Sunday, July 24, 2016

1975 Gitane Tour de France - an old dog with new tricks?

1976 Gitane TdF from a Bicycling Magazine
A number of factors conspired to send me in search of a new project bike; I just did a post about how I find them and so that was on my brain, I had a hole in the queue with the completion of the Super Course (not really) and it was my birthday recently so I decided to treat myself.  Yes we old 10 speed bike geeks think a dusty old bike is a great gift!

My prize a mid 1970s Gitane Tdf
I started my journey by going to bike works because what better place to go on your birthday than old bike Mecca?  I found out that their refurbed bikes are flying out of the store so fast that they have very little stock of "as is" project bikes.  That is awesome for them and I am truly happy that its a success but that left me with slim picken's, however, I never regret a visit there and they had some beautifully refurbished steel bikes for me to lust over.  I had been looking at CL for the past couple days and had noted the Gitane Tdf.  It was listed as a project bike, missing Front Derailleur and bent handlebar and he was asking $80.  More than I would usually pay but this is a race level bike not a entry level one so I was interested.  I had also received a few bob for my birthday so I figured it would only be $60 out my pocket, can you say r-a-t-i-o-n-a-l-i-z-e kids? I thought you could.

Going home
So I came, I saw, I haggled and ultimately paid the full bill, he claimed he had a buyer coming up the next day that had pledged full price..who knows but I felt it was still a good deal so I went ahead with it.  Now you may wonder why I would pick this bike when the tribute site Gitaneusa had this to say about the Gitane Tdf ; "the workmanship was often sloppy. Although not too pretty to look at, it was not necessarily poorly made, just poorly finished. Lugs were often off-center, welding on the dropouts often appeared to have been done by a three-year old. And the paint jobs were not the best. The paint itself was not clear coated, and the gold detail around the lugs was hand-applied by less than steady hands (one too many glasses of wine?). The logos and other artwork were merely stuck on with stickers, instead of using decals with clear coat over them. It is for this reason that it is difficult to find older Gitane’s in pristine condition. Often, bottle cages and other clamp-ons were placed over the stickers and would mar them, forcing the owners to remove them entirely if they wanted the bicycle to look somewhat presentable."  

Wait -"too many glasses of wine" is a thing? Ok so its not a glowing recommendation but two things drew me to this bike; Reynolds 531 tubing and components.

You may be wondering how I arrived at 1975 for this bike?  Short of taking apart the headset and looking at the fork steerer which is rumored to be stamped with the year of manufacture I looked for a distinguishing feature like these rather unique rear drop outs which I see on Gitane TdF's from about 74-77.  And the Huret rear derailleur model came on the scene in 1975.
unique "window" rear drops

I have a little different plan for this bike than normal, I have bought bikes just for me before but this one is too big, and I have of course refurbished a metric ton of old bikes but for this one I am going to take the part it out approach.  Its what the seller had intended to do but he had too many projects and I gather a bit of pressure from the S.O, in a two bedroom apartment, to clear it out.  The buy it and strip mode isn't my new new approach but I thought I would try it out.  I figure there are four main areas of value in this particular bike that could potentially bring me a nice return on my investment...or it could all just blow up in my face.

1. Frame-set
 This is a Reynolds 531 frame which gives it some cachet and I would be selling it along with the following items:
  • Headset
  • Bottom bracket
  • Stem
  • Seat-Post
Those are the areas that usually give people trouble when sourcing/working on a French frame build so hopefully their inclusion will allay some fears.

2. Crankset
This bike is equipped with a Stronglight crankset and as a bonus it has the end caps and the inner ring is even a factory drilled model.  This part does present two potential challenges 1) it requires a special crank puller which I do not have and a new one costs over $50, however I have a couple local bike shops that should have one and can pull the cranks for a modest fee.  2) Some early models were tapped for french pedals which are smaller than the normal 9/16 size so I need to check that out.  If I need to sell the pedals along with the cranks then no big deal.

drive side with drilled inner ring

3.  Brakes and Levers
This is what originally piqued my interest in this bike, it comes with Mafac "Competition" center pulls the big brother to the more ubiquitous "Racer" and I have the Mafac levers with hoods in ok condition.  On a good day these could fetch more on ebay than I paid for the bike, or I could save them for my Motobecane Grand Touring and sell the Racers I purchased for it...

