Friday, December 25, 2020

Tandem restoration tidbits: constructeur front rack and decaleur

A french cyclotouring bike would not be complete without a custom front rack / porte-paquet and decaleur. After contemplating solutions by famous builders as Rene Herse, Alex Singer, Jo Routens, J.-P. Weigle and B. Chapman, I ultimately decided to attempt building my own for our tandem, and borrowed design elements from the latter two.

constructeur front rack / porte-paquet
Constructeur style front rack for the Peugeot TM8 tandem.

Lacking supply of proper tubing, I went with 6mm x 1mm steel tubing of surprising quality which accidentally appeared at the local home improvement store between batches of awful material. 

constructeur front rack and decaleur
The rack and decaleur back from Nickel plating.

Without a proper bender, the somewhat weak diameter turns out to be an advantage with all the tight bends. And without a proper torch - I silver brazed the carefully mitered (and pinned!) tubes together with a MAPP gas canister. 

rack attachment tab
Detail: tab for cantilever boss attachment.

Three compromises. But destructive testing involving a hammer at full swing showed, that tubes will bend before a joint fails, and a summer of loaded cyclotouring didn't bring out any weak points. Yet only time will tell whether it can withstand the worst of all: a life full of load-cycles well below any threshold.

constructeur front rack
Detail: silver brazed, mitered connection of the stay to the plateau.

The attempt to build this seemingly simple accessory myself made me really appreciate the number of details the constructeurs have to find solutions for, and use as an expression of their style: The shape of the plateau, how to accommodate different heights of the attachment points to fork and fender, the width of the 'tombstone' bag attachement, its transition to the plateau, shape and attachment of the stays, and on and on.

constructeur front rack / porte-paquet
Detail: attachment points.

The result of a perfectly fitting front-rack with coherent style and without the clutter of the attachments from aftermarket solutions is immensely gratifying. And after going through the process, it becomes evident that the seemingly steep prices of constructeur racks by professional builders are actually very likely a bargain.

custom decaleur
Decaleur for quill stem of my own design.

While I copied many design elements for the rack, the thing I didn't really find inspiration for was the decaleur for a classic quill stem. The Rene Herse (current production) and Routens (historic) solutions aesthetically do not work that well as long as the back of the stem is kept threaded (would require modification of the stem or  a nut in front - has been done, I know, but I was reluctant...). 

custom decaleur
Decaleur of my own design.

I thus went with a design of my own, that I am quite happy with. A custom bolt places the decaleur a bit back in time to blend into the overall look of our tandem.

custom decaleur
Decaleur bottom view.

After a whole summer of test riding, the rack started to collect rust and even get pitted in places. Time to commit and hand it to the plater. I am happy the job was accepted, including rust removal and polishing. 

custom decaleur
The decaleur integrates nicely with the quill stem.

For price, environmental concern, the possibility of repair and the somewhat more subdued and understated look I decided in favour of Nickel rather than Chrome.

constructeur front rack / porte-paquet
Front end. Custom rack, custom headlight mount, custom decals.

The overall result looks amazing, and I simply hope it will stand the test of time. After finding out about so many details of rack-building, I can see many places where it could possibly go wrong - and I imagine there is a lot of knowledge and a few tricks of the trade I am entirely unaware of!

Gilles Berthoud bag
Haute baggerie. Handlebar bag GB2586, complemented by
stoker bag GB288, and tool-bag GB116 by Gilles Berthoud.

The rack is build to fit a Gilles Berthoud GB 2586, which we chose for its leather reinforced bottom and classic looking elastic closures which allow some overstuffing. As the handlebars 'Guidons Philippe Atax Professionnel' are rather narrow it is a version without side pockets.

Gilles Berthoud bag
Haute baggerie. Handlebar bag GB2586, complemented by
stoker bag GB288, and tool-bag GB116 by Gilles Berthoud.

Together with the other modifications (cable guideheadlight mount) this makes for a very neat cockpit which I enjoy on every ride!

Gilles Berthoud bag
Neat cockpit, a brilliant perspective.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

An autumnal tandem jaunt to Plön


Cloudy, but not overcast. Just what it takes for a dramatic sky.


Beautiful autumn light.

Perfect symmetry. The park behind the hotel offered phantastic
views on the lake in the evening light.

Lake house Plön.




Giant trees line the alley to Perdoel. For reference:
the wheelbase of our Peugeot TM8 tandem is 167.5 cm!

Manor Perdoel.

Ombres et lumières. Wet roads but not a single drop of rain during
the ride itself.

By the roadside. The rain during the night gave
way to a beautiful sunny autumn day.

Cafe Mühlenholz Heidmühlen.

Cafe Mühlenholz Heidmühlen.

Cafe Mühlenholz Heidmühlen.

Low autumn light filtering through the forest.

Nearly back home - Rellingen. Baroque church by Cai Dose.

Schenefeld-Plön-Schenefeld: Out (red) 97 km and back (blue)
103 km.

Corona - on our return we learn that the numbers are again
exploding and are grateful for the untroubled moments of freedom
during this ride.