The Colour Purple
This is one of the most striking frame sets I’ve ever come across. Not because of any special features, like really ornate lugs, or unusually shaped tubes, but just because of its colour. Absolutely splendid purple. Have you ever seen a more purple bike? There’s no chrome forks or stays, no secondary colours to dilute the unadulterated rich hue of this mystery vintage bike. I really like it. I know many wouldn’t, especially people who like their bikes in traditionally robust colours. But just look at the Mercier Rose, that celebrated and iconic frameset which was fearlessly pink. There’s something audacious, spirited, about these vintage French bikes.
I have very little knowledge about the history of this bike. I know that it was built from the ground up by its original owner, with a variety of high end components. Indeed, it’s a bit of a mixed bag: Campagnolo Chrous and Athena parts with a Graphite Finish, which are a rare find; a Campagnolo Super Record rear derailleur as well as an aero seatpost by the same brand; the shifters are a set of indexed Shimano 6 speed with a Sachs Rival 7000 front derailleur, and everything else is a hotchpotch. Even the headset and bottom bracket are a mixture of parts by Campagnolo, Stronglight and Shimano.
The Bike Basics
The guy who built this bike must have been a practical sort of chap. It wasn’t built with the mind of someone who wanted matching perfection, a complete groupset, someone looking for that perfect build. Rather, it was built with the parts that he liked and that were to hand, matching or not. Who cares? On s’en fout! There’s also no serial number anywhere on the frame, the dropouts are not stamped, and there is no Reynolds, Vitus nor Columbus decal on the tubes. Yet, I know for a fact that these tubes are made with one of these three tubing sets. The whole frameset, including the headset and bottom bracket, weighs 3560 grams. Compare these:
- Peugeot PFN10, Reynolds 531 Main Tubes: 3682 grams
- Motobecane C5, Reynolds 531 Throughout: 3134 grams
Mystery Vintage Bike: Treboutte?
Treboutte is not a frame builder, and neither is it the name of a bike shop in France. In fact, there is absolutely no information about this person with any connection to bikes on the internet. Except, well,…one guy. Now I admit, it’s a bit of a reach, but I noticed there is a club rider in Rouen named Nicolas Treboutte, who is involved in amateur racing. Funny thing is, guess what his club colours are? Purple. Seriously! Could it be that this purple bike, the one I just bought, could have been his dad’s bike in the 1990’s? Not a bad theory, seeing I bought the bike not too far from Rouen.
You’re Losing it, Mate
So you may think. But I stand by my theory, and I will write an email to Nicolas’s cycling club with a picture of the bike, to see if my suspicions prove correct. Anyhow, if it is his dad’s bike or not, this machine was a custom build and may have been ridden in amateur races, but I’m thinking not. The great condition of the tubes and the near perfection of the paint tells a different story. I think this bike has been scarcely ridden, carefully stored, used for casual outings in the French countryside. Bikes that have been raced are always banged up more. The finish on the paint is like new, and that’s no exaggeration.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly..
What can I say about these Campagnolo components, except that their reputation for longevity is betrayed! These unusual parts are rare and are very collectable in good condition, which obviously these ones are not. What are they? Well, in the picture above is an Athena crank with a graphite finish, which has sadly gone all crackled and hoary. The same goes for the brake calipers, which were obviously bought together with the crank back in the 1990’s. I was shocked when I saw their condition on this bike. I mean, come on, this is Campagnolo, for crying out loud! What the heck happened to the finish of these parts?
Now I love Campagnolo, its history and its hallowed place in the world of professional cycling. They used to say that Campagnolo components would be passed down through generations of family members because of their quality and longevity. So what went wrong here? The graphite finish on this Athena crank and as well as on calipers has cracked and peeled off. Hmmm..I’m not sure the company executed this series of components with the same vision of lasting service. Basically, the cosmetic finish, the “graphite”, is like a thin plastic layer that has peeled away and fallen off the metal. Underneath this thin final layer is just the raw aluminium moulding, slowly turning to powder and ugly as hell. As I cleaned the crankset, the finish just, well…fell off.
The Old and New
The older components have fared better on this bike. Nevertheless, it must be said that the Campagnolo Chorus brake levers, with their graphite look, actually have a much better finish and are in good shape. Maybe it would have been better to have built the bike with a complete gruppo like the old Super Record. But this is a custom build, and everything about it feels swapped out just to keep it on the road. The shifters, for example, are the older Shimano M5 6 speed index types, and the rims are not matching: the rear is a black anodised Mavic Open 4, the front is a white, ceramic-looking Rigida. The pedals, Time Magnesium, are a throwback to the early days of clipless and could win the prize of the ugliest pedals ever made.
What to do with it?
I bought this bike for its frame, though the Super Record rear derailleur didn’t go unnoticed. I do really like this spectacular purple frameset, even though the sloping fork crowns aren’t my favourite and the tubes may be lacking decals or other artistic details. The headtube lugs look like Bocama Competition 78, I really like them, as I do the internally routed rear brake cable, keeping the top tube looking clean and clear of brazing and housing. What’s the year of this frame? I would guess at late 1980’s, perhaps 1988,or 1989. Doubtless, I wouldn’t keep the bike as it is, here you will find out what I did with it.