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What's so special about French bikes?

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What's so special about French bikes?

Old 12-20-19, 12:23 PM
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French builders got a particular thing, now only just starting to be appreciated here in the US, very dialed in from @1930 to 1980--the NON-RACING road bike.
Call them what you want--sport, audax, randonneur, they are great bikes for those of us riding on the road who aren't either competing or hauling 45 lbs. of luggage, and France is the country whose builders got 'em figured out..
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Old 12-20-19, 02:17 PM
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Originally Posted by DQRider
^^^ ???
Thread title sung to the tune of ...


Such a well known song, thought it would be obvious.
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Old 06-11-21, 12:23 AM
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Parlez-vous Franais?

I like the responses Ive been getting on this thread. Ive had one Motobecane (Grand Touring), 3 PX-10s ( I currently have a 75) and a circa 1969 Bertin C-37.

Yes, its all true about stem diameters (22.0 vs 22.2mm), HS & BB threading, but those oddities are part of the charm.

Personally though, if a Simplex FD body broke Id just throw it away. No points for holding together a piece of crap with wire, sorry.
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Old 06-16-21, 02:20 PM
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French bikes? MY first derailleur bike was and still is a '72 Peugeot UO8. For an inexpensive bike it just rides sweetly. Then decades later I picked up and rebuilt a Motobecane frame which is most likely a '74 Champion Team. It rides like a puppy likes to play, full of energy, ready to do anything at any time. A few years ago I picked up and rebuilt this, a PF10, with Vitus 181 tubing and all. Stronglight 104bis crank, Simplex derailleurs, Speidle brakes, Mavic 501 hubs, Mavic rims with Italian (what??) Veloflex tires. This pic is from today's ride. It isn't what you'd call high-end from the detailing, but by golly it just loves to go, easy, smooth, efficient, and looks good. What else is there?

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Old 06-16-21, 04:36 PM
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-----

...rationality..........


...and aestheticae.....


-----
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Old 06-16-21, 05:14 PM
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When I started this thread 4 years ago, I had zero French bikes. Now I have 7. I'm somewhere between this and this

I do have plans to get rid of 3 of them (really, truly).

I really like some of the small things I found. I overhauled the headsets on a 70s Peugeot UE 8 and a late 70s UO 10. They came stock with loose bearings on the bottom and a cage on top. That makes a lot of sense given that it's the bottom that takes a beating on the headset. The UE 8 has quality fenders, a quality rack, and a lighting system. All nice stuff.

I've really been enjoying my '73 Motobecane Grand Record. To my mind, this is what a classic vintage bike should look like with a leather saddle, cloth tape, gum rubber hoods, two tone paint job, etc. Yeah I'm running bmx style pedals, not toe clips and straps, but I love the MKS lambda pedals because they give you such a big cushy platform to push on.

The paint is crackled but it is fully functional. Plus the bike takes a fat tire. I'm running a 700 x 35c Schwalbe mondial tire, a 50/34 Nervar 630/631 crank, a 5 speed 14-28 twist tooth shimano freewheel, and a suntour VGT rear derailleur. The bike is fine on gravel and has good climbing gears.





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Old 06-24-21, 07:08 AM
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I wasn't going to buy any more, but I couldn't help it. Found this one locally, in my size, and in great shape. Only bike I regret having sold was my gold 1972 TdF, so it was easy. Bonus points for Huret Jubilee RD and Mavic tubular wheelset with Campy hubs. Gallery is here.

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Old 06-24-21, 12:59 PM
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I have a 1973(?) Motobecane Le Champion that was restored to pretty much new looking in that awesome Black and Red paint scheme they had back then. It rides really nice and in fact rides nicer than my Austro Daimler frameset Ultima-ish build up from the early 80's. Parts could be a real issue but I baby both bikes so I just ride and enjoy! So for me.."Vive le French bikes" until they become inconvenient.....
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Old 06-24-21, 01:21 PM
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Originally Posted by cletusjones
I have a 1973(?) Motobecane Le Champion that was restored to pretty much new looking in that awesome Black and Red paint scheme they had back then. It rides really nice and in fact rides nicer than my Austro Daimler frameset Ultima-ish build up from the early 80's. Parts could be a real issue but I baby both bikes so I just ride and enjoy! So for me.."Vive le French bikes" until they become inconvenient.....
definitely need pics. Heres mine finally finished after taking care of a pedal issue.

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Old 06-24-21, 03:23 PM
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Da' Bike!


