Vintage Andre Bertin – Cleaning up old bits

Originally I had intended to restore the Andre Bertin to a fairly original condition. With the discovery of the ruined forks, with was destined to become an economic disaster so a neo-retro randonneur plan was hatched. Turned out that the Andre Bertin was originally build up from a frame-set anyway, so there was no original so-to-speak.

To finance the build I decided to restore a few parts that came with the bike and sell them on ebay.

Rear brake caliper

This was on the rear of the bike and was pretty nice but also the aluminium was dull and a the other parts were corroded. Time for a strip down and tidy up.


I pulled it apart, stuck it in a jar of white spirit for a few hours and then wiped it all down. Then I started polishing with fine sand paper, and eventually working my way to metal polish.

Much better!

Turns out that GB Coureur brakes are quite old. I gleaned this from the Classic Light Weights resource site – brilliant site by the way.The original owner told me that they were the original brakes so this stacks up albeit they were already an older version in 1961.

G. B. components are British designed and made by Gerry Burgess in post way Britian. The material used is Hiduminium which is a material trade coined by Reynolds for Aluminium used in the cycle industry.

I’ll put this 1955-60 caliper on Ebay and see what the cat drags in

It’s good to get out

50km training route

On a Wednesday, my partner gets home early. We take this opportunity to give me some time on my bike. Wednesday morning was a bit more tricky than normal with our new neighbours giving me a bit of a headache. I mean they are kind, just seemingly ignorant about others around them – does my initial judgement become invalid then? Anyway… I was a little stressed and so was our wee one.

When I get stressed I withdraw into myself somewhat. I become quieter, sullen, and I become kind of tired without energy. I also become a hypersensitive to noise and things bug me much more than they normally do. The time was approaching what I could get out for a bit. I got changed, filled my bottles up, uploaded my route to be Wahoo and was ready to go. Our child and I went to the front of the house and waited for the handover. They came cycling down the road with a big smile on their face. I think this brightened my mood. I was really struggling with motivation, and still annoyed at our neighbours but trying hard not to admit it and certainly not show it. Even though I was ready and had the opportunity to go, I really struggled to motivate myself to go. I just wanted to stay home. My family waved me off, whilst I trundled up the road with a gloomy cloud following and darkening my thoughts.

I’ve talked about this before. When I am stressed and depressed, I know it and know it to be temporary. I know that getting out on my bike will fix me up and make me feel better, yet despite this knowledge, I still struggle to motivate myself to actually do something about it. Within 15km my gloomy cloud had evaporated, just like I knew it would, and my mood was lighter verging on positivism.

Ruin at Wester Braikie

This route was slowly developed over the spring, starting in February. It’s a lovely midweek training route. it’s 50k without much traffic. It’s dead pretty too!

nr. Middle Drums

It passes trough worked fields and a few areas of woodland.

nr. Dubton

There’s something very special about cycling through the woods. The air is different. The wind hissing through the trees is supremely relaxing, quietening – if that’s even a word. By this point I was in a very good place emotionally. By this time I had put my fractured mental state in order.

I’m about 40km into the ride and on the home straight, but I don’t really want to go home yet. I want to stay out, go father, go longer, explore over that hill I’ve not been to before. I’m making mini plans in my head about where I want to ride to on Saturday. I’m thinking Glen Clova. I’ve not done the Clova loop before… is it doable? Hmmm… I need to get home to plan my route.

nr. Arbroath

The Wee Bear Run – eventually

105km loop to Loch Lintrathen

I rode this route on Sunday although I had planned to do it the day before. I was prepared and ready to go on Saturday. The the weather forecast was poor and as I drank my morning coffee and ate my porridge I was gazing at the light but steadily falling rain. I was still up for it but my enthusiasm was somewhat dampened – excuse the pun. I checked with the met office and the satellite showed a lot of heavy rain in my path. I ummed and ahhed for a bit then decided to stay home. I got changed into home clothes, and poured another coffee. Then the heavens opened and a huge downpour ensued it was really heavy rain and I knew that I made the right decision. a few minutes later the street outside our home was a mini river. I have seen this a few times in the 9 years I have lived here, but it is rare. The three of us had our noses pressed against the window in awe – our four year old was excited. An hour later, we were playing in puddles with his friend.

Puddles are great fun when you are four

So my Saturday was not a right off, just different to what I had planned.