Mafac Competition Center pulls

Mafac levers with adjusters and decent hoods

4. Shifter and rear Derailleur
And the finally area of value I see are the Huret Jubilee down tube shifters and rear derailleur, both in good shape and appear to fetch decent prices on ebay.
Lovely designed rear mech

With the original rubber caps and you see the remnants of the 531 sticker 
In addition to the items above are the nice wheelset- mallard hubs with aluminum rims and presta valves, so a step up from the entry level steel wheels.  I may sell them as well or keep them for one of my frame only builds ups.  I did notice something amusing, the hubs are model 700

but are laced to 27 inch rims, seems a bit confusing.  

you can just make out 27 x 1 1/4 on the tire
And if I am able to successfully part out the other items I will be left with about $40 worth of parts I can use on other builds.

A water bottle cage
Rear rack


Handlebar and Front derailleur that were thrown into the deal since the HB on the bike is bent and its missing a FD.

And if the Stonglight cranks end up accepting 9/16 pedals then I will probably hang onto these

So thats the story on this diversion from the regular path, we'll see how it goes. Until next time. Ride.Smile.Repeat.


  1. Why not? I see some pretty stiff prices on E-bay for old parts. There was a super le tour frame only, primer paint for $150 one time. That Gitane frame should be worth more. But you may be thinking of local sale, not internet. Back when I was trying to become a BBQ sauce King it didn't take long for shipping to put me out of business.

    I am curious about the recent increase in sales of old ten speeds at your local bike barn. Why the increase? More supply, or more demand? It occurs to me that if there was some hot shot in there cranking out rehabbed old bikes, there might naturally be an increase in sales, based on the simple fact of an increase in inventory.

    I know I would be a lot better at buying old bikes and parting them out than I am at refurbishing them.

    BTW: I tried two times to wish you a happy B-day on Facebook. One effort seems to have resulted in me wishing MYSELF a "happy B_day, bro" and the other attempt just never seemed to show up. So happy b-day, bro, however belated.


    1. Why not indeed Velo brother? I do realize that what folks ask for on ebay and what they actually get are two different stories but I figured I would dip a toe in. The plan is to clean up and sell the Frameset locally and all the small parts that can go via USPS flat rate box will sell via ebay. If the frame doesn't sell locally I may give ebay a try but the shipping of large heavy items scares me a bit, but folks do it. I think the rise in popularity is a case of A) limited supply of really special old bikes and parts and B) lots of interest/demand and C) an appreciation for the craftsmanship & beauty of some these old frames and parts. Your Japanese built Schwinn for example, although built by the thousands, had a lot of hand work done to them and finish work on the Japan built frames I have worked on is excellent. I know at one point there was a trend of hipsters turning dads old 70's or 80's road bike in to a fixie but now that they have trashed their knees maybe they are rebuilding back to spec...with gears lol. I say a Motobecane Grand Jubilee that had be converted to fixed for sale the other day an almost cried.

      BTW I did get your happy bday message-thanks thought I "liked" it so you would know but either way appreciate the good vibes coming my way ;-)

  2. Ooh, pretty! Especially with chrome socks front and back. My 1970s bike book says that the Jubilee was top of the line.

    1. "Chrome Socks" I have never heard it put that way and I like it thanks Unknown

  3. I remember Gitane bikes, seeing them in a bike shop etc and realizing I could not afford them. Don't remember seeing many on the bike trails or elsewhere. Anytime I saw the Reynolds 531 label on a bike it meant a bike was priced $350 and up. The Azuki I rode was priced down in the $119 range.

    Several characteristics tell me this is def a mid 70's model. The higher quality 10-speed racers back then had sew-up tires, toe clips on the pedals, and tire savers to knock the junk off the tires.

    Also very few Japanese components on this bike. We still thought the Japanese products were inferior in quality but that was changing.