When it comes to vintage racers, Peugeot bikes are some of the most popular (and easiest to find) around.
The French manufacturer has been producing bicycles since 1882, and became one of the dominant forces in bike racing through the twentieth century. Peugeot road bikes were ridden to victory at the Tour de France ten times between 1903 and 1983, and were used at Le Tour by cycling icons including Eddy Merckx and Eugène Christophe.
During the “Bike Boom” of the ’70s, Peugeot road bikes flooded the streets of North America and Europe. In the decades since, many of these have sat unloved in garages and sheds – but as more and more cyclists have discovered the joys (and frustrations) of older racers, these vintage Peugeot bikes are seeing the light of day once again.
But if you’re unfamiliar with the world of vintage bikes, it can be hard to know where to begin.
In this article, we’ll be giving you the lowdown on all you need to know to get started with vintage Peugeot road bikes. We’ll primarily be focusing on Peugeot bikes from the “Bike Boom” era – including the Peugeot PX-10, UO-8, and more – which tend to be the most popular vintage Peugeot bikes around today, along with a few other honorable mentions.
We’ll be covering:
- Are Vintage Peugeot Bikes Actually Any Good?
- Essential Knowledge: Vintage Peugeot Bike Frames
- What Components Are Vintage Peugeot Road Bikes Fitted With?
- 4 Key Vintage Peugeot Bike Models: Peugeot PX-10, UO-8, and more
Ready to get to grips with vintage Peugeot racers?
Let’s get started!
Are Vintage Peugeot Bikes Actually Any Good?
There’s an old saying about vintage road bikes among cyclists:
“If you want a well-made frame with bad paint, buy Italian. If you want a poorly-made frame with good paint, buy British. And if you want a poorly made frame with bad paint, buy French.”
It’s a little harsh – there are plenty of beautiful old French bikes still on the road that ride like a dream – but it’s not completely baseless, and there are some pitfalls you ought to be aware of when buying a vintage French road bike.
The problems stem from the so-called “Bike Boom” of the early ’70s. Amid the fervour for European road bikes, French 10-speed bicycles became especially fashionable and were shipped to North America in their hundreds of thousands.
The bulk of these were junk. Many were bottom-end bikes with frames made of low-grade steel, cottered cranks, and poor-quality steel wheels. Even for bikes with worthwhile frames, the sudden spike in demand saw production rushed which sometimes led to a decrease in assembly quality – a problem which especially compromised drivetrain components.
However, the influx of French bikes also saw some quality bikes arriving too – albeit in smaller numbers.
Chief among these was the iconic Peugeot PX-10, alongside other classics such as the Mercier 300 and the Gitane Tour de France. These were the genuine high-end racing bikes of their day, and sold in enough volume that they can often still be found at semi-reasonable prices today.
Essential Knowledge: Vintage Peugeot Bike Frames
Unless you’ve managed to pick up a really special vintage Peugeot bike with a complete set of original components worth preserving, there’s a decent chance you’ll be looking to upgrade some of its parts.
The frame is therefore the most important part of a vintage Peugeot bike to understand.
Vintage Peugeot bikes of the Bike Boom era generally used Reynolds steel tubing, though earlier models were more likely to be of Vitus steel. Steel frames can be absolutely fantastic to ride, but it’s worth unpacking some of the details so you have a better idea of what you’re getting your hands on when you buy a vintage Peugeot bike.
Not all steel is created equal
Cheaper vintage bike frames will use lower-grade steel. This material is weaker, so the tubing needs to be thicker – and therefore heavier – to be strong enough to build a bike frame. With any luck, the frame you’re looking at buying will still have an original decal identifying the quality of steel it’s built from.
1020 steel is the lowest grade to have been in widespread use for bikes of this era, so made for the heaviest and cheapest frames. Slightly better is Peugeot’s “Allégés Spéciales” (Special Lightened) marked steel, which was often used on their lower-end bike frames.
Reynolds 531 Steel Tubing
The benchmark for high-quality bike tubing in the era was the fabled Reynolds 531 steel.
Despite being introduced all the way back in 1935, Reynolds 531 steel was so far ahead of the competition that it remained state-of-the-art until the late ’70s (and arguably beyond), winning more Tour de France titles than any other frame material in history. It was even repurposed by the RAF during World War Two to build Spitfires.
However, that 531 decal on your frame doesn’t always mean the same thing. Even within Reynolds 531 tubing, there were different categories varying in quality and price.
Mid-range vintage bikes – including some Peugeots – often used the cheaper straight-gauge (i.e. the same thickness throughout) Reynolds 531 tubes. Decals on these frames will usually only say “Reynolds 531 Frame Tubes” with no further detail.
Higher-end vintage bike frames used more expensive “butted tubing” rather than straight-gauge tubing. Butted tubing is thicker at the ends than in the middle, meaning the steel is strongest where it needs to be, but can shave off a few extra ounces where it doesn’t.
Bikes just below top-of-the-line models often used butted Reynolds 531 tubing for the three tubes of the frame’s main triangle (the top tube, down tube, and seat tube), with the remaining tubes being straight-gauge steel.
However, the frame material decal on a top-quality Reynolds-steel vintage Peugeot bike will be marked “Garanti Construit avec Reynolds 531 Tubes Renforcés, Fourreaux de Fourchet, et Arrières” (“Guaranteed Built with Reynolds 531 Butted Tubes, Forks, and Stays”).
If you’re on the hunt for a high-end vintage Peugeot racing bike, this decal is a key marker to look for.
Honorable Mention: Reynolds 501 Steel
Introduced in 1983, Reynolds 501 was another high-quality steel you’ll often see used on vintage Peugeot bikes.
