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Old 06-04-09, 11:42 AM   #1
rhm
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1950 Norman Rapide, an unbelievable find

[Edit: This thread was originally called "le trou Normand," until a moderator very kindly changed it to something more sensible. Sorry about any confusion!]

le trou Normand is a French term for a palate cleanser, served between meals to prepare you for the next. My brother in law (who is French) introduced the term at a large Thanksgiving dinner some 20 years ago. At the time, we were using a nice Cognac for this purpose; you reach a point where you can't possibly eat another bite, so you have a little glass of Cognac... and before long there's room for dessert. You may even feel hungry again.

So, in my family, le trou Normand translates as "the Norman Spacemaker."

Well, there was no room for more bikes in my bike shed. But I have found the elusive Norman Spacemaker. My apologies, friends, if I seem longwinded. I just want this story to come out right.

I'll have to start out by explaining that I saved a Norman tourist model three speed from the trash a few years ago. After a little research I realized it dates to ca 1950-3, and it's a higher quality bike than, say, a Raleigh Sports. Here's that bike on a tour last summer (it lives on Long Island, NY):


Intrigued, I searched on ebay and found a Norman Cycles product brochure, which I bought. It's not dated, but on the inside front cover it says "The 'Normans' invaded England in A. D. 1066. The Norman 'Invader' will be welcomed in the U.S.A. in A.D. 1950," so I figure this is the product brochure for the 1950 model year. I especially liked pages 6-7:


Ever since I've had this catalog I've thought it would be cool to find a Norman Invader or, better yet, a Rapide.

Then Cycleheimer posted this yesterday.

After some hasty emailing, I persuaded Junkyardbike to make the drive, 100 miles round trip, to check it out.

Junkyardbike, would you like to tell the next part of the story?

Last edited by rhm; 08-04-10 at 12:21 PM. Reason: To explain that the thread originally had a different title.
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Old 06-04-09, 01:26 PM   #2
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Hmm. Well, I'm still hoping Junkyardbike will tell us his tales, but for now I'll share a few of the pictures he's sent me. I don't have the bike yet, but the pictures speak for themselves.



Can you believe this bike is almost 60 years old?
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Old 06-04-09, 01:38 PM   #3
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That's stunning, can't wait to here the additional story.

Watch out though, bad karma for parking in a handicap zone.
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Old 06-04-09, 02:06 PM   #4
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Another example of BF teamwork

And, another example of a top-quality vintage bike getting into the right hands of somebody who can truly appreciate it!

Best regards,
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Old 06-04-09, 02:13 PM   #5
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Hmm, well, there's not much to my story. The Norman is the story. I was contacted by rhm via PM with the universal C&V SOS signal, which the code dictates I heed. I could sense rhm's excited anticipation. Who wouldn't want to participate in the hunt? It's in the blood!

On initial phone contact, the seller told me the bike was being offered first come, first served. Not wanting to drive 100 miles for nothing, I stated my definitive intentions to buy, and was promised the bike. I headed out into the driving rain, kids in tow (they need training in the field, no?), to arrive there exactly when the seller stated he'd be home.

I arrived early, before the seller. The rains had stopped, always a promising sign. The seller rolled up, took a look at me, then headed to the shed without a word. He rolled the Norman out, and I thought this couldn't be the bike. I was prepared to find frame damage, missing parts (he claimed it to be all original) or some other compromises. I looked at the SA hub. '49? It couldn't be, it was pristine! I began to have sinister thoughts, thoughts that violate the sacred code. The seller told me it was his father-in-law's, that it could sell for $1000 (well, perhaps that's a stretch?). He suggested I tell rhm it was sold. No, banish the thought!

I was a bit nervous about the ride home. The rain was starting up again. I had brought a tarp and plastic covering for the saddle, as the bike would by carried on a rear car rack, but it could protect only so much. It's likely that's the only rain to ever touch the bike. At home, the kids and I spent an hour with towels and a hair dryer. It was a labor of love.

