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Old 11-07-09, 08:50 PM   #1
mr. peugeot
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French bikes, Italian bikes.

Generally speaking, how different are Italian bikes from French ones?
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Old 11-07-09, 08:58 PM   #2
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Italian bikes work better, French bikes ride better.
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Old 11-07-09, 09:08 PM   #3
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Generally speaking, how different are Italian bikes from French ones?
In the 70's the typical French bikes got less handwork, often had just slacker angles, a higher bottom bracket. And fractionally lighter for a given size. That is a broad generalization, there were examples from both countries that could fit either bill.

I have a number of French bikes and Italian bikes, I would take the Italian (or Italian influenced) as the bike of choice for a Fast descent. for just riding around, then one of the French bikes. I do have one very small builder French bike that is more Italian in Style than many Italian bikes, so be careful of generalizations.

Component wise, the Italians at least at the top level, stayed Italian, The French at the top level, not always full French.
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Old 11-07-09, 09:14 PM   #4
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And the other thing that needs to be mentioned, is that French bikes (with French threads) are practically obsolete (or a pain in the rear to find parts for) these days... On the other hand, Italian bikes are not.
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Old 11-07-09, 09:18 PM   #5
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a lot different. Italians you can ride/race as much as your heart desires. A French bike is at home sitting in a repair stand because you can't find replacement parts for it.
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Old 11-07-09, 09:19 PM   #6
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Italian bikes work better, French bikes ride better.
Thanks for your reply. What do you mean by- 'italian bikes work better, french bikes ride better' ?
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Old 11-07-09, 09:27 PM   #7
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Italian bikes are freindly and welcoming. french bike are con decending and look down their stem at you *giggle*
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Old 11-07-09, 09:40 PM   #8
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French bikes have really stupid bottom bracket threading. Italian bikes have really REALLY stupid bottom bracket threading.

Alot of the differences depend on the era as well. Italians had simpler, cleaner lugs, enjoyed fast back stays. Italian bikes more commonly used tubing from Italian manufacturers (Columbus, Deddaccai), where French would use French tubing (Vitus) or more often than not, Reynolds.

I like them both, but own neither.
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Old 11-08-09, 01:11 AM   #9
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What do you mean by- 'italian bikes work better, french bikes ride better'
I have (or had) a number of French and Italian bikes from the late 60's through the mid '80's. The following represents my opinion.

As you can see from the other responses, the French attempted to advance alot of their own standards for threading, sizes of handlebars, stems, etc. So did the Italians. The difference is that the Italians, lead by one component manufacturer in particular, developed some very good things, that lasted a long time, looked good and sustained a certain acumen that equated thier parts (and bikes) with status. The French invested heavily in materials and concepts which did not working out so well in the end. The problems lead to a bad reputation, and like Bear-Sterns, the changing market (enter the Japanese) combined with bad reputation and changing exchange rates resulted in people wanting other things. Their standards never caught on and are now hard to find and obsolete. They can thus be a pain to work on because parts are hard to com by, some special tools may be needed, and they are just different. Also, the French did some things design-wise that in some cases seemed to make no sence, in others, the concept was good, but the execution was poor (heliocromatic hubs).

The weird thing about all of this is that present day Japanese collectors are sending the market for old French bicycle parts through the roof. You would think if they were that infatuated with them, they would have adoped their standards rather than the British 30 years ago.

Anyway; people continued to put up with some of the Italian idiosyncricies because they were desireable. In at least one case (handlebar clamp diameter), some of the Japanese (particularly Nitto) also provided for it and it is not alot more common than the British/French 25.4mm diameter.

As for the bikes themselves; the Italians have always made their bikes for speed. I believe (and someone can call me wrong on this), that it was the Italians who began to push steeper frame angles in the early 70's before much of anyone else. Indeed their bikes even today have a reputation of being responsive and stiff. The French, from my experience, have bikes which ride softer, and tend not to have frame angles as steep. Trail (probably the most important and least understood aspect of bike handling) is treated differently, the Italians with longer trail, the French generally shorter. Between the frame stiffness and the general frame design difference, and you can detect a difference between the two if you ride them much.

