Vintage Bicycles Done Proper :: Corvallis, Oregon
The older they are, the trickier they get.
French bicycles. Quirky frames, oddly sized components, backward threading. Generally speaking, French bicycles and French parts are a cantankerous lot. But, this Urago was a quite bit older than the French frames from the 80’s I have rehabilitated in the past. The age made component sourcing a bit more challenging and the “Frenchy’ness” of the experience even more pronounced.
There was so much to like when I acquired the Urago. All original. Original owner. All French. Although, the frame had been repainted sometime in the 80’s. And the drivetrain was a little odd (more below). And the headbadge was missing (now recreated). But, the owner had stories of rides and clearly had taken good care of the machine. After the purchase and breakdown, the true breadth of the project started taking shape.
Details matter. Anchorage Brewing has a nice snowflake-like design of hops adorning their corks along with lovely barrel fermented beers in their bottles so using their corks was a no brainer. Sure, it’s far from a French Bordeaux but I believe the Urago craftsmen would still approve.
7. Frame woes
Only after substantial time with the Urago did I notice that the rear drivetrain dropout had been cut at some point. It is quite a shame that the removal happened as the way the dropouts were machined gave one perfect hand placement to slide the rear wheel into position using both forged ends as finger placement.
With the snags out of the way, this left only a handful of updates left. The original no-name alloy rims were replaced by a set of new handbuilt wheels. The original French Prior hubs were cleaned, polished and rebuilt then mated to modern rims by Soma that look, and perform, likely better than the no-name brand rims originally on the Urago.
The Simplex skewers are painfully gorgeous with their imperfections and proper 60 year old patina. They have a wonderfully smooth open and close action on them with a large, textured nut on the non-ratcheting end that is a joy to hold while tightening the whole bundle up.
Both the Lyotard pedals, which were overhauled and spin like new, and Ideale saddle are original to the build. Both very French… and proud of it.
Color: Dark blue metallic
Frame Size: 62cm (C-T) seat post & 59cm (C-C) top tube
Frame/Drop-outs: Reynolds 531/Simplex
Fork: Reynolds 531
Bars: Belleri Saint Etienne
Bar Wrap: Newbaums red cloth and twine; Cork bar plugs
Stem: Philippe Mil Remo
Saddle: Ideale 52 Professional
Seat Post: Campagnolo San Marco GS
Crankset: Stronglight 49D; TA chainrings 50/42; 170mm
Front Derailleur: Campagnolo Nuovo Record
Rear Derailleur: Campagnolo Record
Shifting Levers: Campagnolo
Brake Levers: Mafac Competition; Rustines half hoods; Gum
Brake Calipers: Mafac Racer; Kool-Stop pads
Cable and Housing: Vespa textured with stainless core; Gray
Freewheel: 5-Speed Regina GS Course (13/17/21/25/29)
Hubs: Prior; Parallax 110
Wheels: Soma Eldon; 700c; 36 hole; Simplex skewers
Tires: Grand Bois Cerf blue label; Skinwall; 700c x 26
Pedals/Cages: Lyotard 460 Course; Christophe Special cages and straps
Special Features: Dropout finger pull; Eyelets front/rear
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It is with no great pleasure that provide the following update on the next chapter of the Urago’s life.
Greeted with a cheerful and peppy email from Justyne Rayne, the owner of the Bike Recyclery, a Portland-based, one-woman, “high-end used bike and part” shop, we exchanged numerous emails about her purchasing the Urago. She explained her desires for the Urago, asked a few questions, and I was offered a tentative figure over email, assuming it fit and if it would “plane” for her. We agreed on a sale price and with it, I even provided an 80-mile delivery, free of charge.
The transaction was only slightly awkward, as protesters were literally taking to the streets around us, occasionally breaking up our 6’ distanced transaction. After some tire kicking, a slightly lowered price was agreed upon. But, even with the lower price, I wasn’t bothered by it because this crown jewel was going to a person who knew how to handle, and care for, a bike of this status. It wasn’t just going to any yahoo off the street. I smiled as I hummed along the interstate beginning my 90-minute drive home knowing she was in good hands.
