Bertin Finds in France

Finding old Bertin bicycles in France doesn’t seem like much of a stretch. Consider that Bertins can be found fairly readily in the UK, the US, New Zealand, Morocco and even, occasionally, here in Canada. So, no big deal to find them in their country of origin, one might think. However, this is not so easily done.  The bikes were distributed all over France so your geographical location would affect availability. So would the lack of co-operation from local sellers and those on leboncoin who can’t even be bothered answering foreigners like me.

However, if you lived in Normandy (geographically just down the road from Bertin’s home location) as an expatriate Briton, and made the rounds of yard sales, bicycle jumbles, boot sales and flea markets you just might have a good chance to snag some interesting bikes.

Which is exactly what Kevin, who buys and refurbishes classic French bikes, does in his spare time.  He had contacted me through the site regarding id confirmation for a couple of Bertins which he had found and purchased on speculation. We discussed the bikes and he was kind enough to allow me to publish their photos. The silver one was a C 35 in original livery and equipment which Kevin then cleaned and up-speced. The red C 37 has been extensively modified in terms of braze-on additions, a new fork and partial changes to its equipment group.

1970s Bertin C 35 (531 /Durifort) in original condition

1970s Bertin C 35 (531 /Durifort) in original condition

 

C 35 re-furbished with equipment upgrade

C 35 refurbished with equipment upgrade

 

red-bertin-fin-1

Modified Bertin C 37

 

My thanks to Kevin for rescuing and permitting the sharing of these Bertin survivors with us.

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.

 

 

 

 

Bernard Carre and Andre Bertin 2

Bernard Carre racing

Photo: Forum Velo Retro Course. Carre 1956

Bernard Carre had a history in competitive cycling but after his career in racing ended, he went to work as a frame builder for CNC/Fletcher-Ducret in Paris. There was a cadre of excellent framebuilders at CNC which included Rene Andre and Bernard Carre. They built high-end frames there, such as team bikes for East Block countries and at least those two men became notable, independent builders. After leaving CNC, Carre established a production shop of his own in Montreuil, an eastern suburb of Paris, about 6 kilometers from the city centre. I believe he worked with his brother, Lucien Carre, and a group of employees who batch produced frames and frame sets for large B. Carre business cardmanufacturers as well as for smaller specialty producers and bike shops wanting their own unique line of bicycles to set them apart from the mass market firms like Peugeot, Manufrance and Cycle France-Loire.

 

Anquetil-Gitane-by-Rebour

Photo: Forum Velo Retro Course

Once the business was up and running in the mid to late 1950s, Carre undertook commissions to build custom framesets for top level French racing cyclists. He is known to have built framesets for Julien Arne, Raphael B.Carre for Julian Arne 1950sGeminani, Jean Pierre Danguillaume, Henri Anglade and Jacques Anquetil. A Daniel Rebour technical drawing from 1964 shows the distinctive leaf-shaped seatstay cap with Anquetil’s initials on his 1964 Tour de France winning “Gitane”. (Gitane continued to use this style stay cap on its in-house built bikes even into the 1970s.)  In addition to the  bikes for pro level riders, Carre built custom framesets for club riders, track riders and occasionally, for randonneurs.

B Carre head lug

Photo: Bir Hakim

As mentioned in the Classic Factory Lightweight Bicycles article, Carre produced in three or four levels of quality and finish. The highest would be the custom level. These were usually built with Prugnat Carre RR dropoutS series lugs with diamond-shaped cutouts. Lug variations, chroming on lugs, forks and stays, tubing variations, all were possible on Carre’s custom level work along with a superior level of finish. Fork and stay ends were fish mouthed in design, the orange carre bbridge reinforcement croppedbrake bridge had diamond reinforcements, the seat lug typically had brazed-on ears for the fixing bolt and dropouts were Campagnolo (with or without eyelets) depending on the frame’s purpose. The frame tubing was usually Reynolds metric 531.

