I know that several of my readers are hunting for vintage mixtes at the moment - intending to use them as sportier alternatives to their main transport bikes. Early summer is a good time to buy a vintage mixte, as many are on the market. But before getting swept up in the romance of those twin lateral stays and buying the first attractive mixte you see, it could be helpful to know what to look for - lest you end up with a bicycle that is un-ridable at your skill level, or with a bicycle where you will have to replace so many parts that the purchase will not be worth it.Let's start with geometry, and I will try not to make this too technical. It is tempting to look at a mixte and think of it as a cute, comfy 'girly bike.' But most mixtes from the 1970s and 1980s that you will find on the vintage market were designed as roadbikes. This means that they are not that comfy, and not that easy to ride.
And this has nothing to do with whether the bike has drop bars vs swept-back handlebars, but rather with the bicycle's inherent geometry. Without measuring distances and angles, here are some ways to test whether a mixte was designed as a roadbike:1. Steep Angles? Set the bicycle's saddle height to a level where your leg is extended fully or nearly fully on the downstroke. Are you at all able to touch the ground with one tip of a toe at this saddle height?
If yes, or almost, then the bicycle was likely designed with comfortable angles. If not even close, then it was designed with steeper angles. While you can change the angle of the seat tube by moving the saddle backwards, a steep seat tube angle usually means that the bicycle is aggressive in other ways as well, which is what makes it an easy indicator of comfort. Steep angles tend to make a bicycle less comfortable - so take this into consideration.2. Get on the bicycle and start slowly riding it.
Now, turn the handlebars dramatically, either to the left or to the right. Does your toe hit the front wheel at all when you do this? If yes, this is called 'toe overlap'. Most small-sized road and track bikes have it.
For road and track cyclists it is not a problem, as they typically cycle so fast that they do not turn the handlebars. However, a city bike will ideally not have toe overlap - as having your toe hit the front wheel can cause a crash. If you are an inexperienced cyclist and the mixte you are trying has toe overlap, think about whether you are prepared to deal with this before you buy the bike. This aspect of the bike's geometry cannot be altered.3. Start riding the bicycle again and pick up some speed; then make some gentle turns. Cycle around the block, where you have to turn the corner several times. Do you feel stable and in control when cornering, or do you feel as if the bicycle turns too sharply and faster than you expected?
If the bicycle feels overly-responsive ('squirrelly') on turns, it was likely designed as a roadbike. For an experienced roadie, this is a good thing. For someone transitioning from a stable city bike, this can be scary and not fun at all. This aspect of the bike's geometry cannot really be changed either.Once you find a mixte that seems comfortable, take a look at the bike's components and make some mental calculations about value. The main things to consider are the wheels and handlebars.Older and lower-end mixte models will typically have wheels with steel rims, unless the previous owner replaced them. You can identify steel rims by their little pockmark-like indentations (click image above to enlarge).
These are not good for braking, especially in the rain. On a vintage 3-speed steel rims are not so bad, as you are not cycling very fast anyway. But on a sporty mixte, poor braking power is not a good feature to have. I suggest choosing a mixte with alloy rims, or if there is something special about a steel-rimmed mixte that makes you want that specific bike, factor in the cost of replacing the wheels.If the mixte you are considering is fitted with drop bars, and you are planning to replace them with swept-back bars, be aware that you will most likely also have to change the stem for reasons of compatibility.
Together, a new stem and handlebars can be a costly upgrade. A mixte that already comes with swept-back bars could be a better deal.There are, of course, also other important things to consider - like the state of the brakes, derailleur system, headset, hubs, etc. not to mention whether the frame itself is structurally sound. For this, you will either have to bring a friend who is knowledgeable about bicycle repair, or trust the seller. You will also have to spend extra money on adding fenders, a rack and new tires for the bike. But these issues are common to all vintage bike purchases, so I will not go into them here.What I wanted really was to give a sense of what to expect from a vintage mixte in terms of ride quality, and how to tell whether the basic geometry and set-up of a particular mixte is within your comfort zone.