Over two-months passed by and the transaction popped into my mind. Knowing the Bike Recyclery is a seller of vintage parts, and since I now knew the seller, I thought I’d give the site a look to see if anything caught my eye. Starting with the “Just In” page. To my absolute horror, I found numerous remains, scattered around, of the now chopped up Urago. Each piece, basking in professional studio lighting and high-resolution, lavishly saturated color and bathing in silky marketing language.
The entire drivetrain, from the bottom bracket and derailleur’s to the crank and shift levers, were all up for sale. The brake levers, hoods (separate, of course), headset and stem… up for sale. One of the last remaining items that was original to the bike, the wonderfully loved and gently used, Ideale 52 Professional, as stately as ever, was ready for your purchase. And to make certain to squeeze every last drop out of the fine steeds pillage, even her shellac cork bar plugs were, you guessed it, up for sale. For $30, no less! Beer bottle corks from a couple of Anchorage Brewing bottles. A waste product from beer that I drank, then made useful, for $30. This, dear friends, is capitalism at its finest.
Of course, the most important item of all is for sale too. The frame waits for your instant purchase, waxing poetic of history, frame potential and its large window of fit.
With everything now out in the open, it is still unclear to me if this bike was only purchased to tear down and snatch up the choice bits for use on a personal bike or if maybe all the “chips, scrapes and scratches” were enough to cast this ‘ole gal aside for something more pristine than expectations from a 60-year old bicycle.
It’s not the fact that I was lead to believe this was to be an infrequently ridden, French gem, or that the sale prices for the components were tremendously higher than what I paid for them ($500 for a used, but well-cleaned, mid-60s Campagnolo Record derailleur?! Yikes! I paid $92, shipped). It’s not even the assumptions that irk me in some of the component ads. Mostly minor words like “NOS” tossed in. Lucrative for a sale but nonetheless, false. Though, it does bring me sadness knowing a buyer will know no better. Unless the rims are sold as they were the only new component on the build.
Those things I can shake off.
That’s how you make money on a bike. Part it out. I get it.
What stings the most is the care, time and money I poured into the Urago. Hours of not only restoring but research, contacting others for information and purchasing, what I considered, the most appropriate part for the build. Only to have a freshly assembled bike physically pulled apart for no good reason.
The situation is unfortunate. My only hope now is that someone, with noble intention and a lust for putting the time in, will purchase the Urago frame and one day, images of this fully built beauty will arrive in my inbox, looking as dashing as ever in new clothes of an even higher pedigree erasing this revolting moment in time and starting anew.
“I bought the Urago frame from the Bike Recyclery and would like to discuss my plan with you.”
The email came in and my jaw slightly dropped. I read it again. I sat back in my chair. Less than 30 seconds later, I was dialing his number.
The exchange with Brian was nearly 45 minutes long and as one feels around any friend or person with a deep connection, we simply had a lot to discuss. Mainly, the Urago, of course, but we are both drawn to vintage bicycles on different levels. The chat meandered into French cycling, artful cycling restoration and general commiseration and enthusiasm for our passion. Easy conversation with a respectable person. With a discussion like that, it is a pleasure to watch the minutes melt by.
The plans I heard were incredible with a build sheet that was already quite literally complete before he had even pressed the purchase button. My homage to the Urago was acceptable but I anticipate a completed product that elevates the frame to a level I don’t feel I could have brought it to. Without giving away anything else, I can say that I’ve not met anyone who has an area of French cycling expertise like the new owner. Bundled with a core element and enthusiasm for vintage bicycles, this promises to be a rebirth for the frame that bestows honor to its past heritage and glory to its future state.
To sum it up, the Urago is exactly where it needs to be with whom it needs to be with and all is right in the world.