29 September 2012

Bikes Along The Way

On my way home today, I saw two interesting bikes.  Both are European.  I know that one is from the 1970's; I believe the other is.  Beyond that, though, they are interesting for very different reasons.

I espied the first one when I stopped in Greenpoint Bikes on Manhattan Avenue, near the Pulaski Bridge.  There I was greeted by a friendly young man who didn't mind my browsing or photographing this bike:

Actually, it's the bike in the middle.  As in many shops in the area, space is at a premium, so I didn't ask whether I (or he) could move the bikes, although I think he would have obliged me.

The green machine is a TMS.  At least, it's the only brand marking I could find.  The friendly young man believes it is German and from the 1970's, which makes sense, given what I know about such bikes.  The lugwork was clean and neat, and the paint well-applied in an attractive color scheme.  What really caught my eye, though was a particular detail:

It looked as though the white stripe was painted (or otherwise applied) to the fender at the factory.  That detail is even more striking, I think, on the rear fender:

The bike, as one might expect, is solid and sturdy, not light.  Those characteristics are typical of German bikes of that time:  They were well-made and often attractive, but utilitarian rather than sportive.

The second bike I saw, parked near PS 1,  clearly belongs to  the "sportive" category.  In fact, it was one of the better racing bikes available in its price range in the early to mid-1970's.  

If I'm not mistaken, it's a Gitane Tour de France from sometime around 1975 to 1978.  I make this judgment based on the paint finish and decals, which look original and are consistent with that time:

Also, the bike is made from Reynolds 531 tubing and has a Stronglight 93 cotterless crank, which was original equipment on that bike (as well as the Peugeot PX-!0E).  It was actually quite nice:  strong, brightly polished and lighter than even Campagnolo's offerings.

 (I apologize for this image and the others; I took them with my cell phone.)

One extremely interesting detail is the way the brake cable "tunnels" are brazed to the top tube:

On most bikes, the "tunnels" are brazed down the center (top) of the top tube.  However, Gitane brazed them to the right side, which allows for a more direct line to the brake (a Campagnolo sidepull).  Of course, the advantage of this would be lost if a brake that pulled on the right side, or a centerpull, were used.

The tunnels lead me to believe this is a later-production Tour de France, as the earlier-production TdFs use the clips you see on so many old racing bikes.

It seems that every time I ride through "Hipster Hook," I see more and more interesting bikes that aren't variations on the "hipster fixie."  And the area is about as rich in bike shops as any I've seen:  Within blocks of Greenpoint Bikes are about a half-dozen other shops, including B's Bikes, which has become one of my favorites.  Greenpoint looks very promising as well.  

Not so long ago, there weren't any bike shops in the area at all:  If you were to ride from Astoria to Brooklyn, you wouldn't see another shop until you got into the neighborhood around Pratt Institute, a distance of about seven miles.  And you wouldn't see very many cyclists. Now it's turning into Amsterdam on the Hudson.  It will be interesting to see what happens when those cyclists--most of whom are in their 20's or 30's age.  Will they stay in the neighborhood and continue to ride the bikes they have?  Or will they stop riding, or move?  Or will some as-yet-unenvisioned  type of bicycle be invented and sweep as-yet-unborn cyclists off their feet (or pedals)?  

Whatever happens, I expect to see more interesting bikes--and cyclists--along the way.


  1. I think you are correct about the age of the Gitane, but not about the brake routing which had to avoid the seat post whether ultimately heading left, right, or to the middle.

  2. Steve--That's a good point. That leads me to wonder why other bikes didn't do the same.

  3. Rusting chromed brake clips, the things you drag from deep memory...

  4. Coline--Sometimes you're glad that certain things aren't made the way they used to be!