Sunday 15 November 2015

And Then There Were Two

Last year's rebuild of my 1978 Puch Princess has been a complete success. 

With one small niggle.... the paintwork.

Lots of scratches, the "Princess" decal long gone from the top tube, and -- worst of all --
damage to the seat tube where a previous owner apparently draped a lock from the saddle rails.

Ideally, I would love to have the whole bike resprayed, but I felt mired in indecision over whether to go for as-close-to-original as possible (including reproduction decals) or opt for something entirely different. I hesitated to jettison the Puch branding and identity altogether. However, the decals are the distinctive part of the 'livery' and I've never been 'in love' with the distinct 1970s vibe they give off. Don't get me wrong, they've rather grown on me over time. But if I were planning the colour scheme of this bike from scratch, this isn't what I would have come up with! The light metallic green colour might well have made my shortlist of colour options but in the end would have likely lost out to something else -- possibly navy, maybe even red. That would be a crying shame but I know in my heart I could not promise I wouldn't. 

Hence my inaction over doing something about the tired, worn paintwork. 

Over last winter, while the bicycle mostly hibernated (only coming out on dry days for a bit of coffeeneuring and errandonneuring), I shoved this 'first world' problem to the back of my mind. 

There it lie dormant, just waiting for a catalyst to wake it up.

Spotting this on ebay proved to be that catalyst.

Puch Princesses appear on ebay at regular intervals but rarely in very good, apparently 100% original, condition. 

It was the fully intact Bluemels mudguards that first caught my eye. These are gorgeous but very fragile. I've seen a few on bicycles listed on ebay before, but always broken. I've never seen an intact set on any bike "in the wild" either. (Years ago, I picked up a NOS pair from a dealer but frankly have hesitated to fit them, they are so unbelievably fragile.)

This bicycle not only had whole mudguards but a frame that positively shimmered. (These are the seller's photos, not mine.)

All the components appeared to be original. (At first I had my doubts about the Shimano shifters, but hearing the bicycle's backstory from the owner soon settled my mind on that.)

The ebay listing showed the bike sporting an old Carradice bag but did not mention whether it would be included in the sale. 

Maybe I have cannibalistic tendencies (!) but immediately my thought was "frame donor for Lorelei"!! 

And so I bought it. 

Once we got it home and began inspecting it, I had pangs of guilt about disturbing what turned out to be a little Time Capsule from 1978. 

You see, the bicycle was listed on ebay by the son of the owner, a woman called Jan. Jan's husband bought them matching new Puch Prince and Princess touring bicycles from a Hemel Hempstead bike shop, as wedding presents to themselves, in 1978. They did cycle tour for a few years (although I don't think extensively) and raised a family in Milton Keynes. Then a few years ago, they divorced. Jan recently learned that her ex-husband had sold his Prince. I imagine many thoughts went through her mind on hearing this! In any case, she wasn't cycling much any more herself and decided it was time to let go of her Princess, as well. 

The bicycle was indeed completely original. I didn't meet Jan (Adam collected the bicycle from her on his own) so I don't know whether the size and fit suited her but she hadn't changed the stem, handlebar or the gearing, just put the saddle down as low as it would go. 

Unfortunately (!!), the Bluemels did get broken in transit from Jan to me. I had stressed to Jan's son that they were extremely fragile and could he please ensure they were well protected for Adam to bring the bicycle home by train, but I don't think he appreciated just how fragile they are. We didn't learn of the damage until we removed the bubble wrap. 

Anyway, here is Jan's Princess as revealed in some glory, the evening Adam brought her home.

And the Carradice bag? 

Not sure of the model. It seems roughly Nelson Longflap sized.

Inside were 3 inner tubes (2 Raleigh, 1 Michelin); 2 partial packs of Glucose Tablets;
1 open packet of "Handy Andies" tissues; trips of rubber presumably for cutting to size and using as tyre boots
or other repairs; and an enormous wodge of toilet roll!

The real 'jackpot' though was the Milton Keynes cycling map from.... 1978!

So -- aside from a good clean and service, dare I disturb this 1978 beauty to perform a 'body swap' with another bicycle? 

Hmm, yes. And the result has been worth it. Or shall I say, the results have been worth it! 

Because as it happens, we have solved my London Town Bike problem too. Stay tuned for more....


  1. Lovely classic. Hopefully you can find another set of Bluemels in the same colour on eBay over time. Love the attention to detail on the frame like the pump hook, not something you see much of these days.

    I'd forgotten about those Everready lights on the front, remind me of paper rounds and ReadyBrek! Hope the bike brings lots of fun to your commutes.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Bikesy (great name by the way!)

      I do have a set of new old stock Bluemels stashed somewhere in the garage... given how fragile they are, I'm not sure if I'll fit them to the road bike "twin"! In any case, for commuting, the black SKS Chromoplastics are perfect for the commuter "twin".

      Yes, the Everready lights were a trip down memory lane for us. Thank goodness lighting technology has progressed so far in the past few decades! :)

  2. That light made me laugh out loud. I'd not paint either frame, even if the decals could be found, unless it'll save them from deterioration.

    1. Agreed! They are both staying Puch Princesses -- identical twins with very different personalities! (Their frame numbers are just a few numbers apart, too, which is very cool.)


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