Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

27 February 2013

My First "Real" Bike: Peugeot PX-10

The other day, I wrote about my Peugeot U0-8, which became my first "fixie."  Now I'm going to write about another Peugeot I owned, which I didn't alter nearly as drastically.





When I bought my Schwinn Continental, I saw a Peugeot PX-10 in the shop.  I looked at its price tag:  $250 seemed like sheer insanity for a bike to someone who'd saved the $96 cost of the Schwinn from a year of delivering newspapers in the hinterlands of New Jersey.

Somehow, though, I knew I was going to end up with that bike.  As I wheeled my Continental out of the showroom of Michael's Bicycle Company (located next to a drive-in theater on Route 35 in Hazlet, NJ),  I could feel the bike bug embedding its tentacles into my shins.

Well, about three years later, I got a PX-10 for $250--used.  And it was three years older than the one I saw in the showroom.

It seems that almost everyone who came of age during the '70's Bike Boom rode a PX-10 at some point or another.  For many of us, it was our first real racing bike:  Bernard Thevenet won the 1975 and 1977 Tours de France on PX-10s that differed from the ones we bought only in that the stems and handlebars were changed to fit his physique.

Also, the great Eddy Merckx began his professional career astride a PX-10 for the BP-Peugeot team in the mid-1960's.


Although $250 seemed like a lot of money for a bike in 1972 (and was probably even more so in 1969, when the PX-10 I bought was built), it was actually quite a good value.  First of all, the frame was built from Reynolds 531 tubing with Nervex lugs.  While the level of finesse in the lugwork and paint wasn't up to what one would find on a bike from a French constructeur or a classic British builder, it was nothing to be ashamed of.   




The chainstays, clearances and fork rake were all considerably longer than what would be found on later racing bikes.  However, racing bikes at that time had to be more versatile, as roads, particularly in small towns and rural areas of Europe, were rougher:  Some still hadn't been repaired after the bombings and shellings of World War II.  Also, racers and trainers at the time believed that a rider should spend as much time as possible on the bike he plans to use in upcoming races.  They also believed that, at least for road racing, outdoor training was superior to indoor, so the bikes were ridden all year long.  They--yes, even Merckx himself--rode with fenders and wider tires during the winter.

The longer geometry and rather thin stays meant that while the frame gave a lively ride, it could be "whippy," especially for a heavy rider, in the rear.  The flip-side of that, of course, was that the PX-10 gave a stable and comfortable ride in a variety of conditions.  This is one reason why many PX-10s were re-purposed as light touring bikes, or even outfitted (as Sheldon Brown's was) with an internally-geared hub and used for commuting.

The components that came with the bike were not top-shelf, but were at least good for their time.  The best of them, aside from the Brooks Professional saddle (Yes, it was original equipment on mine, though some PX-10s came with Ideale 90 saddles.) was probably the Stronglight 93 (63 on some earlier models) crankset.  It was beautifully polished and could be outfitted with chainrings from 37 to 57 teeth.  Mine came with 45 and 52, like most PX-10s of the era.  The 93 was a light, stiff crankset:  When I later got a Campagnolo Record for another bike, I couldn't detect any difference in rigidity.  The only problem with the 93 or 63 was that it had a proprietary bolt circle diameter that wasn't compatible with Campagnolo or other high-end cranksets of the time. These days, if you need to replace a chainring on your 93 or 63, you have to go to a swap meet--or eBay.

The wheels were also of very good quality:  Normandy Luxe Competition hubs with Mavic tubular rims (Some PX-10s came with Super Champion tubulars, which were equal in quality.) laced with Robergel spokes, the best available at the time.  Of course, I would build another set of wheels--clinchers--on which I would do the majority of my riding.



I rode many happy hours and kilometers (Hey, it was a French bike!) on my PX-10.  Like many other cyclists, I "graduated" to a more modern racing bike, and a touring bike and sold the PX-10.  Still, it holds a special place in my cycling life as my first high-performance bike.


25 comments:

  1. I haven't ridden a PX-10. At least not yet.

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  2. Your bike is a good find considering its purchase rate and features. Congratulations on the new ride! Update us with your experiences soon.

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  3. Declan: I haven't had that bike in a long time. I guess I should have made that clearer.

    Steve: You will (ha, ha, ha).