I decided to do the same route but on Sunday. I had never been to the Wee Bear before. It was rumoured to be a really nice cafe/restaurant overlooking Loch of Lintrathen in Glen Isla. The route total was 105km was was well doable for me albeit on the longer side for me.

I wanted to be there for 11.30, exactly 24hrs late. It was a relaxed ride out with absolutely no dramas. I felt strong and confident. I not remember any worries and I thing all was well in my world.

nr. Whigstreet
Loch of Lintrathen

On arrival at the Wee Bear, there were loads of cyclists parked up. There were also some very nice bike parking devices. I noticed someone waving at me. I was a little confused as to who they were at first. They were in the shade as quite far away. I though to be polite and wave back, still wasn’t sure if it was me they were waving at. As I drew closer I realised that it was Laurence. I’ve not seen her in a while so it was nice to bump in to her. Turns out she knew I was headed to the cafe as I mentioned it on the CTC Facebook page. She was at a loose end, so rode out to meet me. She mentioned it on Facebook, but I sadn’t seen this – it was a nice surprise.

I has a lovely lemon drizzle cake and a black coffee. It was hugely expensive, but also very nice so I can’t whinge too much. Although every penny I spend on cake, the less pennies I have for my Bertin project – what a quandary! I stayed for a chat and for a rain shower to pass then got ready to head for home. I put a rain jacket on as it was sure to rain more and bade Laurence farewell and set off – she was headed in the opposite direction.

there were just a few light showers on the way back, but it was relatively warm so it was OK. I didn’t have any fenders on my bike but that was OK. I think if it was really pouring I might have wished that I had fitted them the night before.

on a single track road between Douglastown and Forfar I was panting up a rather long and steep hill. I was way down in my gears thinking about keeping my head down and my cadence up. I was trying hard not to think about how far I had to go. There was only 2m of road in front of me and then another and another, just 2m more and the road beneath me. Thinking too far ahead leads to mental fatigue and fear. Fear is the mind-killer, so they say. A peek up ahead and I saw a car approaching. Oh dear, I was a very narrow road. All I could do was keep pedalling. As I was about 100 metres away from the car, it pulled over to a passing place. Great I though – how kind. Then I saw the driver get out. He was standing beside his car. What have we here, I was thinking. As I was about 10m away, he started clapping and giving me encouragement… not long now, nearly there, keep going, keep going! Wow, that was the very last thing I was expecting. . It totally threw me. trying to breathe and keep pedalling whilst laughing like a loon is not easy. I made it to the top and coasted down the hill in a rather bemused state.

nr. Douglastown

I rolled into Arbroath feeling fine, relaxed and looking forward to something to eat and a shower. What a lovely ride.

Vintage Andre Bertin – removal of ouchy bits

I store my bikes inside my house, actually in my studio. Before I was a full-time parent, I was a photographer and have a studio at home. I’m still a photographer I guess but don’t have the time to take on projects right now. Gaps in my day or evenings I can do little bits of work on the bike, but my photography work is completely absorbing – most artists are the same, I think.

After going out for a ride, I have to carry the bike up a couple of flights of stairs. The stairs are wide, but they still have to be carried. The Bertin has two pump peg braze-ons. The original owner told me that these were put on in 1984 just before the bike was painted black from the factory violet. I also have a Pashley Roadster that I keep in the shed, it’s too heavy to carry up the stairs and it also has vertical pump pegs that have put holes in my hand twice! Before the Bertin goes to the painters, these pegs have to go.

Rear pump peg brazed to underside of top tube
Forward pump peg brazed to underside of top-tube/steerer tube lug
Used a dremel cutter to chop off
Used a file to tidy up

Gone! Glad to see the back of these – I just know that I’d have been kicking myself later if I had not have taken action now. After paint, it’s just too late.

Vintage Andre Bertin – Cold setting

A thing with vintage bikes is that they tend to have narrow rear drop-outs compared with modern wheel standards. This means that modern wheels will not fit. This will be OK if you want to refurbish to original specification, however with this renovation, because of the bikes history it’s not really viable as so much requires replacement – especially the front forks. I decided to neo-retro the bike, fit modern components to the vintage frame. It will also make the bike more usable, potentially adding further decades of serviceability and fun.

The gap between the rear stays on this frame is 124.7mm. To take modern road wheels, it’ll have to be increased to 130mm.

Original rear drop-out setting

The RJ Bike Guy on YouTube is a great resource for bike repairs. In this video he explains how to cold set a frame and this is the method I used for this work.

