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My cure for the Gitane-Jones

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My cure for the Gitane-Jones

Old 04-20-12, 07:09 AM
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auchencrow
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My cure for the Gitane-Jones



My Saturday morning began early, like any other: Feeding my chubby little friends, then sitting down to Bikeforums, Craigslist, and black coffee - but here was an intriguing CL ad - a Gitane bike. No picture, no description, (other than ""Gitane bike") - and a real garage sale price. "Hmmm" I thought. "This sounds interesting - especially at this price! - I'd better go check it out!"

I called the seller, introduced myself, and without further adieu arranged to meet him at his house. I agreed to pay his asking price, and he agreed to hold it for me. Not a moment later, I hopped into my truck as was on my way. "This will be my lucky day" I said, as I toodled along in my old Dodge pick up. "Dang, I wish that old 8-track still worked so I wouldn't have to listen to that old muffler”, but soon my thoughts coalesced with the drone of the engine, and I imagined myself in soft focus, in a field of daisies, purchasing a minty purple Gitane Tour De France in Reynolds 531, with the seller, (a beauteous young starlet in a sequined gown) running towards me, in slow motion, with a huge gift-wrapped box full of NOS Campy parts to go with it! As I drew nearer my destination, I felt more and more certain that this was all about to happen: A beautiful Tour de France awaited me there!

When I approached the house, I could see that the front door, and every other door in the house was standing wide-open. I could have literally just walked in, but I rang the bell and waited patiently, poking my heat into the open doorway, peering into the living room for signs of life.

I was startled when the owner, a roly-poly bald-headed man in his 60’s with four days of stubble on his chin, came up behind me and tapped me on my shoulder. He had been working in the garage around the back, and upon hearing the bell, came around to meet me.

"Are you here for the shop vacuum?" He asked politely.
"No, I'm here for the Tour De France." I said.

He looked at me very strangely, like I was disturbed or something, but I hadn’t a clue that he had taken my reply as a most uncalled-for bit of sarcasm. Anyway, he beckoned me to follow him back around to the garage, and as we walked, he said "Another guy called on it this morning and said he wants it, and this is a top of the line model you see, so I'm not budging on the price."

“No problem” I replied – ever the more anxious to see my purple TdF!

We entered the garage, and there, in the middle of the floor, was a real top of the line model alright, with gleaming chrome trim and a 20-foot hose. Obviously, he was hell-bent on selling his vacuum, but I was singularly unimpressed. "That's a real nice shop vac.” I said, dryly – “but where is the Gitane you have for sale?"

“The other guy is coming over to buy it...Should be here about now” he said.

"Dammit!" I said. "You promised on the phone that you would hold it for me, and now you want to sell it to someone else! - Did he offer you an extra ten bucks for it?
Well you and your ‘other guy’ can both kiss my patootie! – I’m not playing this game - and I don't even care if your Gitane really IS a Tour de France!" You made a promise.”

"Err- are you Auchen?" he asked.

"Yeah. What's it to ya?"

A light seemed to go on in the seller's head: "A Tour de France, you say. - That's the bicycle’s name, isn't it? Ah yes! Now I get it!"

Then, turning to me, he said: "Well, Auchen, I just now realized that you’re not the guy who called on the vacuum – and yeah, there was one other guy who called offering me more money to renege on our deal for the bike, but I told him to take a flying leap.”

"You did? - Oh man, that's awesome!"

And then the seller added: "Anyhow, I'm sure that other guy would have reneged on me once he saw the bike. It's a real piece of crap. Let me get it and show it to you."

A moment later he reappeared with the bike: This seller was indeed a man of his word. It WAS a piece of crap! It was just a frame and fork with a Pletscher rack, but it was a Gitane, and it was cheap, and on closer inspection, I saw a Reynolds 531 label!

Hallelujah! It's a Tour de France!" I exclaimed.

I gleefully paid him and we shook hands as we parted. At the time, I didn't exactly know what I was going to do with it, but I knew I had a truly super-fine POC.

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Old 04-20-12, 07:10 AM
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Back at home, I cleaned the frameset immediately, but then it sat untouched for a long time while I accumulated enough stuff so that I could actually build it: A Stronglight crank from a gas-pipe mixte, a pair of Mavic Module E rims (a real CL bargain), a long French stem from a Peugeot that was otherwise too large for me, and various other goodies - including a set of NOS Campy cable guides given to me by Rootboy for just such an eventuality.