FWIW, I commute and do most of my tooling about on two early 70's Gitane's (French), but on racing days, I'm on A Bottecchia, Colnago, or 3Rensho.
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Old 11-08-09, 04:17 AM   #10
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Quality???

Generally I have found that the workmanship on French made vintage road bicycle is poor when compared to any other country's bicycles, save the one *** I got from Russia. Well, I did purchase a pretty crappy Raleigh Team Record once that must have been assembled in the dark, brazed with a bonfire and then painted with a stick. What a piece of cr*p.

Italian ride quality is tough to beat, even for many of their entry level bicycles. The Peugeot UO8 is famed for its ride quality and one of the nicest riding bicycles I have owned was a 1972 Motobecane Grand Record that was indeed a treat to sit even though it was a tad too big for me. And, the early eighties Vitus 979 was an absolute joy to ride but much too fragile for a guy of my size and strength.

Both the Italians and French used quick release paint and decals for most bicycles. Italian chrome plating seems better and more durable to me, but not quite as nice as English chrome plating. French chrome is usually poor by comparison and does not stand the test of time well.

And do not forget the French use of plastic transmissions that must have done more to damage the French road bicycle image than just about any other situation. Simplex derailleurs, particularly the front, are horribly prone to catastrophic failure. One steering stem is also prone to complete and dangerous meltdown also, however; I have never witnessed the infamous Death Stem after its demise, but I do have a couple tucked away in The Old Shed.

But the French, like the Italians, could build pretty bikes that rode well and are fast becoming harder and harder to get. Perhaps the collectors in Japan already know this. And it is the "rare" thing that will increase the collectible value of the bikes.

All of the above is a product of my opinion, formed after working on and comparing hundreds of vintage road bicycles in the past several years. Would I waste my time and storage space with a French bike. Yup - a 1963 PX10 and I love it even though the quality of construction is somewhat less that the two or three Italian bikes I keep in my humble collection.
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Old 11-08-09, 07:54 AM   #11
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Italian bikes are freindly and welcoming. french bike are con decending and look down their stem at you *giggle*
And are only satisfied with special perfumed lubricants and polishes.
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Old 11-08-09, 10:09 AM   #12
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The French successfully sold a lot more junk than the Italians, though either was capable of scraping the bottom of the barrel.
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Old 11-08-09, 12:01 PM   #13
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Here in Central CT, the big difference is that I can afford to buy the few Reynolds-tubed French bikes that occasionally show up on Craig's List. I can't afford the comparable Italian ones.
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Old 11-08-09, 02:41 PM   #14
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Here in Central CT, the big difference is that I can afford to buy the few Reynolds-tubed French bikes that occasionally show up on Craig's List. I can't afford the comparable Italian ones.
In that respect, things haven't changed that much since the 70s.
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Old 11-08-09, 03:01 PM   #15
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During the bike boom of the 70s, at the low-end the Italians were in a league of their own when it came to putting out the junkiest low end bike.

At the upper end, I would have rather had an Italian bike over a French bike. A Peugeot PX10 was a pretty common racing bike around here, but the owners all wished they could be on a Colnago or Masi.
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Old 11-08-09, 03:14 PM   #16
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Masi Lust, Colnago, Lust, Cinelli Lust, Ferrari Lust... Never heard of Peugeot Lust though.

I will admit the first bike I might have spent $ on as I was saving for my first road bike was a white Peugeot, that was not even 531, but it did have sew ups, forgot the model, just above the UO8, as it also had steel cranks. But level heads prevailed. I only wish I had a parent who was willing to take me to Pasadena or Montrose California, to see more alternatives on what to buy.

Getting up to Velo Sport, or any of the other cool bike shops in Northern California was way out of the question.
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Old 11-08-09, 04:06 PM   #17
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Can Opener Lust...

Fell in love with this back in my youth before I knew what to look for...you can see the quality. And this was top of their line.

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Old 11-08-09, 06:11 PM   #18
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Fell in love with this back in my youth before I knew what to look for...you can see the quality. And this was top of their line.