Da' Suntour

Da' Drop Outs..!

The pics were in my album! I love this forum!
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Old 06-25-21, 06:32 AM
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French bikes?...




are Dino-Mite?
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Old 06-25-21, 06:40 AM
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Originally Posted by big chainring
French bikes?...
are Dino-Mite?
Faire sauter la dynamite!
Bonus points for the wine bottle cork plugs.
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Old 07-01-21, 07:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Feldman
French builders got a particular thing, now only just starting to be appreciated here in the US, very dialed in from @1930 to 1980--the NON-RACING road bike.
Call them what you want--sport, audax, randonneur, they are great bikes for those of us riding on the road who aren't either competing or hauling 45 lbs. of luggage, and France is the country whose builders got 'em figured out..
+ 1 on this. With French bikes, you're not stuck with a racing crank. There are several models of cranks that can take smaller rings (TA, Stronglight 49 and 99, Nervar 630/631). That makes those bikes very versatile. The simplex shifters and front derailleurs with delrin didn't last. Simplex rear derailleurs generally hold up pretty well. The long cage ones are hard to find (and tend to be expensive) but even the short cage ones can generally handle a fairly big cog in the rear as well (many of them are rated up to 30 teeth). They shift well especially once you install a better (really non French) freewheel.
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Old 07-01-21, 07:32 AM
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Originally Posted by Chombi1
...But maybe I'm also partiial to French bikes because I grew up as a kid in the 70's with my father buying and loving cars like a Peugeot 404 Pinninfarina coupe, a couple of Renault 16TS' and a Renault 17 Gordini......
Understood... I think the best thing about old French bikes is that they are cheaper than old Italian bikes, same with cars.

I am not going to find an 1965 Alfa Coupe, but I might find a 65 404.... Ha
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Old 07-01-21, 08:52 AM
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Why on earth would anyone bother with French bikes.....

....um, er....

1:


Early 80's PFN10... one of my favorite bikes to ride. Vitus tubing is great!

Two:



A 1968 PX10 with a bunch of modern modifications: pump peg, water bottle braze-ons, shifter bosses etc.

Three:



The closest thing to a unicorn I've ever found: Motobecane Team Champion from the early 80's in unridden condition. (Now I ride it- Columbus tubing is great!)

Four:



Early 70's Motobecane Le Champion (531 tubing is great!)

Five:



Mid-70's Motobecane Grand Jubilee-- set up for slow picnic rides with the family....

I guess it's safe to say I like French bikes... the Puegeot's generally have a special ride quality. I've even loved riding the occasional UO8. I keep trying to get rid of bikes, but somehow the French ones stick around...
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Old 07-01-21, 09:08 AM
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What's so special about French bikes?

By the '70;s they seem to be well optimized for what they were intended to do, the materials that were available and the cost that they knew the customer was willing to pay. The French bike industry was the reason for the bike boom. For a recreational bike they ride nice and smooth, handle well, had more gear ratios available than people were used to at the time, shifted reasonably well and many of these French bike boom bikes had good looking paint jobs.

I had an Astra bike that was low end. Who knows who Astra was. It did have a winged M somewhere on the fork, so perhaps it was made by Motobecane and they were too embarrassed to put their name on the bike or the fork was sourced from Motobecane. Anyway, it did everything that a "lightweight" bike should do. I expanded my world by being able to ride further and faster than I ever had on Schwinn middle weight or an upright 3 speed.

And if you spent more money on a French bike you were rewarded with lighter weight, more responsive ride and better components.

There is not much not to love about French bikes except that everyone selling one nowadays thinks they are rare and precious.

One more thing about French bikes that we didn't realize in the '70's is that they fit fenders and fatter tires.
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Old 07-01-21, 09:24 AM
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Originally Posted by Velo Mule
By the '70;s they seem to be well optimized for what they were intended to do, the materials that were available and the cost that they knew the customer was willing to pay. The French bike industry was the reason for the bike boom. For a recreational bike they ride nice and smooth, handle well, had more gear ratios available than people were used to at the time, shifted reasonably well and many of these French bike boom bikes had good looking paint jobs.

I had an Astra bike that was low end. Who knows who Astra was. It did have a winged M somewhere on the fork, so perhaps it was made by Motobecane and they were too embarrassed to put their name on the bike or the fork was sourced from Motobecane. Anyway, it did everything that a "lightweight" bike should do. I expanded my world by being able to ride further and faster than I ever had on Schwinn middle weight or an upright 3 speed.

