Vintage and veteran bicycles of quality and how to preserve them for future generations, with a particular interest in the French 'constructeurs'. Please note all images are my copyright unless otherwise stated, and may only be used with my express permission.
This is Tomoko’s wonderful aluminium Barra dating from around 1950. It is badged ‘Urago’ who were the retailers in Nice, but was built by the great Nicola Barra. The tubes are the trademark Barra vertical oval at the head, to round in the middle, to horizontal oval at the bottom bracket and seat tube. See my randonneuse of similar construction here. In my opinion Barra was THE master of aluminium construction and this is a fantastic example of his extraordinary skills. The bicycle is fitted with all the best kit of the period….. Stronglight chainset, Cyclo gear, Maxicar hubs, Mavic rims, Trois Etioles spokes, Lefol ‘Le Paon’ mudguards. Brakes are Barra’s own design cantilevers with adjustable toe-in, and it is fitted with his typical fillet brazed steel stem and combined seat post clamp/brake pulley. The saddle is a rare ‘Elaedy’ made by Ideale. Condition is completely original and unspoilt. The machine is very light indeed, around 21lbs, and Tomoko reports that it rides beautifully!
A very rare example of a Nicola Barra bicycle built for Garin cycles during the Second World War. From the frame number it can be dated to c.1941/2. It is built from plain aluminium tubing, beautifully gas welded. The fillet brazed steel stem is a Barra speciality, as is the combined seat post clamp and brake cable guide. The brakes are the rarely seen early cantilevers, marked ‘Savoie’, made by Barra. Other parts include some rare items….. Simplex Champion du Monde 3 speed gear, Super Champion Picardie sprint rims on aluminium Pelissier Plume hubs, Jeay brake levers and Philippe Professionel bars. Chainset is the early pattern Stronglight, Lyotard quill pedals and Duralinox alloy toeclips, and an AM aluminium saddle. Dynamo wiring is internally routed.
I can find little information on Garin cycles, and I thought at first that the ‘Garin’ was perhaps Maurice Garin, the first winner of the Tour de France in 1903. Maurice Garin ran a team in the Tour de France just after the War and his home was in Lens, to the North West of Paris. However, the Garin here is Charles, probably unrelated, who had a bicycle company in the Pantin district of Paris. Barra apparently worked there for a while as works manager (see Bicycle Quarterly Summer issue 2008 – Thanks Tom!) Another example of a Barra Garin frame is here.
The bicycle is in excellent condition with no damage to the frame, and the original transfers and head badge are in a remarkable state of preservation. It is incredibly light… I would guess at about 21lbs, fully equipped.
I’ve just completed this spectacular Barralumin aluminium bicycle made by Nicola Barra.
When I bought it there were a just a few parts missing including the wheels, and it has taken some time to find exactly the right period parts. No ‘restoration’ as such was carried out, just very careful cleaning and light hand polishing only… which took about 50 hours! It was very important not to damage the full set of original transfers. Being a large 62cm frame (c to c) Barra presumably added the extra lateral tubes for additional rigidity. All main tubes are in Barra’s extraordinary tubing which transitions from vertical oval at the head, to round, to horizontal oval at the BB. The quality of workmanship is amongst the best I have ever seen on any bicycle and is a testament to Barra’s great skills as an innovative aluminium welder and frame builder.
Interesting features include the rear derailleur spring being INSIDE the chainstay. The spring is anchored inside the BB and a cable attached to the other end exits just in front of the RD. The handlebar stem is made by Barra and even has hand made aluminium nuts and bolts. Front changer is a Le Chat with a beautiful Barra-made sliding changer and lever. His own cantilever brakes are fitted and these have adjustable toe-in!
Barra custom parts: Front and rear racks, handlebar stem and bolts, Cyclo gear hanger, cantilever brakes with adjustable toe-in, duralumin brake wire hangers with adjustable rods (made from bicycle spokes), steel front and rear brake cable hangers (rear incorporating seat pin clamp), front changer mechanism and rod, internal rear derailleur spring. Internal dynamo wiring.
Other parts: Stronglight chainset with Cyclo Rosa alloy rings, Stronglight alloy BB, Lyotard pedals with Lapize duralumin toe clips, Cyclo alloy 4 speed rear derailleur, Le Chat front derailleur, AVA handlebars, GB end plugs, Mafac Guidonnet levers, Mavic 650B rims, MaxiCAR hubs (blue seals), Trois Etoiles spokes, Bell wingnuts, Grand Bois tyres, Ideale 57 saddle, Soubitez dynamo and lamps.
Click on images for full size, and click again on details to enlarge them
A very rare steel light touring bicycle by constructeur Nicola Barra. Original finish and transfers. Fillet brazed Vitus tubing. Barra front and rear racks and Barra handlebar stem. Duprat Professionels cranks and Stronglight alloy ring. Tank pedals. Cyclo aluminium 3 speed gear. Alloy 650B rims, Maxi hubs and Trois Étioles spokes. Grand Bois Hetre tyres. Durex mudguards. Mafac cantilever brakes (probably replacements) Ideale 63 Cyclo-Touriste saddle. Later Jos lighting. Almost finished with just a few details to sort out….. nice papillons need to be found, a couple of the cyclo cable tabs are broken and do I change the handlebars to drops?