Make no mistake about it, the Gitane was a nice bicycle, fairly high end and in great condition - or so I first thought.  Normally, this combination is pretty exciting.  Unless the bicycle is too small.  And the Gitane was much too small for me to ride comfortably.  With that in mind and even though the bicycle was an interesting piece, I did not plan to get at it immediately.  However...

The very day after I found the Gitane a lady who was living on the west coast of Canada contacted me regarding a bicycle that I had listed on Ebay.  As I recall, the bicycle that first sponsored her interest was a small framed Bianchi.  At any rate, her questions pertaining to the bicycle suggested that she did not really know all that much about the vintage road bicycle.  With that in mind, I did my best to help guide her with a purchase.  As it turned out, she did not win the auction for the bicycle listed but she did commission me to build her a custom bicycle.

I do this sort of thing for people now and again.  I take on one build at a time and work very closely with the person for whom the bike is being built.  I ensure that they make any decisions as the bicycle comes together and I include build updates during the three or four days I take to assemble a bicycle in accordance with a customer's specifications.  With this plan in mind, the west coast lady and I set to building her a nice bicycle that she could use for easy around town rides.

I told her about two or three similar bicycles or frame sets I had on hand that would probably meet her needs and satisfy her wants.  She decided on the Gitane and we then set to work defining how the bike would be built.  Drop handlebars were out of the question and with that in mind, a set of moustache bars were suggested, along with a straight handlebar set.  She selected the straight handlebars since she was used to the riding position that they would likely provide.

Being a small woman and weighing a touch over 100 pounds, 700c x 23 tires were fitted to the bike.  Our lady friend wanted her bicycle to stand out a bit and with that in mind the yellow Michelin tires were selected to go with the Gitane's color scheme of yellow art on dark gray background.  The effect, coupled with the yellow handlebar grips worked, tying the picture together in a pleasing vintage/modern sort of way.  I should add that the grips in the picture are temporary only.  The lady who commissioned the build already had a set that she wished to install when the bicycle arrived.  Yeti grips were her choice as I recall and I can't help but believe that they would be perfect for the bicycle and rider comfort.

The next concern was the transmission.  The original Sachs-Huret was pretty much toast even though the rest of the bicycle was in great shape.  Something had gone horribly wrong with the tranny.  The rear derailleur was cracked in half though it was not evident until derailleur adjustments were undertaken.  The front derailleur had fed itself into the crank rings, rendering both it and the middle ring pretty much useless.  To make matters worse, I did not have a derailleur that would work with the huge difference between the middle and small rings.  The best I would be able to do would be offer a wide range six speed freewheel driven by a twin ring set.

So a decent crank and ring set was chosen for the build and about the best one I had on hand at the time was a very clean Shimano 105 unit.  With the crank set decision made, it seemed quite reasonable to go with a 105 transmission also and an indexed one at that.  The light grey anodized transmission fitted in perfectly with the dark gray bicycle and worked like a charm.  So, good looks and "user friendliness" requirements both met quick as that.

Choosing the brakes was a non-issue since the Gitane was fitted with cantilevered brakes, and Mafacs at that.  Of course, since the handlebars were changed to a flat set, that meant new brake levers were needed.  A friend on mine collects and refurbishes mountain bicycles which he then sells on weekends at his frequent yard sales.  After calling to see if he was home and had a set of levers I could have.  With assurance of a set of levers and a cold beer when I got there, I jumped on my Peugeot "Course" and headed off to his house in Current River, a quaint suburb of Thunder Bay.

On the way to my chum's house, I rode past a house I had been keeping an eye on for some time.  About two years earlier I had learned that the fellow who lived there had an old bicycle, an early seventies Falcon to be exact, in his shed.  Every time I was riding in the area, and that is quite often, I check the place out for signs of life.  On this particular day, the owner was puttering around in his driveway so I heeled the Peugeot over and coasted up to him.  After identifying myself, I explained the reason for stopping.  The fellow was quick to respond that he did have an old bike and he would be happy to sell it to me for what he had paid - $25.00.

I said that I would like to have a look and he led me into the gloom of the garage.  But the gloom was hardly enough to disguise the Brooks Professional saddle perched atop the gorgeous early seventies Falcon hanging on the wall.  I pretended to look the bicycle over but I could have cared less at the time if the bike was made out of wood or paper.  I happened to have a need for the Brooks for an under restoration 1963 Peugeot PX10.  I paid the fellow the $25.00, chained the Falcon to the fence with the promise to return with-in an hour or so.  He said that would be fine and I took off to pick up the brake levers and finish my ride.

Less that two hours later the Falcon was in the work stand.  The bicycle was my size and gorgeous.  Of course, that is another story...

The day after I picked up the brake levers, I stumbled across a brand new set of levers that I thought would be perfect on the Gitane.  They installed without incident and looked just fine with the straight bars.  These levers do not really look proper, in my opinion, when fitted to moustache bars but they looked just fine on the straight bars selected for the Gitane build.

Saddle choice was going to be an issue and it always is when building for someone who will not have a chance to test the saddle before choosing.  With this in mind, I tried to select a saddle that I felt was of good quality, leather covered and wide enough to accommodate a woman's physique.  Now used saddle selection is poor as a rule since saddles, being made of easily damaged materials, frequently arrive at The Old Shed in less than pristine condition.  There are, however, usually a few to select from and if not, I go to my own personal stash for a butt perch.  But for the Gitane, this last resort effort was not necessary.

I happened to have a nicely padded leather covered Italia saddle that was pretty much period correct for the "Gran Tour".  The saddle that was originally issued had been damaged, probably when the bicycle was pitched out at the Dump.  But the saddle selected would probably fit the lady well and offered a design that I felt would best suit the more upright sitting position she would assume when riding the bicycle.  And the saddle, black leather and all blended in nicely with the build.

Finally, the pedal choice was made.  Period correct quill pedals with straps and clips were installed.  The pedal set, like the rest of the bicycle, was in great shape and looked as if they belonged.  And why not.  They were the ones that came with the Gitane "as found" at the Dump - straps and all.  That said, it is likely that the pedals did not remain long on the bicycle.  As I recall, the Vancouver, BC lady was planning on installing her own pedals as soon as she got the bicycle.

And that just about covered the choices that needed to be made for the Gitane's custom build.  With decisions made, the build began and went fairly quickly since everything selected for the bicycle had already been cleaned and rebuilt, as required.  The bicycle was competed on a gorgeous summer day.  I was impressed with the bicycle's appearance and set up a photo session before succumbing to the need to next test ride the bicycle.  Something I was and was not looking forward to...