Often, from what I have seen in photos, the second level, the pro bikes, were very similar to the first category with slightly less in the way of finish as was typical of French competition frames before quality was debauched during the 1970’s bike boom. The French attitude was that the bike was a tool not a shrine and was finished accordingly.These bikes had none of the fancy chrome of the customs, used Prugnat 62S lugs and were built with the same features as the customs. A good example of this type of bike are the ones built for Lejeune’s racing team and high-end retail sales. An excellent overview is available here at Classic Factory Lightweight Bicycles’ on Lejeunes. These are also Reynolds 531 in metric dimensions.

The next category would be the production frames built for sale by smaller manufacturers and larger retail bike shops or chains.These would be of the same design as the competition frames above and this is where Carre Bertins enter the picture. After the destruction of the factory, the pro/am Bertin team needed framesets and the high-end market needed to be fed with C 37s as ordered by stores at the end of the previous season. It must be remembered that Andre Bertin had a home in Paris and a Paris office as well as the main operation in St. Laurent-Blagny. He must have been familiar with Carre’s operation through trade shows and sheer proximity. Consequently, I believe a deal was struck for Carre to provide framesets for the high end C 37s. I have seen no evidence that the C 35 and C 34s were produced by Carre in that year of disaster, just C 37s.

These frames were nicely finished, well designed and sometimes came with half chromed front forks. They had all the distinctive Carre production trademarks mentioned previously, including metric Reynolds 531 tubes, but did not have the B. Carre stamping on the stay caps, at least on the three examples I am aware of. Fork crowns were Vagner DPs and the Prugnat 62S lugs were normative. The only braze-on was the rear derailleur cable stop on the chainstay. I do not know how the frames were painted and assembled since the Bertin factory was in ruins but built, painted and shipped they were as I will show, in detail, in the next installment of this discussion.

The third category of Carre’s production were the sport bikes or demi-course group. These would have  similar features to the other types but with slightly less expensive lugs, crowns and finishing. Carre built frames in this category with Reynolds 531 main tubes but other tubing was probably substituted at the request of the institutional buyer. Carre even sub-contracted with his old employer, CNC, producing this type of frameset for the Thomann brand of CNC. Click on the picture below to see details of construction.

Carre 3 tubes Thomann profile

Another example of this category is to be found on Classic Factory Lightweight Bicycles with the Delcroix being not just 531 main tubes but having a 531 fork as well. Click to enlarge.

Carre Delcroix profile

Photo: Classic Factory Lightweight Bicycles

If you are interested in other aspects of Bernard Carre’s work, please click on the links below:

https://www.flickr.com/search/?w=all&q=%22bernard+Carre%22&m=text

Bernard CARRE - Custom-build (1)

http://www.retrobike.co.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=308106

http://www.flickriver.com/photos/rohand/6050097917/

http://veloretrocourse.proboards.com/thread/340/bernard-carr

 

 

 

Bernard Carre and Andre Bertin

While restoring my 1970s Bertin C 37 a few years ago, I noticed that it differed in frame details from any C 37 I had C 37 restoration-drive-side-1previously seen, including in Bertin catalogue photographs. At the time, I gave it little consideration since catalogue photos are never definitive. Eventually, I ran across an article on Classic Factory Lightweights which discussed the work and career of the French frame builder Bernard Carre. In collecting and editing information from Norris Lockley, the retired frame builder of Bespoke of Settle, the editor  of Classic Factory Lightweights gives an overview with photos detailing Carre’s career and style. There are details in the article of the 3 different levels of build and finish common to Carre’s production.

Delcroix seatstay cap

Photo Credit: Classic Factory Lightweights

Having read the details of the article, I was struck by the similarity between the Delcroix linked to in the article and my own Bertin C 37’s construction. The seat stay caps and binder bolt were identical (except for the B. Carre engraving), the rear brake bridge reinforcements were alike, the lugsRestored seat stay cap and crown were almost identical and the fish mouth cut off and finishing of the stay and fork ends were the same. As well, other bikes like some factory team Gitanes and Lejeunes from the late 60s or early 70s had remarkably similar frame construction details. The whole issue was quite intriguing so I began to actively seek out information on Bernard Carre. Shortly after I began, two readers, Richard and Bob from the U.S., contacted me about their personal Bertins. They were seeking to confirm the model identification and the period of their bicycles’ construction. They both owned C 37s but Richard’s was especially interesting as I will explain later.

