Friday, June 25, 2010

Stella 10 speed bicycle

When I was growing up my parents gave me a series of bikes. Some new and some used. My first speed bike was a hardware store 10 speed made by Nishiki under a different brand. The first time I shifted the gears on it I was hooked on cycling and realized the potential. I rode that bike on several distance rides, including to Flathead Lake and back from Missoula several times, a trip of 100 miles in one direction. I used to look down and see my shadow like this for hours upon hours.

I had several mechanical breakdowns with that first speed bike including the Shimano rear derailleur just falling apart out on the highway miles from Missoula. I rigged it so it would stay in one gear and rode 40 or 50 miles like that, but that was the last straw. (I haven't been a big fan of Shimano since actually) I think I was a 7th grader at the time. So my dad took me to Braxton's Bike shop in Missoula and bought me a decent French 10 speed bike. This yellow Stella SX6 10 speed. They supported me in my distance cycling and I think they were worried about my bike breaking down. This bike never let me down.

I had been wanting a Gitane as that was the cool bike to have at the time, but Sam Braxton took a look at me and sold us this Stella instead. I remember I didn't have much choice in the matter. It was yellow though, and yellow was my favorite color, plus it was French and a little more exclusive than a Gitane actually. Braxton said that I'd grow into this bike and it would last me for years. Those words have proven to be true. It fits me perfectly all these years later and is still a pleasure to ride. I think about Sam Braxton every time I ride this bike. There's a little white sticker on the top of the seat tube that says Assembled by Braxton Missoula Montana.

I have made a few changes to it and of course it's not my only bike, but it's pretty much the same as it was. I got a longer stem and new bars. I wore the wheels out and had Dennis Sparrow build a new set way back when. And I mowed lawns for a summer to buy that Stronglight 99 crank at the cost of $75, quite a bit of money for a crank back then. I think Stella was named after the builders wife, but it means star and I like the star in the crank. Notice the old school Christophe toe clips.
That crank has a 45 tooth "small" ring on the fron BTW. That makes Sunny Slope Hill out of Polson a bit of a pull on this bike at the end of a long day.

18 comments:

Jules said...

I like the bike, it looks well used. Sometimes it's the age of something that makes it great. I love the red shoes and how they match your helmet. :)

don said...

Those red Adidas are kind of cool but they hurt my feet!

Diane said...

I think it's so neat that you maintained and kept this bike. It has a great story!

don said...

If only that bike could talk..

Ron said...

Like your story, came to this site because I was looking for info regarding Dennis Sparrow. I had him build a frame for me back in the 70's. I still have the bike and was thinking of him. Thanks.

don said...

I remember seeing one of those Sparrow frames/ bikes in a Missoula bike shop back then. Cool you have a bike like that! It must be a pleasure to ride. Missoula had and still has a great cycling culture.

I recently bought a Gitane Team and built it up with old Campy parts. I'll post a pic of that. I rode it last year in Spokane's Spokefest.

Erich said...

1976 I worked at the Stella bike shop in Madison Wisc. I learned a lot about bikes building these same SX Stella's, and from these 3 guys who ran this small shop Tom French the Manager, Mike the mechanic and Bevil Hog the owner (I will never forget this name). That very same 6 months or so I worked at Stella bikes a new bussines venture was formed, they were going to begin building frames sets. They leased out a warehouse for his new business and we went to help him clear it out and fix the floors before the factory was to be built out. Soon there after I left Madison to go back to Va. I liked these guys and stayed in touch for a while and a year or so later bought a very nice Black frame set from Tom with stiffer "racing" angles. That frame and built out bike still sits in my garage today about 35 years later.

I wanted a clean frame with no decals or medalians on it but it does carry a stamped name on the frame seat stays, and yes you guessed it they say Trek!

don said...

Hi Erich, thanks for that info.

There must have been an american company named Stella too,.. We are probably talking about different bikes.

My bike is an early 70s French import built in Nantes France and similar to a Gitane with French Parts and threading an all of that. Here is a link to some info. They had a long history of racing going back to 1909.

http://www.classicrendezvous.com/France/stella_bicycles.htm

mdiber said...

