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Gitane Interclub (1974)

A green bicycle stands on its own, leaning against a rock on pavement in front of dense, green, spring foliage, in bright afternoon sunlight. The bike has swooping and unwrapped drop handlebars, tight-clearance silver full-fenders, some maroon cloth wrapping tape on the top tube and drive-side chain stay, and a honey leather saddle. Overview

My 1974 Gitane Interclub is my daily-riding urban fixie, used for getting me places around my city, light errands, and joy rides both solo and in groups. I bought it used in August 2023 as a blue spray-painted upright single-speed build, and I completely overhauled and rebuilt it from as many used parts as possible during the Winter and Spring of 2024. It sports a 47T/19T gear ratio, 32mm Panaracer Pasela tires, 700C-front/27"-rear wheels, full fenders, and a Brooks saddle.

History

I purchased this bike from a used bike shop on August 12th, 2023 for $175. At the time, it was a steel frame of unknown origin that appeared to be from roughly the 1980s, and came with a 39T chainring, a 16T freewheel and 13T fixed-cog on the rear hub, along with center-pull front brakes, side pull self-centering rear brakes, a half-moon handlebar, and a blue and silver spray-paint job.

A blue and silver bicycle sits against a bright yellow wall with various artworks hanging. The bike has mismatched wheels, a shoddy spray paint job, and a relaxed handlebar-saddle configuration.

I intended to eventually replace nearly every part on the bike, but slowly over time and using as many used parts as I can, with some lenience on the consumables, and eventually succeeded with a complete build (sans bar tape) on May 15th 2024.

Components

/frameset-bicycle

Based on the serial number I've determined the frame is a 1974 Gitane, and to the best of my ability I figure the model is an Interclub. It features the distinctive "Honeycomb/Huret Dropouts" Gitane was using in that time period, which were notable for being designed to accept any of the three major derailleur standards of the time: Huret, Campagnolo, and Simplex.

The fork, when I bought it, still had original chrome on the bottom half of the fork, and on the crown. Unfortunately, before I could appreciate it, I had sanded and painted over the chrome and so the fork now uniformly matches the paint of the rest of the frame.

The steel frame and fork were primed with Spray.Bike Cold Zinc, painted with Spray.Bike "Greenwich" followed by their Rainbow "Keirin Flake", and finished with some additional Rustoleum clear coat.

/cockpit-bicycle

The handlebars are Belleri track bars on an SR stem, with Dia Compe "red-dot" non-aero levers and Nitto bar-ends. Everything (aside from the bar-ends) was dug out of the local used parts bin and hand polished/refurbished by me. New replacement gum hoods were bought off ebay.

The pedals are MKS AR-8's (parts bin), and the saddle is a used Brooks B17 Titanium (eBay).

/drivetrain-bicycle

The bottom bracket is a french-threaded Sugino with a 113mm Shimano spindle, which is attached to 170mm Shimano FC-1050 cranks, all of which came with the bike when I bought it.

The drivetrain is 1/8" across the board, with a 130mm BCD Sugino 47T chainring, a KMC S1 chain, and a 19T Soma rear cog with Dura Ace lockring mounted on a FX/FW Origin8 branded Formula hub. All of these parts were new.

/brakes-bicycle

The brakes are center-pull Shimano Tourney rim brakes, also from the used parts bin. The front brake has new Kool Stop Dura 2 pads, while the rear brake has some new Shimano pads that I found in a free bike parts bin at a yard sale.

The cables and housing are from Velo Orange's Retro-Style Stainless Wound Cable kit, and are hooked up to the Dia Compe levers. The front and rear cable hangers were both new from Rivendell, and the brake cable yokes were NOS Shimano branded from eBay.

Wheels

The front wheel is a 700C "Record" rim laced to a Shimano loose-bearing hub with Sapim Leader spokes and brass nipples. The rim and hub were repurposed from the original front wheel, but I removed the old worn spokes and nipples and rebuilt the wheel myself with new ones.

