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Gitane TdF Adventures

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Gitane TdF Adventures

Old 11-03-20, 10:35 PM
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Gitane TdF Adventures

I've owned this bike for awhile and are only now doing a post on it. After riding this small frame Gitane around, I think this is going to be less of a traditional build thread and more of "How can I make this work?" I want to make this one a keeper.

For a little background, my ideal frame size based on my leg length is around 50cm, however I have a longer torso, so in practice, only bikes with longer top tubes, or modern bikes work. I'd love to stick with C&V, considering my love for the way these older French steeds ride. Gitane is one of the only companies that built their top line bikes that small. I also own a nice Jeunet 630, which while a wonderful bike, I will probably end up selling soon. It's a 52cm frame. The top tube length is great for me, and only 1 cm longer than the Gitanes, but the standover barely clears my inseam, and I hate the look of an inch of seatpost.

After a lot of searching I picked up this Gitane TdF a few years ago.



This bike never spoke to me for some reason. It rode well enough, however I could not get it to feel right. Something about the pedal stroke always felt "off" to me. Like my feet were spinning in a different position than I was accustomed to. I tried pushing the seat back as far as it would go, and found a 110mm French stem. Reluctantly I sold that bike and took Gitane off the list as too small.

My resolve didn't last long however, as an ad for another small Gitane showed up on FB marketplace for $50. I noticed the Simplex SLJ components, and after an epic drive through terrible winter weather, the bike was mine.




The bike came with an ok wheelset, and someone had fitted upright bars along with an MTB style triple.




I bought a Sugino crank like the bike would have originally had, to match the Sugino bottom bracket. I understand these later Gitanes often came with these stock. Found a set of proper handlebars, acquired proper Mafac brakes, and took "Greenie" for a quick shakedown spin.









That first ride really impressed me, and confirmed the great things people have said about these bikes in the past. I want to give this one some longer time on the saddle before winter strikes, to get a clear idea if I feel the same way. The next priority, will be to see if I can get this bike to fit better than the last time around.

Last edited by Iniezione; 11-03-20 at 10:38 PM.
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Old 11-04-20, 09:22 AM
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Depending on how long a stem extension you want, I will simply say "Nitto." Thanks to Chas. Colerich/verktyg, I now know to (1) make certain the top locknut on the headset doesn't have a top flange smaller than the actual steerer diameter (a little Dremel action can open that up!) and (2) run a brake cylinder hone in the steerer tube to remove any corrosion and smooth things up. Those things done, most Nitto stems will slide right into place on a metric steerer, no sanding required. I am currently running Nitto Technomic stems in two vintage bikes with Nervor metric steerers, one a Swiss Allegro, the other one your bike's slightly older 60 cm sibling. The virtue of the Nitto stems is they are made for handlebars that are still extant standards, either 25.4 or 26.0 mm.

The Sugino crank is a good choice. My first TdF I bought used in '98 or so for $75 had stock Sugino cranks and updated Campagnolo Record hubs with tied and soldered spokes. Still kick myself for selling that one.

It's worth dialing in the fit. Mine, the most battered and scabrous example out there, came to me as a stripped frameset with BB and headset after spending a decade or more that way on a hook in a basement in the Pacific Northwest. It's built up as a fixed-gear, and the only semi-correct parts are most of the headset (a previous owner put a Zeus locknut on it) and a pair of Stronglight 93s slightly modified for single ring use. The rest is a joyride through many decades' worth of parts bins. No matter. It's gotten the bulk of my mileage for five years now, and remains a keeper. There really IS something about how this model rides. It would be interesting to get all the frame numbers, lengths, angles, fork offset, trail, all of that. Nothing else in my collection has quite the geometry of my TdF.
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Old 11-04-20, 08:00 PM
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It does indeed have a great ride. Even with the smaller frame, I can feel it from the first pedal stroke, feels like the bike is helping me along. Itís a charming bike even with its flaws.

As far as fit goes, Iím still scratching my head about that one. The top tube is only 1cm shorter than on the 52cm Jeunet. Yes, the head tube and seat tube are shorter overall, and the Gitane has a unique geometry with a steeper seat tube. I can only guess that my torso is closer to the pedals than on a regular C&V bike, contributing to the odd feeling pedal stroke.
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Old 11-05-20, 04:15 PM
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To the OP: I'm pretty sure your chain is too short. Your rd is at its extension limit with the chain on the middle ring in front and the big cog in back. If you were to leave the chain where it is in back and shift onto the big ring in front, you'd bust something.

A lot of people are convinced that they're never going to use the big-big gear combination. I used to think that myself. But I was disabused. As Aesop supposedly said, "Experience is a dear school, but the fool will learn in no other."

That said, nice score! The SLJ derailleurs are about the best that Simplex ever made, I think.

Last edited by jonwvara; 11-05-20 at 04:23 PM. Reason: I am an editor
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Old 11-06-20, 09:52 AM
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Thanks for the tip, I will look into it. When I replaced the old rusty chain, I cut the new one to the same length without really thinking about it much. I do think the angle of the long cage RD looks a little odd. Then again, Iím not accustomed to the Simplex long cage models.


Originally Posted by jonwvara
To the OP: I'm pretty sure your chain is too short. Your rd is at its extension limit with the chain on the middle ring in front and the big cog in back. If you were to leave the chain where it is in back and shift onto the big ring in front, you'd bust something.

A lot of people are convinced that they're never going to use the big-big gear combination. I used to think that myself. But I was disabused. As Aesop supposedly said, "Experience is a dear school, but the fool will learn in no other."

That said, nice score! The SLJ derailleurs are about the best that Simplex ever made, I think.
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