Bertin C 37 Restoration Part 4

The previous installment of the C 37 restoration post did an overview, with links, of the four different approaches to renewing or “restoring” an older bicycle. In the case of the 1970s Bertin C 37 sold to me by Tim M. of the United States, I chose to undertake a restification (a restoration/modification). The image of the bike in its original state, as when owned byTims Bertin C 37 blk Tim, shows a good “ten foot bike”. This is a phrase stolen from the car hobby and refers to a vehicle seen from ten feet away (about 3 metres). It simply recognizes that the flaws and deficiencies cannot be easily seen and that the vehicle looks quite presentable from that distance. If you click on the image it will enlarge and look quite presentable. Click again and issues begin to manifest themselves.

There are visible scrapes on the downtube, the left fork leg chrome looks iffy, the seat stay cap decal is peeling, the red Bertin foil decal on the seat tube has gouges, none of which is surprising on a 40 year old bicycle. Tim’s presentation of the bike is attractive and appropriate for a 1970s production racing bike but, realistically, the finish is tired and in need of renewal. Since the C 37 was a stop gap while the restoration of Tim’s favoured C 34 was completed, eventually the bike was sold to me “as is” when he no longer needed it.

Once the bike you intend to rebuild is in your procession, you will need to do a pre-assessment to decide what needs to be done and how to go about doing it. That’s what I did once I had the bike out of the box Tim had shipped it in. In that case, Tim had been very clear regarding condition and there were absolutely no surprises when I assessed the Bertin.  My intention from the beginning was that this C 37 would undergo a restoration and be documented on this site. It was on this understanding that Tim sold me the bike.

So, in this case, the first step of deciding to either preserve/refurbish or to restore had already been determined in favour of restoration. The question then came down to whether it would be a full period correct restoration to factory original or if it would be a restification which would preserve the general period feel of the bike but improve functionality with improvements like upgraded chain, cluster and other visually unobtrusive changes. Ultimately, I selected restification. The bike itself was an ordinary example of a C 37, much less common than a Peugeot PX 10 or Gitane Tour de France but by no means a unique you-must-preserve-this-example of the breed. If this was Patrick Sercu’s World  Championship Bertin that would have been a whole different thing!

If this were a restoration, the black paint colour and red decals would be unchanged as would the OEM equipment (which in Tim’s build was already upgraded). From the factory this could have been the base level all French components, like Tim’s, a Shimano gruppo like 600 or Dura Ace or Campy Nuovo Record/Super Record. Frame clips would be the norm and the forks would need to be re-chromed. Since I was doing a restification, none of that was going to be true.

When I conceived of the idea to do the restoration, I already owned a C 37 from the mid-1960s which had been modified and Bertin C 37 Feb. 2013upgraded into a randonneuse by the previous owner. I had subsequently done further upgrades and had the bike re-painted in red and black, not  knowing, at that time, that they were Bertin’s racing colours.

Since I already had a light touring bike with fenders, lights and a rack, I determined that the newer, 1970s C 37 would need to be a sportier bike for faster rides. At my age faster is a very relative term! As well, it would not have fenders to make the bicycle more easily transportable and would not be re-painted in its original black and red colour scheme as shown in the top picture. That was the colour scheme on my earlier C 37 as shown on the photo to the left.

Instead, I intended to adapt the bike to my preferences within the conventions of the mid-1970s. By then, frame clips were going out and braze-ons were coming in. Good thing because I have been gouged and sliced ‘n’ diced too often to tolerate clips when I have a choice. So, no clip ons, braze-ons only for cable guides, shifter bosses, a single set of water bottle bosses and cable stops. As well, the colour would have to change to avoid duplicating my current C 37. Instead, since I am Canadian, the bike will be finished in white with red decals and accents like tape and cables.

Another driving fact behind the re-finishing decision was that the paint was not really salvageable. The frameset was rough when Tim acquired it and it had not healed! Consequently, the deterioration shown in the images below informed my decision to do a full repaint on the frameset.

Drive Side Profile

Drive Side Profile

Front Forks - Chrome Pitting and Peeling

Front Forks – Chrome Pitting and Peeling

Rear Chainstays and Dropouts - Paint Damage

Rear Chainstays and Dropouts – Paint Damage

Seatstay Cap and Decal Condition

Seatstay Cap and Decal Condition

Head Tube and Top Tube Paint

Head Tube and Top Tube Paint

As can be seen from the photographs above, there was really little choice in selecting a re-spray for this C 37. Clicking on the photos will enlarge them and they will enlarge again after clicking for a second time.

So the choices have been made, in this case, for restification and a full re-spray. The framebuilder called today to confirm braze-on locations so the next post will feature the modifications and metal work which will precede the paint and application of the period correct decals.

Bertin Bicycles – Cost

People new to cycling as well as old hands are frequently shocked by the sticker prices of contemporary, new bicycles. A glance at the market shows bikes from literally $1,000 to $10,000 dollars and more for road and off-road bicycles. The relentless application of technology and the skill of marketing firms give purchasers the option to select from steel, aluminum, titanium and carbon fiber with a myriad of groups like SRAM Red, Campagnolo Record or Shimano’s electronic Dura Ace to go with the frameset. Truthfully, the situation was similar back in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Previous manufacturers were driven by the same imperative to provide customers with quality, value and a distinctive image as their successors experience today. Cycles Bertin was among them.  

The 1972 catalogue photo below in this article is an example of mid-level light touring/sport/randonneuse bicycle offered by Cycles Bertin. It cost 1,170 Francs at that time. This would translate as 690 Euros in 2012. (Follow the link here to the relevant currency value conversion website.) That is about $900 in US and Canadian dollars for a very fully equipped bicycle. 


As is currently the case, the high end bikes made with “unobtanium” were also offered at prices that were quite steep indeed. Exotica like the C 75T built of titanium and the C 80 made of welded aluminium were among those high priced offerings. The C 75T sold for 7,096 Francs back in 1972 which translates as 4,186 Euros today when equiped with Campagnolo Super Record gruppo. That’s about $5,600 dollars for those of us who live in North America.

The photos above came from the same 1972 catalogue as the price list that follows and, in combination with the currency value converter linked to above and the Models link on the bar above, should give you a considerable amount of amusement figuring out just what your Bertin was worth back then. My C 37, for example, was about $1,450. Interesting, though, the high end of the scale tops out around $5,000, far below today’s maximums even allowing for the differences in currency over time. Maybe they were the good old days!