Hope this helps, and happy mixte hunting! So I am thinking 'Wow, those vintage mixtes are sure nice.
But I have no idea how to go about judging which one will work for me.' A post from you on the very subject appears. My fairy bicycle godmother strikes again!I think I'm still leaning toward getting the Betty Foy (in 62 cm), for as much fun as vintage mixtes are (oh how I love the look of those twin lateral stays), they tend to run very small. I guess there were no tall women back in the 70s and 80s. It's just hard to pull the trigger on Betty's price tag. Kara - If you can afford it and like the looks, get the Betty Foy by all means. It will be more comfortable than any of the vintage mixtes you will likely find in the US.
I do see large sized mixtes in Europe, just not in the US; not sure why that is.Charlotte - I've found it surprisingly easy to locate appropriate vintage parts, at least in Boston. Many bike shops will have piles of them lying around in back if you just ask - stuff they've taken off people's bikes and kept just in case. And sanding a stem is something a bike shop could do pretty easily - assuming most of my readers will be taking the bike to a shop anyway, rather than being able to switch out components on their own. (And I am also happy to see that VO is making more and more parts for French restorations.). Thank you so much, this post arrived just in time to rescue me from my sadness. We've found this most beautiful Frenchie, and before starting any research I said 'YES'!(I like the advice 'if I can't pronounce the make, I shouldn't buy it').Now we discovered, quite late:( that the entirely bike has all sorts of different fittings, bits and pieces. Starting from the seat post that was really hard to replace it to the brake pads, cables, and nuts/bolts.
We were very lucky finding all the perfect tools and parts around NZ at the vintage shops.My Peugeot looks between late 70's and early 80's (not able to distinguish it), with Swiss/French fittings and some German parts. She's also overly-responsive, opposite to my Lady Jane. It's all good! I'll be fine!
I'm still waiting to ride it soon!:). You are providing very helpful info for those looking for vintage mixte's, which is so awesome! I thought I'd throw in a little note (especially for Kara who mentioned looking at newer models) to say that Electra makes the Ticino model which is a mixte frame.
They start at about $550, and I know some people aren't Electra fans, but just as a little note to any who are interested in a more comfort/upright style of the mixte (and they come with fenders and swept back handlebars, etc). I actually owned one, and it is very comfortable and smooth to ride. I can absolutely appreciate and understand wanting to rebuild an older frame as well (have thought about this many days myself, but then think, 'do I really have the $ to make this happen?' ), but wanted to throw in a little FYI if anyone was at all interested. And if not, well, then I guess I'm just prattling on for no reason.:o). GE - Thanks for you message. I've tried an Electra Ticino and they are indeed comfortable for short rides.
The problem is, that they are actually.too. relaxed - essentially combining the angles of a Dutch bike with mixte-style lateral stays. For someone who already has a Dutch bike and wants a zippy second bike for longer rides up hills, the Ticino ain't it. Also, note that the prices on the Ticino actually go up to $2,000, depending on what components the model comes fitted with! But finally, for those who love lugged steel bicycles, these welded aluminium modern homages just don't hit the spot.
Hope you don't mind the point of view, but this is how I see it. This has been said before, but I feel it should be added here, just in case.Add to the price of your purchase:1. A different saddle, maybe a Brooks, a vintage one if you find it, otherwise $100 (unless, maybe you have one stashed away for this occasion?)2. A set of new brake cables, brake shoes and a trustworthy mechanic to assemble such, $50 or so3. A set of new tyres, new inner tubes and new rim tape + wheel, rim and spoke inspection and trueing, could easily be $100-$1504. Tune rear derailuer to make sure the shifter lever stops and yet the chain does not fall off in highest and lowest gears, tune front derailer in a similar way, oil the drive train, $50 (or more if cables must be replaced)So far we are at $300 or so. The rest is debatable, but I consider most of it a necessity:5.