The rear wheel is a 27" Wheelmaster build that replaced the rear wheel I had, which had several issues with all components. The size mis-match was an accident on my part, in my frustration and haste of looking for a rear wheel build that wouldn't totally derail the entire project's budget. It's a Sun CR-18 laced to an Origin8 branded FX/FW Formula hub. The rear wheel is one of the only major new components on the bike.

Both wheels are fitted with Velox cloth rim tape and Panaracer Paselas. The front tire is a 622-32 Pasela ProTite, and the rear is a standard 630-32 Pasela, both of which were bought new.

/gitane-1974 Stream

May 2, 2024

/stream /bicycle /cockpit-bicycle /gitane-1974

As I waited for the paint to come in for the frame, I sat down and polished up the Dia Compe brake levers for the /Gitane Interclub (1974). At this point, I'm getting pretty good at this polishing process, and they turned out so good that I was a little disappointed that I had already ordered replacement gum hoods that would cover them up.

Sitting on a workbench is a full drop handlebar set: stem with dropbars clamped in, bar ends installed, and non-aero brake levers installed. Everything is polished, and the whole package looks ready to be picked up and dropped into a steerer tube. Behind the bars on the table are some paper towels, Simple Green, Dawn soap, WD-40, and steel wool. In the background behind the table are the dark green leaves of an indoor plant, and some plastic boxes and buckets.

Also, note the small metal ferrules that are now sitting on top of the brake levers. These are the missing pieces I mentioned in my last update on the brake levers, and you should hopefully be able to see how they create a choke point for the cable housing to press against.

April 29, 2024

/stream /repair /bicycle /drivetrain-bicycle /gitane-1974

The tools I ordered to be able to work on my /drivetrain-bicycle arrived today (HCW-4 and HCW-17), so I was able to finally uninstall my bottom bracket for overhauling.

(Pro tip: HCW-5 is marketed as a bottom bracket lockring removal tool, but HCW-17—for cog lockrings—can do the same job in many cases. I was able to deal with both lock rings with only the HCW-17.)

On a concrete floor is a very dirty bottom bracket sitting next to the vacant shell in the frame that it was just removed from. Most of the bike frame is cropped, but you can see that it is mostly stripped of paint except for around where the bottom bracket was. A heavy coating of dirt, grime, rust, and grease is caked on the bottom bracket spindle, and appears to be coating the entire inside of the shell on the frame.

With the right tools, removal was a breeze and I was glad that these parts seemed to be from an era where there were fewer custom tools needed for every bike. Removing the bottom bracket confirmed that it was indeed french threaded, and revealed what seemed to be decades of grime build up.

A closeup, top-down photo of a shallow deli container filled with two bottom bracket cups, the bottom bracket spindle, and the lock ring. Everything is caked in brown grime, and a green liquid sits at the bottom of the container. A toothbrush rests on the edge of the container, its bristles soaking in the green liquid.

Cleaning off this level of grime was difficult. Simple Green wasn't really cutting through, and I think I permanently ruined this toothbrush for anything but grease removal. It took many rounds of scrubbing, wiping, and soaking to get the grease out of the bearing races, but eventually they were looking pretty passable. Nothing seemed to need any replacing (other than the grease).

April 28, 2024

/stream /repair /bicycle /brakes-bicycle /gitane-1974

I determined that the two brakes that the /Gitane Interclub (1974) came with won't be adequate for the final build, and hit up the used parts bin again for a pair of center-pulls that fit my frame.

A pair of center-pull brakes sitting on a light wooden surface. The brakes look vintage, but in relatively good condition. They are silver aluminum with big bolts holding each side of the caliper to the body, with bulky, worn pads, and straddle cables that are beginning to rust.

I ended up with a pair of Shimano Tourney brakes in relatively good condition. The pads and straddle cables need to be replaced, and some of the nuts and washers could also do well with replacing, but they largely just need a deep cleaning and a quick polishing progression.

On a workbench surface there is a paper towel with a shallow plastic deli container on top, filled with small metal parts and dirty liquid. A dirty toothbrush leans on the rim of the container, and some rusty washers and bolts sit next to the container on the paper towel. Behind the paper towel just out of focus are some old brake pads, assorted nuts and washers, a fully assembled brake caliper, some steel wool, and just out of the left edge of the frame is a neat collection of wrenches.