So here I was, sitting on a lovely Gitane frameset all this time, ever-so-slowly accumulating a pile of parts, and looking at pictures of everyone else's gorgeous Gitane. Oh yeah. I had developed a bad case of the Gitane-Jones. At long last though, I had everything I needed to get started.





The build went pretty smoothly, though I did have one or two minor glitches. For instance, I discovered a crack in one Universal-68 brake lever and had to source another.



Once the replacement arrived, I was ready to wrap the bars in Tressostar and twine - with the invaluable help of my little twine helper.





I laced up the rims onto the hubs I’d stashed, added some rubber, and pretty soon it was ready to ride. I found it to be a ride deserving of the accolades that are so often heaped on the better Gitanes from the era.



Oops! I forgot the hoods!

Actually, I didn't forget them: The price for NOS Universal hoods is more than off-putting, and I have lately taken a liking to the more Spartan appeal of some exposed vintage levers. Just me I guess. Perhaps I should add that they're also the WRONG vintage levers for this bike - the originals would have been Mafac center-pulls, but even more significantly, (based on my conversations with Chas Verktyg, the world’s foremost authority on Gitanes), the bike is not a Tour de France at all - but probably a ’74ish "Champion du Monde", sharing its frame with the Olympics (the ne pas ultras of Gitanes) - and something of a rarity in the US, having only been offered in France.

You see, the French were holding out on us – but even so, 38 years later, I got my cure for the Gitane Jones! (see below).
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Old 04-20-12, 07:10 AM
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As-Built:

Gitane Champion Du Monde, c. 1974
54cm, Full Reynolds 531
Huret dbl-stop “honeycomb” DO’s (accept both Campy & Huret DRs)
Generic Alloy French bars
Black Tressostar cloth tape, with synthetic yellow twine, and NOS Milremo end plugs
Phillipe 120mm stem
Campagnolo headset
Universal 68 calipers and levers
Koolstop black N.R. style shoes, in old open-end Weinmann holders
Suntour Power Shifters
Huret Svelto rear DR
Shimano Frt DR
Stronglight 93 crank with a 47T chain outer ring (and an unusable 37T granny gear).
Stronglight bb
Sunrace 14-28 HG FW
Lyotard touring pedals
Mavic Module E 700c rims
Normandy competition hubs
Pasela 700x25c tires
Brooks Professional saddle
Kalloy straight seat post
Campagnolo cable guides
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Old 04-20-12, 07:16 AM
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Auchencrow,
Please don't ever stop writing about your purchases and adventures. I look forward to your posts every time and love the style. Oh, the Gitane looks really nice.
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Old 04-20-12, 07:17 AM
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Jiminy, Auch. I mean for real, that is really cool! What else is new? But your cat looks non-plussed.
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Old 04-20-12, 07:31 AM
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You had me at My cure for the Gitane-Jones.

Great story and great build. Now spend the bucks and go get yourself some hoods.
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Old 04-20-12, 07:35 AM
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Originally Posted by qcpmsame View Post
Auchencrow,
Please don't ever stop writing about your purchases and adventures. I look forward to your posts every time and love the style. Oh, the Gitane looks really nice.
Thanks qcpmsame! - But with all the bikes here, I can't see writing much more about my purchases until "purchase" a bigger house!
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Old 04-20-12, 07:40 AM
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Originally Posted by kiwigem View Post
Jiminy, Auch. I mean for real, that is really cool! What else is new? But your cat looks non-plussed.
Thanks kiwigem!

My little helper might have been a little confused at first, but he is pretty adept at doing twine (as well as brake and shift cables).
I've heard that there are some PEOPLE who can't wrap twine.
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Old 04-20-12, 07:42 AM
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Originally Posted by KOBE View Post
You had me at My cure for the Gitane-Jones.