Install fenders, $100+6. Install some sort of high-quality battery LED lighting system: $100+7. Add some sort of saddle bag or luggage system, price varies, of course8.
You might need new pedals and other minor tweaksSo, it's true that a vintage bike can be picked for $100 or $200 and that's cheap. But, as you can see $300 is the bare minimum and $500 is a very typical cost of a vintage bike rescue/renovation project. And if you get carried away, the total price can go higher if you get racks, replace bar tape and grips, or mess with stems, bars, shifters, components and so on.So, buying a vintage bike where someone already did all this may really be a steal.:). MDI brings up some important points in regards to changes that will most likely be made with the purchase of many a mixte off of Craigslist or the like. I made many of the changes/upgrades mentioned- and the costs associated are pretty spot on, though I am a good shopper when it comes to finding 'bargain' Brooks saddles.I would like to raise an additional point for something to consider when shopping for a vintage mixte: brake type.
Both of Velouria's mixtes have centerpull brakes which work very well and look elegant on the extra rear stay. Some mixtes will have side pull brakes, which probably don't work as well, and have an extra issue with the rear one on a mixte. If it is mounted on the normal seat stay bridge, you get a rather unattractive looping of the cable to get up there, and if it is placed on the extra mixte stay bridge, then it can encounter your foot on a regular basis. The latter is a problem I am currently working to correct on my early '80s Japanese mixte. I constantly flip the quick release lever with my pant leg, rendering my rear brake inoperable- I am going to fit it with vintage French centerpull brakes- I am still trying to decide whether to try to do it myself or have a shop do it. Bottom line, try to find a mixte that already has centerpull brakes!
This is really great and interesting info! I have two vintage mixtes that I've fixed up. One was a $20 purchase and I ended up putting an additional $175ish into it - pre spendy yet-to-be-purchased fenders. The other was a $40 purchase and with the fix-ups and extras, the total was $109. Both have very different geometry however, both are roadbikes originally.
One I've turned into a more upright bike and the other is racier. They both ride like dreams, very different dreams but dreams nonetheless.On the new mixte note, another that I saw recently and really liked the look was the Public Bikes M3, in orange! I am the process of building both a vintage mixte (a step-through, actually) and a modern steel Miss Mercian. The thing to remember is that a mixte or step-through is not merely a 'ladies' (which, in bike-shop parlance, means 'inferior') version of a diamond-framed bike. It has a different ride quality and aesthetic.On my own blog, I alluded to what Amanda says about center-pull brakes. On the vintage Schwinn LeTour III I just purchased, the rear center pull is mounted on the extra bridge.
There is an extra-long straddle cable that loops around the seat tube. This eliminates the need for a cable hanger, which makes the brake more efficient and elegant.Any time I buy a used bike, I replace the cables. If you intend to ride the bike, there is no reason not to use modern cables with lined housings. They'll look fine on your retro bike. The only reason to use vintage cables is if you absolutely must have a period-correct restoration.I also replace the tires and brake pads, even if they look usable.
Old tires and pads are at least somewhat dry-rotted and will begin to crack open at some inopportune moment. Also, as Steve said, if you plan to use the bike for commuting, get aluminum alloy rims. They stop much better in the rain (even better with modern brake pads)and are lighter.Even if fixing up the vintage bike costs you more than buying a new hybrid or 'townie' bike, it's worth it. In my opinion, a good vintage mixte (or diamond or step-through, for that matter) will ride more like it's designed for your body than most of those so-called hybrid and comfort bikes. Plus, the quality will most likely be better and, let's face it, most new bikes that aren't lugged (or filet-brazed) steel are just ugly. I have yet to see an aluminum frame (which is what most hybrids have) or a carbon (a fancy word for plastic) frame that is, to my eyes, even remotely attractive-and only a couple that I could stand to ride.
