Out of the Farmyard
The picture above doesn’t do the state of this bike justice; it was one of the dirtiest bikes I’ve ever bought. I bought it from a farmer who didn’t talk very much, and who lifted it out of his shed full of tools, abandoned there for many years by the look of it. There was a film of sticky dust on it that made the white paint seem cream, and the the components had a thick layer of hardened grease so that they wouldn’t even move. The tyres look shot, and the hubs were especially filthy. Check out the back to front seatpost. I hadn’t expected it to be in such condition; by the look of the single picture he sent me, it seemed to be in decent shape. Not this time. Photographs don’t often show the real condition of a bike, but this one was quite a shocker when I saw it for the first time.
It still has a Pulse
i believe some bikes, especially good quality vintage ones, can be brought back from near death. This is an example of one, with its Vitus frame and mid range parts. I felt it could live again. First, though, I had to get rid of the thick dirt that clustered around the bottom bracket, the hub and the derailleurs. Easier said than done. It takes a lot of work to clear encrusted grime without scratching the paint, and let me say that some of this dirt didn’t budge. I went from a wet paper towel, to soapy rags, to fine steel wool, and then eventually through a plethora of wire brushes. Eventually after some soaking, most of it did come off, but I found it difficult to bring back the whiteness of the original colour. That film on the white paint had made the colour permanently off white.
The strange thing about this back was that it had Mercier stamped forks. now, I get that it isn’t uncommon to swap out forks on old bikes, but normally you can spot them a mile off; either the colour doesn’t match or they are chrome plated, the simple answer to colour coordination. But these Mercier stamped forks were perfectly matching. The colour was exactly the same. So, I have to ask, were some Poulidors built by Mercier? Or did Poulidor use some Mercier materials back then? Poulidor did ride for Mercier! Or did this guy just get really, really lucky, and found forks that perfectly matched the colour of his Poulidor frame? Weird. Anyway, I didn’t mind, I like Mercier and whatever the history of this bike, it was becoming clearer to me that with extra care this derelict Poulidor/Mercier would be restored to health.
The Eternal Second
It’s a cruel nickname to give any sportsman. Poulidor, or “Pou Pou”, which I imagine he much preferred, came second and third in many of his races, often behind his great rival Anquetil. He is often thought of as a nearly man, always on the verge of greatness, but he never actually wore the yellow jersey of the Tour De France in his career. Nevertheless, he did win the Tour of Spain in 1964, and was one of the best riders of his 1960’s – ’70’s generation. Poulidor bikes are not considered special in France, but for the club cyclist or amateur rider a Poulidor could have been an ideal purchase. Unlike Anquetil bikes, the vast majority of which are low end, basic models, Poulidor bikes often have good quality frames, like this one, which was built with good quality steel.
It’s not easy to give this bike an exact build date, as I don’t know what parts were swapped out and what the original build was of this particular bike. The Vitus XO tubing was a later creation of the company that made some of the best steel frames ever. Ateliers De La Rive was the company that made such fine tubing such as the 172, the 181 ( 1790 grams ), the Super Vitus 980 ( just 1507 grams ), as well as the 983 and the 888 ( 2030 grams ). Sadly, the company was losing ground to Reynolds and Columbus by the mid 1980’s, but not because of any lack of quality in their materials: the TXO, XO, GTI and SM which they made at this point were excellent chromoly sets. This XO had 0.9mm x 0.6mm butted main tubes like Columbus SL, and I believe it was just as good as it. This Poulidor felt agile and responsive on the road, and I defy anyone who’d say say that Reynolds were making better tubing at this point.
- Raymond Pouldor, circa 1985?
- 59cm Frame, C-T, 58cm Top Tube, C-C
- Vitus XO Frameset, Simple Lugs; Mercier Forks
- Stronglight 100LX Crankset, Double
- Pelissier Hubs
- Regina Extra 6 Speed Freewheel
- Rigida 700c Rims, 700c x 20 Hutchinson Tyres
- Saccon Brake Levers and Calipers
- Belleri Handlebars ( Rare Later Addition ) and Stem
- Simplex SP 2468 Shifters ( Plastic )
- Simplex SX 440 GT Rear Derailleur
- Simplex SX A32 Front Derailleur
- Stronglight Headset
- Weight: 21lbs
Sold for £100