First, some of the circumstances which created the Carre – Bertin connection. In 1973, the original,

Copy of Photo # 2 Old Factory Exterior 1000 pxl

post World War II Bertin factory was totally destroyed by fire. This was ill-timed in the extreme. North America was in the midst of a record sale of bikes to fill the demand of the new cycling fitness craze. There were about 64 million bikes sold in the U.S. between 1970 and the boom’s end in 1975 with 1973 being the peak year at 15 million bicycles. This was the year that Bertin no longer had a production facility. To stave off disaster, which would have entailed loss of a year’s sales and the Bertin dealer network, Andre Bertin contracted with volume builders like Manufrance for low-end bikes and with Cycles Bertin Belgium for much of the mid-range. What was needed was someone to build the top of the range bikes like the C 37, especially those for the factory supported racers. It was this product gap which formed the basis of the commercial relationship between Bernard Carre and Andre Bertin.

Footnote: For further details on Bernard Carre’s non-Bertin production, I would direct readers to the following articles on the  Classic Factory Lightweight site: Delcroix, Bernard Carre and Lejeune. Further details of the Carre – Bertin relationship will follow in the next couple of installments.

Bertin C 37 Restoration Part 10 – The Final Reckoning

 

Well, the project will be complete with this final assessment. The original, 1970s, black C 37 has gone from this –

 

Tims Bertin C 37 blk

to this-

Drive Side Profile

to this –

 

After - Drive Side Profile

and, finally, to this-

 

Drive Side Profile

 

It has been a long process, longer than originally considered, and more expensive due to changes and glitches that were unforeseeable at the start. Remember, this bike was intended to be a rider and not a wall hanger so it did not receive NOS everything in a bid to make it perfect. Instead, used and donated parts were scavenged and used where appropriate. A few observations for those following a similar path:

– have a clear idea of what you want to have when you are finished (wall art? daily rider? show bike? historic conservation?);

– estimate your time line and then double it;

– do your financial estimations and add a 25% cushion for dealing with the unexpected ;

– line up the suppliers that you intend to use (some framebuilders/painters have very long waiting lists);

– do a trial assembly of the major components to assess brake reach, seat post fit, hub spacing and bottom bracket and headset threading;

– be sure you have any specialized service tools like the dedicated crank extractor for early Stronglights or Helicomatic freewheel wrenches;

– start with the best condition and equipped example of your favoured bike that you can find to minimize project length, complexity and cost;

– use various sized zip closed plastic bags to contain all the parts of each component or sub-assembly, label a post-it and place within each bag;

then stand back and admire the result!

Below you will find an itemized list of the costs for parts and labour during the project. They are given in U.S.$ as many of the parts came from American sources and Euro and Pound Sterling purchases have been converted to match. As well, items which were in my personal stock of cast offs and unused are priced as if they had been purchased on EBay to give a person starting from scratch a more complete and truthful appraisal of the project’s costs. The total was surprising as my pre-restoration estimate had been about $1,200.

 

Bertin C 37 Restoration Costs

(all costs include applicable shipping and taxes)

Items

Cost   (in U.S. $)

Stronglight headset – used * 40
Helico/Module E 2 wheels – used * 100
frameset – used 185
Simplex seatpost – new 78
Velo Orange cables – new 22
bolts – new 2
Tressostar bar tape – new 18
tubes – new 16
Mafac lever hoods – NOS 75
Stronglight bottom bracket (French) – used 25
Helico Freewheel – used 50
Stronglight crank remover – new 50
Velocals decals – new 64
Spidel cups – NOS (English Threaded) 25
Spidel drilled brake levers – used 68
California Springs water bottle – new 4
Silca frame fit chrome pump – NOS 30
Brooks Professional saddle – used * 90
Velox rubber bar plugs – NOS 20
Seat post frame fixing bolt (cro-mo) – NOS 6
Spidel LS 2 brake calipers – used 20
TA steel bottle cage – used * 40
Michelin 700C x 23 tires – NOS * 120
Stronglight 93 crankset – used 90
Park grease – new 15
hub bearings (5/32” for helico hub) – new 12
frame services, paint and decaling 400

Total:

 $1,787

 * These items were previously owned or gifted to the restorer. Costs are for equivalent items if actually purchased from EBay.