Bertin C ?? Demontable

Recently, I received a request from a reader in Europe who had just acquired an older, small wheeled Bertin bicycle. It was a small wheel bike that looked like a folder but wasn’t. Normally, Bertin, like many French manufacturers, built folding (pliant) bikes which hinged in the middle or lower end of the down tube to permit compact storage in campers, boats, lockers or automobiles. The bike Nikola shared with me was a model with a frame which disassembled at the down tube joint to permit storage.

The bike had a quick release arrangement for doing this and looked so familiar I did a search through the blog and found a post with a similar bike from almost 10 years ago. In that case the person inquiring was from Berlin not Croatia but Norbert was equally curious about what it was that he had. The full post is here.

That bike was much less original than the current example but is the only other I have seen and I have never seen them catalogued. The 1974 catalogue lists the C 53, the C 55 and the C 59. Only the C 59 is non-folding and it has a rigid central tube and can not be disassembled. Nikola was kind enough to provide detailed photos of his bike which had a very narrow escape. When it was rescued, the bike was in the hands of a scrap metal seller who sold it to Nikola for 20 Euros, its scrap metal value. Amazingly, the bike is little used, the seat was covered and appears original, there does not seem to be any excessive rust and even the tires are original to the bike. Check out the details in the photos below:





Judging from the World Championship seat tube bands and the other decals, I would estimate that the bike is from the mid-1970s. During that period, Bertin’s folding/demountable bikes were often identified by number based on the bike’s wheel size. So a Bertin C 53 would have 530 diameter wheels and a C 55 would have 550 size wheels in turn. There are exceptions like the C 59 with 550 wheels and the children’s folding C 9 with 400 series wheels. Nonetheless, completely arbitrarily, without any direct proof, I’m going to call this demountable Bertin a C 50 based on its 500 A wheel diameter. Perhaps someone in the next nine or ten years can write to me with a correction. In the mean time, I hope you enjoy looking over the details of Nikola’s Bertin C 50 Demontable.

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.

Bertin Folding Bike C ?

Sometimes the varieties of clever ways in which things can be done truly amaze. A recent email from Norbert in Munich, Germany produced one of those situations. He had written me about a Bertin he had recently acquired. It was a type of “folding” bike although it really did not fold. It disassembled using some clever quick release features rather than some kind of locking hinge mechanism as is typically found on these types of bikes like Bertin’s own C 53. I thought it might be a C 55 but that is really just a C 53 with  550 sized wheels instead of the C 53’s  20x 1.75  sized ones.

As yet, I have been unable to determine the model type as I have no reference material that shows a bicycle like the one Norbert photographed and shared with me. Perhaps another reader has some knowledge and experience with this type of Bertin and would be willing to share it with us. Below you will find the photos of what Norbert found.

Bertin C ?  Folding Bike


The bike as shown has an incorrect, smaller  front wheel. The original had been stolen and the replacement was what was available. Norbert is sourcing a correct replacement to restore the bike’s correct handling.

The quick releases visible in the photo are the basis of the disassembly of the bike. Once they are released, the brackets lift free of the cross frame main tube and permit the relocation of the front half of the bike overlapping the rear.

This view shows the rear of the bracing and lugs which anchor the system. The following photograph shows the disassembly.


Note that the wiring for the rear light also has a quick release coupling to permit the separation of the wires.


And the bike fully disconnected.




The above photos are further examples of the unique and interesting details found on this late 70s or early 80s Bertin .

Bertin C 25 Porteur

As cyclists, we are often caught up with “flash” – the showey, spectacular stuff that grabs attention like a new gruppo or an eye catching paint job. However, for many French people in the immediate Post-World War II period, the bicycle was not flashy or sporting but solely a means of transport as France rebuilt her shattered infrastructure. It was during this time that Andre Bertin expanded his pre-War parts and accessories business into manufacturing and built bicycles, mopeds and motorcycles to fill this need for basic transportation.

It is just that kind of bicycle which is the subject of today’s post. This bike showed up on leboncoin in France which is a treasure house of Bertins (and other things) for sale. It is an early C 25 Porteur as can be seen from its sidepull front brake and its Torpedo coaster brake in the rear. Later C 25s had a MAFAC cantilever brake brazed on the fork. This is strictly a utilitarian bicycle but it still sports those voluptuously curved 40s/50s fenders seen on period motorcycles like Indians and Harley-Davidsons. It even has a two tone paint scheme, decoration on the chain guard and white pinstripping on what is supposedly nothing more than a working bike!  Andre Bertin always gave his bikes that slightly nicer finish and specification and this is French panache at its best.

The second photo is included as an example of the kind of robust and functional rack that was required if the bike was to be truly utilitarian. It is triangulated and supported to allow stable transportation of whatever type of heavy load needed  moving from place to place. The chrome steel rear rack was suitable for baskets and/or panniers for lighter or additional items. If you would like a closer look at the rack, click on the photo to the right to enlarge it.  Worth a look, as well, is the streamlined headlight that along with the rear reflector and fenders makes the bike even more useful.

Perhaps, it is also worth remembering that for many people, even today, this is what a bicycle really is not our beloved C 37s and C 80 SSCs!