Cold setting tool arrangement
Pushed out to 161mm
Final gap set to 130.00mm – please excuse the focusing
Frame alignment check arrangement
29.6mm on drive side
31.9mm on non drive side

In this video, the RJ bike guy demonstrates how to check and align the frame. I followed this procedure, however the photographs that were taken have vanished. Whoops.

Now the frame is spaced to take an a modern rear wheel, and is aligned correctly.

Arbroath to Cupar Rendezvous – Ride Report

124km is a long ride for me, in fact it’s my longest yet. When I took up cycling again on the 1st of January this year, (I know – I’m a cliché), I had hoped to be riding farther by now, but the Covid experience knocked my, like most people’s, plans a wee bit.

At the start of the year I joined the Cycle Tourists’ Club (CTC). It was formed in 1878 and over the years it has gone through a few reorganisations, rebranding etc.. I wanted to meet people more knowledgeable about local routes and riding long distances than me. I have always subscribed to the notion that if you know know, ask. Also I like people and since becoming a full-time stay-at-home parent, I feel somewhat socially isolated. The Tayside chapter of CTC have been welcoming and I have enjoying meeting up on the few – Covid permitting – occasions it has been possible. CTC Tayside ordinarily post routes on their Facebook page with an appointed ride leader who is experienced in leading groups. No one gets left behind and all abilities are catered for.

Since the Plague that is Covid, CTC has been very quiet with just a few people posting up their personal routes with photographs which has been nice to see, especially as social isolation deepened. CTC runs are starting up again albeit socially distanced. Rather than having group led rides, currently the committee nominate a time and place and individuals plan their own routes and rendezvous at the location. Cake and coffee being an essential ingredient for any bike ride, the meet-ups are normally at a cafe with a large outdoor space so that we may interact in a socially distanced way. It’s a bit weird, but better than talking to oneself, as has become normal for me of late.

On Saturday just past, the rendezvous was at Cupar in the Kingdom of Fife. I have never been there before, even in a car, so it was a bit of an adventure. I had originally planned a route via Perth which would have been approx 140km however it was not possible to leave home early enough to make the rendezvous on time.

So on the morning I filled my belly with lovely porridge made with plant based milk and drizzled maple syrup over it. A couple of mugs of Malawian coffee later I was ready to set off. My bike was equipped with 1.5l of cherry flavoured water and a bag of jellybeans. I should probably do a post about the stuff I take with me on rides… As soon as I got outside I realised how windy it was – it was windy! I estimated that sustained 20mph, gusting to 30, and a SW wind to boot! Ouchy headwind. I decided that I’d deviate from my second planned route and take advantage of hedgerow cover on the A92 cycle path to Dundee.

A92 near Arbilot

I made it to the Tay Bridge in Dundee for 10.30. I took the cycle elevator up on the the bridge and bombed across the bridge to Fife. I followed the cycle route (NCN1) through Tayport and into Tentsmuir nature reserve.

Tentsmuir path network (NCN1)

I have 28mm GP5000 tyres @70psi on my 15c rims. I found the path a little rough at times. I felt some rocks strike my rims and I guess I was lucky not to have suffered a puncture.

Tenstmuir – not a bad place for a wee break

After leaving the woods, which was absolutely beautiful, I headed for Leuchars, Guardbridge, Kincaple, and Strathkinness.

Looking towards Dundee from between Strathkinness and Kemback

Between Strathkinness and Kemback was pretty hilly. I saw a few groups of club road riders in matching kit, riding in formation. They were riding really fast and my confidence dipped somewhat. Past Kemback, another group bombed past a junction I was waiting at. I set to chase them and caught up pretty quickly – this chase and effort kept me occupied and I was at Cupar before I knew it. I found my way to the Rendezvous location and commenced stuffing my face and chatting with the other CTC folk – there were 5 of us – a very small group for a typical CTC ride, but these are strange times.

At 1pm, four of us headed out back toward Dundee.

Dave Ryder, CTC Tayside Chairperson ahead nearing Kemback

One peeled off near Tentsmuir, then there were three. At the Fife end of the bridge, we stopped for a wee snack, also at the other end of the bridge for a chat as Dave peels off to Invergowerie.

