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Old 12-18-09, 03:39 PM   #1
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Switching from drop bars to upright, how can I do it/what parts do I need?

Hey all,

I bought my sister an early graduation/christmas present of a beautiful mid-70s Motobecane Grand Jubilee mixte. She loves the way the bike looks and how fast it is, but as she grew up with BMX and mountain bikes, is not quite used to the drop bars.

Right now the bike has the original Pivo (?) drops and Weinmann Vainqueur 999 brakes/levers. I'd like to replace the bars with something like the Velo-Orange Porteur or Left Bank bars. I am thinking these would take different levers to be comfortable, maybe regular city-bike levers or inverse?

Also, which are the best replacement brake shoes for the Weinmann brakes? The originals look and feel like bricks.

Last edited by hxzero; 12-18-09 at 03:48 PM.
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Old 12-18-09, 04:12 PM   #2
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Find out your stem's clamp diameter so the bar you buy will fit your stem as well as the old one.

Bars come in a variety of diameters; yours could be a 25.0 because it's French(where bar meets stem). I don't know if you can get bars with the French clamp dia unless on ebay. Not sure if standard levers will fit.

I don't think they make stems with the bike-side being French 22.0 and the handlebar side being standard 25.4, so you have to get a standard 22.2 and sand off 0.2mm. Then it will accept 25.4 size bars which is what many of the cruiser, north road and MTB style bars are. I have adapted a standard stem to fit a French bike; it takes maybe twenty minutes of sanding.

It's possible VO may have some bars for a french stem. sheldonbrown.com listed a French stem which you shouldn't use because it was breakage prone but I don't remember the type (it's under old bikes). VO definitely has standard stems for standard bars which you have to sand down to fit a French bike.

Find out what sort of cable ends your current levers have. If you cannot locate some brake levers which you like which use the same kind of cable ends you will need new brake cables.

Last edited by garage sale GT; 12-18-09 at 04:20 PM.
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Old 12-18-09, 06:22 PM   #3
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By "cable ends" what are you specifically referring to? I was looking into replacing the existing cables and housing anyway.
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Old 12-18-09, 06:32 PM   #4
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Hey all,

I bought my sister an early graduation/christmas present of a beautiful mid-70s Motobecane Grand Jubilee mixte. She loves the way the bike looks and how fast it is, but as she grew up with BMX and mountain bikes, is not quite used to the drop bars.

Right now the bike has the original Pivo (?) drops and Weinmann Vainqueur 999 brakes/levers. I'd like to replace the bars with something like the Velo-Orange Porteur or Left Bank bars. I am thinking these would take different levers to be comfortable, maybe regular city-bike levers or inverse?

Also, which are the best replacement brake shoes for the Weinmann brakes? The originals look and feel like bricks.
# of gears in the back?
Flatbar shifter? Grip shift?
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Old 12-18-09, 06:40 PM   #5
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He is just replacing the brake levers. They will have more pull than you'll need so you shouldn't have any problem. You are replacing the stem and bars?
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Old 12-18-09, 06:45 PM   #6
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He is just replacing the brake levers. They will have more pull than you'll need so you shouldn't have any problem. You are replacing the stem and bars?
The OP doesn't say that. I imagine he'd be talking about levers + shifters combined. And you're wrong about the levers. You need cantilever compatible brake levers if he is to convert. The majority of flat bar levers will be for linear pulls.
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Old 12-18-09, 07:09 PM   #7
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The OP doesn't say that. I imagine he'd be talking about levers + shifters combined. And you're wrong about the levers. You need cantilever compatible brake levers if he is to convert. The majority of flat bar levers will be for linear pulls.
I'm actually just replacing the brake levers. Curbtender assumed right...I'm keeping the downtube shifters, so I'm just going to need new levers for the new bars. And possibly a new stem to fit the new bars. The brakes are centerpulls. Not sure what that means for me, but I'm just looking to find new brake levers that will work on city bars.

It is an old 10-speed, 5 in back, two in front. The downtube shifters are fine, the Huret Duopar derailleurs just need some grease and a new chain and they'll work beautifully.
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Old 12-18-09, 07:09 PM   #8
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The OP doesn't say that. I imagine he'd be talking about levers + shifters combined. And you're wrong about the levers. You need cantilever compatible brake levers if he is to convert. The majority of flat bar levers will be for linear pulls.
For a bike from the 1970s, maybe the best choice would be some vintage levers. I don't know but I believe the calipers were much the same for the upright and drop bars. Besides, if he scored a set of vintage levers on ebay, they would have a period-correct look which matched the bike.

