27 years of bikes, 27 years of avoiding old French bikes. Why, oh why did I let myself get sucked into that can of worms this weekend.

The purpose of this project is to put my Xtracycle back together. Previously I had used my Salsa cross bike for this, but I converted it back to an actual cross bike last winter and even raced it a couple of times. So I have been keeping an eye open for a classy old steel bike that I could use instead. What follows is how I spent my three day weekend.

Day one: Cruise the local garage sales, Craig’s list and ebay. Finally go to Community Bikes and buy an old Motobecane road bike. (I must confess that I was drawn to the perfect head tube badge…an item with absolutely no function. It is beautiful though). I really do know better.

One used bike in hand: French stem breaks inside steer tube. Go to Bike Peddler (knowing well that I’m not going to find an old styled french stem). Leave with new non-French sized fork (with cantilever brake posts). Oh, and a 25.4 seatpost. Return home: Try to thread headset nut on new fork (I knew better) Won’t go. Dig in the parts graveyard. find 1″ headset. Replace headset.

Need to swap steel rimmed wheels with some nice sweet old Dura Ace wheels from the loft. Need to switch freewheel from old steel wheel to old DA wheel. Rats. Freewheel’s frozen. Remove it with a single chain whip. Not good. Soak it liberally with Triflow. Time to see if we can get the lovely thing spinning. There is some magical thinking going on here. So I re-mount it to old wheel and get the husband (big biceps), 15″ long crescent wrench, chain whip and old two prong freewheel tool. Dude! husband rocks and freewheel spins! (sounds like sh**). Time to spin that puppy onto DA wheel. Oh yea. Stupid french threaded freewheel.

Pour Gin and Tonic. Watch tv. Go to bed.

Day two: Morning. Coffee. Cannibalize wheel set from cross bike. Hum, time to figure out which brakes from the parts graveyard are going to work. New fork doesn’t like the v-brakes. Try Cane Creeks. Kinda work. Monkey and modify. Kinda work better.

Simplex rear derailleur (with built in hanger) won’t work on Xtracycle. Dang. Oh what to do. Cannibalize derailleurs from cross bike (yes, both, might as well match), attach and run cables. Mess with brakes more. Still kinda work.

Go to graduation party.

Day three: Pedals now…nagging memory about French threaded pedals. Really, why wouldn’t they be different? I knew they would be, just like I knew the freewheel, seatpost, stem, headset and bottom bracket would be. Go to Sheldon Brown’s website. He says “It is not possible to put a standard pedal into a French crank without considerable violence.” he doesn’t say it is impossible… I’m ready to use violence.

Good thing the bottom bracket and cranks seem fine (they seem to spin and that is good enough for me) I have no interest in hunting down a French bottom bracket.

Front brake really doesn’t work. Guess the fork is really for a 27″ wheel, I’m putting 700c wheels on it. Can’t get the brake shoes low enough to work. Dang. Cannibalize the XT cantilevers from the Mantis. They work perfect.

Test spin…Crank arm hits the chainstay. Dang. Pedal spindle threads through too far and hits the chainstay. Really. Pull them back off (with just a little violence). These were nice old Suntour pedals, maybe the nicest ever made. Switch them out with some old bear traps. Get husband again, he is the one with the power tools. He grinds off extra pedal spindle with his right angle grinder.

Perfect. I now have my first French bike…totally rebuilt with Japanese and American parts (except the BB and cranks). Oh, and two other unusable bikes.