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So I wanted an old French tandem....

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So I wanted an old French tandem....

Old 08-31-22, 07:16 PM
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So I wanted an old French tandem....

...and for my sins I got one.
Listing on CL said it was a Gitane. One look at told me it was a nicer bike than any Gitane tandem I'd ever seen. I don't argue during a negotiation, so it came home.









It is a Mel Pinto branded Follis Concorde.

The ghost of Mel Pinto:


The remains of a Reynolds 531 decal




The 26.4 seat tube bears this out.




Unmarked bar end shifters turn out to be Simplex Retrofrictions.




Atom drum hub laced to Wobler Super Champion hoop 48x5x.





A couple of quick passes with the brass wheel on the Dremel to see how things might clean up.


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Old 08-31-22, 07:55 PM
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There seems to he enough French goodies on that bike to suggest that it is indeed a Gitane.....or at least French. Tell us what the BB and headset size/threading turns out to be....
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Old 08-31-22, 08:04 PM
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Very nice, Follis bikes are very neat. Looks like the Mel Pinto Follis Concorde is a Reynolds 531 frame:

CC Bicycle Gallery: Will Lockmiller's Follis Concorde Tandem
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Old 08-31-22, 08:11 PM
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That fork 😍😍😍😍😍
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Old 08-31-22, 09:52 PM
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Nice! I bought a Mel Pinto Special tandem not too long ago. It is similar to yours, but does not have the mixte stoker set up. I was a sucker for the fork crown. I was trying to figure out builder as well and thought maybe Follis. Previous owner thought it was made by Lejuene, though. Hope you enjoy it. I'm still trying to convince my wife or son to ride with me!
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Old 08-31-22, 10:02 PM
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Here's mine for comparison. I have since changed out some things (saddles, bar tape, etc.)

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Old 08-31-22, 10:16 PM
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Originally Posted by bikemig
Very nice, Follis bikes are very neat. Looks like the Mel Pinto Follis Concorde is a Reynolds 531 frame:

CC Bicycle Gallery: Will Lockmiller's Follis Concorde Tandem
Follis built tandems for Gitane and others.
a niche of theirs.
not all Gitane tandems are Follis , but the better ones are
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Old 09-01-22, 06:55 AM
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And here's Mel in his prime, for those who didn't know him. An old photo even at that time.
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Old 09-01-22, 07:02 AM
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Killer!
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Old 09-01-22, 07:11 AM
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Dang Top! You certainly do know how to find BIG projects!

Can't wait to see you make this road worthy and form a quartet with jimmuller and Sharon.
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Old 09-01-22, 07:13 AM
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VERY cool! Reynolds! Retrofriction bar-ends! Curious what you paid for it......
Maybe there's something in the air- I picked up a Peugeot TH-8 tandem earlier this summer ($60!). Not as 'high quality' as your is, and has required a lot of elbow grease but has cleaned up really nicely. Waiting for a few little bits to complete the rehab and get riding.
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Old 09-01-22, 07:32 AM
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Originally Posted by ehcoplex
VERY cool! Reynolds! Retrofriction bar-ends! Curious what you paid for it......
Maybe there's something in the air- I picked up a Peugeot TH-8 tandem earlier this summer ($60!). Not as 'high quality' as your is, and has required a lot of elbow grease but has cleaned up really nicely. Waiting for a few little bits to complete the rehab and get riding.
I've kept my eye out for a used tandem. I'd buy one a vintage one like the one you picked up at around $100. I'd have a hard time paying more for one with a hi tensile steel frame. Plus at that price, you should be able to sell it if you end up not liking it. Tandems are hard to sell. Most of the local ones just sit and sit.
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Old 09-01-22, 10:14 PM
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Nice bike. The shop I worked at '79 to '84 sold Follis tandems as our "house brand" we got 'em in bare steel, painted and decaled them. Not pulling a fast one, the customers knew what they were getting. We also made custom tandems in-house, but they were very expensive, plus we had a long waiting list, up to 3 years at one point (yes not a typo, three years). So the Follis was an attractive option, and people were very happy with them.

