15 August 2014

Three Rings I'd Never Seen Before

While trolling eBay, I came across this:

You could be forgiven for thinking, "another French bike". From the style of the paint, decals and graphics, it looks similar to many Gallic velocipedes of the 1960's and 1970's.

From what I can see, it looks like the sort of bikes the British used to call "club racers".  Most of the components--like the Normandy hubs, Simplex derailleurs and shifters and Mafac brakes--are what one might find on many basic ten-speeds, like the Peugeot UO8, that were exported to the US during its "bike boom".  However,  it has a tighter wheelbase and angles than basic bike-boom ten-speeds like the Peugeot UO-8.   

On closer inspection (or, at least, as close as I can make from the photos), this one--from Beha, a name I'd never before seen--is a little better than most club racers.  For one thing, it's made from Vitus 172, a maganese molybdenum tubing of slightly thicker wall thickness (and, arguably, of somewhat lower quality) than Reynolds 531.  Most club racers were made of the same sort of carbon-steel tubing as what was found on the U-08 and other bikes like it.  Also, the Beha seems to have forged, rather than stamped, dropouts. 

Another thing this bike has in common with other club racers is its tubular tires and rims, the latter made by Mavic.  Racers often used wheels like the ones on this bike--basic hubs, nice rims--for training.  In the days before Michelin came out with its Elan tire (and, simultaneously, Mavic introduced its "E" rim), riding fast almost meant riding tubulars.

But the most interesting part of this bike--at least to me--is this:

When this bike was built, it seemed that every maker of cranksets made a cotterless model on which the chainring was attached with three bolts, rather than the four or five that are standards of nearly all modern cranksets.  It makes sense when you realize that nearly all cottered cranksets with double chainrings were of the three-bolt variety.  So, too, was the crankset many regard as the nicest ever made:  Rene Herse's own.

I don't know when Herse stopped making his. (Now the Colorado company calling itself "Rene Herse" offers a replica of it.)  But it seems that after Campagnolo turned its three-bolt Gran Sport into a five-bolt crank in the early 1980's or thereabouts, the three-bolt design disappeared until the Herse revival.

The crank on the Beha bike is from Specialtes TA, which also made the better-known "Cyclotouriste" crankset.  I always thought TA's three-bolt crank was the prettiest of the genre, which also included models from Stronglight, Nervar, Shimano (the original 600 crankset) and Sugino.  

The TA came as original equipment on a variety of bikes, including the Motobecane Grand Record (on which it was teamed with Campagnolo Nuovo Record derailleurs) and Raleigh Competition (with Huret Jubilee).  On those bikes, and others, the crank came with two chainrings.  I never saw it equipped with three rings--that is, until I came across the Beha. I'd really like to see it in person.


1 comment:

  1. Wow. Definitely a step or four up from the UO8 or Motobecane Mirage, which were the two bikes my first wife and I bought when we first bought bikes, in 1979. The UO8 and Mirage were your basic "high tension steel" and arrived with steel clincher rims and pretty basic components. The tight wheelbase, sewups, and better frame building material definitely make this bike look like a potential keeper.

    I had not seen a triple crank like that either. The ones I remember from the late seventies/early eighties were half step plus granny touring setups. This looks like a club racer, or what I suppose modern marketers would call enthusiast bikes.

    Are you going to bid on it?