To the OP, by cable ends I mean the piece of alloy which is cast onto the end of the cable. It is what fits into the brake lever and gives it something to pull against. Some are shaped like a banjo, some are shaped like a potato masher, and there are different sizes.

You might get more help on the classic and vintage forum, though I bet many of its readers also check out this forum. I am not absolutely positive when Motobecane switched to the standard 25.4 bar clamp dia, which was then changed to 26, then 31.8, but someone there would know. They could probably also tell you what your chances were of finding an old, French size, upright handlebar.

Before you spend too much, maybe check out some nice Japanese or Taiwanese mixtes. They might come with the bars you want, and would be easier to change over in case they came with drop bars, and you could probably sell the Grand Jubilee to someone who would appreciate its oddities instead of decrying how inconvenient they made modification.
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Old 12-18-09, 07:37 PM   #9
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i got these levers at the lbs for around $20 and they take mountain bike cable ends. you might like the stem shifters with the flat bars.
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Old 12-18-09, 07:51 PM   #10
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For a bike from the 1970s, maybe the best choice would be some vintage levers. I don't know but I believe the calipers were much the same for the upright and drop bars. Besides, if he scored a set of vintage levers on ebay, they would have a period-correct look which matched the bike.


$35 a pair, compatible with the OP's brakes. Yes it doesn't look vintage. Flat bar + Quill stem to match $20-$30.
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Old 12-18-09, 07:59 PM   #11
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For a bike from the 1970s, maybe the best choice would be some vintage levers. I don't know but I believe the calipers were much the same for the upright and drop bars. Besides, if he scored a set of vintage levers on ebay, they would have a period-correct look which matched the bike.

To the OP, by cable ends I mean the piece of alloy which is cast onto the end of the cable. It is what fits into the brake lever and gives it something to pull against. Some are shaped like a banjo, some are shaped like a potato masher, and there are different sizes.

You might get more help on the classic and vintage forum, though I bet many of its readers also check out this forum. I am not absolutely positive when Motobecane switched to the standard 25.4 bar clamp dia, which was then changed to 26, then 31.8, but someone there would know. They could probably also tell you what your chances were of finding an old, French size, upright handlebar.

Before you spend too much, maybe check out some nice Japanese or Taiwanese mixtes. They might come with the bars you want, and would be easier to change over in case they came with drop bars, and you could probably sell the Grand Jubilee to someone who would appreciate its oddities instead of decrying how inconvenient they made modification.
The funny thing is that I've always been on the lookout for a nice Japanese mixte, but I could never find a good one within my budget (less than...$200?) on LA/OC craigslist. This one was much cheaper than that, and in good condition as well. I don't mind a little bit of inconvenience...that just makes things more rewarding.

Or I could just convince my sister than she likes drop bars.
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Old 12-18-09, 08:01 PM   #12
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A city bike for a noob? Flat bars make sense. The conversion doesn't cost a lot at all.
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Old 12-18-09, 08:07 PM   #13
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Raise the stem as high as you can. Maybe get a taller stem. Maybe somebody makes an 0.2mm shim to let you use the French bars with a standard stem. Barring that, haunt ebay until you find a flat bar and levers.
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Old 12-18-09, 08:51 PM   #14
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I'm thinking of going the route of finding a new stem with a 22.2mm quill with a 25.4mm clamp and sanding the quill down to 22.0mm. If I'm understanding you guys right, I could then use whatever bars I want with a 25.4mm clamp diameter. I'm not trying to use the old French bars...just French-style city-bike bars (not flat bars, MTB bars just wouldn't be right on this bike). The part that I have the most confusion about is replacing the cables, but I'll take apart a lever and see what I've got.
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Old 12-18-09, 09:05 PM   #15
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I'm thinking of going the route of finding a new stem with a 22.2mm quill with a 25.4mm clamp and sanding the quill down to 22.0mm. If I'm understanding you guys right, I could then use whatever bars I want with a 25.4mm clamp diameter.
That is NOT a good idea.
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Old 12-18-09, 10:15 PM   #16
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have you checked Velo Orange? nice selection of bars and interesting levers. coming out with a classic mixte frame.
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Old 12-19-09, 01:29 AM   #17
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I'm going to give some unsolicited style advice here,

First, you will likely need a new stem, and there are some compatibility issues. As previously stated, the french size is just a little smaller than the standard, so you need to sand it down. Operator is right, it isn't the best idea, but if you start with a good stem, it's not really dangerous. Since french stems are not made, you really have no choice.

I suggest this stem . It's expensive, but it can be had for much less on ebay. Just make sure you get the right clamp size.

I cannot recommend the V-O Porteur bars enough. They are really comfy and give you a great position for city riding. They rock.

