Motobécane

Motobécane

Motobécane was a French manufacturer of bicycles, mopeds, motorcycles, and other small vehicles, established in 1923. "Motobécane" is a compound of "moto", slang for motorcycle; "bécane" is slang for "bike."

In 1981, Motobécane filed for bankruptcy and was purchased by Yamaha and reformed in 1984 as MBK; the French company continues to make motorscooters.

It has no relation to Motobecane USA, which imports bicycles from Taiwan manufactured to their specification by Kinesis Industry Co. Ltd. under the Motobécane trademark.

Motorcycles

Charles Benoit and Abel Bardin joined in 1922 and designed their first motorcycle in 1923, a 175cc single cylinder two-stroke-engined bike. In 1933, they produced their first four-stroke machine with 250cc capacity. During the 1930s, they manufactured a longitudinal four-cylinder 750cc motorcycle. During this period, the firm entered road racing competitions and won the Bol d'or endurance race.

After the Second World War they produced the single-cylinder D45 motorbike that filled a need for cheap transportation. The successor was the Z46, equipped with modern suspension. Like many European motorcycle manufacturers, the 1960s proved difficult for Motobécane as cars became affordable. As a result, sales decreased. The arrival of cheap, efficient Japanese motorcycles also hurt sales. They continued to produce two-cylinder 125cc motorcycles throughout the 1970s. They also manufactured a small number of two-stroke, three-cylinder 350cc and 500cc bikes.

For a time in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the company competed in Grand Prix motorcycle racing claiming several victories in the 125cc class and finishing second in the 1980 125cc road racing world championship.

Bicycles

Motobécane was a major manufacturer in the French bicycle industry. The frames on Motobécane's mid-to-upper bikes were typically double-butted lugged steel made from Vitus or Reynolds 531 molybdenum/manganese steel tubing with Nervex lugs. Motobécane finished their frames in beautiful and high-quality paint, a practice not often followed in the French industry. Considered the second most prestigious French bicycle (after Peugeot, whose more durable design they emulated, but ahead of Gitane), Motobécane's mid-range bikes were good value; the company kept prices reasonable by matching high-quality frames with lower-priced, but higher-quality components from Japan, at a time when competitors were putting higher-priced, lower quality French components on mid-range bikes. Motobécane bicycles included the Nomade, Mirage, Super Mirage, Super Touring, Grand Touring, Sprint, Jubilee, Grand Record, Le Champion, and Team Champion.

In addition to the standard diamond frame bicycles, Motobécane produced mixte frame versions; the mixte frame Grand Touring had twin lateral stays in place of a top tube, extending from the head tube to the seat tube, while the Super Touring and Grand Jubilé had a single top tube sloping down towards the seat tube, but diverging into twin lateral stays just before the seat tube. Later mixte Grand Touring models also used this design. Motobécane also produced a tandem bicycle.

Vintage French bicycles, including Motobécanes, are often sought today for their value as a fixed gear conversion.

French bicycles before 1980 often used reverse-threaded bottom brackets, now difficult to find. Motobecane broke ranks with other French manufacturers in the mid-seventies, using Swiss-threaded bottom brackets.

French headsets are threaded differently than the more common English headset.

Mopeds

Motobécane introduced a moped, the Mobylette, in 1949; over the next 48 years, Motobécane manufactured 14 million Mobylettes. In India the same model was manufactured under licence by Mopeds India Ltd under the name Suvega.

Scooters

Under the name MBK, the company continues to manufacture scooters for the European market.

External links

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