The Tailend of a Hurricane
The weather in Brittany in the week that Hurricane Irma hit the other side of the Atlantic, was wild and unpredictable. One minute there would be bright skies and warm sunshine, the next savage cloudbursts of rain that were often short and passed by quickly. I was riding a Motobecane C2 in this weather on the eastern side of Brittany, not far south of the port of Saint Malo, near the towns of Épiniac and Dinan. It’s a beautiful part of France, with plenty of quieter country roads for exploring the stunning scener, and there’s nothing better than doing it on a vintage French bike.
As it was quite a spontaneous decision to visit this part of the world, and the bike wasn’t exactly ready for the trip. In fact, I had just bought it and had never even ridden it before. Nevertheless, I had faith that it would ride well enough to take in some of this landscape, being a good quality C2 and made in the very country I was riding it. Fortunately, I took along some tools just in case I had to do some roadside fixes, and that’s exactly what I had to a few times. As soon as I started riding it on the quieter roads around Épiniac, it felt as if the bike hadn’t been serviced for at least a decade. Three problems manifested themselves within 100 metres: the front brake caliper was rubbing on the rim; there was a noticeable hop in the rear wheel in every rotation, and most alarmingly, the rear wheel fell out of the dropouts as it hadn’t been secured properly.
After those initial false starts, I got the bike in decent riding shape. The brakes had to be centred manually a few times as they hadn’t been adjusted for years, but that was about all. The gears worked well and apart from the annoying small hop in the rear wheel, the bike flew around these small lanes, past farm and field, over small hills and down shallow valleys. It’s not a hilly country in the area between Brittany’s main city of Rennes and the ferry town of Saint Malo, and it made riding this 23 lb bike, with its biggest gear ratio being 42/26, much more manageable. My route was haphazard, taking the roads that I found most attractive when I came to them, stopping to look at horses or just to take in the views. However, I did have to shelter a number of times from some thunderous showers, the worst of which lasted about 15 minutes and caused some flash flooding.
The Old Lady Who Spoke Gallo
While I was stopped at a tiny hamlet somewhere on that ride, an old lady saw me taking a photograph of the Motobecane and swiftly made a beeline towards me. She spoke in Gallo, the old historic language of Eastern Brittany, and then realised I was an etranger. She then made a comment about my old bike, which I failed to comprehend, and then continued on to wherever her she was headed, even though it was raining. I like to think she was appreciating the Motobecane, even though it may not be the best example of this vintage marque. This C2 does have a Vitus 171 frame, though its forks are standard Hi-Ten tubing. It doesn’t have a Stronglight crank, no Mafac brakes, as the company replaced them by this time with cheaper Japanese stock. Nevertheless, it is still a cool old bike, built to face even the wild weather of Brittany, 35 years after it first took to the road.
- 1983? Motobecane C2
- Vitus 171 Main Tubes, Hi-Ten Forks and Stays
- Normandy High Flange Hubs, Weinmann Clincher Rims ( not original )
- Takagi Crankset 52/42 170mm Arms
- Huret Challenger Transmission
- Motobecane Branded Brake Calipers
- Dia Comme Brake Levers
- Pivo Stem
- Standard Threading, BB, Headset, Crankset
- Weighs 23 Lbs