There’s very little information out there on the mysterious Eddie Koepler. From what I can gather, he was a professional cyclist, perhaps a domestique, who quite possibly rode in the Molteni team with another Eddy, the iconic Merckx. Unlike the ubiquitous and celebrated Merckx, I can’t find a single photograph of Koepler and neither are there any bike catalogues or model brochures online. Bit of a mystery man, then, though there is this strange human statue page of him here. He was a Dutch cyclist, I got that, who eventually created a bike building workshop in Valenciennes, which is just outside Lille in Northeast France. This part of the country seems to have a rich heritage of cycling and bike building.
I have seen other Koepler bikes of this era, from the late 1970’s to the mid 1980’s, and most of them seem to have been built with Vitus tubing. This one is no different, built with Vitus 172, I presume just the main tubes. There’s a simplicity in regards to the design of the frame, I wouldn’t say it is prosaic or uninteresting, but there’s a modesty about its plain lugs, its single colour, its lack of a name or model designation. There is no chrome and no stamped lugs or fancy details and the dropouts are not stamped. I have failed to find a serial number and the only stamped numbers that do appear on the frame are two, two digit numbers on the head tube. The decals are also simple and I imagine Koepler didn’t have a lot of resources to make them differently. As the frame has eyelets and there is generous spacing between tyre and brake bridges, I believe this frame was built with practical purpose, though I can’t say it is a touring bike. Here’s why:
- Chainstay Length: 41cm
- Wheelbase: 101cm
- 57cm Seat Tube, C-T
- 55cm Top Tube, C-C
This bike was never a stunner, but its condition had reduced it to a very tired looking bicycle. The components were simple, and I think nearly all original. The Huret transmission continued the simple practicality of this frame, complemented by other modest French parts that don’t set your heart racing. The Guid handlebars are pretty cool as they are less commonly found than their rival French brands, but unfortunately the bike was fitted with CLB brakes, a personal nemesis and a brand that has “cheap” written all of it. Also, the rear wheel had at some point been swapped out for a 6 speed, and the hub on this wheel was too wide for this frame. Everything needed a good clean, but thankfully the tyres still held air and noting seemed to be broken, except for the rusted chain.
The Creaking Noise: A Series of Elimination and Foul Language
It’s of no surprise that this bike needed a lot of work; no one would expect anything else, just by looking at it. The from hub needed regreasing, the brakes needed recentring, the derailleurs needed cleaning and lubricating, headset adjustment..the usual stuff in vintage bike restoration. I’m fine with all that effort to make a bike ride well again, as it sort of gives back to you, for the care you’ve given it. But true to life, this bike wasn’t so giving back, it refused to play along and ride nicely. After all the above adjustments and repairs, ( don’t forget the bloody cleaning! ), when I took it out for a test ride there was a very disconcerting creak creak sound coming from the crank, on every rotation of the pedal. On the stand it hid its secret, it was smooth as you like, no problems; but with proper weight on the pedals, it was creak creak creak all the way down the road. “Crap”, I thought “this is one of those problems”.
How it Turned Out
I decided that I’ll write another blog about the creaking problem, as it was a repair that was quite involved and hard to solve. The bike now rides fine and though this Koepler isn’t really a head turner, I still think its quite an interesting and uncommon vintage bike that has some years left in it. I think you could call it a working bike, a ride that does everything you need without any fanciness or flair. Both the bike and the internet hold little information about Koepler and his bikes, and I dated the bike from the 1981 stamp on the rear of the original Maillard freewheel. It could be spruced up with a new transmission and set of wheels, and how about a Stronglight 93 instead of that Solida? I’ll leave that to whoever buys it, as its now for sale.
- 1981 Eddie Koepler
- 12 Speed
- Vitus 172 Main Tubes
- Huret Eco Derailleurs and Shifters
- Solida 5 Arm Crankset, 52/42
- Lyotard Competition Quill Pedals
- CLB Calipers / Sulky Levers
- Guid Modele Despose Handlebars
- Unbranded Stem
- Challenge Pro Saddle
- Suntour 6 Speed Freewheel ( Replaced the Maillard Course )
- Maillard Front Hub, Sovos Rear Hub
- Rigida Excel 70 Rims
- Speedy Arrow 700 x 20 Tyres
- Stronglight Bottom Bracket
- Unbranded Headset and Seatpost
- Weighs 22.5lbs