I completely disassembled the brakes and give them a soak and scrub in Simple Green, followed by dish soap. The aluminum body got the same polishing treatment as the cranks and the stem, and the nuts and bolts were cleaned up of rust as best I could. A few of the parts were too rusty to fully rehabilitate, so I'll get some stainless steel replacements at the hardware store.

Ultimately, the body, primary bolts, and springs were all still in great condition, and they polished up nicely. With some new consumable parts, they should be as good as new.

April 27, 2024

/stream /bicycle /cockpit-bicycle /brakes-bicycle /gitane-1974

The brake levers that came with the /Gitane Interclub (1974) when I bought it were for the flat handlebars it had, and so I needed to get new levers for the drop bars that I switched to.

After some research, I decided to go with "non-aero" style brake levers to fit with the overall vintage aesthetic direction that the bike build was moving in.

On a concrete floor sits a set of drop handlebars with non-aero brake levers attached, in addition to a quill stem in the center. The whole cockpit looks like a self contained unit that you could pick up and drop into the steerer tube of a bike.

Instead of routing the brake cables under the bar tape, the older "non-areo" levers just routed the cables out the top of the levers into the air. I think this will give the bike a unique look, and also respect the era of the frame.

One critical thing that I learned when cleaning these up is that there are supposed to be small metal ferrules that sit on top of the levers where the cable comes out; this gives the cable housing a "stop" to rest on, so that it can not shift and compress when pulled.

For some reason, these ferrules are not built in to the brake levers, and in a used parts bin situation, these ferrules tend to get stuck inside the old gum hoods and get lost—especially if the gum hoods are in bad shape and are removed and thrown out.

My pair of levers did not have these ferrules, so I'm going to go back and dig through the parts bin to see if I can find some that fit.

April 22, 2024

/stream /repair /bicycle /frameset-bicycle /gitane-1974

After seeing how great of an outcome some elbow grease can yield on the cranks and stem, I decided that the rough paint job I accomplished last fall could have been a lot better if I prepped the frame more thoroughly. I bought some proper gear (namely, a wire-brush drill attachment kit) and started properly stripping the frame of paint down to the steel.

On some dead grass, a bare bike frame sits next to a cordless drill with a wire brush attachment. The rear triangle of the frame still has green paint on it, but the main triangle is almost completely stripped down to the steel.

And hour or so (and several batteries worth of cordless drill charge) later, and the frame and fork were brought down to a much smoother surface with the majority of the paint removed. The corners, especially near the bottom bracket, were difficult to remove all the paint, but I'll do a more detailed job once some tools come in that will let me remove the bottom bracket from the frame, and will also give the frame a good sanding.

A collection of bike parts lean against a white wall on a concrete floor: a handlebar/stem combo, some cranks, a fork, a frame, and two wheels are visible, all either bare or polished metal. Towards the edges of the frame you can see some non-bike related tools and materials, like a hand saw, some oil and a paint brush, and some boards of wood.

The bulk of the metal parts of the frame are now polished, or stripped and ready for painting.

April 20, 2024

/stream /repair /bicycle /cockpit-bicycle /gitane-1974

Today I picked up a used set of drop handlebars and a quill stem from the local used-bike non-profit shop based on the expected fit of the /Gitane Interclub (1974). The handlebars were honestly in great shape, but much like the old aluminum cranks, the stem had seen better days (it was $5) and so I set out to polish it with the same process as the cranks.

On top of some dead grass and bare earth is an aluminum quill stem, roughly sanded, sitting next to some course and medium grit sand paper, both with visible paint and metal residue on them.

Again, I sanded with 80, 120, and 220 dry, followed by wet sanding with 400, 600, and 1000 using WD-40 as lubricant, followed by 00 and 0000 steel wool, then chromium oxide on a drill-attachment buffing wheel. I was once again impressed by how nice the finish was on the stem, looking much nicer than the five-dollar used parts bin item that it was.

