The Marque

 

Laurent is not a name I am familiar with, so when I went to buy this bike I really didn’t know what to expect. I could see it had some Campagnolo parts when I peered at the two small photographs on the listing, but everything else was guesswork. Isn’t that part of the buzz about buying an old bike? I like finding rare or custom brands and enjoy these sort of hit or miss opportunities, gambling on your instincts and hoping you come across a gem. Located 40 minutes away in a nice coastal town, I was glad to take the opportunity and discover this interesting French bike.

 

 

Don’t Ask Too Many Questions

 

I like the colour of the frame, a sort of peach or salmon, though it has probably faded a little over the years. The frame is much too small for me ( again! ), being a 53cm, so I’m really unable to enjoy the experience of riding it. At the point of sale, I asked the original owner about the frame, as it has no sticker on the tubes. Here is how it went:

”Do you know if the frame Reynolds or Vitus?”

His Response: An irritated and very Gallic shrug of the shoulders.

 

 

Cycles Laurent

 

I bought this bike in Brittany, but Laurent is not local to that region. Indeed, it is bike shop in Paris that is still trading after being established in the 1950’s. I suppose the bike could have been bought in Paris, or perhaps Laurent bikes were sold in certain bike shops in different regions of France. It has a quite an interesting history, a family tradition of building and selling bicycles, which you can read here: Cycles Laurent

 

 

 

It’s Sort of Strange

 

I’m not sure if the tubes of this bike are made Reynolds or Vitus steel, but feeling the weight of the bike for its small size, I have my doubts. Neither does it have any stamp on its dropouts, and the frameset itself is quite plain and simple. I do like the gold details around the long pointed lugs, but there is little other decoration: plain fork crowns, no half chrome stays or forks, stick-on decals and no serial number anywhere. So isn’t it a bit strange that this bike is adorned with expensive Campagnolo components..?

 

 

Dating the Bike

 

I was relieved that the seatpost, the pedals and the stem all moved freely, so no great future battle with stuck metal was necessary. Unfortunately, there was to be another problem to face. Before I go into that, let me just state the date of this machine: the frame has French threading ( so pre-1982 ), the braze-on housing guides on the top tube point to early 1980’s, and best of all, the front hub, a Normandy, is date stamped 1980. The rear wheel was swapped out as it has a Maillard Heliomatic hub dated 1989, definitely not original. So, unless I find a date on the Campagnolo parts, I’ll stick with 1980.

 

 

 

Campagnolo Dust Caps Problem – Video

 

 

So Who Made the Best Dust Caps?

 

I’ve been critical of Stronglight dust caps in the past, but these  Campagnolo caps were just as impossible to get off. As soon as I put the 5mm allen key into the hole, I realised I had little chance to remove them, both caps were damaged, rounded and soft. So which brand did it better? I don’t think I’ve had any issues with Shimano Dura Ace or 600 dust caps of the period, what about Suntour Superbe Pro? I don’t suppose any of these brands were thinking 30 years into the future when they made these annoying little barriers to crank removal.

 

 

I was Wrong, I think

 

The Campagnolo seat post is not a 26mm size, typical of French bikes of this period. Instead, it has a 27.2mm diameter, which points to a higher quality frame. It is probably Reynolds 531, perhaps just the main tubes, or maybe the complete frameset. It just strange, the bike doesn’t feel that light, but perhaps this is also because of the mediocre wheelset which lets the whole build down a bit. If you’re going to have such lovely parts on your custom build, why not buy a great wheelset to complement the Cinelli, Campagnolo and Mavic components?

 

Rare Mavic 440 SSC Brake Levers

 

The High Quality Components

 

Top of the range? Yes, please! This bike has Campagnolo Nuovo Record all over it: the headset, bottom bracket, crankset, derailleurs and seat post. The Mavic brake levers are very rare, made by Modolo, quite chunky and from the late 1980’s. The Universal Super 68 calipers are a substitute for Campagnolo, just as good, in my opinion. The saddle, alas, is the biggest let down. What a terrible choice to have on this bike.

 

 

Conclusions

 

I’m not sure if this was a custom build, or whether the owner or owners changed parts out, upgrading it over the years into the high quality build it is today. It is also possible that it was bought new with a build of Campagnolo NR, and a mixture of other parts. However, I’m bemused over the paint that I found on the bottom bracket cup. It looks like it was resprayed, for surely the original painters of the frame couldn’t have been so sloppy?

 

Specs

 

  • 1980 Laurent Special Competition
  • 53cm Frame, 54,5cm Top Tube, Centre to Centre
  • Frame Weight: 3216 grams, ( Incl. Headset and BB )
  • Plain Dropouts, No Serial Numbers
  • Braze-On Mountings, Cable Guides
  • Campagnolo Nuovo Record Derailleurs
  • Campagnolo Nuovo Record Crankset and Pedals
  • Campagnolo Nuovo Record Seatpost, Headset, BB
  • Cinelli Stem and Handlebars
  • Universal Super 68 Brake Calipers
  • Mavic 440 SSC Brake Levers
  • Mismatched Wheels ( 1980 Front, 1989 Rear )

 

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