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  4. I bought a Peugeot 10 speed racer back in the early 1980's in a gorgeous white metallic with orange any yellow accent colors! I bought mine for $250 on sale and it was still a lot of cash for a bike. Oh how I loved that bike! It came with a men's skinny suede saddle which I changed out at the bike store for a women's saddle. I wish I had kept that original saddle because it was really sharp. I have upgraded to modern bikes now but I still have my old Peugeot! I could never really bare to part with it. I used that bike with the original tires and tubes until around four years ago. The tires are white walls and I replaced them with the same when I needed to use the bike for a Tour de Cure ride after I trashed a brand new bike. It rode okay but the gear changer which always skipped drove me crazy. That was our last ride together. Maybe if I find the right owner for my bike I will sell but until then it's still mine.

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  5. Emjayoh--I'm sorry you "trashed a brand new bike." But at least your Peugeot was there for you.

    Gears go out of adjustment over time. You might need to re-tension the cables, or to replace your chain and rear cogs. Or the lever may simply need to be tightened. Perhaps you and your Peugeot can still have some good rides together.

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  6. My PX-10-LE, the "Steed for Speed", refurbished from 1980 racing trim, Suntour Superbe Pro derailleurs, Dia-Compe brakes, new parts from Velo Orange, she is one sweet ride! By the way, Velo Orange's sealed bottom bracket is the "bomb". I also built a new clincher road wheel set using their sealed bearing hubs with Sun Ringyo Assault rims, less than 1500 grams front and rear! She rides great and I love smoking the guys on their carbon fiber road rockets!

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  7. Your story is similar to mine. I had a Peugeot UO-8, $90, in 1968. It was sooo much better than my Schwinn! But the cool guys had PX-10's. Later I was able to get a good bike, a Mondia, and rode hard and toured since then. But I always wanted a PX-10. So, about 4 years ago, I got a 1968 PX-10 frame, repainted it, and put all original parts on it. All, except modern brake pads! Huge difference with modern pads. This bike is the most comfortable ride of my 40+ riding career, and I ride it year round. The big test is in September when I ride the Cino Heroica in Montana - 60 miles of rough roads. The PX is totally the bike for it! I've made another one with upright bars I call my "Seattle Fixie". It's a 5-speed. We have a lot of big hills in Seattle so a single speed is for either 1. People who don't understand how to shift gears or 2. Victims of fashion. The bike is a little squirrely but fast. Long live the PX-10's!

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  8. I have a 1972 PX-10 and a 1977 UO-8 sitting in storage; trying to decide whether to donate them or find someone who wants an easy clean-up project, Lots of extra parts, but too stiff for our old bones. jakostlan@aol.com

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    1. Just saw your post. I also have a 72 PX10 that I've been riding continuously since I bought it used in 1979. Almost all original. I would love to have a second bike for parts. Is it still available? Razz442@gmail.com

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  9. i have a 1980 PX10 super competition. sadly my dad painted it in 1990 (before i was born) and put all new parts on it, im in the process of hunting down the decals so i can restore the frame to exact factory look, then put all new parts on it, except for fork. gotta love the px10 forks!

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    1. Gavin--I can't believe I missed your comment. Some things parents do are forgiveable--even, sometimes, painting a bike! ;-)

      Ah, yes, those PX10 forks...

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  10. Thanks for taking me down memory lane. My second "real" adult bicycle was a PX10. The five-year-old budget bike I had bought as a graduate student was sadly in need of an upgrade, and by 1975 I was earning enough to be able to walk into my local bike shop and put down $325 for the Peugeot. It was a good five pounds lighter than what I had been riding, and it looked so cool in its classic simplicity. It definitely made me a better--and faster--rider. Unfortunately, two years later I attended a party at a friend's loft and rode my bike (parking in that neighborhood was next to impossible). I fastened it to a back stair railing with a Kryptonite lock, but by the time I left the party in the wee hours someone had hacksawed an entire section of the railing to get to the bike, and it was gone. I shed tears over the loss for a long time.

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  11. Bill: I'm so sad to hear about the way you lost your PX-10. Since it was your first "real" bike, the loss hurt all the more. I'd've shed tears for a long time, too!

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  12. Just a correction to the article. When Merckx rode for Peugeot, his "PX-10" was actually a Masi. A close look at photos will show his bike has finely-finished Prugnat lugs, rather than the nice, but crudely-done Nervex. In fact, most pro's of the time had their trade-team bikes custom-built by builders we've never heard of, but who specialized in making unmarked frames for the top pro's.
    Also, my first good bike, back in 1972, was a PX-10. I bought it for about $350 at Stone's in Alameda, CA. Mike Neel (one of the to US racers in the 70's), who worked at the shop then, fitted it to me. It did have cheap French components, though. I remember breaking the rear derailleur at Nevada City. Wish I still had it, it's all I really needed for my level of bike racing at the time. I sold it and bought a Schwinn Paramount, which wasn't actually that much nicer, although the Campagnolo gruppo was a real improvement. But I bought it with Weinmann brakes to save money and because i didn't think I deserved t be on the expensive Campag Record brakes at that stage,,, But I still have all the small Campag tools that came with the Paramount! The peanut butter wrench is still the best track wrench ever made!

