Dazed and confused? Not me. I’m just Lost in the Cheese Aisle.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


I hadn’t spent a lot of time with my old buddy in recent years. Mostly my fault, it was... he was missing a few teeth, but I could have had that problem taken care of.

Like a lot of us, my friend hadn’t quite kept up with the times. There were plenty of young Turks out there who were more up-to-date technologically. But there’s a certain attractive quality that attaches to the Old-School Ways, and I’ll confess that, being a bit of a dinosaur myself, I respect that.

We had traveled a lot of miles together, my friend and I. But in the last few years, I’d see him and think, ”We really should spend more time together” while doing absolutely nothing about it.

But Gary - another old friend - convinced me that it was time for things to change.

And so it was that the two of us went out yesterday afternoon - accompanied by Gary, who provided essential transportation - for a ride. And it was as though all of those years... the years when we had nothing to do with one another... had never been.

“Buddy,” I said, as much to myself as to him, “I missed you.”

* * *

My friend, of course, is my 35-year-old Gitane Tour de France road bike. It’s truly an Old-School ride, a ten-speed machine with friction shift levers mounted on the down tube; center-pull brakes; and a frame made of Reynolds 531 lightweight steel alloy, including double-butted tubes, forks, and stays. State of the art 35 years ago, it’s now pretty much an antique in an age of carbon-fiber frames and click-stop 21-speed derailleur transmissions. But with a few enhancements, my old Gitane is nothing short of an updated classic.

Gitane Tour de France
My old friend, a 1975 Gitane Tour de France. The orange-and-black color scheme makes it perfect for riding in the Princeton Reunions P-Rade. [Click to embiggen.]

A few years ago, I replaced the ridiculous vintage-1975 hard leather saddle (perfect for toughening up your nutsack, but not much else) with a nice, anatomically designed gel saddle, and changed out the old toe-clip pedals for some of the new lightweight clipless models. This time, I gave the old fellow a complete tune-up and replaced the shift levers and the derailleur’s jockey wheels, which had literally begun to crumble to pieces with age. With a new set of tires and tubes, cables and cable guides, and freshly-wrapped handlebars, my old friend - if not quite as good as new - certainly looked like a Respectable Oldster.

Gary and I drove down to the Chattahoochee River, bikes in tow, and parked across the street from the Columns Drive trailhead. I snapped my feet into the pedals and made a few loops around the parking lot... and we took off on our respective machines.

We rode like the wind, that old Gitane and I, following Columns Drive along the river, then picking up the cinder trail that runs down to I-285 - an 8.55 mile roundtrip. The vintage machine handled crisply, the gears shifting effortlessly at a touch of the levers. It was a fine way to become reacquainted with my old friend.

Click on the extended entry link for more photos.

Front Fork
The front fork, showing the brakes and shift levers. Note the arty-looking lugs... they don’t make frames like this anymore.

Rear Hub
The rear sprocket assembly.

Front Wheel Hub
The front wheel hub. Campagnolo made state-of-the-art components back in the mid-1970’s; their name is still highly regarded.


Unknown said...

I'm glad you enjoyed it. We'll do it again soon!

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear it. I got rid of my old Ceturion Lemans a few years ago. Just got my mountain bike a tune up and new tubes and tires a few months ago and have been occasionally riding. When I lived in Atlanta, that was something I did A LOT of. I used to ride from moms house down along the river to Dunwoody (to visit a girl I dated) and back...or I take it to Stone Mountain and ride around the park...great times.

-Morris William

Laura said...

A 35 year old bike! I crashed and burned all mine. Seriously, like the fire department was called, police tape stretched everywhere. They all met ugly ends. That's so cool that you kept yours.

Slash said...

What a beautiful machine! Your story reminds me of buying my first ten-speed in 1972.

Anonymous said...

This looks exactly like the bike I would have, had the previous owner taken better care of it. Such a beauty. A real pain to ride when there are puddles or snow on the ground