Nothside of the Tay Bridge, Dave and Dave

The other Dave and I carried on along NCN1 toward Broughty Ferry where he drops off just leaving me to continue on my way home. I decide to stay on the NCN1 coastal path to Arbroath. As I got home I felt surprisingly OK. I was my longest ride and I have not been on my bike nearly as much as I would have liked over the past few months. It has given me much more confidence to do more distances like this, at least whilst the summer is still here.

Headset – oh dear

I started disassembling the the bike to inspect the condition of the moving parts. A critical component is the headset. Basically attaches the forks to the frame and enables you to turn steer the wheel. The first thing I did was to remove the stem – I was relieved that it wasn’t fused to the steerer tube – this sometimes happens with older bikes. Straight away things did not look right. The top locking nut was only attached to the fork steerer tube by a few threads, as if the fork was cut short.

On removing the lock ring things began to look pretty poor. The threads were crushed and stripped. I suspected that something was seriously wrong here.

I next removed the tightening ring and dropped the forks through the frame and removed the rest of the head set. The forks were showing significant damage to the threads and also the steerer tube was deeply scored in multiple places. Basically is was finished. Theoretically I suppose one could get a bike builder to replace the steerer tube on the fork but given the value of the fork I don’t think it’s worth doing.

The headset cup revealed the sorry tale. It was an English standard component fitted to a French standard frame and forks.

Sheldon Brown’s article on French Bikes is a truly excellent resource. Clearly the cup is for a 26.4mm crown race so is reasonale to assume that it is an ‘English’ headset resulting in a differing steerer tube diameter and thread frequency.

This finding was a bit of a blow to my plans and represented significant cost to the project. Obviously the headset is now junk. I’ll keep it around and find some kind of use for it – not on a bike though. Chasing the steer tube threads might have been an option if the steerer tube wasn’t so damaged elsewhere. Replacing the steerer tube (column) on the forks is quite expensive. Bob Jackson charges £60.00 plus postage and in the time of Covid, his website states that they are not currently taking on new work. New forks and headset it is then. Eventually I found a pair of Wilier Triestina chromo 1″ threadless forks for £40 delivered. They were a bit scratched up, but that doesn’t matter as the frame is going to the painters anyway. Seeing as the French and English standard is the same for headset tube, I can convert to threadless English standard headset. This has a knock-on effect on the stem and the bars – they will all need to be replaced. The destruction of the fork and headset basically forced my decision. I was considering whether to restore to a vintage spec., probably early 60’s or to neo retro it with more modern equipment. After a lot of thought and discussion, I decided that I would neo retro it keeping the frame and working forward from there. I’ll write more and this decision and considerations in future posts. Ouch!

Andre Bertin road bike history – from original owner

When I collected the bike from David, the original owner he told me a few things about the bike. It was bought for him by his mother in November 1961, his 15th birthday. It was bought from Donaldson’s in Dundee. It was originally a pale lilac colour and the decals were originally of the scripted variety. The lugs were lined gold and there was pin striping on the fork stays.

The frive train was a double front and huret 5-speed at the rear. It never worked quite right and was replaced in 1985 for a more modern version, a Suntour Alpine system. The chain set was replaced, as was the headset and the back wheel.

Curiously the front and rear calipers were mis-matched from the start. Given that the type of stem, wheels, and drive train are not normally found of original Bertin’s, it is likely that it was likely built up from a frame-set at Donaldson’s in Dundee. I have contacted them but they have no records going back that far.

Originally when I was considering this bike, I was thinking about restoring it to it’s original specification – trouble is, what was the original specification. Further, what was the frame model for that matter? I have searched and searched and I have concluded that it is most likely a 1958 C34. These seem to be very unusual.

Given that it was originally a frame-set supply, I feel that I am less tied to an historical restoration. The bike does need a complete redo including paint. First thing to do is disassemble all parts to see what condition the bike components are in and then make a decision of the overall build after that.

Here goes!

1962 Andre Bertin Bike – Let’s have a closer look and see what we have here

I got the bike home and was excited about taking a closer look. But before then, it was time to take it to the park opposite my home to get some ‘as found’ photographs.

The bike had not been used since the late 90’s so it was likely to be a bit grubby. Actually, considering it had been stored in the basement for that long, it wasn’t too bad at all – a lot better that I had expected.

As with all things, the closer you look, the more you see.