Now, brake levers, everyone else is right, but if you want something with a little more class, look at these. they go in the bar end, and rest right where your hand naturally falls. They work great with porteur bars. Better, in fact than most other brake levers, because these leave the curves free if you want to grab them for a change of hand positions.

For extreme classiness add a pair of these grips. Do that and you will have a mixte to be jealous of. This last step is purely optional of course
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Old 12-19-09, 01:48 AM   #18
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I'm going to give some unsolicited style advice here,

First, you will likely need a new stem, and there are some compatibility issues. As previously stated, the french size is just a little smaller than the standard, so you need to sand it down. Operator is right, it isn't the best idea, but if you start with a good stem, it's not really dangerous. Since french stems are not made, you really have no choice.

I suggest this stem . It's expensive, but it can be had for much less on ebay. Just make sure you get the right clamp size.

I cannot recommend the V-O Porteur bars enough. They are really comfy and give you a great position for city riding. They rock.

Now, brake levers, everyone else is right, but if you want something with a little more class, look at these. they go in the bar end, and rest right where your hand naturally falls. They work great with porteur bars. Better, in fact than most other brake levers, because these leave the curves free if you want to grab them for a change of hand positions.

For extreme classiness add a pair of these grips. Do that and you will have a mixte to be jealous of. This last step is purely optional of course
Well to be honest, Fuzz, the steps you just outlined are pretty much exactly what I had in mind. So you're not really steering me away or towards anything - I just was probably not going to drop the $18 on the elkhide grips, and what's the difference between the Tektro Inverse levers and the Dia-Compe inverse levers?

And for clarification why is sanding the stem down such a bad idea? I mean, I'm probably going to do it anyway, but I'd like to know.

@roberth33tiger: I actually have...I mentioned V-O in my original post, didn't I?
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Old 12-19-09, 02:05 AM   #19
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Well to be honest, Fuzz, the steps you just outlined are pretty much exactly what I had in mind. So you're not really steering me away or towards anything - I just was probably not going to drop the $18 on the elkhide grips, and what's the difference between the Tektro Inverse levers and the Dia-Compe inverse levers?

And for clarification why is sanding the stem down such a bad idea? I mean, I'm probably going to do it anyway, but I'd like to know.

@roberth33tiger: I actually have...I mentioned V-O in my original post, didn't I?

The elk hide is just a bonus, but if you want something cheaper, cork handlebar tape covered in shellac also works pretty well. Grips are tricky because you have to slip them over the cable. You can cover the entire bar with just half the cork tape, and have some left over for next time. Without the shellac, it will wear pretty quickly though.

The main difference between the brake levers is the Tektro ones are shiny. This matters deeply to me. It might not to you.

Sanding down the stem isn' t a good idea because you are removing structural material. It's not a bad idea because you aren't removing much, and stems tend to be overbuilt anyway. It won't really do you any harm, but don't do it unless you need to.
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Old 12-19-09, 08:24 AM   #20
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Velo Orange sells some nice levers with stainless steel clamps that don't look like they belong on a mountain bike.

I had these cheap Shimanos on my 1971 Gitane Tour de France and they functioned perfectly with the Mafac calipers, but they were just too modern and mountain bikey looking for the bike and I replaced them with Mafacs. You can't buy them with the silver adjusters. Those are from Problem Solvers.



Old Weinmann levers work well, too.


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Old 12-19-09, 08:32 AM   #21
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Sheldon Brown recommended the practice of sanding stems. Go to sheldonbrown.com. Under the Old Bikes tab there should be a section called French bikes with a paragraph on stems. It also shows the AVA stem you shouldn't use. It's not under the repairing/modernizing french bikes section.

I think you need an aluminum stem though, or you'll never get done, and you'd be removing a greater percentage of the stem's thickness if you used steel. That's just my guess.

Last edited by garage sale GT; 12-19-09 at 08:36 AM.
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Old 12-19-09, 03:07 PM   #22
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On the stem, before you start sanding, check the inner diameter of the locknut on the headset ( the top nut that holds the fork on.) I've seen french bikes where the fork steerer itself is standard, but the inner diameter of the locknut is 22.0. So all you need to do is file out the inside of that and then a normal stem will work fine. No guarantees that's how it is, but check before you go to town on the stem.

Pretty much any upright bar brake lever will take Mtn bike brake cables. You will need new cables. And, yes, you will need levers for "cantilever brakes". "V-brake" or "linear pull" levers won't work well.

Everyone raves about the salmon Kool Stop brake pads. Get her some kevlar belted tires unless what's on there is still in good shape.

Go for it, this is a great & easy conversion and good upright mixtes are not easy to find.
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