Sunday, January 24, 2016

Gummy Gum Rubber Brake Lever Hoods

I really like Suntour Superbe brakes. I've talked about this before; and I'll likely talk about it again. It's something my family and I have grown to accept. 

The pair of levers, shown below, came installed on a Motobecane. They were not original to the bike; but that's academic for the sake of this post. Fact is, I have never seen rubber brake hoods in such tragically-odd condition. This folks, is what happens to brake hoods after the bike has been hanging in the loft of a garage in Southern California for 30 continuous years. Seriously - the previous owner hung the bike up in his garage 30 years ago, and just took it down two weeks ago to place an ad on Craigslist.  

The hoods actually melted onto the lever bodies and handlebar. The pics tell the story.

It wasn't difficult to remove the levers, but I faced a significant challenge in cleaning off the coagulated gum rubber. 

At first I used a narrow-blade plastic putty knife; but this proved too flimsy to pry off the congealed goop. Then I remembered a similar situation about two years ago, where the dried, cracked rubber hoods had adhered to a pair of Modolo levers. I used a simple process involving hot water, a plastic calk remover, and patience. 

I did the final clean up on the Modolo levers with some mineral spirits or paint thinner - can't remember which. 

The same technique worked great for these Superbe levers. I haven't done the final, solvent phase yet, but will when ready to put new hoods on. 

Soak in 140 degree water for 15 minutes. Use caution when removing as the metal is HOT!

You can see the calk remover here. For the most part, the old rubber
just peeled away from the metal.

Ummm.... old gum rubber. Goes great in salads or use as a dessert topping!

A metal pick is great for the small, stubborn bits. 

Lots of rubber had melted into the cable groove. 

The Takeaway:
Most people reach for the solvents first, and ask questions later. Just remember, water is the universal solvent. I learned that in 8th grade science with Mr Tuttle. He's the same person that taught me about using a Bunsen burner and how eyebrows do, indeed, grow back in six to eight weeks. The lesson here is simpler and much less painful. Never underestimate the power of hot water on loosening up gunky particles, sticky dried-on grease, or melted gum rubber hoods. And please, keep the cards and letters coming. 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Motobecane With an Identity Crisis

The Suntour Superbe levers are in excellent condition. The hoods - notsomuch. 

Black and red paint scheme seems wrong for a high-end Motobecane from this era. 

Still, regardless of what tubing may lie under the paint, the attention to detail on the lugwork and fork crown leaves nothing to be desired. 

From what I've read, Motobecane serial numbers are nearly impossible to decipher. 

Brazed-on cable guides for stem shifters denote mid-to-low-end in the Moto lineup for this era. 

Purchased this Motobecane today for just a pinch over $300. I was under the impression that it was a Le Champion, but further investigations are beginning to reveal a lesser model with upgraded components. 

First clue that the parts weren't original? The Suntour Superbe brakes. Then there's the Campy bits - Nuovo Gran Record derailleurs, seat post. The Pivo  bar and stem were typical of a Grand Touring or Super Mirage from the late 70s. Also, the braze-on cable guides point to mid-level frame. By the way, no model name or frame tubing manufacturer decals anywhere on the bike. 

Thanks's okay - it's a fine steed and well-taken care of. The original owner rode the bike for four years after purchasing it, then hung it in his garage in 1985. It's literally been hanging there for the past 30 years. So... the frame and components are in very nice condition. No blemishes on the frame other than a few small nicks under the bottom bracket and chain stay. "Cherry" was a term we used back in the day to describe a car that was a real eye-catcher. I think that term applies here just as well. 

This will be my winter project bike, and will need a thorough tear-down, repack, and new cables, hoods, all the usual suspects. I'll probably sell it after that, as I already have a 1974 Le Champion in equal condition - pic below. Stay tuned, and be sure to chime in on our Facebook page, as well. Share your pics! :)


I have received numerous comments from the helpful folks on the Classic Rendezvous Google Group. Here's one that pretty much summarizes what I've received so far. 

My guess is that what you have is a 1978, 1979 or a 1980 Super Mirage or Grand Touring.
Check the catalogs on Mark Bulgier's site...
The clues are as follows:
- paint scheme and lugs match those frames
- "Motobecane" branded crankset consistent with original equipment specs on Super Mirage
- Pivo stem consistent with original equipment specs on Grand Touring
- brazed on top tube cable guides eliminate the Grand Record option as all the black and red Grand Records I have have clamp on cable housing guides...
- unused cable stops indicate the possibility of stem shifters which is how the Super Mirage was equipped
- I speculate that the derailleurs, brakes and hubs and seat post which are not consistent with any of the catalog specs for those yearswere "upgrades" at some point later.

*** *** ***

Hi Tom,
My money is on a Grand Jubile.  I think Moto made this color scheme on the Grand Jubile near the end of the production run with these graphics.  At that time, I think they had transitioned to Vitus tubing, and had suntour components.  I think the Grand Record from this time period still had the Campy dropouts.  The transition to the new graphics probably happened in '78 give or take a year.  I'm not an expert, but certainly an admirer of the mark.

*** *** *** My 1974 Le Champion *** *** ***

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