I bought a used Stella two years ago for 125. at a local bike shop. I was tellingmyusband how uncomfortable I was biking around the city in which we live because I have to come to a complete stop so many times and it is sluggish getting going again. So we went back to the bike shop where I rode a couple of new lighter bikes in the 300-4-- price range. I wanted to trade inthe Stella and he offered me 20 bucks for it. I came back home with the Stella. I don't think she has ever been repainted, at least there are no signs of a DIY job. She is yellow. She is the first bike I have ever owned all to myself and I am 53.

don said...

Good for you. There's no $300 bike made today as cool as your Stella in my opinion because it's no cookie cutter. I will ride my Stella to my grave, even though it's not my only bike, but it's the last one I'd ever trade off or sell and I have some nice bikes. I also have a nicer "Tour de France" Stella frame with Campy dropouts.

That's curious what Erich was talking about building Stella's in the states in comments above.. Doesn't make sense to me but I guess it's possible. Stellas and Gitanes were imported out of France during the bicycle boom of the 1970s. I've never heard that they were contracting out and building in the states back then. I do know the Trek story however, and those are very similar frames with the exception of the standard threading and that sort of thing. I'm working on an early Trek frame right now for a guy.

My Stella was built around 1972 actually not 76 and there's very little doubt it was built in France due to the threading wierdness.

mdiber said...

thank you. You have an interesting blog and the pictures are great. I am just going to keep Stella but will probably get a more city friendly bike so I can Keep Going!

don said...

Yes there's something to be said for modern designs, new technology and low gears. And it's also nice to own a classic. I spent most of my time last year on an old Schwinn single speed.

Thank you for the kind words about my blog and pics also.

don said...

And thinking back on it now, Erich must have meant assembling Stella bikes not building,..as they came apart like all bikes and you had to put them together. My bad.

Building of course would mean brazing the tubes together. Anyway I should have known what he meant.

craig said...

Don - thanks for your comment on my site ( http://craigthegrey.com/blog/archives/1422 ), and link to your post. I just love seeing other Stellas!

Yes, the cause of death was a break in the frame, on the upright just above the crank. The weld held, but the actual frame came apart just above the weld. I took her to several places to see if they could somehow weld it back together, but there was no hope. It was a very difficult time, as I really loved that bike, it was so simple, clean and smooth. Of course, today's bikes are much lighter, but I'd still choose that Stella over any of my newer bikes if I could.

don said...

Craig, that's too bad about your frame, but you did totally get the value out of your bike, and that's great! Not many people can say they actually wore their bike out! I've gotten a lot of good out of mine.

You might look around and find a Gitane or Peugeot or another bicycle boomer. There is something to be said for the new bikes however. I love the aluminum Cannondales. I think if I were going to buy a new race bike that's what I'd get, but I have a Trek 5000 that still serves me well.

Festvangelist said...

Hey I am watching Le Tour de France and dreaming of my first real bike I purchased when I was a UW student. I rode this bike until it was time to give it up in 2010. I outfitted the bike with a Simplex LG derailier in my opinion better than a Campagholo a real race horse. I rode this bike between Brown Deer and Port Washington almost evey day after graduation and then around Holland Michigan, back in the Kettle Moraine- Holy Hill area for decades. You ride a bike that long you never forget every little detail about it. I will remember that bike and my love of cycling because of that bike. Feestvangelist

Festvangelist said...

I purchased my Stella in 1971 or so when a student at UW. My Stella was one of the most memorable items I used and it defined many of my passions for European culture. I write this as I am watching Le Tour de France as I do every year...even have a fantasy team. I remember the location of the store and how I outfitted the bike with a Simplex LG derailer in my opinion the best...sorry Campagnolo. I rode that bike 50+ miles most every day...down to Green County, then from Brown Deer to Port Washington, or BD to Holy Hill. I rode that bike till 2009 but will never ever forget the times I spent on that bike...sew up tires, Reynaulds tubing, no kick stand of course, no extra anything just a pure road bike at it's best.

don said...

That's awesome! I used to ride mine from Missoula Montana to Flathead Lake on summer weekends. I agree that old Simplex stuff worked great and it still does. I don't think I ever had an issue with it. My bike had clinchers on it though so it probably wasn't as nice as yours and it came with Michelin "50s" which had a tread design somewhat like a sew up. Now I have Continentals on it. Who knows how many thousands of miles the bike has on it now.