Last January this Motobecane Cyclotouriste M.T.H.C was for sale on the Dutch website Marktplaats. I already have enough bicycles and don’t want to become a collector, a bicycle should be used. But I liked it that much that I could not resist picking it up.
It was told that the bicycle was bought about 8 years ago at the fair in Reims in France, there it was told that the bicycle was from 1960. That could be, but more probably it is from the fifties. The Huret rear derailer with 2-bolt-connection to the chainstay was used in 1957, in 1960 there was a Huret Allvit with parallellogram. In 1957 it came with light metal fenders, so this one must be from before that. The guidonnet brake levers made from a piece of aluminium were also used in the fifties by Motobecane, in the sixties they switched to forged guidonnet brake levers like those from Mafac and CLB.
The small nameplate at the stem is supposed to be from the French defense, so each soldier could find his own bicycle again.
I assumed this was a cheap bike when it was new, looking at the chrome rims and cottered cranks, but reading up on the internet it turned out to be not that cheap of a bicycle in the fifties. In those days cars were not affordable by Joe Sixpack and if you wanted to go on holiday, you bought a cyclotouriste like this to explore the French countryside.
The saddle is probably original, a Unic saddle with a big M stamped in for Motobecane. Dynamo and head light (yellow light) are still functional, but there is so little light, there is no use to it.
The handle bar tape is not original, as usual for French randonneur bars from that era. There should be a piece of plastic around the bottom and top part of the drop bar with plastic “tape”, where the middle part stays bare metal. When that is gone there is no other solution that to use regular taped bar tape.
The chain protector is gone and cannot be fitted again without welding at the frame parts. Visually slightly disappointing, but functionally no problem, since these French chain protectors do little, and your trousers still get dirty from the chain.
Brake pads for the French cantilevers are still available through Ebay for not too much money. After the first wear (with lots of noise) they now work okayish, for what it’s worth with chrome rims. The rims are Rigida Deco =std= which usually have a year stamped in, but unfortunately this set doesn’t.
It was nice to put a new chain on the bicycle, wonderfully enough it ran smooth on the old chain ring and sprockets. Chain ring might even be original with the panto from days gone by. Rear sprockets are aging as well, with a 4-speed freewheel with a bit of play on the bearings. Made to last :)
That Saturday it was lovely weather and after the sale in Leiden I biked to Rotterdam through the green heart of Zuid-Holland.
Update April 2022
Last autumn I built a new wheelset for this bicycle with Velo Orange Voyager rims. Now I can make miles again.