructions. (See reproduction immediately below.)

Installation Instructions Sheet

A close examination of the hoods revealed that they were well molded and robust.Flaw There was a slight inconsistency in the left shoulder of the hood near where it would rest by the handlebar but this had no effect on the strength or durability.  There was a very slight amount of mold flash at the joint line of the mold comparable to NOS Mafac lever covers. (See the photo below.) The installation Pieces plus adjusterinstructions were followed as provided with the addition of a few drops of water to make the solution more slippery. The lever used was an older Mafac Course 121 but since the alloy lever body is the same with Mafac’s Course 419 with the drilled lever blades here would be no problem with using these hoods on that type of lever. The plastic bodied lever of the same style would fit as well but theMafac Drilled Promotion levers Mafac Promotion plastic levers will not accept this or any other lever cover that I am aware of.


The lever cover was molded very accurately to the contours of the lever body. The hood stretched properly during installation with no stress marks in the corners or at angles. Once slipped on over Lever hood completedthe body, the hood was tight and wouldn’t move even given the slippery soap solution underneath. The metal adjuster for this type of lever fit perfectly as did the rubber covered adjuster of the drilled hoods with AdjustersCourse 419 style lever. The overall feel and look of the hood was the same as that of one of the NOS hoods that I originally had in stock. The rubber adjuster cover differs in colour in the photos because they were virtually never the same in “real life”. In the accompanying photo of the Repro and the OEM lever hoods, the reproduction is the lower of the two hoods shown with the original Mafac Comparison NOS and Reprohood shown with its original adjuster. Jordi is currently evaluating the practicality of making matching adjuster rubbers which would need to be added to the owners’ own adjuster body.



The Mafac reproduction hoods offered by Jordi at Reciclone are well made  and well fitted to the lever base. The comfort of the lever seems comparable to the NOS Mafacs. Those who use their bikes on a daily basis might want to consider the black versions of the hoods as they are probably less vulnerable to ozone and ultraviolet. It is very useful to have these reproduction hoods available to fill the gap created by the exhaustion of the NOS hood supply for both daily riders as well as for restorations. A big thank you to Jordi at Reciclone for the Mafacs as well as the other hood styles he has taken the trouble to reproduce.






Bertin Generator Lighting

In the past, Bertin utility and touring bicycles came with built in generator powered lighting systems fitted by the Bertin factory. Whether they were an everyday bike like the sixties Bertin C 10 shown si Bertin mixte ebay frto the right  or the C 31 shown to the left below, they all carried seat stay mounted braze-on Bertin C 31 80s 11tabs for a 6 Volt, 3 Watt Soubitez generator as well as some form of taillight and a headlight as well. (Typically, also Soubitez.)

The tail light might be mounted directly to the generator braze-on tab as it was with plastic fendered  Cyclotouristes such as the C 117 or the   C 132. This was then complimented by a reflector on the plastic rear fender. In other cases, such as the C 116, the C 28, 29 and 31 the taillight and reflector were incorporated as an  integrated, single unit on the rear fender.

One exception to these methods was the 1980s Bertin C 134 which used a Sanyo bottom bracket generator attached to a brazed-on plate on the bottom of the chainstays directly behind the bottom bracket shell.Bertin Randonneuse 4

The front lights of plastic fendered bikes would have the headlight hung from a TA rack or one of the in-house provided chromed wire racks supplied by Bertin. The stainless steel or alloy fendered bikes might have the front light on a TA rack or mounted to the upper lip of the front, metal fender. The two photos shown above give clear examples of each method of attachment for metal fendered bikes.

TA Rack with Light Bracket Ebay

Photo Credit: Vintage NOS Bicycle Parts (EBay)

For those unfamiliar with the TA rack, various versions were made. There was a plain version without the dropped rod for mounting lights used just as a bag support, there was a dropped rod version with a threaded sleeve attached to allow screwing on a headlight and there was a third version with a dropped rod with no sleeve which permitted clamp-on light fittings to be attached to the rack’s dropped rod. All 3 TA racks were designed to mount to the pivot bolts and the mounting bolt of MAFAC center pull brakes.TA Rack With Light Bracket

I have used the version of the TA rack to the left attached to MAFAC  2000 center pulls brazed on to a Peugeot PF 40 and it was a very stable and effective light mount and bag support. No matter which of the two standard mount systems were used, the wiring was single strand of  insulated  20 or 22 gauge copper wire (.75 or 1 mm). My current C 37 has 1.5 mm wire and I have no idea why, although everything works perfectly.

