This is a shameless attempt to save the the most advanced civilization in
history from imminent self destruction by eliminating carbon emission,
dependence on foreign sources of fuel,obesity, hypertension and diabetes.
Cycling accomplishes all those things at once and helps us develop a better
understanding of ourselves, each other and our relationship to the cosmos.

Oh, horse puckey!
I like to ride bikes, have been doing it all my life.
The rest of that crap is just a fringe benefit,
and the blogosphere gives me a chance to share my interior
monologue with virtual rather than imaginary friends.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Me and the Mixte

     This promises to be a rather long post with a follow up in the next couple of days because me and the Mixte have had an infatuation going on for a few years.  It all started with the gas prices and my son graduating from high school.  Two things became apparant; gas was not going down and, thanks to scholarships and grants, my son's college was not going to cost as much as I expected.  Of course, being an inveterate cyclist of over 35 years, my answer to both events was to drive less by being self-indulgent and buying a new bike strictly for city use.   I found in my journey through the internet two things that attracted me, the internal gear hubs and Rivendell's Wilbury Mixte bicycle.

    Internal gearing has been around for years but the new 7,8,11 and 14 speed hubs made perfect sense for a city bike.  The ability to shift whenever we want gives us more freedom to deal with stop and go traffic and the sealed hub reduces maintenance a great deal.  That was kind of a no-brainer.
     The Mixte is a different matter.  For those unfamiliar, the Mixte is a frame style which has been around for many decades.  The word "mixte" is a French term which is used to describe activities and technologies of a mixed gender in nature.  According to discussions I have had, and what little information I can find, the general understanding is that the Mixte frame design became popular in Nazi occupied France when fuel was scarce and delivery vehicles were needed.   The frame design, with it's twin sloping top tubes extending to the rear dropouts,

solved a few problems.   It provided additional lateral strength, reinforced the rear triangle and made it easier to mount and dismount a loaded bike frequently in city traffic.  After the war, fuel was more plentiful, delivery bikes were replaced by trucks and the mixte design continued but was marketed as a "women's model."  So the gender issues that surround the design really exist because of several decades of advertising.  Somewhere around the late '70's or early '80's they started to disappear altogether. Rivendell began to sell their Glorius and Wilbury models after the turn of the century and a few others followed suit.
    I decided to get a Wilbury but the price tag at $1500 was something I would have to work on.  Well I found a Jamis Commuter at a good price which would provide the Nexus 8 wheelset and drivetrain I wanted. With that I had a townie bike I could use while I put together the money and parts for the Wilbury and I could use it for a "winter beater" later on.  Well,things went wrong with the exchange rates, the Yen got expensive, Rivendell's Japanese supplier didn't raise prices but it cost more dollars to buy the Yen to buy the bike.  Bummer.  The price went up to $2200 dollars and Riv discontinued it in favor of a new frame, the Betty Foy,
made in Taiwan.  The price was good, they promised a different color for the men's model (Y'ves Gomez) but the frame was spec'd for 650B wheels.  I already had the wheelset I wanted in 700c!  Damn.  Soma came to the rescue with the Buena Vista model, but they sold out almost immediately.  While waiting for more Buena Vista bikes to be delivered I ran across a nice '76 Raleigh on Craigslist.  The one in the photo above, by then it was fall '09 and I spent the winter refurbishing it.   It was a tad too small for me, but a long seat post and longer stem made it comfortable.

   I enjoyed riding that all last summer and think it is the most comfortable design you can get for city riding.  It's fast, light responsive and the sloping tubes are out of the way with all the frequent stops and starts of city riding.   I  thought it was one classy ride and never had anybody mention the whole "girl's bike" thing to me.  Perhaps somebody thought about it, but if they did they kept it to their ignorant self.
    A few things changed for me this past winter and I ran into that great American oxymoron (extra money), so I decided to get a frame that really fit.  The Soma Buena Vista is being built in two colors now and I chose one in graphite grey.  It has a lovely metallic finish and, although I prefer a lugged frame, this has some of the cleanest welds I have seen and the frame over all looks great.  One bit of irony, the frame will not accommodate tires larger than 28mm with fenders.  They said so, I thought I knew better, I was wrong.  Guess what, I ended up ordering a set of 650B wheels to get the tire size I wanted in the frame.
   During the crappy snowfall and freezing rain of the past couple of days I brought in the parts box and frame to start hanging things on it.   I'll put up some more specifics on the build when I finish it off and get him on the road.

I hope we are only a couple of weeks from  spring because, not only am I anxious to ride this bike, I am sick and damn tired of studded snow tires!  Anyway, I was determined to build a "manly man's mixte" since that gender issue keeps getting kicked around the bike forums.  I like the grey metallic paint, the black and chrome
parts, but how does one put the final touch on a gentleman's mixte?

Now that's what I'm talkin' about.  Hydrate and carbo load in one swig.
     The only remaining problem is a name.