As I've told rhm, it was payment enough to have been given the chance to see this bike in person. It's a true gem. I think that's the great gift of this community: the opportunity to share in the enthusiasm of others, and to learn more about the the history of bicycles through it. Thanks for including me rhm!
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Old 06-04-09, 02:32 PM   #6
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Le trou normand name (please note there is no "e" at the end as trou which correctly translates to hole, is male in gender) is actually given solely to Calvados. Calvados is in Normandy, Cognac is not, so it is incorrect to call any Cognac a trou normand. To call Cognac a trou normand is akin to calling Budweiser the Rocky Mountain beer.

Last edited by Citoyen du Monde; 06-05-09 at 12:03 PM.
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Old 06-05-09, 06:22 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Citoyen du Monde View Post
Le trou dormand name (please note there is no "e" at the end as trou which correctly translates to hole, is male in gender) is actually given solely to Calvados. Calvados is in Normandy, Cognac is not, so it is incorrect to call any Cognac a trou normand. To call Cognac a trou normand is akin to calling Budweiser the Rocky Mountain beer.
Thank you! It is important to get the grammatical niceties right. Is it not odd, now that you mention it, that a word meaning hole should be male in gender? Well, stranger things have happened. Come to think of it, it is odd that something concocted in St. Louis can be called Budweiser, while the beer actually brewed in Budwar (the German name for which is Budweis) cannot. But we digress.
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Old 06-05-09, 06:33 AM   #8
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If the Smithsonian has a bicycle room....this gem should be in it!!!

http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=norman+rapide

Note:

a) 27" x 1 1/4" rims b) John Bull Club Grips c) Bluemels pump d) Brook saddle e) original fenders!!!
f) original alloy pedals with toes clips & straps g) tool bag with tools h) generator light with lamp bracket on right fork blade i) quality tires that look new j) chrome fork k) even a collapsable drinking cup!

*** Pristine original conditon
*** All original decals, including original LBS decal!

The guy who bought this 60 years ago was one serious guy! Probably a WWII vet.
Probably would be glad to know its going to somebody who knew about the Rapide and wanted one.

This deserves a special place in BF history.
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Old 06-05-09, 07:52 AM   #9
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rhm forgot to upload the pic of the toolkit!

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Old 06-05-09, 08:02 AM   #10
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And JunkYardBike deserves a very, very, very nice thank you present from RHM !

Last edited by Karloman; 03-06-13 at 05:55 PM.
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Old 06-05-09, 08:04 AM   #11
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And JunkYardBike deserves a very, very, very nice thank you present from RHM !
Calvados?
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Old 06-05-09, 08:07 AM   #12
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Naah
Calvados is okay but a Cognac Grande Reserve will make JYB meet the angels. And Cognac is at the start of it all !
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Old 06-05-09, 11:57 AM   #13
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Watch out though, bad karma for parking in a handicap zone.
I have no idea what you're talking about! (What, me, photoshop? I'm shocked, shocked).
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Old 06-05-09, 12:16 PM   #14
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Wow, that's a great find and a beautiful bike!

Neal
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Old 06-06-09, 01:25 AM   #15
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What a great find! The story was well told and everything it took to get it took a lot of BF member teamwork. That head badge is very impressive. Another vintage ride and piece of history saved from obscurity.
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Old 06-06-09, 06:59 AM   #16
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A very exciting find! The bike appears to be in absolutely excellent condition - especially considering the age. Many Thanks to both rhm and Junkyardbike for sharing the photos with us envious folks. Can't wait to hear more once you get the bike.

You inspired me to scan and upload some useful images for you last night [... Insomnia is a useful malady].

In the following Set on Flickr you will find the last 6 images are about the 4-speed hub. It seems the "FW" was a very useful wide ratio gear, first introduced on 1939, it immediately won an award from the CTC - the famous British cycle touring club (who's members number in the tens of thousands) for being the best cycling innovation of that year. The pages here are from my 1956 Sturmey Archer Master Catalogue, but I'm sure the design would not have changed much at all since 1949. So, the parts illustration may be useful should you ever need to disassemble or repair the hub. Just click on an image and when it opens in a new window select the "All Sizes" button above the picture to pull up a large size suitable for printing or downloading to your PC for future reference.