The timing of this post couldn't be more perfect. I was all set to sell my other, cruiser bike and buy an Electra Ticino until I got to test ride one last week and found out it might be a while yet before I feel my cycling skills are up to a mixte. We have some really bumpy roads here in Toronto and I'm not sure I would manage to stay upright on such a super light frame with skinnier tires than I'm used to.
I was also swimming in the frame and felt like I was overreaching for the handlbars but then again, the bike shop staffer wasn't really interested in doing anything more than raising the seat for me. I'd like to take it out for another spin to be sure, but I walked away thinking I'd be better off looking for one on Craigslist is I ever change my mind.
Also, toe overlap is greatly worsened by using thicker tyres with fenders. Often the fender stay gets mounted right where your foot hits the fender. So, you need ample toe clearance to begin with if you plan to go that route.When I just re-started cycling a year-plus something ago, I had to remind myself to keep my foot further back on the pedal, but now it naturally falls there. People who prefer to pedal with the arch of their feet will make the toe clearance problem worse still.Of course modern road bikes aren't any better at this problem, from what I saw in bike stores. Re centerpull brakes - Oddly I actually haven't seen a vintage mixte with sidepulls around, but will keep a look-out and observe the differences.
My new custom mixte - when and if the frame ever gets built! - will have centerpulls as well.Interesting point about 700C wheels for those who feel up to the conversion or can find a willing bike shop.MDI - Yes, I like to pedal with the middle of my foot, which worsens any existing toe overlap. Modern roadbikes of course have this issue too - but that is my whole point: people do not think of mixtes as roadbikes, so they are often surprised by such features. Interstatement - if you ever want to sell the Bridgestone, call me m'kay!!!I wanted to put a little note in about fixing bikes up. If you are into the challenge and learning opportunity, look to see if your city has a bike coop where you can have access too the workplace and tools as well as instruction from experienced mechanics. It's a great way to save some money and expand your learnings.I'm on the board for one of our local coops and it's an amazing organization - The Park Hill Bike Depot. In addition to having 'Fix Your Bike' times when anyone can come in and work on their own bike, we also provide full commercial service.
The proceeds of our sales and service go to support our programs for bike access to kids and families who can't otherwise afford a bike, bike advocacy and bike education. And we get some awesome vintage bikes donated! Maria M.Velouria et al,I’m glad you posted this, because I had recently purchased a 1970s Motobecane 10-speed mixte for $100 as my first project bike. I currently have a very heavy Nishiki 5-speed step-through that I use for getting around town and buying groceries, but wanted something more nimble to keep up with my boyfriend (who rides a Surly fixed gear) on longer rides.I was wondering why no one mentioned the issues and concerns dealing with cottered cranks and, in the case of French bikes, PIVO/AVA stems? Or are these not concerns at all?
I’m wondering how I’d fare with long-term use, longer rides, fast/aggressive riding, etc. Of course, interchangeability problems factor into this as well.As my first project bike, I will be converting it into a single-speed/fixed gear, as it is more simple and less costly.Any advice is greatly appreciated and happy riding to all!
I like my 83' Univega Alpina Uno the best - long wheel base, chromeplated and then painted chromoly frame - I set it up for cargo hauling, including a trailer hitch and a triple Sugino crankset. I am putting it's 4th set of wheels on soon - Electric Red Velocity Aeroheats' on 36 hole White industry hubs (8 speed cassette), reusing the hubs from the second wheel set. Touring saddle on it, Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires (will upgrade to Marathon Plus Tour with the new wheels) - and my favorite feature: microratcheting Suntour thumb shifters - nobody makes anything this good anymore. My very most favorite thing about this bike - I carry my personal stereo (for daily use, only 7 lbs) as well as a very loud P.A. When on big rides (i.e.
Chicago Critical Mass, etc. I turn heads - Nobody has my ride except for me! RebeccaHi Velouria,After a year enjoying your blog, it's time for me to stop lurking!;)I found your website about the same time I discovered mixtes, so I've been watching your progress with your two with great interest. I had no idea what to look out for but went ahead and bought one myself a month ago. AND THEN you posted this brilliant set of tips!