And if you spent more money on a French bike you were rewarded with lighter weight, more responsive ride and better components.

There is not much not to love about French bikes except that everyone selling one nowadays thinks they are rare and precious.

One more thing about French bikes that we didn't realize in the '70's is that they fit fenders and fatter tires.
It's tough to beat a hi tensile steel French bike boom era bike for practicality and ride qualities. I have a 70s era Peugeot UE 8 that came stock with fenders, kickstand, a quality rack, and lighting system. Dump the steel wheels and the delrin shifters and FD and you end up with an excellent utility bike that has character.
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Old 07-01-21, 09:28 AM
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I have an opportunity to buy an old Motobecane road bike in approximately a useful size. It has a separate derailleur hanger on it. I think I'll pass as I'd like to obtain something younger but aren't french threads kind of limiting in choices for component compatibility?
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Old 07-01-21, 09:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Velo Mule

One more thing about French bikes that we didn't realize in the '70's is that they fit fenders and fatter tires.
Is this true generally, or just for specific makes/models/years?
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Old 07-01-21, 01:10 PM
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Originally Posted by prairiepedaler
Is this true generally, or just for specific makes/models/years?
I have found it to be generally true, except (but sometimes even still) at the very top end of road racing bikes, like the Motobecane Team Champion.
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Old 07-01-21, 04:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Velo Mule
snip . . .

One more thing about French bikes that we didn't realize in the '70's is that they fit fenders and fatter tires.
Originally Posted by prairiepedaler
Is this true generally, or just for specific makes/models/years?
If the frame is hi tensile steel, yes it should fit fenders and fatter tires. These bikes that were exported to North America were generally sold with and built around 27 x 1 and 1/4 tires.

If the frame is made of better tubing, the answer is frequently yes as well except with the top end racing bikes that came with short reach brakes. I'm running 700 x 35c tires on my Motobecane Grand Record and that's made of Reynolds 531 tubing.

If the bike came stock with center pull brakes (Weinmanns or Mafacs), that bike will likely take a reasonably fat tire and fenders.
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Old 07-01-21, 05:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Wileyone
Again English Tube Sets. So much for french originality.
Note that Gitane did change the tubsets on their 1984 TDF to Supervitus 983.....But strangely, they decided to use Modolo Speedy brakesets and Ofmega Mistral drivetrain gruppos, plus a Japanese seatpost.....on it......
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Old 07-01-21, 11:27 PM
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What is so special about French Bikes

Hello, All,


After lurking on this forum I began to wonder about the fuss over French bikes. So, I have now a 1972 Peugeot

PX-10 I am rebuilding to ride. I must say after tearing it down I am not impressed by their quality control.

The machining is rough in all quarters. The bottom headset bearing cup has a line on it from an errant cutting tool.

The BB cups have cutting lines. They are not smooth. The Mafac brake calipers were really rough. The Mafac levers

were stiff. Cable ends were roughly cut and mostly too long to begin with. The pawls inside the freewheel were unreasonably worn.

One of the headset bearing cups had too few ball bearings as did one of the Lyotard pedals. The AVA death stem did not kill

its former owner but it was both bent and cracked at the slots. So, it might have if he had tried to ride this thing one more time.

But, that would have been impossible since the RD jockey wheels had broken up.

Nevertheless, when I am done I expect to find I will be pleased at how this bike is to ride.
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Old 07-02-21, 06:55 AM
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Originally Posted by Gashouse
Nevertheless, when I am done I expect to find I will be pleased at how this bike is to ride.
Yup, that's the bottom line. Good luck with the restoration! Be sure and post pics.
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Old 07-02-21, 07:08 AM
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There is something special about the combination of French frame geometry and metric gauge tubing - especially metric-gauge 531. My all-time favorite French bike EVER, which is in the handful of bikes I still absolutely adore, is this battered c.1971 Gitane TdF that I bought as a frame, fork, headset and BB for $50 plus shipping. The bike had spent easily a decade hanging on a hook in a basement in the Pacific Northwest before I got it. I did a lousy job getting the remaining tattered bits of decals off, but it all blends in with the patina it already had. The parts mix is a total dog's breakfast of Phil BB, Stronglight 93 converted to single-ring use, Kogswell/Mavic fixed-gear wheelset, Nitto bars and stem, Dia-Compe aero levers and Weinmann Carrera sidepulls, a Stronglight P3 headset with a Zeus locknut .... but it just feels sooooo good out on the road.

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