Vintage Gitane Bikes: Ultimate Beginner’s Guide

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reviewed by Rory McAllister
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If you’re looking for a high-quality vintage French bicycle, then a vintage Gitane bike could be your best bet.

Gitane as a name is synonymous with late-20th-century French racing bikes. With many Tour de France legends having ridden Gitane bikes to victory, they’re an extremely well-known and reputable bike brand.

Gitane has been producing bicycles since 1930 and had a wealth of experience in producing some of the best racing bikes of the 1960s-80s.

Some models of vintage Gitane bikes are highly desirable and costly, whereas others might be able to be found for a more reasonable price.

But what’s the history of the French cycling brand? And what are the best models of vintage Gitane bikes?

Don’t worry! In this article, you’ll find out all about vintage Gitane bikes and the history of the company. We’ll be covering:

  • A Brief History Of Gitane
  • Gitane Vs Peugeot: Which Is The Better Choice For A Vintage French Racer?
  • 3 Iconic Vintage Gitane Bikes

Let’s get started!

Vintage Gitane Bikes: Title Image
Credit: Felix Wong, CC BY 4.0. Edited from the original.

A Brief History Of Gitane

Gitane was founded in 1930 by Marcel Brunelière in Machecoul, France.

By that point, he had five years of experience in fixing bicycles and making components but began building bicycles and selling them under the name Gitane – meaning “gypsy woman” in French.

Brunelière’s bikes largely flew under the radar until the 1940s when Gitane became a title sponsor of a cycling team. In 1953, Gitane is credited with launching the cycling careers of the future World Champions Jean Stablinski and Rik Van Looy.

Rik Van Looy was one of just three riders, alongside Roger De Vlaeminck and Eddy Merckx, to win all five cycling Monuments – though not while riding for the Gitane-Hutchinson team.

In 1958, Gitane began exporting their bikes to the U.S. and became a popular brand across the pond. This North American fame would ultimately lead to the cycling legend Greg LeMond sporting a Gitane bike at the beginning of his career.

The real empirical success of Gitane bikes began in 1963 when the firm began providing bikes for the legendary five-time winner of Le Tour, Jacques Anquetil.

He won the 1963 and 1964 Tour de France, his final two wins, riding Gitane bikes, and even enacted the extremely dramatic showdown with Raymond Poulidor on the Puy De Dôme, to become the first rider ever to win five editions of the Tour, on a Gitane bike.

In the 1970s, Gitane returned to the fold as a title team sponsor, and it was in 1975 that they backed and equipped a young Bernard Hinault.

There are many different bicycle manufacturers whose names are forever intertwined with specific successful riders who sported their bikes to victory. Merckx and Colnago, for example, Trek and Armstrong, and in the case of Gitane, Bernard Hinault.

Bernard Hinault’s career was launched in 1975 while riding for the Gitane-Campagnolo team, but his first extremely successful season came in 1977 for the same team, a season in which he won Liège–Bastogne–Liège and Gent-Wevelgem, two high profile classics.

After the team was bought by Renault in 1978, Gitane retained their co-sponsorship and continued to provide the equipment for the team, albeit under the revised name Renault-Gitane-Campagnolo.

But this season was the beginning of Bernard Hinault’s unbelievably successful Grand Tour career on a vintage Gitane bike.

In 1978, he won both the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España, an incredibly successful season for such a young rider.

However, Hinault’s partnership with Gitane would become even more fruitful for the pair as he went on to win a further three editions of the Tour de France, three editions of the Giro d’Italia, and another edition of the Vuelta a España.

Hinault would ultimately become one of the most successful riders of all time, being one of only two riders to win a ” double grand tour triple crown“, alongside Alberto Contador, meaning he won all three Grand Tours at least twice.

He also is the joint holder of the record of the most Tour de France wins in a career, winning five times between 1978 and 1985.

Gitane’s bicycles during the period of Tour de France sponsorship were cutting-edge and at the very top of the cycling tech world. Their partnerships with such successful riders as Jacques Anquetil, Laurent Fignon, Bernard Hinault, and Greg LeMond.

During the 1990s, Gitane fell out of the road cycling game and began sponsoring mountain bike teams. So, the legendary Tour-winning bicycles from the 1960s to the ’80s remain sought-after and rare bicycles.

Gitane Vs Peugeot: Which Is the better choice for a Vintage French Racer?

So, you’re looking for a French vintage racer, and you’re unsure whether to look for a Gitane or a Peugeot – two of the most popular choices.

