The Chainlink

Ask questions or offer advice. I will direct everyone to Sheldon Brown's French Bike page to start this off. If you own a French bike, you should read through this:
Don't fear your Frenchie. With a little patience and kindness, and a clear inventory of an altogether different set of sizes, your bike and you will be great friends.

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Don't laugh. These work. Dropout alignment tool made from 3/8 x 8" eyebolts, 2 sets of washers and bolts, and 2 3/8 couplers. Follow the instructions on the Park website as if you owned their expensive tools.
http://www.parktool.com/repair/readhowto.asp?id=40
I have only used these to align a fork, but they should work on rear dropouts also. Please remember that only steel forks or rear dropouts can be realigned.

Bon jour mes amis,

A friend asked me to brighten up her old Gitane Tour de France. So far it's a fun project but I was hoping to get a little help identifying the precise model and year.

I apologize for not posting any pics but let me briefly describe the distinguishing characteristics. I will definitely post some pics soon.

Frame is Reynolds 531, diagonal style decal (i.e. all tubes DB if I'm not mistaken.) Simplex dropouts. There is a horizontal "Service Course" decal on the top tube, and another round top tube decal with black & white checked motif and the letters SC on them. Paint is white with chromed fork ends, crown and dropouts. There's a "custom made" decal on the seat tube with a hand icon, kinda doubt that means hand-brazed though.

Wheels are Campy nuovo tipo with Mavic sewup rims
stronglight crank
mafac competition brakes
uninteresting headset
(derailleurs can't be original, they're Japanese), cheap Simplex black plastic DT shifters

I believe the bike hails from the mid-70s and was purchased here in the states. I'd really appreciate any info or links to a definitive catalog showing the original components and a photo of the bike.

I was on gitaneusa.com already but I didn't find a straight answer.

Bonus questions, was there a special french thread pitch for the freewheel? Sounds like something they'd do just to mess with you. And is there a source for a set of affordable french-threaded pedals?

Thanks much!
The Velo Orange French BBs are a really nice component in modernizing your french bike.

Also, you can use standard quill stems sanding down a fraction of a mm.

Seatposts...good luck.
I got an ISO stem into the Robust without having to sand it. I think the .2 mm just sort of rubbed off. French threaded pedals probably indicates the bike was not manufactured for import to the US but for the French market. Derailleurs were probably the ubiquitous Simplex Prestige models if the bike has the plastic-tipped Simplex downtube shifters, but later Tours de France were equipped with Huret derailleurs. There are a few Tours de France pictured here, one with Simplex Prestige derailleurs, along with a period layout from Bicycle Magazine:
http://www.classicrendezvous.com/France/bicycles/Gitane.htm
I would rummage through the mountains of pedals at Working Bikes and check with Alex at West Town. I have an extra set of early 70's Lyotard pedals, but they are sized for ISO.
Moc thanks for that link, you nailed it!

I like the velo orange BBs. I intend to buy one for a motobecane rebuild later this summer.
I ran across this bit of mis-information yesterday while reading Bicycle Maintenance & Repair by Todd Downs: "The Maillard Helicomatic freewheel body requires a special hub. Due to the special helical splines, the freewheel body is held in place with a small lockring. A special tool easily removes the lockring. Once that's off, the freewheel body can be lifted straight off the threads, (my comment: splines, actually) making spoke replacement easy. Don't expect to find replacement cogs for a Helicomatic system, though, because it's been obsolete for some time."

As the proud owner of a 1983 Peugeot PB14 I can tell you that Helicomatic parts are abundantly available in the midwest for sure. Two of Madison's foremost bike shops have them upon request and usually listed on eBay. I just built a new wheelset for the PB14 using NOS hubs acquired from one of the shops and assembled a plated cog set from the other Madison shop. I would call the Helicomatic system more of a freehub, rather than a freewheel because it doesn't screw on in the true sense of a freewheel.

Here's my setup: Maillard Helicomatic cluster: 13-15-17-19-21-24, Huret Jubilee Derailleur

thanks for answering my question a year and a half in advance :)

My ugly Mercier has a not so confidence inspiring AVA stem. Rode it as fixed gear when I was young(er), but these days cannot trust it for anything more than a leisurely short ride. I will probably go for the standard stem & sandpaper solution.

Now what to do with the fake ¨Racer¨ front brake ?  That brake is not very confidence inspiring either :)


Kelvin Mulcky said:

The Velo Orange French BBs are a really nice component in modernizing your french bike.

Also, you can use standard quill stems sanding down a fraction of a mm.

Seatposts...good luck.

Hi ilter,

Centerpulls aren't always terrible, but they do require a little more attention to little details. If you want to keep the original brakes here are some tips:

You need to reduce all the little flexy-spots along the brake line. Make sure you file all of the brake housing ends perfectly flat and use metal housing-stops if you can. Also use a fresh, kink-free, straddle cable and a wide Straddle cable carrier (like this). Adjust the straddle cable as low as conveniently  possible. The last step is to acquire some Kool Stop Salmon colored brake pads. If you do all this you should have some quick-stopping brakes!

Or, just get some modern dual pivot brakes and never look back ;)

I used these on my 27" to 700c conversion. They're aren't


Thank you Kelvin !

I will take a close look at the brake & decide which route makes sense. I did not keep the rear brake (should have known better) so perhaps makes more sense to get a new matching pair.

Were you going to end your post with something like this ?

¨They're aren't great but they work fine¨


Kelvin Mulcky said:

Hi ilter,

Centerpulls aren't always terrible, but they do require a little more attention to little details. If you want to keep the original brakes here are some tips:

You need to reduce all the little flexy-spots along the brake line. Make sure you file all of the brake housing ends perfectly flat and use metal housing-stops if you can. Also use a fresh, kink-free, straddle cable and a wide Straddle cable carrier (like this). Adjust the straddle cable as low as conveniently  possible. The last step is to acquire some Kool Stop Salmon colored brake pads. If you do all this you should have some quick-stopping brakes!

Or, just get some modern dual pivot brakes and never look back ;)

I used these on my 27" to 700c conversion. They're aren't

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