Vintage Motobecane Bicycles History and Facts

Motobecane was founded in 1923 in France and was a manufacturer of bicycles, mopeds, and motorcycles.  I believe the name is ment to mean motorbike by combining two slang terms. 

Motobecane Head Badge

They were one of the biggest French bicycle manufacturers and are often compared to Gitane and Peugeot.  Most of their bikes were road bikes from entry level to professional.  They were probably the first European manufacturer to start using components from Japan.  They also broke with the other French bikes and started using Swiss bottom brackets sometime in the 70s. 

In 1973 Luis Ocana won the Tour de France on a Motobecane branded bike.

Check out this beautiful Grand Touring:

Vintage Motobecane Grand Touring

Images donated by Bens Cycle

Models

Grand Jubilee

Grand Touring

Grand Record

Le Champion – top of the line road bike

Le Velo

Mirage

Nobly – cruiser bike

Nomade

Prolight – alloy frame road bike

Riviera – folding bike

Sprint

Sprintour

Super Mirage

Super Sprint

Super Touring

Team Champion – limited production racing team bike

In 1981 the original company went bankrupt and was purchased by Yamaha.  In 1984 they would reform and become MBK.  Sometime later the brand was bought and is now sold by Motobecane USA which I believe is owned by Bikes Direct.

Motobecane USA

I’m not sure how far back they go with making bicycles, I don’t think I’ve seen an older model than the early 1970’s in the US.  But the ones I have seen are all nice-looking bikes.  The early catalogs I have seen start with very few models so maybe they jumped into the US market with the boom of the 70s.  I’m not sure about the sources, but I’ve seen it suggested that Ben Lawee better known for creating the Univega brand may have been the Motobecane importer for the US.  It’s also been suggested that US market bikes may be better than those in France.  They are known for having higher quality paint and decals compared to the other French bikes of the time.  There is a lot of mystery around this brand, I’ll keep trying to uncover more information.

4 thoughts on “Vintage Motobecane Bicycles History and Facts

  1. I owned a 1974 Motobecane Grand Jubilé (Motobecane spelled the word differently than Huret, maker of the derailleur, did) until it was stolen in 1989. It was a great bike, seeing duty as a commuter, loaded tourer, and recreational road bike. Motobecane also finished their bikes beautifully (two tone paint jobs with gold pinstriping). This was back in the day when components came from different manufacturers (i.e. not all Shimano) – though top of the line bikes were mostly Campagnolo. They included Huret (French) or Campagnolo (Italian) derailleurs, Weinmann (Swiss) brakes, Stronglight (French) cranks, Normandy hubs, Rigida (French) or Weinmann rims), Atom (French) or Regina (Italian) freewheels. My brother has a Le Champion from the same era, which has been converted to a fixie. I thought about restoring it to original condition but decided it was more trouble (and expense) than it was worth. If I’m not mistaken, the Team Champion was the Le Champion painted in team colors of whomever they were sponsoring at the time.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I own 3 Motobecanes….my 1975 Grand Record that I received as a high school graduation gift, a fully restored and retro modded 1972 Le Champion, and a early 70s Astra Grand Lux which was brand Motobecane marketed thru department stores. My Motobecanes are diffently a knotch above my Peugeots and Gitanes in both quality of lug assembly, finish, and alignment….but as far as ride goes they all give that great “Magic Carpet” ride that Reynolds 531 is known for !

    Liked by 1 person

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