MY "TEN SPEEDS"

 

MY "TEN SPEEDS"

 

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MY "TEN SPEEDS"  

GRAND JUBILEÉ - INTRO

FINDING THE MOTOBÉCANE

BUILDING THE MOTOBÉCANE

RIDING THE MOTOBÉCANE

THE DRESSED UP MOTOBÉ

 

BICYCLES OF FRANCE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RIDING THE GRAND JUBILEÉ

Before any bicycle is seriously considered as collection material, it must first prove its ride quality.  Though road bicycles are remarkably similar, they have distinctive ride characteristics, ranging from clumsy and slow to absolutely unnoticeable.  Unnoticeable?

The best riding vintage bicycles are those that do not draw attention to themselves, while being ridden.  A perfect bike will become an extension of the rider and rarely enter his or her thoughts, during the ride.  That is a good bike.  Time and testing would tell if the Grand Jubileé would fall into the good bike, or nice bike or POS category.

On a drop dead gorgeous Thunder Bay Summer morning, the Motobécane found itself sitting in the driveway, waiting for its trip up the gravel laneway.  Unfortunately, the front street had been under construction, for several weeks, and remained closed to traffic.  Not to worry, since the street one block north was, well, only a laneway away.

Fitted with clip in pedals, only the right foot was actually clipped in - just in case, the bike made its way up the lane.  However, the 27" x 1 1/4" tires proved to be quite stable in the somewhat loose gravel.  So far so good, not unlike the bike tested a week earlier.  That bike, a mid seventies Maserati MT7 that had a loose steering stem, did not even get out of the driveway, before laying down on its side, and the rider laid down with it.

But the Motobécane performed well in the soft stuff.  Once pavement was reached, the right foot clipped in, in preparation to put the bicycle through its initial test ride paces.

The first thing one wants to ensure operation of is the brakes.  A bicycle that cannot stop should not be ridden.  It is simply unsafe and, quite frankly, stupid to do so.  But the brakes on the Grand Jubileé worked just fine, assuming that Old School just fine is acceptable.  Acceptable?

Old School brakes, be they center pull or side, are miserably ineffective when compared to today's modern stoppers.  Set up properly, the brakes will slow and stop a bicycle but the rider must pull harder on the levers to achieve decent results.  This, for some riders, particularly those with smaller hands, can prove to be a problem and a deal breaking problem at that.

Never the less, the brakes did their job, and several torture tests later saw them come through with flying colors, however antiquated those colors might be.

Shifting was clean, easy and a pleasure to execute, thanks both to the wonderful Suntour transmission and the Barcon shifters installed.  Though the first part of the ride did not see up shifts to the large ring, the bike did swap gears with little difficulty.

The saddle and handlebar position proved to be acceptable, although a slightly shorter steering stem would bring the fit close to perfect.  The brake levers were comfortably positioned but riding on the hoods would be a rare, being just a few millimetres too far away from the saddle.  And the saddle itself, as expected, was quite comfortable, even though it was a temporary fit.

The gearing was more than adequate, even though the proper wider range freewheel had not been found.  The 14/28 would serve well enough until a 14/32 six speed unit could be located and installed, at a later date.

The stop and go of the bicycle, and how those were impacted by the component choices, is mostly about user friendly issues or concerns.  But what about actual ride quality?  Did the bicycle feel fast or slow?  Agile or clumsy?  Heavy or light?

The last thing, on the test ride list, to consider was the actual feel of the bicycle.  Did it accelerate well?  How was response to input requests?  Was the bicycle twitchy or stable?  And, of course, did it project a feeling of light, when put to the test?  Concerns, such as these, would be addressed over the next month, or so, of riding this wonderful old French road bicycle.  Why over the next month, or so?

Because one cannot get to know a bicycle unless one spends time riding it.  Most bicycles, even comparable road bicycles, will feel foreign when first mounted and kicked into gear.  But, that foreign feel will disappear in short order, as one get used to the shift, go and stop attributes of the bicycle.  But it takes time to learn to feel the fit and response of any bike, and that can only be learned through repeated rides and real world test situations.

In the end, the Motobécane Grand Jubileé road much as it was expected to ride, like a mid level, not quite good enough for competition machine.  The bike did accelerate well, but not well enough to be considered a threat in racing situations.  The handling was very stable, responding well to requests to go this way or that, but the response was not as crisp as one would find on a more sophisticated machine.  In other words, the Motobé was a very nice recreational bicycle that would offer a lively ride, and one that would be sure to please most riders.

But the bicycle began made clear its virtues, the more it was ridden.  Competition, not a chance!  But a wonderful, relaxed ride on a machine that looks and feels the vintage part.  Absolutely!

The Motobécane Grand Jubileé encourages the rider, but never demands of the rider.  In other words, the bicycle's nature invites the rider to look around and enjoy the environment, thanks to the stable geometry of the frame set.  Like it was on rails, sort of describes the confidence the Motobé inspires.  Dip your chin to your shoulder, and the bicycle stays its course with little extra effort.

But that same stability does impact manoeuvre-ability.  That is not so say that the Grand Jubileé is a slug, far from it.  But it does mean that, more often than not, conscious thought will be part of the turning exercise, be it a sudden or sweeping change in direction.  The feature, however, is anything but invasive.  It is just something to get used to and, suddenly, without knowing it, that ride quality becomes part of the vintage charm.

Only serious riders, those entertaining thoughts of racing or touring great distances, might find the Grand Jubileé less than what had been hoped for.  For everyone else, one would have been hard pressed to find a nicer bicycle to fix up and ride.  What an attractive bicycle the Grand Jubileé is.

NEXT - THE DRESSED UP MOTOBÉ

 

 

 

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