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.
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:
Images donated by Bens Cycle
Le Champion – top of the line road bike
Nobly – cruiser bike
Prolight – alloy frame road bike
Riviera – folding bike
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.
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.