April 19, 2024

/stream /repair /bicycle /drivetrain-bicycle /gitane-1974

Earlier this week, I finally began to seriously pick back up my project of restoring my /Gitane Interclub (1974) bike. Before I started searching for new parts, I wanted to seriously take stock of the parts I already had and see what was possible to refurbish. Since my old cranks were totally functional, I knew I'd have no excuse to replace them, so I set out to see if I could restore them to a nicer look.

A set of aluminum Shimano bicycle cranks stripped of pedals and chainrings sitting on a light wooden surface. The silver aluminum is mottled and cloudy, looking quite worn and dirty.

After researching online, it seemed that it would be resonably possible to get these back to a mirror polish. My /woodworking stash of sandpaper ranged from 80 through 400 grit, so I bought some 600 and 1000, along with 00 and 0000 steel wool and a drill-mounted buffing wheel to round out my polishing kit.

I worked from 80 to 120 to 220 grits dry, followed by 400, 600, and 1000 grit sandpaper "wet" with WD-40. Both steel wool grits were also lubricated with WD-40, and then a thorough degreasing with Simple Green. Finally, I used the drill mounted buffing wheel charged with chromium oxide (green honing compound) to produce a final luster.

A set of aluminum Shimano bicycle cranks stripped of pedals and chainrings sitting on a light wooden surface. The silver aluminum shines brightly in the overhead light, highlighting the contours of the metal.

While some fine hairline scratches are still visible in the final product, this felt like a really big win for my first attempt at refurbishing an old part. Since my goal is to not make this bike too flashy, I decided that really getting a total mirror polish on these cranks was not a good use of effort.

November 17, 2023

/stream /repair /bicycle /gitane-1974

The intention for the /Gitane Interclub (1974) was always that it would be deeply refurbished and modifed over the winter. After a few months of riding it around and getting a feel for it, it was finally time to take the first step of a full disassembly, followed by a cleaning and a paint job.

The frame and fork of a sky blue bicycle, with the headset and drop areas accented with silver. It is sitting on sunlit pavement, surrounded by sandpaper and many of the parts that were removed.

When I bought the bike, it already had a pretty poorly applied two-tone spray-paint job, so I had always intended to sand it down and repaint it properly. I removed everything except the headset and bottom bracket, masked those off, and painted the bike a "British Racing Green" using spray.bike.

A bicycle frame and fork freshly painted british racing green, resting against a cinder block on top of long grass and fallen leaves.

Since it's already mid-November here in Vermont, I was racing against the clock to get the bike painted before the temperature got too cold for the paint to be effective. I wish I had taken a bit more time to be more detailed in my sanding work and take the painting process slowly, but it was looking like I only had one last chance for the weather to cooperate the day I painted. Overall, it came out nicely, with only a few minor patches where previous paint/rust spots had not been fully smoothed out.

August 23, 2023

/stream /repair /bicycle /brakes-bicycle /gitane-1974

After riding around town on the new /Gitane Interclub (1974) for the last week, I got tired of the seized rear brake and was itching to try and repair it. From what I could tell, it seemed to be a Bridgestone "Self Centering" side pull rim-brake, or at least something that was attempting to look like one. I removed the brake and disassembled it, cleaning all of the parts with soapy water and then soaking everything in distilled white vinegar over night. Afterwards, I brushed the rust off with a toothbrush, reasssembled, lubricated the pivots, and everything was working well.

August 12, 2023

/stream /bicycle /fixie /gitane-1974

Today I bought a new (to me) /bicycle. A few weeks ago I tried riding a friend of a friend's beater /fixie, and immediately fell in love. Since then, I've been on the hunt for a small, beat-up old bike that I could turn into my own nimble little fixie, and today I found it.

It's a franken-bike with a seized rear brake, two different tires on two different wheels, and a spray paint job that looks like it was done by a teenager about 10 years ago. Most importantly, it's ridable and has a flip-flop rear hub with a single-speed freewheel and the fixed cog I was looking for. It needs a lot of work, but I'm excited to dive in.

EDIT: Much later, I would come to identify this bike's frame as a 1974 Gitane Interclub.

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