In the shop: Austro-Daimler Vent Noir

In the mid-to-late 1970s, an Austrian bicycle manufacturer went upscale in hopes of capturing the enduring loyalty of bicycle enthusiasts.

Steyr-Daimler-Puch made it to the 1990s before disappearing into the parts bins of several other corporations.

The company goes back to a gun maker in 1855. Before the end, employees could reflect on a rich history that included bicycles, motorcycles, airplane engines, mopeds, cars and trucks. (And an infamous history that included such things as Nazis and the Sears Free Spirit bicycle.)

This particular piece of Steyr-Daimler-Puch history, an Austro-Daimler Vent Noir, arrived at the shop with a seized freewheel and a good bit of rust. Here’s what I found about it on one amazingly exhaustive website:

The 1976 specification ‘Austro-Daimler’ and European market ‘Puch’ Vent Noir ten speed bicycles were originally provided with the Shimano Dura-Ace components gruppo with a 42/53 tooth crankset and Shimano Crane rear derailleur. Most distinctively, some of the gruppo components were anodized black. These bicycles incorporated ‘Regina Oro’ cassette and chain in gold finish, the pedals were MKS-URK2 (Mikashima Industrial Co., Ltd. of Japan) with toe clips. The hubs were Dura-Ace, with Fiamme #1 wheel rims and Inox 2mm spokes. The tires were Clement Strada 66. The saddle was a Gilux 3000, the bar and stem were by GB. The set included a bicycle tire pump with Campagnolo ends. This was listed as weighing 22-½ lbs. with a price then of $540.00.

austro-daimler frame collage

This particular Vent Noir (French for Black Wind) was in rough shape, but most of the pin-striping and head-tube decal were still present. It features a Reynolds 531 frame with Shimano dropouts and, except for the tubular wheels, all its original parts.

mikashima pedal collage

When Bushwhacker mechanic Robert Woo first showed me this pedal, I thought the dust cap was gone because of all the rust inside, but no, he had just removed the cap to inspect the bearings.

You can imagine the bike sitting in a pile of dirty snow outside a New York brownstone, though you cannot imagine how it was never stolen.

Note the Presta valve adapter screwed to a toe clip bolt inside the pedal cage in the lower picture.

dura-ace collage

Here you go: Shimano’s best parts group back in the days before aero levers, clipless pedals and indexed shifting.

Note the pierced or drilled holes in the brake lever and chain rings–and the big remaining advantage of a 1970s sidepull brake caliper: room for wider tires.

Finally, get rid of the rust and the Crane rear derailleur is a beauty, though, as Disraeli Gears points out: “The only fly in the ointment was SunTour’s patent on the slant parallelogram. The Crane never changed gear quite as well as the much more lowly SunTour V series—despite Shimano’s puff about the efficacy of their ‘servo pantagraph’ design with its two sprung pivots.”

Hmph. At this date, it’s enough to say of the Crane and the rest of the bike that eppur si muove. 

Sometime soon, one hopes. Like the wind.

About 16incheswestofpeoria

Former bicycle mechanic, current peruser of books, feeder of birds.
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8 Responses to In the shop: Austro-Daimler Vent Noir

  1. Glenn says:

    Wow, $540 in 1976 seems pretty high end. Interesting that I might have an “infamous” connection with the Sears Free Spirit 5 and 10 speeds my Dad bought me around that era – considerably south of $540 and no Shimano parts that I recall.

    • Of course infamy isn’t what it used to be. For instance, if the rear axle on my Sears Hawthorne hadn’t broken–Bendix still isn’t taking my calls by the way–I might not have become a bicycle mechanic. Let’s see, 1976? I think I was between a Schwinn Collegiate, no Shimano parts, and a Motobecane Grand Touring, still no Shimano parts. (The most important thing with the Motobecane was it didn’t have a Huret derailleur.) I think I was well into the 1980s before Sun Tour hit the skids and I bolted on Shimano. And closer to the 80s before I went over $540 on a new bike. Since then, well, let’s just say the dollar just isn’t worth what it used to be.

  2. Tim F. says:

    I well remember when I first saw a Vent Noir, new, just like this one, at a shop near me when I was a teenager. Gorgeous bike, and really stood out from other bikes with the black scheme on the components on a black frame. Then they re-vamped it as the Vent Noir II in the smoked chrome finish like the one in the blog you referenced. WOW! I wanted one of those for a long, long time… and finally got one about a year ago. Very sharp bike. Nice ride too.

    • Thanks for the note. The Vent Noir is one of the bikes that stands out over time, isn’t it? It was also a harbinger of the black-on-black scheme that dominated shops over the past several years. I’d love to find a 52cm, myself.

  3. Steve Kurt says:

    Very cool! I used to see the A-D bikes at Nims Sportsman Exchange in Ames, Iowa, back in the early 80’s. Always loved the Vent Noir, if only for being so cool! The drilled rings were great, as were the black anodized components. Those early Dura Ace brakes struck me as being very precise too, but I was accustomed to my Weinmann centerpulls. 🙂
    I wonder if I know the owner?? I’ve got a few vintage bikes myself. I’m hoping to start a periodic vintage bike ride here in the metro Peoria area in 2016; perhaps the A-D’s owner would like to join?

    Steve in Peoria

  4. Wayne Blake says:

    I am the proud owner of two Austro Daimler vent-noIr bicycles . Is this one for sale

    • Steve Glenn says:

      I have an original Vent Noir that I may be looking to move. This was an original show bike! My dad worked for Puch as a sales manager. I have had it since mid 70s .

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