Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

03 May 2014

Un Mirage, Aujourd'hui Et Hier

If you entered the world of cycling during the 1970's, as I did, you recall certain iconic bikes.  They're not necessarily the high-end ones:  You most likely would have been riding one of those if you had become a cyclist earlier or were wealthy.  I'm thinking, instead, of bikes like the Peugeot U-08, Raleigh Grand Prix and Super Course, Fuji S-10s and Nishiki Olympic and International.  They were the bikes on which many of us learned about cycling:  that is to say, when we went from being kids who banged around on bikes to adolescents and young adults who commuted, trained, raced, toured or were messengers astride two wheels.

Another bike of that genre was the Motobecane Mirage.  I was reminded of that yesterday, when I saw one parked.

Of course, a Mirage from my youth would not have looked like that:  For one thing, red on black, seemingly ubiquitous today, was not quite as common a color scheme.  Even more to the point, one of those old Mirages would not have built in China, or this way:

No, those old bikes would not have had their aluminum frame tubes joined by cobbly welds.  Instead, like most bikes of any quality made at that time, their steel tubes would have been fitted and brazed into lugs.

The result would have been something like this specimen from around 1981:

From Mr. Martin's Website

Like earlier Mirages, this one is constructed from high-carbon steel tubes and lugs.  Though it's one step above entry-level, it had workmanship, a finish and ride better than other bikes in its category. 

Motobecane is said to be the first European bike-maker to equip new bikes with Japanese drivetrain components like the SunTour derailleurs and Sakae Ringyo crankset you see on this bike.  Those components--especially the derailleurs--were significant improvements over the gear found on earlier iterations of the Mirage:

The derailleurs are Huret Allvit:  the same ones found on many entry-level European bikes during the Bike Boom era.  (Schwinn equipped several of its models with rebadged versions of the same derailleurs.) While as advanced when it was introduced in 1958 as the first personal computers were two decades later, they became anachronisms just as quickly.  So did the steel cottered crankse after Japanese companies like Sakae Ringyo (a.k.a. SR) came out with relatively low-priced cotterless cranksets around the same time SunTour introduced its VGT rear derailleur, of which many are still in use nearly two decades after SunTour stopped making derailleurs.

Now, some components on the new black Mirage I saw yesterday are certainly vast improvements over (though not as attractive as) the stuff on the green Mirage--and, some would argue, on the blue one. And even if the new machine is a good rider, somehow I will never be able to see it as a Mirage from my youth. (Pun intended!)

P.S.  I actually owned and rode a Mirage--which was my commuter/beater--for about two years.  It was like the green one in the photo, except that mine was black with purple seat tube and head panels.  I loved the way it looked, and rode.  Sadly, like several of my commuter/beaters, I crashed it.  Or, more precisely, I rode it into one of the deepest potholes in the history of paved roads and cracked the top and seat tubes just behind the head lugs.


  1. My going-to-college 1973 Mirage was the same color. My best pal in the freshman dorm had one exactly like mine, only two sizes smaller. I recall that mine had Simplex derailleurs. The front one broke within a few months and was replaced by a Suntour. I upgraded my bike by adding alloy rims, (a big improvement). I lightened the load by getting rid of the chainguard and suicide levers, and moved the shifters to the downtube because they were "racier." I also swapped out the plastic ribbon tape with cloth. Whenever I rode with a guy who owned a really nice Nishiki, I ate his dust. Didn't take long to realize I wished I had spent a little more for a nicer bike. But no upgrade came until after college and I got a real job.

  2. MT--The '70's and '80's Mirages were actually very nice riders, especially considering that they were made of carbon steel and most of the components (including the rims) were steel. A couple of people I knew owned them, and a few came in and out of the shops in which I worked.

  3. I am rebuilding a Mirage that looks exactly like the picture above in Green. I have the frame and forks. Does anyone have any information on the actual specs of the bike? Septets size etc.