Luckily, however, my Puch Princess fits me and suits me and we're having a ball. She's just come out of the bike shop from having a little facelist - here's a few pics: I really enjoyed reading about your first ride on a track bike. I tried one out for the first time a few weeks ago. And, well, 'Lorelei' may end up a singlespeed in the not-so-distant future!Keep the great posts coming!Rebecca. My parents just gave me a peugot mixte (thanks to this post and my obsessive reading of your blog the last few days i can now properly classify it) a couple months ago.
I have LOVED loved loved adding a basket and riding it around town, but.my bike lust was ignited riding in copenhagen. On a dutch style city bike. Of course with my retro girly sensibilities the mixte isn't going to quite cut it.
I think i've been having dreams about the retrovelos.unfortunately.i probably don't ride quite enough to rationalize a $2k bike.:((also, i'm not far from boston! It's fun to see someone in new england as obsessed with beautiful european bikes as me.
Or actually, maybe moreso, huh?). AnonymousThere's more to mixte's than meets the eye. And they were generally designed as road bikes. The split bar design was a way to build a strong fast frame but still allow for dresses or for people to get on the bike easier etc. Mixtes were typically ridden by men as well. I mistakenly bought a gitane last year from a local guy that sells old bikes he 'fixes' up. I should have just taken the bike home on the spot and fixed it myself but he insisted he would repair it for me(it is his business after all right?) and I thought he knew what he was doing.
Being a french bike the gitane needs a french bottom bracket or specific cottered crank. He put any old cottered crank on the bike, stuck some random chain ring and cranks on, took off the simplex rear derailleur and put something weird on etc.The was able to ride the bike a short distance and it was definitely a twitchy racehorse of a bike which I wanted.but I haven't had the money to put into repairing the bike. The biggest problem is that I do not know which french bottom bracket size to get because I do not know what crank size the bike needs.So, definitely make sure you get an older bike that is in good working order. Amazing to come to this now. I consulted your site several times when planning and building my wife's bike, which is a vintage-ised 80s Bianchi mixte. As you have said, it's actually quite roady, and as I rebuilt everything from scratch, the cranks/gearing/wheels/etc are all pretty roady too.
However, with a nice set of swept-back bars (plus cork grips), it's very comfortable as well as zippy.I put side pull brakes on, and as mentioned above this did create a slightly tricky rear cabling situation, mostly solved with a cable tie around the seat tube (though if the bars get twisted too far, it can put some strain on the housing).Re 700c wheels: Remember that you will almost certainly have to change the brakes if you change the wheel diameter, since the old ones most likely will not reach. If you're completely replacing the brakes anyway, this may not matter.
However, also beware that in some cases even the longest size brake arms may not reach the rims of 700c wheels in a frame meant for 27'.Re metric: Most modern bike parts use metric, so if you're replacing with modern parts, it's less of an issue. I do believe though that French bikes tend to have all kinds of non-standard parts (cranksets, etc as mentioned above) which can make them difficult to work with.One potential issue with getting a 'roady' mixte is that the gearing could be intended for speed, not easy hill climbing. Replacing one or both chain rings at the front or the whole rear cluster could provide more comfortable riding.As for fixing one up yourself, many cities have bicycle coops (or similar organisations), with rent-by-the-hour shop space/tools, as well as extensive used parts bins. Just found your post and already selected my mixte which is in transit: Peugeot 1986 mixte with upright handle bars and a wide eat, chrome fenders. I hope I hope I got the right bike. I had been used to riding a 1984 super challenge (men's) converted to upright handle bars.
Motobecane Mixte 1970's Models Pictures
Somewhere along the way someone really messed up my bike replacing parts as mentioned above by another Gitane owner.Could probably have made my Gitane last longer if I had taken better care and been more knowledgeable about parts. AnonymousThis is a great post. I love steel lugged mixte frames. Just thought that I would share what I did to convert a bike from 27' wheels to 700c wheels. For the bike in question, it was actually quite easy.
