Back on December 18th in 2010, I began working on the replacement of the wheels on my Bertin C 37 randonneuse. The accompanying photograph to the right shows the bike’s configuration at that time. The low flange Maillard Helicomatic set up with its Mavic Module E 2 rims was a little tired, dull and mildly rusty and I was looking for something shiny, new and period correct looking to match the bike’s recent restoration.
I decided on high flange Maillard 700 hubs and cast about for an appropriate rim. NOS Mavics, Rigidas or Super Champions were impossible to find in the 36 hole drilling of the hubs (a good used Maillard Course freewheel in French threads was difficult enough) so I settled on the newly released Velo Orange PBP rims. The rims were ordered from Velo Orange and promptly shipped north to Canada. They arrived beautifully packed, wonderfully shiny and ready to be built into new wheels. So, you might reasonably ask, why am I writing this update two years later?
Well, things kind of dragged on. The wheels were to be built by my brother, a professional bicycle mechanic, and so needed to be fit into the not so busy season when he had more time. As well, it took a while to find the correct length of stainless, butted, DT spokes with which to do the build. And so on, including a new full time job on my part.
Eventually, the wheels were built, I collected them from my brother and brought them home to assemble into functional wheels for the Bertin. After stripping the NOS Avocet FastGrip Duro 700 x 32 tires off the original Mavic rims, I added Velox fiberglass reinforced rim tape to the new Velo Orange PBPs and assembled the new configuration with presta valved tubes. The wheels proved to be perfectly round and true thanks to the quality of the rims and the wheel building skills of my brother! On the Mavic Module E 2 rims the Avocets measured 28mm actual width.
Mounted to the PBPs and inflated to the same tire pressures as had been used previously, the tires measured 26 mm in width which created no functional difficulties. The clearances for the fenders remained viable and the brakes needed no stirrup height adjustment or fiddling. Toe in on the 1st generation MAFAC Competitions remained the same. Then came the test ride as the cycling season had just started and I was anxious to get out on the road with my new wheels.
Horrible! Awful! Terrible squealing! The MAFAC curse multiplied and squared! With just the changes listed, my brakes went from effective, no drama stoppers to a sound effects demonstration. The pads were sand papered. Nothing. The rims were wiped with alcohol – it would have been more productive if applied internally to the rider. No change. Toe in was checked. No result. Brake shoe angle? Nope. What could be done was done, to no effect. The brakes squealed loudly and horribly.
This bothered me greatly as my MAFAC Competitions are attached to brazed on pivots and they are solidly mounted. There just was no reason that I could find so I stripped off the tires and tubes and returned them to the original Mavic rimmed wheels. Silence. So I rode the rest of the year on my old wheels while my new ones gathered dust. After retiring again, I used some of my now free time to trouble shoot the problem. My brother suggested that the high polish finish might have been the source of the noise as the original Mavics had always been a low polish finish, comparatively, and had been scored by road dirt as well, probably producing a grippy surface in comparison to the fresh PBPs.
So, with great reluctance, I took a sanding block and some fresh 600 grit garnet sandpaper and went at my new rims. Sanding in the direction of travel, I thoroughly scuffed up both sides of both rims, wiped the rims down with rubbing alcohol to remove oils from my fingers and then swapped over the tires and tubes just as I had the year before followed by another careful wipe down with rubbing alcohol. And then the test ride.
The result was absolute silence and very effective stopping! It would seem that the excellent finish on the rims or some residual chemistry from the process made the brake shoes grasp and release producing the squeal beloved of all MAFAC users. Now, the wheels have been in use for several weeks and remain as true and round as when built. The brakes are silent and very effective and the polished finish looks excellent. I am very pleased with the outcome and can hardly fault Velo Orange for putting too much quality into this product!
One last thing – if you are doing a restoration, be aware that the PBPs have a taller side wall than 70s period rims. My early PBPs measure about 16-17 mm tall whereas the original Mavic Module E 2s are about 13-14 mm in height. Just something to be aware of if you are doing an absolutely stock, full-on, historically correct restoration.