Sunday, January 4, 2015

A few 2015 upgrades for the Motobecane Grand Touring

I am not one for resolutions but I would like to ride more in 2015.  To that end I did some thinking, and some shopping, about what would make riding easier in 2015.  Last year I finally found a bike I had spent a number of years looking for.  In rebuilding old 10 speeds I had developed a fondness for Motobecanes.  About 4 years ago I built up a Motobecane Nomade II, this was an nice bike but an entry level 10 speed I had every intention of selling.  When I test rode it, however, I was amazed at how well it fit, so I measured it very carefully with the thought that I would find a higher end MB someday to fix up for myself.  That day finally came last may when I came across this 1978 Motobecane Grand Touring on craigslist.

My reality for 2015 is that I am older, not very fit and live in a very hilly place so going with a completely stock 1978 Motobecane isn't going to work for me.  My first priority was to get gears that would make riding in my hilly neighborhood easier.  I had been eyeing the Velo Orange 46/30 Grand Cru crankset which I like not only for its hill friendly gears but also for its style, so that was the first thing in the shopping cart once I found a deal online.

To complement this new crank I figured I would go with a new bottom bracket, which is a bit tricky because for this year of Motobecane it's possible that the BB is;  French threaded, Swiss threaded or even English!  To avoid the potential problem of choosing the wrong BB I decided  to go with a  VO Grand Cru threadless BB.  I will let you know how that turns out when I install it but one thing that convinced me to go this route was that the existing threads can still be used after the threadless BB is removed, so I can also go back to the stock set up if I want.
no threads no dread of choosing wrong

To complete the new crank set up I picked up a pair of my favorite pedals the Shimano PD 324's, which gives me the ability to jump on the bike in sneakers or clip in for a "serious" ride while retaining a classic look.
I go both ways...

One thing I did not like about the bike when I got it were the brake levers.  They are obviously modified "safety lever" controls and I don't like the look.

cruelly cut down in a back alley somewhere

So I went with some nice Origin8 levers that are kind of a poor mans version of the TRP levers I put on my Velo Orange Rando  build.

Love that drilled look

I also have a Carradice Barley bag on order from the UK, this bike is called a Grand Touring after all. I don't know about the "Grand" part but I would like to get out and do some B&B overnights with this bike.
Mine is green with brown straps
I also have a few ideas about the cable housing and bar wrap combination but I will save that until I actually get it done.  In the meantime I have a Torpado Alpha to finish up but this gives me something to dream about and strive for in 2015,  a nice day long ride in say Portland Or, to a McMenamins pub for a well earned burger and a pint and a place to lay my head.

Happy riding in 2015.


  1. This is resolution enough, "more rides in 2015". That right there will take care of so many other resolutions that usually come into play. What a great project for you. A bike that is for Ryan and not for somebody else or for the dollars of flipping a bike. I hope this turns out to your liking and you keep it!! It was such a shame when you sold the Velo Orange that you had built for yourself. I like where you are starting, that crank is beautiful. Very classic looking.
    At some point I will make it to the Northwest before we both get too old and we will get a ride in together.
    Good start to 2015!!! Jim

    1. Happy 2015 Jim! I looked at shots of the VO Rando while putting together this post and I got a little wistful... but I am really looking forward to upgrading the MB just for me. Whether you get out to the NW or I make my way to Colorado I look forward to that ride Jim.


  2. Hey Ryan,

    I stumbled across your blog by coincidence while looking at Motobecane Grand Tourings. This post struck pretty close to home, literally. As it might be, I grew up in Portland as well, and happened to have just picked up a Grand Touring myself today.

    I was running into some troubles with the bike though. The brakes feely mushy, and the steering feels ambiguous. When riding it, the bike will tend to swerve one way and then another, similar to how a gyroscope seems to exert ambiguous forces when held in the hand. Would you have any idea what might cause this problem?

    The tires are brand new, but interestingly enough have a ridge/plateau in the very center. Like so _____/------\_____. I feel like this may affect the steering when the bike turns. It suspect it may also be because the forks do not turn very freely in the tube. Swiveling the forks is possible enough for the bike to be ridden with no problem, but it certainly isn't as smooth as other bike's I've ridden, so I feel like this may be another cause of the problem.



    1. Wayne - welcome. My brakes have a similar feel which is why I am going to take them apart, clean and lube them and then reassemble with new cables which I hope will resolve the issue. As for the steering my first thought would be the headset being loose or worn. These bikes are 40 years old after all and need a little tlc ;-) good luck with your GT

  3. This brakes feely mushy, and this steering feels ambiguous. When cycling it, the bike will are likely to swerve one way and subsequently another, similar to how a gyroscope may seem to exert ambiguous forces when held from the hand.
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