Restoring a vintage bike: the Guimard
Stablinski, Poulidor, Anquetil..some great riders have lent their names to bikes over the years, many of them being mass produced and cheap to buy. Most Anquetils and Merckx bikes you see around are as cheap as chips, fitted with cottored cranks and steel rims. Guimard is also in that category as a respected rider of the 1970’s, never in the class of Merckx or Hinualt, but one of the best French riders of that era. Unlike his other counterparts, his bikes are rarer and this was the first one I’d ever bought. However, when I did wheel it away from its original owner it was in a pretty bad state.
The Good and the Bad
What I liked about the bike was that it had a Vitus frame, it had 788 tubing, and I thought also it was a good looking bike. The parts on it was a mixed bag, and I wonder if it was bought as a frameset and it was a custom build. A good frame deserves a good set of wheels, and the Mavic tubular rims and Maillard hubs were a good fit, keeping the bike lightweight. Disappointingly, the transmission was pretty basic and the delrin Simplex derailleurs were the weakest part of the build. I hated the shifters; ugly and cheap, that’s all I can say. The S001 rear derailleur was a mess, having lost spring tension and slacking the chain. The handlebars were rusty and the dirty tape was hanging off, and being orange just made it look worse. The tyres looked old and the all the parts needed a good clean as well as regreasing.
The paintwork had a lot of scratches on it, and most were impossible to remove, bring deep enough to expose the white undercoat. A good wash did remove a lot of dirt and some lighter tarnishing like cable rub on the top tube. Fortunately, the Simplex rear derailleur was not dead and buried; it just needed retensioning and a bath, especially the jockey wheels which were encrusted in road grit. Even more surprising was the condition of the chain; it wasn’t stretched and was still in good shape for its age. The big problem was the stem, which was stuck in it’s steerer and never coming loose. As I tried to work it loose, holding the front wheel between my knees while twisting the handlebars side to side, I could see the forks flexing dangerously, reaching the point where they were going to be twisted. So I stopped. I had to remove the rusty handlebars by working them through the stuck stem with the bike on the stand.
Not the Full Monty
There are some bikes that can be completely restored and are worth the time and effort to cleaning and polishing every part and mechanism. Some bikes, like this one, you just have to cut your losses with, because when it comes to a seized stem or stuck seatpost, it may end up that you dig yourself deeper into a very difficult problem. The tubular tyres were actually in decent condition, the rear needed re-glueing but it looked in good shape. I put some new cables on the shifters and the Weinmann brakes needed some irritatingly tricky recentering, but they came back to life quite well. I changed out the plastic saddle for an old leather one, and got everything as clean as I could without having to replace them.
Riding the Guimard
This was definitely worth it. The bike was a joy to ride, light, quiet and just a simple and charming piece of machinery. You can’t go wrong when you’ve got a good quality frame and wheels as a base, no matter how ugly the plastic parts may look. With just a few repairs and a good cleanup all round, this bike was saved for the despair of abandonment to a new life on the streets of Sussex. There mustn’t be many of these around, so I’d like to think it’s a bike that will turn heads, if ever that’s possible in the car obsessed towns and villages of South East England. I bought it for a pittance, and sold it for less than a month of gym membership at one of the David Lloyd clubs in these parts. Strange, isn’t it, the value of things?
- 56cm Frame, 57cm top tube
- Made in France 1980
- Vitus 788 Tubing
- 26.6mm Seatpost
- French Threaded Steerer, Bottom Bracket
- 10 Speed, 53/42 crank, 5 speed Maillard Freewheel
- Weighs 21 Lbs