A Bertin C 37 in London

The last posted article was one about an urban owned C 38 track bike in New York City in the US. This post will be about a C 37 road bike owned and restored by Stuart Windsor of London, England. Stuart is a professional photographer as you can see from his pictures below as well as from his work at the Stuart Windsor Photographer site here.

He had contacted me some time ago regarding sharing his completed restoration but the perfect opportunity to share it came with the more recent opportunity to post about the C 38. So here it is below, in a slightly less formal featured bike presentation, to contrast with the C 38 from last time around. Both are 1960s – early 1970s and make an interesting juxtaposition. (Click photo to enlarge.)

 

Drive side profile showing off the Stronglight 105bis

Drive side profile showing off the Stronglight 105bis crankset.

 

Alloy Simplex Prestige, 105bis and Marcel Berthet pedals - classic French componentry

Alloy Simplex Prestige, 105bis and Marcel Berthet pedals – classic French components.

 

Frame Details also showing Maillard Competition front hub and Simplex QR

Frame Details also showing Maillard Competition front hub and Simplex QR.

 

Frame details and rear Competition HF hub

Frame details and rear Competition HF hub.

 

Frame details with interesting pump peg.

Frame details with interesting pump peg.

 

Atax/Philippe bar and stem.

Atax/Philippe bar and stem.

 

Rear early model MAFAC Racer brake caliper.

Rear early model MAFAC Racer brake caliper.

 

MAFAC Course 121 levers with half-hoods.

MAFAC Course 121 levers with half-hoods.

The whole restoration effort has produced a visually stunning period effect and a sincere thank you to Stuart for sharing that result with us.

 

 

 

 

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 C 35 Restoration

The charm, emotional attachment and uniqueness of an older bike are not the only reasons for using, preserving and restoring one. The bicycles of the past 50 or 60 years had, in many respects, been optimized in design for their various uses through technological evolution. If it broke, it got redesigned. If it rode badly, the angles, rake or trail got fiddled with. There was an ongoing dialogue between theory and usage with the result that by the 50s, 60s and 70s, the steel bicycle was as close to technical perfection as the existing metallurgy and use would permit. True, the details were constantly changing in much the same way as skirt lengths do and while arguments raged over the preferred tubing brand or assembly method, the skill or artistic vision of the builder/constructeur, the central core of  accepted best practice remained.

However, this does not mean every bike from the period was a classic nor that any of them were perfect! Mass produced bikes from the 70’s boom were often poorly brazed, assembled and painted as any person who saw some of Peugeot’s paint jobs would attest!  Nonetheless, the design and tubing diameters were optimized and these bikes often have a lovely ride/handling compromise that is very much lacking in contemporary designs due to the new bicycles’ tightly focused specializations.

This is a very long background to explain the desire of  Tim M. from Virginia, to get things right with his Bertin C 35 by restoring it.

Origins

When Tim was in college in 1980, he decided he would buy a Bertin C 35 from Richard Hallett’s World Championship Bicycles in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The bike was a 1979 clearance model advertised in Bicycling magazine and selected from Dick Hallett’s catalogue. The order was placed for a C 35, 60 cm frameset, finished in Fire Engine Red. What arrived was a 58 cm C 35, finished in an orangey-red. No matter. It was beautiful, it was light, it was reddish and the sizing was almost right. The bike was ridden for the next 15 years until retired to the garage and replaced with a Mercian. Even then, Tim began the process leading to restoration by starting to collect period appropriate parts through EBay auctions.

Changes

One of the things acquired off of EBay was a black, 60cm sized Bertin C 37 frameset. The size and the fit were right in a way that the C 35 had never quite been and so the C 37 got built up and ridden. But the C 37 is a racing bike not a randonneuse and by the 1970s its design had adopted modern racing geometry. The old, laid back, low trail Cyclo-Touriste design of the C 35 was fondly remembered by Tim but it was no longer what he was riding. The intention of getting the older C 35 refurbished strengthened despite his enjoyment of his C 37.

Progress

Once again, EBay provided the opportunity for change. A light blue, 60 cm, 1978 Bertin C 35 was offered in an auction and Tim bought it. The online photos of the bike were quite attractive but the actual bike was far rougher than first supposed. There were paint chips as you would expect in a 33 year old frameset but paint was worn right through to metal in spots as well. The biggest issue by far were the bent fork blades. Judicious cold setting with a fork  jig helped as did filing away 5mm of metal from the inside top of a dropout. The result was a bike with that fondly remembered ride but an obstinate tendency to go its own way rather than track true down the road. The extra 2 cm of frame on the blue C 35 gave Tim the position and comfort of his black C 37 but the geometry provided The Ride. Correspondence with the previous owner revealed what equipment had been on the frame and Tim built up the blue C 35 with a combination of NOS and parts recycled from his other Bertins.