If you are an owner of one of the various Cyclotouriste models, as a recent correspondent is who has acquired a NOS frameset, you may be Bertin brake braze onconfused by the holes drilled in your bottom bracket and your lower head lug (See photo with wire to the left). Whether your Bertin is also NOS or a stripped down version oldie lacking its original equipment, the purpose is the same. These holes are there to permit the routing of the single wire which will carry current from the generator to the headlight. The Soubitez generator needs only one wire because the frame or fender acts as the return path for the current.

The C37 Generatorgenerator itself has a spring tensioned connector/terminal at the bottom (see photo) where the wires to the headlight and  the taillight finish their cable runs. The wires are inserted into a hole in the generator terminal and spring tension clamps them when the fitting is released. The wires (I twisted mine to reduce snagging) emerged from a hole I drilled in the fender (these are aluminium Honjos) where they were either taped to the inside of the fender or were tucked into the curled fender edge (mine are tucked in).

The left wire began at the head tube lug and was fed into and down the down tube then out of the hole in the bottom bracket, into the fender, taped near the edge or tucked into the curled edge, then out of the hole in the fender. The right hand wire began by being fed through the hole near the bottom end of the fender, tucked into the fender’s curled edge or taped to the fender until it passed through the fender hole adjacent to the generator braze-on. Both are then attached to the generator terminal as shown. On plastic fendered bikes such as the C 117 the separate taillight mounts directly to the brazed-on stay tab with a wire going directly to the generator terminal. The headlight wire can be attached with electrical tape inside the rear fender after it emerges from the hole in the bottom bracket and is then attached at the generator using the spring loaded brass terminal. The black cap on the generator is a soft rubber cover for the hard plastic generator wheel. It stops the generator wheel from damaging the soft, thin sidewall of skinwall tires.

Your bike’s headlight can be a period correct piece like my Soubitez or one of the new varieties of halogen or LED headlamps. The Soubitez headlight shown here was wired for another application hence the 2 wires but it is otherwise identical to the one fitted to my C 37. It is Headlight # 1Halogen Bulb Basecurrently set up with a halogen bulb as is the headlight on my bicycle.

The original lights were supplied with standard incandescent bulbs (screw threaded base) and were retrofitted with halogens. In the left hand image the round bulb is OEM, the pointy one is halogen and the brake pad is for scale! The halogen gives a brighter but yellow-white light compared to the incandescents. LED conversion bulbs are available (I will be trying them in future) and are available through the Lake Pepin Tour site here (US) or through Reflectalite (UK) here.

Bertin Mariposa light bracket Power is directed on the basis of 2.4 Watts to the headlight and .6 Watts to the taillight. With halogen bulbs, exact capacities must be observed but LEDs allow more latitude in application. With incandescent and halogen bulbs, the front bulb must be 2.4 Watts and the taillight must be .6 Watts to avoid burning out the bulbs by over voltaging them. To the right is a photo showing the headlight setup on my   C 37 including the custom,Bertin - Jim front brake tubular cro-mo light bracket for the Soubitez headlight. Further details of the bracket and the wire run are shown to the left.

The taillight set up on that bike includes an integrated light/reflector combination bracket. This entailed drilling three holes in the fender. Two allowed for the alignment tab and the attachment screw and the third allowed the passage of the light wire into the fixture. The .6 Watt bulb screwed into the socket and compressed the copper wire ends making contact and Bertin - Jim taillightcompleting the circuit. If you  have a       C 117 or similar with plastic fenders then a reflector will be mounted here instead, especially if your are using Milremo or Bluemels fenders.

However, if you are fitting ESGE/SKS plastic fenders, these have a laminated construction with an aluminium core between a lower and upper plastic layer. With these fenders a combination fixture like the one shown can be fitted. I am uncertain as to whether it needs to be wired or can be powered through the alloy inner layer.

As an aside, you should be aware that fenders with mounting brackets inside the fender  tend to channel water out and over the fender edges casting more spray than fenders with exterior brackets as shown on my black C 37.

As always, since you are the builder/restorer you must make the decision as to how accurate you wish to be in your work. Period correct with dim incandescent bulbs is no fun on the road at night but just fine for a bike that is a wall hanger. You may wish to compromise and keep the look of the bike period correct but sneak in halogen or LED bulbs which boost performance. Alternatively, you may decide on a whole new, LED based system altogether. For further details and elaboration, I would recommend Peter White’s excellent site as well as Compass Bicycles although they do tend to emphasize hub generators.