The forks were oversized, both the blades and the steerer (as are yours) but not Reynolds. We had them throw in a box of fork blades with one shipment, and they were clearly "lesser than" 531. Not taper-gauge for example, so they were thicker-wall at the bottom. We ended up not using them on our custom tandems. Follis certainly could have used 531 blades on some bikes; I'm only saying the forks we got weren't Reynolds. Neither on the built forks, nor the box of raw blades

I don't mean to disparage your bike (I said "nice bike" and I meant it!), but I think you have those non-Reynolds blades on yours, top506 . We used real Reynolds 531 "Jack Taylor" oversized tandem blades on our custom frames, with a cast crown we designed specifically to fit them. So I'm very familiar with both the JT blades and the Follis, and I think I can tell the difference from your photos. I admit I could be wrong though. Shall we saw up your forks to measure the wall thickness and see if they're taper gauge?

Naw, just ride it and be happy!

Mark B

PS, take good care of that headset, they're somewhat rare. Maybe take it apart, clean/grease it, and don't adjust it too tight. Capture the balls as you take it apart, they might be 5 mm rather than the more common 3/16". I think Wayne Bingham might still have a bucket of those headsets though; he did a number of years ago and they don't fly off the shelves.... He's the guy that bought Mel Pinto's business and remaining inventory when Mel called it quits.
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Old 09-05-22, 06:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Chombi1
There seems to he enough French goodies on that bike to suggest that it is indeed a Gitane.....or at least French. Tell us what the BB and headset size/threading turns out to be....
V/O had a couple of these and blogged about them several years back:

https://velo-orange.blogspot.com/2007/10/

Mine hews pretty close to the spec sheet in the blog entry, right down to the BSC BB shells.
Stem and captain's seat post caused no problems, stoker's put up a fight but was beaten into submission. Bottom brackets and eccentric came out like a gent, much to my delight.
Three snapped bottle cage bolts and one rack mount have to be removed, along with a broken rear DO adjuster screw. All in all it could have been far worse.

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Old 09-05-22, 07:26 AM
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Originally Posted by top506
V/O had a couple of these and blogged about them several years back:

https://velo-orange.blogspot.com/2007/10/

Mine hews pretty close to the spec sheet in the blog entry, right down to the BSC BB shells.
Stem and captain's seat post caused no problems, stoker's put up a fight but was beaten into submission. Bottom brackets and eccentric came out like a gent, much to my delight.
Three snapped bottle cage bolts and one rack mount have to be removed, along with a broken rear DO adjuster screw. All in all it could have been far worse.

Top
Good stuff. Is there a year when Gitane switched to BSC BB shells or is it just this model Mel Pinto Gitane (if you know). There is an '87 Gitane tandem I've been eyeing locally but the long stronglight axles for a triple are hard to come by.
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Old 09-07-22, 07:34 PM
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Mystery French Tandem

top506 bulgie Force

Follis produced tandem frames for most of the French marques especially from the late 70's through the mid 80's: Gitane, Peugeot, Motobecane, Bertin, Lejeune and of course Mel Pinto. That's straight from several horse's mouths - Mel Pinto himself and Bertin.

The "tell' was the fork crown.




Other things were lugless oversize tubing construction along with an oval "boom tube".

We sold Gitanes during the bike boom up through 1976 by which time Gitane West had taken over Gitane importation and distribution from Mel Pinto Imports and ran the brand into the ground!

During those years we always kept at least one Gitane tandem in stock. They were made of oversize gas pipe tubing and had the features of the entry level Gitane Gran Sport bikes but they were cheap!




This 1969 Mel Pinto flyer lists 2 models: Europa #650 with 650B tires (which I never saw in the steel) and Sport #656 with 27 x 1 1/4" tires. (the model that we sold). Note: at that time Mel Pinto offered custom built Alex Singer tandems. It's highly unlikely that any Gitane tandem with a lugged frame was made by Follis.

