A Milestone

It´s because I have a soft spot for simple things that work well that this bike grew on me very quickly. And it seems I´m not alone in this, as it was, according to Frank Berto, the reason why Shimano´s lower tier groupsets were megasellers in the seventies and eighties: They were very usable and cost little. The 600 EX, made between 1978 and 82, was no exception. Although more pricey than the 105, it sold tens of thousands of sets per year to the more ambitious crowd who didn´t think they wanted to shell out still more for a Dura Ace equipped bike.

Many of those bikes were just used up or even discarded in later years because they were soon outmoded due to the somewhat baroque 600 EX design features of their groupsets. They were not often appreciated for their rugged quality, or well looked after, so complete bikes are getting rare now.


Yesterday I added one of them to my herd. When I heard on the phone that it was a 600 equipped Motobécane dating from 1981 which was for sale, I nearly didn´t bother, but in the end I´m glad I did. I hadn´t thought I would like it when I bought it, speculating on using the parts on some hack bike.

Not being what you might call a Shimano man, even in 2013 the same automatic age old misunderstanding of its real value was fixed in my mind, but soon I noted that the old 600 EX groupset has some sort of oldworldly appeal, rather kitschy, but remembering what I had read about it in Berto, I had to admit that it was a milestone in bicycle history in making Campag-like quality available at a far cheaper price.

I got the Motobécane through a local newspaper small ad from a man who was an avid cyclist 30 years ago but has sadly been confined to a wheelchair for some years, so he let go of his cycling stuff. After the sale had been completed, he told me that the bike was very capable and that he had spent a lot of time servicing it because he liked the quality of the equipment. That, too, made me think.



The frame is well built, though obviously made to a price point.

MseatclThe seatcluster is rather nicely made, lugs are thin on top of the top tube, the binder bolt is housed neatly.

MbbcableoverThe derailleur cables are routed over the bottom bracket, a technique which was on the brink of being replaced on road bikes by routing under the b/b.



Front and rear dropout ends are Simplex, I think. They have mudguard stay eyes, also there is ample mudguard clearance in the frame, so this isn´t an out and out racing bike. The cable stop for the rear derailleur is in an interesting place.

MheadlugthinHeadlugs are nicely thinned.

MreynoldsframeThe frame is constructed from Reynolds 531 main tubes and lesser tubing in the rear triangle, but…

MReynoldsfork… the fork blades are 531, too. I like the plated fork crown.

Am I allowed to utter an intelligent guess? Shimano 105 equipped bikes from this series would have 531 main triangles only; 600, such as this, had the fork in 531 thrown in, and Dura Ace bikes would be all 531. Does that make sense? Catalogues, anyone?


Now the groupset. By 1981 French manufacturers of bike parts definitively were on the way out. Motobécane must have encountered a lot of patriotic headwind when employing Shimano parts instead of, say, Spidel, but according to Berto, Shimano had its advantages in the aras of price and quality – so not much was left to be discussed.


This groupset was made in late 1980, give or take a few month code letters on cranks, brakes and other bits, …

MShyearcode… so the bike would have been assembled in France in the winter of 1980/81 for the following season.

The groupset is nearly all still there, only the pedals seem to have been lost. I have some SR ones in my box, and I think I´ll take those until something better comes along. I don´t think Shimano made their own pedals for the 600 EX groupset, and the seatpin, too, is SR anyway.

There was a heap of stuff with the bike, and I only realized after the photo session that the original front wheel and the original rear rim were in that heap, too. A first look at the rear wheel which is in the bike now showed that hub and spokes seem to be OEM, so only the rim will have to be swapped out, reversing the aftermarket improvement the first owner made. The front wheel is of course already back where it belongs, and the Pelissier 2000 front hub will go into my parts box as a very welcome addition.





The slanting parallelogram rear derailleur, nicked off Suntour, something Campag still dreamed of in the day because of its better gear changing abilities.




Also the original handlebars are still there with the typical seventies Motobécane handlebar wrap, made to look like hand sewn leather, but in reality being cheap plastic. This set has not gone sticky as all of those I had over the years had done, so here´s another nice surprise.


I photographed the bike as dirty as it was, only hours after it had been dragged out of the shed in which it had spent the best part of a decade, telling myself that the dust and cobwebs added to the atmosphere. Soon there will be a dismantling, cleaning and servicing binge, though, including the rebuilding of the rear wheel with the original Mavic Spécial Sport rim. And, would you believe it, I´m looking forward to it.


One Trackback

  1. […] I said in my post on the Motobécane (https://starostneradost.wordpress.com/2013/11/03/a-milestone/), I have come to like these […]

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