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    1. Attila--While you're probably right about Mercx's PX 10 being a Masi, I think that when he started to compete, he was riding a stock PX-10, as that was what most new members of the Peugeot team rode at that time.

      You're right about the "peanut butter" wrench--it's still the best track wrench, and one of the most practical tools, ever made.

      Isn't it funny that sometimes we feel we don't "deserve" things. The Weinmann brakes weren't bad, but they weren't Campy.

      Do you still have the Paramount?

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    2. No, I sold it (and I found later that it had broken). Its 1972 vintage suggests that it was one of the Paramounts built by the two female framebuilders who worked for Schwinn at the time.
      The Weinmann sidepulls were not that inferior to Campags. Their quick release was actually in the lever, just like Campy today, but you didn't need to remember to push back the button; just squeezing the lever removed the quick release. Also, being Swiss, where riders usually set up the levers left-front (as opposed to the Italian norm of right-front), the front caliper took the cable from the left side, resulting in a shorter and more direct front cable run. Campag took the cable from the right side, resulting in a shorter and more direct run if you set up the levers Italian-style (or moto). So Shimano copied Campag, and now we in North America are stuck with the cable crossing, although this is actually an advantage with aero levers and cable wrapped under the tape. I, however, set up my levers Italian-style (too many good reasons, I'll get into them if you're interested).
      I've been thru 30 or 40 bikes in my cycling life, and I find the need for n+1 to be greatly diminished. I'm perfectly happy riding my Rodriguez fixie (riding more single-speed now) It's pretty much all I've ridden the past five or six years (apart from my track bike at the Burnaby indoor velodrome), and it's got close to 130,000 km on it, including two PBP's (one fixed, one single-speed), LEL, Hoodoo 500, Silver State 508. It's got couplers so I take it everywhere, and it converts quickly to a real track bike, if there happens to be a velodrome where I'm traveling, Nothing like having one comfortable and versatile bike that can do everything!

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  13. Attila--Wow! You've had quite the cycling life!

    Your point about brake and cable positioning makes a lot of sense. I'd love to the reasons why you set up your brake levers--or anything else--the way you do.

    For what it's worth, all of my bikes are set up left-front.

    Do you recall a Swiss-made bike called Mondia? They were quite nice. But they did something strange on one of their models one year: They set up the brake-cable braze-ons so that the rear cable went down the right side of the frame. This would have made perfect sense if the bike came with Weinmann side pulls--which, of course, were Swiss. However, the bike was equipped with Universal 68s, which pulled on the right side--as Campy did. So the cable crossed over the seat stays on its way to the brake.

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  14. I also bought a Peugeot PX10 for $250 -- new, in 1973. I loved it!
    Sue Atkins

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  15. Sue--The PX-10 was a great bike. It still is. Ahh, the memories!

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  18. Hi all my px10 lover's I bought my px10 in 1976 in Furth Germany out of PX while I was in the army. I use to ride to downtown Nurnberg and take pictures with my Canon 35mm all the time and once rode along side the Rineriver with another soldier for at least 20 miles that was 40yrs ago and I still have my bike and I don't plan on it going anywhere talk about memories I have a life time of them. The bike is still beautiful and has never stayed outside NEVER!!!

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  19. DAA--You and your bike have a lot of memories, I'm sure.

    One of my high school classmates' father, who was a reservist, told me that the PX at Fort Monmouth, NJ (the nearest base) sold both the Peugeot UO8 and PX10. I forget what the prices were, but he got his PX-10 out of the PX (I couldn't resist that!) for a good bit less than I paid for mine!

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  20. I've had 3 PX-10's - 2 stolen..3rd one is circa 74 I replaced in the early 80's..toured, commuted...is now being ridden as a SS with moustache bars. Paint is a bit ratty and not all the stock parts but still that lovely ride Great, great bikes

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  21. Ryan-- You had two stolen? I'm sorry to hear that. But at least you've had the third one for a while. They are indeed great bikes.

    For what it's worth, I remember reading somewhere that during the '70's, Peugeot was the most commonly-stolen bike brand in the US.

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