Quick. Name 3 historic French bicycle brands that have been ridden to Tour de France wins.
“Easy,” you say: Peugeot (10), Motobecane (1), Mercier? Nope. Look (1)? Nope, not historic. I’m going to save you some time: Gitane. “GITANE! Of course,” you say. Cycles Gitanes has won 11 Tour De France victories. 11! 10 of these were won from 1963-1984. Ten wins in 21 years, they dominated the Tour. Who rode them? Anquetil, Van Impe, Hinault, Fignon, and LeMond. Woof! Why is Gitanes off the radar? Well, they were purchased by Peugeot, left the US Market and stopped sponsoring teams for Le Tour. Out of sight out of mind. At this writing, there are only 11 Gitanes offered on Ebay, but the legacy is there to be remembered.
In 1925, Marcel Brunelière manufactured bike parts quickly progressing to full bicycles in 1930. He named this new bike company Cycles Gitane (Gypsy Woman). They were first imported to the US in 1958. Five years later, the Tour de France wins started rolling in.
In 1985 you could get a Gitane “Professional” Team Replica with butted Reynolds tubes and high end parts. Or, if your talent was greater than your pocketbook, you could get a Gitane “Performance” with straight gauge tubes and a modest but perfectly good French gruppo. If you rode fast enough casual observers might mistake your “Performance” for a “Professional”. The Performance certainly had the Euro-Racer look with a key lime pie colored frame, flashy yellow Selle San Marco saddle and matching colored bar tape and extremely steep geometry.
The French have the word “Terroir” to describe the undefinable yet unmistakable quality that time and place impress upon a wine. I think bikes need such a word and I’m going to coin it. Roueage (Roo-Ahj). Roue the French word for wheel and Age, the French word for age, time, or era.
The Roueage of this bike is purely Euro ‘80’s. Even though it is 35 years old, ridden hard, and lost the original fork it still seems to challenge all comers in a thick French accent “You think you can ride?!” Undeterred, throw a leg over the saddle and take it for a spin. You’ll notice it is willing and eager to go. But, you had better know what you are doing because it has that quick, twitchy, almost dangerous ride meant for experts that is equal parts exhilarating and scary. Bikes like this aren’t made any more, much like vintage sports cars. This bike will transport you to another time and give you ride sensations you may never have had. You may even start speaking in a thick French accent.