One of my riding buddies had an all Reynolds 531 Gitane tandem. It was made with oversize Reynolds tandem tubing and had the same features as the Sport #656 but with top of the line components. Did a century on it as the stoker one time. I'd look over my shoulder on the flat sections and all of the racers were wheel sucking. They dropped us on the hills but we reeled them in on the way back down, It was fun watching them try to jump on our wheel when we were spinning out 60-13 gears!

Getting back to Follis tandems, here's a 1975 Bicycling Magazine review written by Fred Delong.





In 1977 or 78 Mel Pinto called and asked me if I wanted to buy a bunch of Pinto/Follis bare tandem frames on close out. They were dirt cheap and just painted with primer. We sold a number of tandems every year so I grabbed them. They were probably made of some gas pipe tubing and had the classic Follis forks. 13 frames showed up by truck unboxed. I can appreciate Mark B's experience.

I've never seen a European marque Follis tandem made of Reynolds 531 but I guess that Mel Pinto had some made for the US market.

We started importing Andre Bertin bikes in 1975 and brought in at least one of their tandems with every shipments. Here's the spec sheet for our 1979-1980 model. The frames were made by Follis using Vitus 172 over-sized tandem tubes. My friend did the copy text after I left the company so I take no responsibility for the content.


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Old 09-08-22, 04:04 AM
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Originally Posted by verktyg
top506 bulgie Force

Follis produced tandem frames for most of the French marques especially from the late 70's through the mid 80's: Gitane, Peugeot, Motobecane, Bertin, Lejeune and of course Mel Pinto. That's straight from several horse's mouths - Mel Pinto himself and Bertin.

The "tell' was the fork crown.




Other things were lugless oversize tubing construction along with an oval "boom tube".

Getting back to Follis tandems, here's a 1975 Bicycling Magazine review written by Fred Delong.




verktyg
Great info, as always! I wonder if the frame of my Peugeot TH-8 ('80, I think..) was built by Follis- the details look identical to the above.
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Old 09-08-22, 05:08 AM
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Originally Posted by verktyg
top506 bulgie Force

Follis produced tandem frames for most of the French marques especially from the late 70's through the mid 80's: Gitane, Peugeot, Motobecane, Bertin, Lejeune and of course Mel Pinto. That's straight from several horse's mouths - Mel Pinto himself and Bertin.

The "tell' was the fork crown.




Other things were lugless oversize tubing construction along with an oval "boom tube".

We sold Gitanes during the bike boom up through 1976 by which time Gitane West had taken over Gitane importation and distribution from Mel Pinto Imports and ran the brand into the ground!

During those years we always kept at least one Gitane tandem in stock. They were made of oversize gas pipe tubing and had the features of the entry level Gitane Gran Sport bikes but they were cheap!




This 1969 Mel Pinto flyer lists 2 models: Europa #650 with 650B tires (which I never saw in the steel) and Sport #656 with 27 x 1 1/4" tires. (the model that we sold). Note: at that time Mel Pinto offered custom built Alex Singer tandems. It's highly unlikely that any Gitane tandem with a lugged frame was made by Follis.

One of my riding buddies had an all Reynolds 531 Gitane tandem. It was made with oversize Reynolds tandem tubing and had the same features as the Sport #656 but with top of the line components. Did a century on it as the stoker one time. I'd look over my shoulder on the flat sections and all of the racers were wheel sucking. They dropped us on the hills but we reeled them in on the way back down, It was fun watching them try to jump on our wheel when we were spinning out 60-13 gears!

Getting back to Follis tandems, here's a 1975 Bicycling Magazine review written by Fred Delong.





In 1977 or 78 Mel Pinto called and asked me if I wanted to buy a bunch of Pinto/Follis bare tandem frames on close out. They were dirt cheap and just painted with primer. We sold a number of tandems every year so I grabbed them. They were probably made of some gas pipe tubing and had the classic Follis forks. 13 frames showed up by truck unboxed. I can appreciate Mark B's experience.

