Gitanes were built to ride not look at! ;-)
They were "working class" bikes!
Here's a picture of a young Bernard Hinault having just won an event on his Gitane Tour de France: >http://www.gitaneusa.com/images/models/tourdefrance/A-young-Hinault.jpg
During the Gitane Foil Decal era from about 1968 until mid 1974 the Tour de France was the second from the top model and underwent very few changes.
They came with an "all" Reynolds 531 frame (actually only 9 tubes 531, the head and steerer were not Reynolds as was the practice in those days). During that period the lugs changed from Prugnat Type "S" long point to Bocama Professional with medium points. The fork crowns changed from Nervex Professional to Nervex DuBois.
Gitane stopped using the willow leaf shaped seat stay caps in the early 70s and switched to a swagged top instead. They later eliminated the rear centerpull brake cable bridge that was brazed onto the seat stays.
From time to time there were other differences in the TdF frames such as Wagner crowns and more importantly the occasional use of Campagnolo rear dropouts or Simplex dropouts without an integral gear hanger. Some European model TdFs even came with Huret derailleurs and dropouts. These variances were most likely due to delivery problems with the spec'd out parts .
In the US the only component changes during that period were the shift from Normandy Luxe Competition hubs to Campagnolo Nuovo Tipo hubs plus Sugino Mighty Competition cranks replaced the original Stronglight 93 cranks around 1973. These changes were probably due to Peugeot gobbling up all of the French parts for their popular PX-10 bikes.
Note, the French catalog had a lot of different offerings.
In mid 1974 Gitane changed decals from the Mylar foil ones they'd been using to a clear plastic style in yellow or green (probably for the 1975 model year bikes introduced in 1974).
They also downgraded the Tour de France model, changing the frame from all Reynolds 531 to only the 3 main tubes Reynolds. At the same time Gitane started using the Huret "honeycomb" rear dropouts on their performance model bikes.
They are probably the "square" shaped dropouts that you mentioned. When those dropouts first came out all of the experienced cyclists that I knew thought they were extremely ugly!
One problem with the Tour de France (and the Peugeot PX-10) was the proprietary Simplex rear dropouts. They had to be modified to use most other brands of derailleurs.
The Huret honeycomb dropouts were a solution to the problem because they worked with proprietary mount Simplex and Huret derailleurs as well as the industry standard Campagnolo style mount.
The US Bike Boom ended about mid 1974 just when Gitane changed their US importer and down graded the TdF model. Over the next 2 years Gitane lost a lot of business to the Peugeot PX-10 and Raleigh Competition which were similarly priced but had full Reynolds 531 frames.
The 1976 Tour de France was upgraded back to all Reynolds 531 with a few other nice touches as shown with Jay Dubiel's bike shown in a message above. Unfortunately by that time Gitane had lost most of their presence here in the US and these bikes were not widely sold or even available.
The Gitane TdF's main competition, the Peugeot PX-10 came with a leather Brooks Pro saddle and the better quality Stronglight V4 Competition headset (the TdF used the Stronglight p3 headset). They also generally had a better cosmetic finish. The TdFs prior to mid 1974 came in a wider choice of colors than the PX-10.
I think that the big difference was the PX-10 was perceived as an all out racing bike where the Tour de France was viewed as more of a general purpose performance model. Most owners of either one of those models loved their bikes.
By 1977 the only European production bikes that still had a significant presence in the US were Peugeot, Motobecane and Raleigh. Even Bianchi bowed out for a few years.
I hope that answered your questions. For more opinions, go to the GitaneUSA.com Forum and search for TdF and Tour de France.
Chas. Colerich with 12 Gitanes including 6 TdFs Oakland, CA USA
Dan Evans Design wrote:
> hello to everyone.
> i would like to ask everyone about there thoughts on an early 70s gitane" tour de fance" frame. 531 frame and forks with some intresting square looking dropouts which are chromed.
> i'm just wandering how these frames are viewed around the world. are they respected, collected or rejected?
> they seem quite fond of them in the US.
> any thoughts appreciated.
> dan evans