Great story and great build. Now spend the bucks and go get yourself some hoods.
Thanks KOBE. I appreciate the kind words.
- But you don't know how expensive NOS Universal hoods are (or how cheap I am).
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Old 04-20-12, 07:46 AM
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Have a cigarette , a Gitane! Nice work
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Old 04-20-12, 07:47 AM
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Auchen - great story!! And, one beautiful Gitane. I'm definitely jealous.
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Old 04-20-12, 08:00 AM
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A well written story, a great adventure in acquisition, and a beautiful bike to boot! C&V at its best!
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Old 04-20-12, 08:03 AM
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Since no one has mention those unique and beautiful honeycomb dropouts, I'll take the liberty. They're a stylish touch on a beautiful build and the first I've seen with vertical orientation for the axle.
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Old 04-20-12, 08:22 AM
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Great bike, even better story! Congratulations. The yellow accents on the bars pull the whole thing together. I love the plum colour of the frame, it's not one you see too often. As for the lever, I actually think Uni's look kind of cool that way, they have a very no-nonsense, mechanical look.
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Old 04-20-12, 08:45 AM
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Great story, gorgeous bike, looks like a '76. Mine looked nearly identical to yours and Chaz said it was a 1976 TdF.

Wish I hadn't sold mine




.

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Old 04-20-12, 08:56 AM
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Ah. Another great story from our resident talented writer. And, yet another beautiful bike built up with such style and aplomb. I love the little yellow accents which compliment the decals. And a great selection of components. That Gitane is long on style. Very nice work.

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Old 04-20-12, 09:18 AM
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Originally Posted by lee kenney View Post
Have a cigarette , a Gitane! Nice work
Thank you Lee!
(- but I quit smoking 12 years ago.)
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Old 04-20-12, 09:19 AM
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Originally Posted by scozim View Post
Auchen - great story!! And, one beautiful Gitane. I'm definitely jealous.
Thanks scozim!
But don't be jealous - there's another Gitane waiting with your name on it somewhere!
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Old 04-20-12, 09:22 AM
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Originally Posted by pastorbobnlnh View Post
A well written story, a great adventure in acquisition, and a beautiful bike to boot! C&V at its best!
Thanks Pastor Bob
- There were some tense moments there, surely -but it had a happy ending.
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Old 04-20-12, 09:28 AM
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Originally Posted by 23skidoo View Post
Since no one has mention those unique and beautiful honeycomb dropouts, I'll take the liberty. They're a stylish touch on a beautiful build and the first I've seen with vertical orientation for the axle.
Thanks for mentioning that 23skidoo! - From what I understand these DO's were quite an eye-full for buyers BITD - a little too bizarre for most, so they didn't last long, but 38 years later they do add some visual interest and they'll accept Campy as well as Huret DRs. I opted for the latter because I really like the looks of the Svelto with these chromed honeycomb DOs (plus that's what I had in my drawer). The shifting is nothing to write home about, but I've encountered worse.
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Old 04-20-12, 09:37 AM
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Originally Posted by devinfan View Post
Great bike, even better story! Congratulations. The yellow accents on the bars pull the whole thing together. I love the plum colour of the frame, it's not one you see too often. As for the lever, I actually think Uni's look kind of cool that way, they have a very no-nonsense, mechanical look.
Thank you devinfan! The color is uncommon - sort of a deep burgundy wine color I've never seen before. I am pleased that you too can appreciate the look of the raw levers - I've done this a couple of times before where hoods were unavailable rather that substituting other levers, and I liked the effect.

I.e.:

The Altenbergers on my '74 Raliegh Record:



And the Mafacs on my 79 Ross Aristocrat:

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Old 04-20-12, 09:41 AM
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Originally Posted by FORDSVTPARTS View Post
Great story, gorgeous bike, looks like a '76. Mine looked nearly identical to yours and Chaz said it was a 1976 TdF.

Wish I hadn't sold mine






.

Thanks FORDSVTPARTS - Every time I see a picture of your green TdF, I remember the story of how you THOUGHT it was going to an appreciative buyer.
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Old 04-20-12, 10:13 AM
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Great bike and story. Now forget the hoods. I discovered that wrapping the levers with cloth tape followed by shellac works great and holds up well. This photo is with tape over damaged hoods, but it will work fine right on the levers. BTW, I redid these later and ran the tape to the bottom of the hoods to connect with the bars.


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Old 04-20-12, 11:01 AM
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Originally Posted by RFC View Post
Great bike and story. Now forget the hoods. I discovered that wrapping the levers with cloth tape followed by shellac works great and holds up well. This photo is with tape over damaged hoods, but it will work fine right on the levers. BTW, I redid these later and ran the tape to the bottom of the hoods to connect with the bars.
Thanks RFC! Glad you liked the bike + story.
You have a good economical idea there.
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Old 04-20-12, 11:33 AM
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Great story, great bike. I'll light a Gitane in your honor.
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