Dissolving stress

This past week has been quite tricky at home. I think that in the time of Covid-19, most stay-at-home parents, or parents currently staying at home, can understand the additional parental pressures. Our 4-year old is missing his friends, and frustrated that he cannot do what is normally normal and permissible. I think they were quite accepting of the lockdown and the necessary changes at first – especially as they got to spend extra time with their parents. I think now however, the novelty for all three of us has well and truly worn off. One of us is a Doctor and has been working extra hard, extra long, with additional burdens. M and I have been developing our new normal, but I think were both a bit fed up now. I’m probably whinging a bit – that’s OK I guess? Yesterday was a particularly tough day. I felt that I was at the end of my tether. I really needed some space!

We had arranged that as soon as my partner had gotten home, I would get out on my bike. By that time had arrived I was making excuses in my head why I should not go. I knew I needed to get out, but I was telling myself that I was needed more at home etc etc. Even as I was setting off, not more than 2k from home I was telling myself to turn around and just go home.

I do struggle with low mood and anxiety sometimes. It’s cyclic and annoying. I say annoying as it is something that I am cognitively aware of. I know what is going on, but regardless of my knowledge, shaking the gloom, self-loathing, and anxiety seems all but impossible.

About 6k into the ride I was feeling more happy about riding and I recall that I had a serious climb coming up. Another state of mind was emerging from the deep dark caverns of my mind. Determination with an underlying fear or failure. This fear of failure will be the subject of a future post as it is a central aspect of my id. At 8k I could see the climb on the other side of a mini glen – from that angle it appeared to be a dark grey slash rising sharply up the side of the mountain. In fact it is nothing of the sort – it is just an intimidating illusion. Don’t get me wrong, it is a sharp ascent – just not as terrifying as it appears. 9k and I’m riding gravity to the base of the glen at 7%, feathering brakes at 40km/h. There’s a sharp right-hander then immediately a 9% climb peaking at 12% here and there for a 100m ascent. My heart was racing at about 170 and I was breathing hard – verging on a wheeze at the end of exhalation. Sounds were amplified, colours were saturated, I was fully committed and my psychological arousal complete. For the next 10k I was on a narrow quiet road with the North Sea to ahead and to my right. It was cloudy, but no longer chilly, I was roasting after my climb. I realised at about this time that my mind had cleared somewhat and that I could put a few of my worries into perspective. I needed space and time in my own head to think.

I have been worrying about how I parent; particularly how I parent during meltdowns. Our child, like me, is a child of trauma. Hyper-vigilance and anxiety is common with post-trauma children. Sometimes, for seemingly little or for no reason, everything becomes too much as they may launch into meltdown mode. This mode can be dramatic and often violent. It’s difficult to deal with. Me shouting or mirroring the meltdown does not work, and actually reinforces trauma in someone who finds a semblance of comfort in chaos. We try to employ a therapeutic parenting approach. National Association of Therapeutic parenting is a great resource, but it’s hard to implement and some principles seem to ride against instinct – this is particularly difficult when I’m tired or generally stressed.

By the time I was near to Montrose I had the head space I needed and was considering my triggers. What happens that makes me a less effective therapeutic parent? This self-reflection, I know, is important. Slamming doors is a huge thing for me and I have known this for many many years – it’s part of my own childhood trauma. Shouting and hitting is another. I also have a fear of being ‘outed’ as a poor parent. This may seem irrational, but meltdowns in public with bad-words and the rest makes me feel instantly judged and convicted. This is something that I have to get over as I know it affects how I deal with the situation at the time. Another thing I have placed too much reliance on is negative logical consequences – I need to get back to finding explanations of natural consequences, and be more playful when it’s all kicking off.

I really needed to get out on my bike – it really helped me place a few things in order, by the time the next big climb struck my front tyre I was just enjoying the ride for what it was, lost in the scenery. This one was a 7-11%er and rose for 110m, seemed so much farther than the first. I was 40k in and probably more tired so I suppose that makes sense.

A few more km and I came across a field. I don’t know what was in it, but it looked a lot like thistles. Do people plant and harvest thistles? It was beautiful.

By the time I had gotten home, I was a bit tired but fully relaxed, calm, and able to think rationally, and clearly. My partner had just gotten M to sleep – M had a hard time and was worried about going to sleep but was a picture of calm in themselves. This was very reassuring. Enough time to get something to eat, a chat , and sleep in preparation for a better day tomorrow.

Cycling really helps me order my perception of the world around me – it’s more than just exercise and fun. As I write this, the following day, I feel energised yet calm and confident.

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