One of the additions was a NOS  TA front rack to support a handlebar bag. That was acquired through Via Bicycle in Philadelphia. The fenders were from Velo Orange and once fully assembled the C 35 looked like this:

Tim described his now favourite bike as “smooth and well mannered” recreating the core experience of his too small 1980 C 35 with a properly sized and set up 1978. All’s well and so to the happy ending? Not quite yet.

Tipping Point

Tim loved the bike, loved the ride but kept thinking about the not-quite-right fork, the unmatchable paint chips and scrapes and the “not my real choice” colour. Then he began thinking about decal makers, painters and frame builders who might be able to make the C 35 into everything it should have been in that college year of 1980.

Decisions

Eventually, Tim decided to restore his blue C 35. He settled on Elliott Bay Bicycles/Davidson Handbuilt Bicycles as the team to do the work.  He knew of the store, its proprietor Bob Freeman and Bill Davidson through his travels. He was also aware of the deep knowledge and enthusiasm both men would bring to the restoration process. Equally importantly, he decided to arrange for J.R. Anderson at VeloCals to create and produce a correct set of Bertin decals for the project. The meticulously correct Vitus stickers came from Cyclomondo.  While he was making supplier choices, Tim, like every restorer, had to face the issue of how the restoration would be done. Would it be “original”, a complete reproduction of what the bike was like as it came off the assembly line in 1979? Not necessarily good for a bike that would be subsequently ridden rather than displayed.

Another possibility was “period correct” in which the look or visual “feel” of the bike is retained but subtle functional improvements like Kool Stop brake pads, lined brake cables or index freewheels and chains are added to make the bike perform better or more safely.

Finally, there is “it’s my bike and I will do as I please” which ignores all aspects of the bike’s heritage and period in favor of the owner’s unique, personal vision. This approach should really be called hot rodding not restoration.

Tim’s choice was “period correct”. For example, he chose to keep all his clip on frame accessories but did add one set of down tube braze-ons for his bottle cage. As well, the cage itself was a Velo Orange re-creation of the early TA cage design which had been supplanted by the time the bike was built but which could easily have been a parts box item. In the interests of originality, light metallic blue should have been the colour choice but real originality, 1980 originality, demanded bright, fire engine red and that was the paint colour chosen and then sprayed on at Davidson’s. All of this was part of the dialogue between originality and meaning for the owner doing the restoration or having it done.

Process

Once the concept was arrived at and refined, decisions made and locked in, suppliers and craftsmen selected, then and only then, was the frameset sent off to Davidson Handbuilt Bicycles in Seattle in December of 2010. Some restorations are simply blast it, prime it, paint it , add decals and done. Others are more complex and as complexity increases so does cost as every would-be restorer needs to consider.

For Tim, the added complexity was the fork. The blue one was basically unsalvageable but the old orange C 35 had a perfect fork that had a steerer that was two centimetres too short. The solution was the fork blades and crown from the old bike with the usable and correct length steerer from the blue bike. The application of excellent craftsmanship, time, and chrome plating to the “new” fork increased Tim’s cost substantially but addressed perfectly the tracking issues of the blue bike’s frameset.

While the metalwork and paint were in progress, VeloCals turned out a set of reproductions for the decals which were indistinguishable from the original foil Bertin applications. Eventually, in early June of 2011, the frameset was done and shipped back to Tim on the East Coast.

Completion

Once the frameset was returned, Tim completed the re-assembly with the parts he had acquired prior to its restoration. The impressive and beautiful results may be seen below.

The Reckoning

So, after six months, custom decals, careful craftsmanship and rebrazing of the fork and a full frame alignment followed by a  beautiful fire engine red paint job, the frameset is home, assembled and being ridden. Tim comments,”It rides wonderfully, just like it always has, with the exception that now it will go straight down the road… .” Looking back on the restoration process from the start of his Bertin ownership in 1980 to the present, Tim commented, “… after 32 years, I finally have the bike that I ordered!”

Addendum

Thanks to Tim M. for fact checking the accuracy of the post and for shipping his old black C 37 to a new home — mine (for a future Bertin Classic Cycles restoration project which should begin in early 2012). Readers, please also remember that there is an orphan Bertin C 35 frame, size 58 cm and orangey red in colour. If you are interested, send me a message via my Contact Form and I will forward it to Tim so that he can respond to you directly.

