A History of Violence
Perhaps this vintage Gitane road bike has no “wow” factor, it’s neither of really high quality nor is it impressively beautiful, but it’s a cool, lower mid-range bike from the 1980’s that I found for a good price. Is it worth blogging about? No, not if your thing is high quality, deluxe vintage machines. But it is worth a review for those ( like me ) who seek out cool vintage road bikes, regardless of their position in a catalogue. What’s more, these vintage bikes often conceal mechanical problems that are nearly always worth fixing. This particular Gitane concealed a history of a crash, or something like it, that I didn’t see when I bought it.
The Model and Year
Gitane was a popular brand in France and this type of basic road bike would have been ubiquitous in bike shops back in the 1980’s. The chrome-moly frame of this bike was at the bottom of the catalogue pages, perhaps under the name “Super Challenge”. I think it dates to 1982, as the chequered decals on the seat tube disappear on Gitane bikes the following year. It had internally brazed tubing and would have cost $229 in the US, which is worth about $600 today!
Upgrades or Not?
I believe the stock crankset for this level of Gitane bikes in the early 1980’s was the Solida 5170, cheap and quite lightweight but prone to cracking and falling to pieces over time. This Gitane has a Sugino Super Maxy crankset, which is quite a different affair; a good looking chainset, with drilled chain rings and a nifty removal feature in which you release the crank by just turning a 6mm allen key. Was there such futuristic technology in 1982? Surely not, but believe it or not, Sugino had used alien technology to develop this crank way ahead of its time. Catalogues also say nothing about a Stronglight headset like this one fitted on this bike. Surely too high end for this basic model?
Gitane as a brand may have been heading towards extinction as the 1980’s progressed, but they were still producing good quality bikes, though I think you got less for your money during this period. There is very little decoration or ornamentation on this frame, and functionality was the key factor here. Gitane was losing ground and cost effective solutions must have been at the forefront of the brand’s sales. This frame hides a little ding behind the crank, perhaps linked to the crankset’s warping rotation. It can’t be a coincidence, surely.
French bikes of this period often clearly illustrate the dramatic changes happening in the world bike industry. You may find a Gitane or Motobecane with some traditional French branded components, but you will also witness the great shift in power happening: newer Japanese parts, especially Shimano, will often be found on these 1980’s bikes. Often a French part has been replaced by a Japanese one, such as the brake levers on this bike. So what you get, with many of these bikes, is a glimpse of the beginning of the end; by the end of this decade, French names like Gitane were on their way out.
- 1982/3 Gitane Possibly Super Challenge
- 50cm Frame Size, Centre to Top
- 52cm Top Tube, Centre to Centre
- Chromoly Tubing, Simple Lugs
- Serial Numbers and Stamps: 29085, 1131
- French Threaded Bottom Bracket, 35 x 1
- Stronglight Headset, French Threaded
- Super Maxy Drilled Crankset, ( French Threading )
- Mafac Side Pull Brake Calipers
- Shimano SLR Brake Levers
- Ideale 2001 Saddle
- Maillard Hubs, Stamped 1982
- Huret Eco Transmission
- SR Seat Post, No Size Stamp
- Guid Handlebars
- Atax Stem, 22mm
- Tubular Rims, Possibly Rigida, 700 x 20 tyres