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.
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.)
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.|
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?