Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Arctic Stella

Back in the Bike Boom
Arctic Cat sold bicycles
Imagine that now!

A couple weeks ago I picked up a scrappy fixer-upper bike from my LBS, Oregon Bike Shop.
James had the bike out on the curb for our neighborhood's "First Friday" celebration in April and I was kind of intrigued, but didn't think any more about it until I returned for the May "First Friday" and noticed it was still there. Beer in hand and with a live reggae soundtrack I gave it a closer look. Just parts-wise it piqued my curiosity with Sylvan pedals, Weinmann concave 700c rims and centerpull brakes, and Suntour deraillers I suspected were upgrades.  I left it there, but returned Saturday morning and brought it home.
Pretty rough, for sure. The paint is rattle-can, and poorly done at that. But notice the chromed fork and stays?
Those are Campy dropouts, btw.
fairly distinctive lugs.

And wrap-around seat stays.
I suspected it was French based on the Nervar Star crankset
and the Pivo stem.
I posted to bikeforums and got some additional pointers about possibilities; I thought maybe Peugeot or Gitane, but Stella came up more than once. After going at the seat tube with some Goof-off, I discovered this:
The bottom rectangle, unfortunately, lost all lettering in my removal or the rattle-can painting. But the top triangle is a Columbus tubing decal used to ID the main tubes (triangle = main "triangle." Full Columbus tube sets used other decals). Looks like this bottom one, but silver:
The large white rectangle would have said "Stella" based on a photo one of the bikeforum members posted.
Or perhaps something else...
Based on this blog post I found from Paul's Bike Shop in Shakopee Minnesota, it looks like I've got an Arctic Cat bicycle, sold by the snowmobile dealer possibly in the late 60's (?) and definitely in the early 70's. Made by Stella bicycles of France. Louison Bobet won the Tour de France in 1953 and '54 riding Stella bicycles. It looks like Arctic Cat carried several models, including green ones like this:
 And cruisers like this:

Arctic Cat also sold some pretty cool mini motor-bikes. It's hard to imagine how pervasive bicycles were during the "bike boom" of the 70's. Maybe more bikes are out there today - I don't know. But for sure the market has become more specialized. Some of the bikes sold back in the day were pure crap, for sure. But you could buy a decent bike at your local hardware store or, apparently, snowmobile shop. Now you need to go to special bike shop to get a decent bike, where trained bicycle "associates" will sell you a bike identical to that ridden in Le Tour, even if all you want is to get out with your kids on Saturdays. My guess is Arctic Cat did not sell the lycra the associate will try to convince you is necessary for efficient and comfortable riding, though I wouldn't be surprised if they did carry wool shirts, which are more practical and comfortable for most riding anyway. We've come a long way, but not necessarily all for good.