I was able to find a guy selling NOS Dura Ace center pull brakes that had a little bit longer reach. I just installed the brakes and that's all there was to it.Another option to resolve braking issues when converting to smaller sized wheels is to use drum brake hubs. This is obviously quite costly because you have to have a new wheelset built, but an option nonetheless. Using drum brakes might even give you the option of using wheels, like 26' or 650b, with fatter tires. You would just have to make sure that the bottom bracket isn't lowered too much.
AnonymousVelouria -I was digging about lookng for info on mixtes when I found your postings. I recently purchased back from a friend a 1982 Austro-Daimler Puch Michelle mixte - looks like this - specs were not listed as completely as I'd have liked, but the previous year's Michelle had a good spec range listed in teh ad - here - looking forward to riding this old girl - I don't think my friend rode it much - nubs are still on the tires and the handlebar wrap was never changed.I was considering albatross bars, but I think I may wind up with Soma Oxford bars - similar bar, less money, a bit more parallel, I think.Thanks for the great info in your posts - it's been really helpful. AnonymousA couple months back I saw a CL ad: girls bike $60It was a large frame '83 Univega Sportour mixte withtop-of -the-line custom components in mintcondition. I was on my way home with it one hourafter it was posted.Squirrely? You bet, but what a ride. Today you can'tbuy a new bike this good with $600. I'm a tall guy, soit took some mods to tailor to fit.
Anyone who thinksthese bike are just for girls missed the boat.The dbl. Butted chromo frame is light yet very strong,and it flexes ever so slightly in a fast turn or over abump. Ben Lawee's slogun was 'Ride it your way'.(some hamburger exec jumped on that one)I've had a number standard type road bikes, but nonethat performed the way this 30+ yr. Old 'vega does. AnonymousGreat piece! I've read this blog for years and it's so great to see someone documenting so articulately the phases one goes through as a cyclist; the 'Ever-Changing You,' as you said in your most recent article.
I've been riding fairly aggressive road bikes and track/fixies since about 2003, but have been transitioning into touring/rando in my advancing age. You blog has proven very helpful in this.I came back to this particular piece (and your other mixte pieces) because I'm in the middle of rebuilding a circa '73 Peugeot mixte for my better half.
It was found at a flea market fully intact and barely ridden. I can't wait to finish it!I want to point out that, while frame geometry indeed cannot be altered, there is something of a remedy for toe-strike, which is swapping out the fork for one with more rake. It does nothing for the head tube angle, yes, but can at least reduce the tendency for toe-strike. It also lengthens the wheelbase a tad, and more fork rake means more stable handling.Just wanted to add that tidbit and thank you for your years of valuable service to the cause!-Dustin.
AnonymousGreat ongoing thread. Found 1976 yellow Peugeot in the trash on the side of the road. Took it home and rebuilt for my wife. Used 27' Avaya aluminum rims, flat bar, twist shifters, 3x6 Shimano drivetrains. Since I have a source of loose square bottom bracket axles, combining these with new caged bearings and the original French thread cups solved compatibility problems. Center pull brakes cleaned up nicely. Bike is a comfortable Sunday rider (we also ride Catrike tadpole trikes, as well as upright MTB and touring bikes.) In the winter it gets used on a training stand, much more comfortable to ride than a stationary bike.
Well I acquired my sister's bordeaux red Puch Austro Daimler Pathfinder AD as a birthday present and I am working on it. She had run into it with her car in the garage so the seatstays were bent but I trued them (mallet and 2X4). Then 6 hours of derusting components - wore out 3 metal brushes and six toothbrushes. Saddle - old Selle - probably original - was not salvageable after car-mashing.
Looked at Brooks and got $cared off, even on CL. Trying some random vintage looking thing from ebay til I can figure it out.
Suntour components mainly, but can't tell if good til I get a saddle. Thans for info.