I've never seen a European marque Follis tandem made of Reynolds 531 but I guess that Mel Pinto had some made for the US market.

We started importing Andre Bertin bikes in 1975 and brought in at least one of their tandems with every shipments. Here's the spec sheet for our 1979-1980 model. The frames were made by Follis using Vitus 172 over-sized tandem tubes. My friend did the copy text after I left the company so I take no responsibility for the content.


verktyg
As always a great, informative post from @verktyg ! When I refinish this it will most likely sport Follis livery.
Chas, loving the Super Corsa!

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Old 09-08-22, 05:34 AM
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Beautiful bike! Another one for comparison:


Mine is somewhat modernized/updated. Sadly these are the best pics I have.
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Old 09-08-22, 06:15 AM
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I like the bar end shifters and formidable cantilever breaks, curious what it says under the paint. I cannot yet post a link so looks for "get-your-francophreak-mafaciacs" in this forum.
Mafac/ACS ---> classic-vintage --> 559756-get-your-francophreak-mafaciacs dot html
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Old 09-08-22, 01:19 PM
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Nice. I believe MOTOBECANE also had a similar model.
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Old 09-08-22, 03:47 PM
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Other Branded Follis Tandems

Originally Posted by bboy314
I suspect that the lugged Gitane tandems including later ones like this one were made in house. I seem to remember seeing pictures of some Gitane tandems that had all of the markings of a Follis made lugless frame.

Originally Posted by ccharala
Nice. I believe MOTOBECANE also had a similar model.
Motobecane Interclub was their Follis framed tandem which was marketed from the late 70's until the bloody end in 1984. They claimed that the frames were made of 2040 steel which was a marketing number for some kind of carbon steel tubing not a real steel specification...

1981 Catalog - see the Follis fork crown...



1984 Catalog - note the stamped steel dropouts indicative of a lower quality frame....



Peugeot also marketed a Follis framed tandem during the same time frame as the Motobecane Interclub.



This shows the fork crown on a bike with updated components.



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Old 09-08-22, 04:25 PM
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Here's a fun 650b conversion on a Mel Pinto Follis, from a few years ago, by Long Island framebuilder Jamie Swan: https://flic.kr/s/aHsm3aChFg

The bike came to him with cantis at the height for 27", but he determined the frame was originally designed for 650b, with 27" being a bodge to make them sellable in the USA, back when benighted Americans thought 650b was an obsolete size. Who's obsolete now, 27?

Mark B
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Old 09-08-22, 05:04 PM
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Originally Posted by bulgie
Here's a fun 650b conversion on a Mel Pinto Follis, from a few years ago, by Long Island framebuilder Jamie Swan: https://flic.kr/s/aHsm3aChFg

The bike came to him with cantis at the height for 27", but he determined the frame was originally designed for 650b, with 27" being a bodge to make them sellable in the USA, back when benighted Americans thought 650b was an obsolete size. Who's obsolete now, 27?

Mark B
I wonder where he sourced the graphics?

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Old 09-08-22, 05:47 PM
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Originally Posted by top506
I wonder where he sourced the graphics?

Top
He got 'em from Wayne Bingham, the guy who bought Mel Pinto's business and inventory when Mel retired. Wayne's retail business is called Velo-Classique, with a store front (I believe) in Purcellville, VA (near DC). Last I heard he was planning to downsize and move to a smaller place, maybe switch to by-appointment only (no open hours), sort of easing into being retired.
I don't think he has a website. How to contact him is "left as an exercize for the reader". Here's an article about his shop a while back in Pez Cycling, and one from Handbuilt Bicycle News.
Note, there is a website called velo-classique.com, but it's Spanish language and not Wayne's business.
Oh I just noticed there is a website for Mel Pinto Imports, his wholesale business. You can probably contact him through that.

Wayne's a good resource for many weird old French items, like the 28 mm headset on these Follis tandems. When I needed a replacement clutch/spring for a Simplex retrofriction shift lever, he had 'em, NOS. We haven't met other than in emails but he seems like a real cool dude, and definitely solid/reliable.

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