I see all the girls out there with their custom and vintage mixtes  personified with an identity of their own: Josephine, Marianne, Penelope, pinky, etc.and, of course Betty Foy.
What does one name a manly man's mixte?  There could be the usual; Duke, Rambo, Slade.  Nah, too cliche'd and macho.  The horse thing occurred to me, you know; Shadowfax, Tornado, Silver.  Nope too corny.  Then it struck me

 Noble, literate, creative, refined, adventurous, athletic and heroic; he's all that and I didn't even have to mention wildly promiscuous.  Yep, a man's man,  a man to be admired, Byron it is.
        OK, Maaybe I over thought this whole thing.  Maaybe I went over the top and had a little too much fun with this.
But, that probably explains the pretty nurses with their sympathetic but condescending smiles.


  1. How's Byron working out for you? I'm curious to hear how well the bike carries a front load.

    Thanks to you, my wife is now the proud owner of a 58cm Soma BV in graphite! But guess what else? I was shocked when I took my digital caliper to the frame to learn that it can fit 42mm Grand Bois Hetre tires and 58mm (with pinching) fenders from VO! The tires themselves have plenty of left over room, and even 52 mm fenders would fit perfectly. But VO had a sale on their 58mm smooth 650B fenders, so we went with those. My wife is building it up currently, with my help!

  2. I absolutely love this bike! I'm not surprised at your tire choice, it's amazing how dropping 38mm in diameter can create so much clearance. I like a sportier ride so the Soma express tires are plenty "cushy"for me. It handles front loads well, it's not real spritely mind you, but the handling is stable and comfortable. I haven't tried to nail down any weight ranges, but I've carried $100 of groceries in a Sackville Shopsack without problems. I didn't mount the Porteur rack to the brake bridge, only to the fender. I may change that, there is a little wiggle under heavy loads as a result. Have fun, you'll love the way it feels when you're done.

  3. Oh, I would definitely secure the rack to the brake bolt hole! Otherwise, the fender is a stress member, securing the rack of any fore/aft rotation. I also think that, while the rack stays are strong, they don't completely prevent the rack from moving laterally-- so again, this stress is placed on the fender. The fender will likely crack after a while.

    If you don't want to go through the trouble of shaping the VO-supplied bracket for a nice, clean fit, you can take a shortcut: take a hacksaw blade, and use it as a stealth rack bracket *underneath* the fender. Drill two holes in the blade. Bolt one end to the fork crown daruma bolt that you used to install the fender, and the other to the rack/fender attachment farther forward. Bend the blade slightly to fit the arc of the fender. Now you have a hidden bracket that runs underneath the fender, and becomes the stress member, taking the stress off the fender itself. It might not be quite as secure as using the supplied heavy duty bracket, but it creates a nice, hidden support.

  4. It's obvious that I'll have to do something, the"hidden"bracket isn't a bad idea but I'm sure I have a piece stronger than a hacksaw blade. Thank's

  5. Hi, how did you manage to widen the rear axle spacing on your Raleigh mixte to take a Nexus internal hub?
    I'm looking at doing the same thing on a steel mixte frame for an SRAM 7speed internal hub. I would have to go from 125mm to 135mm spacing.

  6. Paul,
    There are a couple of methods. I used an old axle,put nuts on the inside of the dropouts and carefully tightened each a couple turns at a time until it was a little wider than I needed. I left it that way for a few weeks while I refinished the frame. You can get a piece of threaded rod from a hardware store instead of an axle.
    There's also Sheldon Brown's method using a long 2x4 for leverage. You can find that on his website

    No matter which method you use be aware that a mixte will be more difficult because of the extra stay.
    Thank's for reading!


  7. Marc,
    a long threaded rod with 2 nuts is a great idea for increasing the rear axle spacing on a mixte frame - thanks for the idea.
    Paul (New Zealand)

  8. Followed your link from Cycle Forums and I gotta say that is one SWEEEEET looking bike. Beautiful. Great job.

  9. Thanks Pat, it's turned out to be one great daily ride.

  10. Hello Marc,

    Thanks for your PM. I wanted to speak with you via email because part of my question involved the sensitive issue of price; I am considering a similar build, and trying to gauge if my estimate is realistic. If you are willing to let me know how much yours totaled, you have my email.

    More publicly, I was also wondering; did you build this up yourself, or did a LBS help out? Any tips for pursuing a frame build-up? Ways to cut cost, areas that are best left to the pros, or things that you encourage neophytes to try themselves?


  11. Great read, Marc! I'm looking for some inspirations on building up a mixte from an old Gitane. Hoping it will come out half as decent as yours, but 27" wheels and french BB will be my challenges!

  12. Great read, Marc! I'm looking for some inspirations on building up a mixte from an old Gitane. Hoping it will come out half as decent as yours, but 27" wheels and french BB will be my challenges!

  13. The French BB may not be the challenge you think. Look at the Velo Orange website. They did have some and, if not, they have a threadless BB cartridge which will work.


  14. Stumbling upon this years late, but nice to see someone else here in MI who appreciates a nice mixte. In the process of building up a Buena Vista myself; nice to learn from some of your experiences!

    1. Thanks, you'll find the Buena Vista is an exhilarating ride.