That is a "typical" french bike, a file? no files needed here... but it probably is brazed well to overfill of brass maybe, and probably rides well. At least they used Bocama lugs, they were cleaner out of the box than Nervex.
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Old 11-08-09, 06:55 PM   #19
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It does ride great.

Earlier this year somebody commented on the can-openeresque look of the fork crown. Kinda thick looking. The rest of the bike looks OK.
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Old 11-08-09, 09:04 PM   #20
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My ownership and riding experience is limited to two early 1970s Peugeot UO-8s, a 1980 Peugeot PKN-10E, a bargain basement 1962 Bianchi, and a 1981 Bianchi with a Columbus tre tubi frame.

The best all-rounder of the lot was the PKN-10E, which I gave to my elder son because he is taller than I am. It can take full 700Cx28mm tires, and it is fast and stable. If it truly been my size, I would still be riding it, despite the really shoddy fit and finish. The Bianchi is just a bit tighter in geometry and perhaps slightly quicker, but also twitchier in a strong crosswind.

I still think the UO-8 is one of the best low-end bike boom 10-speeds out there, particularly when enhanced with Japanese derailleurs, aluminum rims, and cotterless cranks.
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Old 11-08-09, 09:44 PM   #21
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French bikes have really stupid bottom bracket threading. Italian bikes have really REALLY stupid bottom bracket threading.
So far this is the first intelligent answer.

Most of us are familiar with the cheap French bikes we owned and the expensive Italian ones we lusted for. I would like to assert that a cheap Atala can be just as crappy as a cheap Peugeot or a cheap Mercier. And even the best French bike most of us are familiar with, the venerated Peugeot PX-10, hit a significantly lower price point than a Cinelli Corsa A, even in 1970.

But if we were to look at the best French bikes, such as the Gitane Super Corsa, the Follis 672, and the touring bikes made by Rene Herse and Alex Singer, French design and workmanship can stand next to the best of Italy. And most of us are quick to to forget, or too young to have ever known, how effective a racing tool a PX-10 (especially in the smaller sizes) or Gitane Tour de France could be.

Perhaps the most significant difference is that while the top Italian builders devoted themselves to bicycles for competition, the best of the French were more oriented toward touring.

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Old 11-09-09, 12:30 AM   #22
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But if we were to look at the best French bikes, such as the Gitane Super Corsa, the Follis 672, and the touring bikes made by Rene Herse and Alex Singer, French design and workmanship can stand next to the best of Italy. And most of us are quick to to forget, or too young to have ever known, how effective a racing tool a PX-10 (especially in the smaller sizes) or Gitane Tour de France could be.
I have a '73 Tour de France, a '71 Super Corsa, and a '71 PX-10. The workmanship leaves alot to be desired (all are worse than my '73 Bottecchia), but man do they go! My butt spends more time on them that the rest of the stable.
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Old 11-09-09, 03:38 AM   #23
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Both the Italians and French used quick release paint and decals for most bicycles.
Hahaha! Genius term - "quick release paint". I like it!
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Old 11-09-09, 10:12 AM   #24
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I get the impression that the French offered a more balanced range of quality and styles. To me, a typical vintage French bike is a mid-range sport tourer. That is still the golden mean for road bikes, and there are still lots of these around. The Italians seemed to be so enamored of high-end racing bikes and components that they put a minimal effort into anything else. When I think "vintage Italian", it's a high-end racer, and other than that it's low-end stuff that you rarely see anymore.
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Old 11-10-09, 12:35 AM   #25
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I have a '73 Tour de France, a '71 Super Corsa, and a '71 PX-10. The workmanship leaves alot to be desired (all are worse than my '73 Bottecchia), but man do they go!
Well I didn't say the Tour de France and PX10 were works of art, but maybe I was being generous about the Super Corsa. On the other hand, the Follis 672 that I remember (it was 1976) was a gorgeous racing machine in an oddly French vein--tight clearances and seatstays that tapered to pencil thin, all Nuevo Record, with gold Nisi tubular rims and Cinelli bar, stem, and "buffalo hyde" saddle. The woman I was dating and riding with took one look, sat on it, and took it home. It was perfect for her.
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