Here is another handy link to play with if you are curious about the actual gearing in use on your bike, as set up with that specific chainring and rear sprocket combination. By changing one or the other you can alter the entire gearing for the bike, so this is both fun trivia and a potentially useful tool. Gear Calculator To use this gear calculator you can use the drop-down selections or manually key in your data for each option in the chart at the top of the page. Under "Custom Cassette" just enter the number of teeth on the single rear cog in the first box... then select your FW hub in the last box under "Internal Hub" and then click "Calculate" The window which pops up will show you the exact gear for each click of the trigger selector. You can figure your gear inches for each pedal rotation, or see how fast in MPH you are traveling at a given pedaling cadence. Big Fun!

Keep us posted! Would love to hear your impressions of the bike. Definitely a cut above the basic Raleigh and most other Roadster style bikes we are mostly familiar with on this side of The Pond!
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Old 06-06-09, 07:21 AM   #17
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Beautiful find! And a good story of C&V members working together to feed the addiction.
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Old 06-06-09, 07:51 AM   #18
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That is just simply incredible.
And oh, that fork bend. You are a very lucky person rhm.
I don't know if I would have had JunkYardBikes commitment. I probably would have said that it had been sold before I got there, and taken it for myself.
Enjoy that beauty.
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Old 06-07-09, 08:50 AM   #19
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Bookmarked topic !
The more I look at your splendid bike the more I'm thinking of finding myself an english roadster.

Damn those forums !

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Old 06-07-09, 09:16 AM   #20
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I have no idea what you're talking about! (What, me, photoshop? I'm shocked, shocked).
Well done! Wouldn't we all like to see more of those signs ....
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Old 06-07-09, 10:31 AM   #21
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Really nice bike. Makes me feel better about my commuter project.

I was going to buy one of the indicator chains for that rear hub on ebay, but it got up to $75.
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Old 06-12-09, 07:56 AM   #22
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Update!

I have taken possession of the bike. Despite the exhaustive photo documentation I had seen, JunkYardBike had left a few surprises for me, so my first meeting with the bike would not seem anticlimactic.

The good:

Attached to the right side of the Pletscher rack is a small bicycle license plate: Mount Vernon New York, expires Sept 30 1959. So the rack dates to the 50's.

Attached to the left front dropout is an odometer. The mileage now reads: 3876.1 miles. Frankly the bike doesn't look like it's been ridden that far!

The not-so-good:

Stem, handlebar, and brake levers are chromed steel. Very nice, and very old, but not not as nice as the original. The stem is exactly the same as is on my other Norman; I think the brake levers are too. The bar is similar to a Northroad style bar, but a little curvier. I believe the change was made many years ago, probably before the bike ever left the shop; but I would prefer it per spec. So I'll be looking for the correct parts....

I got a NOS indicator chain. Thanks, Neal!

Last edited by rhm; 06-15-09 at 07:00 AM.
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Old 06-12-09, 08:12 AM   #23
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WOW, when I saw this thread I had only seen the orange Norman at the top. That bike is just beautiful! Bummer about the stem and bars, but the hunt should be interesting!

Matt
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Old 06-12-09, 09:26 AM   #24
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Stem, handlebar, and brake levers are chromed steel. Very nice, and very old, but not not as nice as the original. The stem is exactly the same as is on my other Norman; I think the brake levers are too. The bar is similar to a Northroad style bar, but a little curvier. I believe the change was made many years ago, probably before the bike ever left the shop; but I would prefer it per spec. So I'll be looking for the correct parts....
What would the correct parts be, Rudi?

Neal
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Old 06-12-09, 10:07 AM   #25
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That is epic. I love the silver, it looks so clean together with the chrome bits. Congrats and my admiration, both for rhm and for JYB, who seems to have a knack for making good things happen. Well done to you both.
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