Bertin bicycle decals for restorations

The obtaining of accurate and complete decal (transfers) sets for any bicycle can be difficult. For bicycles like Bertins produced at the rate of a maximum of 10,000 machines a year, at most, it can be a vexing problem indeed. Periodically, I receive requests to direct other Bertin owners to someone who can provide or make decal sets to complete the final detail of a restoration.

Usually, I direct them to firms I have linked to in the Restoration sidebar like H.Lloyd Cycles, Velocals, Velocolour, Velographic and such like. Sometimes, the request is more specific and difficult. For Bertins from the 50s and 60s there simply has not been any option for decals. The original, script and arrow downtube decals were unavailable and there were no clear, reliable photos to form the basis of reproduction. When I restored my 1960s Bertin C 37, the only useful decals were the 1970s version I eventually had reproduced and used.

Recently, an email request came in from Stuart W. in Britain. He had found a Bertin like his original bike from the late 1950s and he was hoping to get a photo image of the downtube decal which he needed to have reproduced.

Thankfully, I was able to supply him with an appropriate, high resolution photo which had been unavailable to me when I did my restoration several years ago.

Shortly thereafter, I got an email with an inclusion. The decal maker, Cyclomundo, had come through in a big way and had created the appropriate decals for these early Bertin sport and racing bicycles. So, for those of you who had despaired of period correct for your Bertin, rejoice because Stuart’s request has opened up your choices. You now can contact Cyclomundo and ask about these decals:

As you can see, the set is not fully complete. You will also need the A.B. decal for the downtube and the Made in France banner for the top tube but those are currently available. Combine them and you have a perfect, period correct graphic package for your beloved old Bertin be it a road or a track frame. So, no more excuses, get that restoration done and get back on the road!

Decals & Transfers 1990 – 2000

This period reflects the gradual move towards closure that began after Mr. Bertin sold his company to Cibo in 1993. Competition in the French bicycle market was fierce as preferential tariffs disadvantaged French domestic producers leading to withdrawal by some firms like Peugeot and bankrupty for others like Motobecane.

Cost savings in everything from materials, assembly techniques, automation and graphics were applied to allow bicycle producers and component producers a chance to survive. As part of this relentless process, decals were simplified and made interchangeable on the top tube, seat tube and down tube in the earlier part of the decade. The headtube badge was replaced permanently with a vertically stacked and italicized version of the down and seat tube name. Paint schemes were initially simplified and used a base colour with contrasting fades applied over them as in this example.

After Mr. Bertin’s death in 1994, the new owners  moved further away from the materials, techniques and appearances of the classic era Bertins. Traditional steels remained as a frame material with some new types but in addition to lugged and brazed framesets many others were TIG welded. Aluminum in both Vitus lugged/bonded and Columbus welded versions remained in the line up and the welded bikes became a larger and larger part within the Bertin catalogue of offerings.

Details on the sequence of the decal styles hereafter is conjectural due to lack of reference materials. Nonetheless, the simplification and shift to semi-compact design and TIG welded framesets was consistent through this period to the end of production around 2000. The old eagle/tricolour head badge was replaced by lettering as shown above and then by a highly stylized lower case letter b. It may have been that the trademark was no longer available after Mr. Bertin’s sale of the company because Shimano retains control of the trademark to this day. Paint treatments were either single colour or two colours seperated by transitional decals. Graphics were on clear, peal and stick film and did not appear to have clear coat over them. Vitus bonded aluminum frames continued branded as Bertins with Bertin style decals scaled to the size of the smaller tubeset.

This welded, aluminum framed Bertin C 4000 has what I believe to be an earlier style of graphics. Later models of both TIG’d steel and welded aluminum used the dual colour format discussed earlier.

This paint scheme had small lower case b’s on the seat stays and the front of the fork blades with a larger coordinating one on the head tube. The Vitus Futural frames were liveried similarly to the other single colour bicycle shown above as can be seen in this photograph.

Forks on the different models varied. Some were raked steel, some straight bladed, others were welded or bonded alloy. At the very last of the 90s/2000 some frames were seen with carbon forks although these may have been aftermarket replacements. See the examples below.

According to former production manager Alain Merlier, production at the Bertin factory ceased in 2000. Bikes were still sold after that date, probably as NOS,  floor models and such like. The latest bike known to me is the owner identified 2003 model in the following photograph. It appears to be one of the last of the last and its graphics would seem to be representative of the final production style.