Note that post-1992, both Peugeot and Gitane were owned by the same manufacturing outfit, Cyclogroupe, and so their quality is largely indistinguishable.

Why go for Gitane?

If you’re looking for a French vintage racer from the ’60s to ’80s period, then you can’t go wrong with a Gitane. All of their bikes from this period were released as flagship models and ridden by their Tour de France team.

For such high-profile vintage bikes, Gitane bikes actually sell for a surprisingly affordable price range, with even the best-condition vintage Gitane bicycles rarely surpassing $1500.

Additionally, if you’re looking for a bike from the ’70s onwards, it’s highly likely that your Gitane will come equipped with Gitane-specific Campagnolo Nuovo Record componentry, unsurprising given that they co-sponsored a team together.

Overall, the average quality of a Gitane bike from this era will likely be higher than that of an average Peugeot, mostly due to the fact that Gitane’s releases were largely restricted to high-end bicycles.

Why go for Peugeot?

Peugeot bikes are some of the most plentiful vintage rides on the market. They flooded the European bike shops throughout the mid-late 20th century with a range of bikes from entry-level to pro-standard.

So, if you’re after a vintage French racer, Peugeot will likely be the easiest to find.

However, unlike Gitane, their target market was not restricted to enthusiasts and professionals, but also included beginners. So, not all Peugeot bikes are created equal.

Some came equipped with the highest-quality Reynolds tubing and excellent Campagnolo components – for example, those ridden by the great Eddy Merckx – while others were far more basic and unreliable in their construction.

Certain models, such as the Peugeot PX-10 and UO-8 are extremely reliable, good-quality, and not so difficult to find, but they’ll likely set you back a little more than their Gitane equivalents.

3 Iconic Vintage Gitane Bikes

Gitane Tour De France (1968)

The Gitane Tour De France was an updated model based on Jacques Anquetil’s Tour de France winning bike from 1964. Although Anquetil’s bike was Gitane branded, it was actually a hand-built frame by Bernard Carre, on which the Gitane Tour de France is based.

The Gitane Tour de France is made from Reynolds 531 tubing and comes with chromed fork crowns and dropouts. However, the original componentry is less high-quality, being a mix of French components made by Simplex and Stronglight.

One of the most famous Gitane bikes that was imported to the U.S., the Tour de France is one of the most common bikes you’ll come across if you’re shopping for a vintage Gitane bike in North America.

You can often find the Tour de France at a bargain price given its vintage and status as such an iconic ’60s road bike. With some searching, you’ll likely be able to find this model for under $700.

Gitane Super Corsa (1972)

The Gitane Super Corsa was the first Gitane bike to be equipped with Campagnolo Nuovo Record components, as opposed to the assortment of French parts that came on the Tour de France.

In fact, the components and additional kit were one of the few differences between these legendary models. The Simplex and Stronglight components and dropouts were replaced with Campagnolo Nuovo Record.

The Gitane Super Corsa was constructed from Reynolds 531 tubing with chromed fork crowns and dropouts. A beautiful vintage machine, it was used by the St. Raphael-Gitane team in the early ’70s.

A difficult bike to come across, it can sell for a huge range of prices depending on the condition and whether it retains its original componentry.

Gitane Olympic (1975)

The Gitane Olympic was released in the first year of the Gitane-Campagnolo team and was the bike ridden by the legendary Bernard Hinault to his first two Tour de France victories in 1978 and 1979.

The Gitane Olympic is arguably the most recognizable and iconic vintage Gitane bike, due to the success of the riders who used it, and being the first bike to feature the famous Gitane “honeycomb” rear dropouts.

The Gitane Olympic is made from high-quality Reynolds 531 tubing and some models were even equipped with Gitane-specific Campagnolo Nuovo Record components, and French-made Mavic rims to match the frame.

This is arguably Gitane’s most desirable vintage bike, given its history.

Although in the ’70s and ’80s, this bike commanded a high price, it actually sells for a fairly reasonable price these days for such a sought-after vintage model, and can sometimes be picked up for under $1000.

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Jack is an experienced cycling writer based in San Diego, California. Though he loves group rides on a road bike, his true passion is backcountry bikepacking trips. His greatest adventure so far has been cycling the length of the Carretera Austral in Chilean Patagonia, and the next bucket-list trip is already in the works. Jack has a collection of vintage steel racing bikes that he rides and painstakingly restores. The jewel in the crown is his Colnago Master X-Light.

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