Reynolds 501 was a chromium-molybdendum (CrMo) butted steel introduced by Reynolds to rival the CrMo frames of their rivals. It was slightly cheaper to produce, but because it was rolled and welded (unlike the seamless construction of Reynolds 531) it was generally built slightly thicker, adding a small amount of weight.
When it comes to vintage Peugeot bikes, Reynolds 501 tubing generally indicates a mid-range bike produced from the mid-80s onwards, as Peugeot preferred to stick with 531 for their high-end bikes. It’s nothing to be sniffed at though – there are plenty of worthwhile Peugeot bike frames built with Reynolds 501 steel!
What Components Are Vintage Peugeot Road Bikes Fitted With?
Though there’s much to love about the frames of vintage Peugeot bikes, their components were often pretty rubbish.
In many cases, your best bet will be to strip them all off and upgrade them. Be warned though – vintage French bikes are full of idiosyncracies and odd-sized parts that require niche replacement parts or creative workarounds to replace.
(For an in-depth guide to upgrading vintage French bikes, the ‘French Bikes’ article on the great Sheldon Brown’s website is second-to-none!)
Peugeot PX-10s came with components that had more about them and are more likely to be worth saving. This is especially true if you manage to get hold of a bike that still has all of its original parts, which can be something of a collector’s item.
The Simplex Prestige plastic derailleurs were semi-effective even if prone to snapping, while the MAFAC Competition centerpull brakes were noisy but packed some serious stopping power.
4 Key Vintage Peugeot Bike Models
- High-End Racing Bike
- Tour de France Pedigree
- Reynolds 531 Butted Tubing
- Simplex Derailleurs and Shifters
- MAFAC Competition Centerpull Brakes
The Peugeot PX-10 is the most iconic of the French manufacturer’s vintage bikes by a distance.
Introduced in 1960, the PX-10 was one of the most affordable professional-level racing bikes of the Bike Boom era, and was Peugeot’s top-of-the-line offering until the release of the PY-10 (essentially an upgraded PX-10 variant) in 1974.
The PX-10 was used extensively by the Peugeot factory team at the Tour de France in the 1960s, including by the great Eddy Merckx. Though Merckx himself often made significant changes to his Peugeot bikes at Le Tour, the majority of the team rode PX-10s that were near-enough identical to the production model available to the public.
There were many variants of the Peugeot PX-10, the most widely sold of which was the PX-10E. If you pick up a second-hand model, there’s a strong chance it’ll be a PX-10E.
The Peugeot PX-10 has a handling feel that’s about as distinctively “French” as it gets.
The butted steel tubing generates a lot of flex in the frame and fork, which makes for a smooth ride over bumps but can also generate speed wobble at low speeds, especially in larger frame sizes.
That being said, there’s something wonderful about the ride of high-quality French bikes of this era that’s difficult to put into words.
Compared to modern road bikes, vintage Peugeot racing bikes such as the PX-10 take a very different approach to geometry, including lower bottom brackets, shorter top tubes, slacker head and seat tube angles, and a longer wheelbase.
This creates a ride that’s comfortable, forgiving, and less twitchy, making the Peugeot PX-10 more versatile than modern high-end road bikes which tend to be unsuitable for anything besides outright racing.
A word of caution though: the Peugeot PX-10 makes for a notoriously poor touring bike, as it suffers from hideous speed wobble with a rear pannier mounted.
- Mid-Range “Racing-Style” Peugeot Bike
- Plastic Simplex Prestige Derailleurs
- Textured Steel Rims
- Cottered Cranks
- Great Touring Frame If Upgraded
Released in 1962, the Peugeot UO-8 was sold in vast quantities during the Bike Boom of the 1970s until it was discontinued in 1981.
Retailing at $87.50 during the peak of the Boom, the UO-8 was more affordable than the PX-10 but outperformed and was more fashionable than many of its budget rivals.
The UO-8 frame is made of medium-strength straight-gauge steel tubing so is significantly heavier than the PX-10, but is well-known for its excellent handling and stability.
The other components are less worthwhile, however. The textured steel rims weigh a ton and provide a useless braking surface in the wet, while the Simplex derailleurs and overly-heavy drivetrain leave much to be desired.
With these parts stripped off and upgraded, though, the Peugeot UO-8 frame can be built into an outstanding vintage touring bike. The long chainstays provide stability and plenty of heel clearance for mounting rear panniers, while the solidity and stiffness of the thick, unglamorous steel frame copes well with heavy loads and is durable enough for long bikepacking journeys.
The UO-8 also came with low-range gearing suitable for touring thanks to its 52/36t chainset – though that ends up being irrelevant if you’re upgrading the original drivetrain.
Peugeot released several sibling bikes to the UO-8, which were all fundamentally the same bike with a few differing features and components. These included the UO-18 (which was the mixte version), the AO-8 and AO-18, and the UE-8 and UE-18 (which were set up as touring bikes but had useless close-ratio gearing).
- Premium Hand-Built Professional Racing Bike
- Tour de France-Winner
- Gold-Anodized Simplex Super LJ Shifters and Derailleurs
- Gold-Anodized MAFAC Competition Brakes
In 1974, Peugeot opened a new “Prestige Peugeot” workshop to hand-produce the new PY-10 for its racing teams and a select few customers, superceding the PX-10 as its premium high-performance racing bike.
The PY-10 has serious Tour de France pedigree, having been ridden to victory by Bernard Thévenet in 1975 and ’77 as he ended the reign of five-time champion Eddy Merckx.
The Peugeot PY-10 was essentially an upgraded version of the PX-10. The PY-10 was built in far smaller numbers so is considerably rarer and more valuable than its mass-produced little brother, but it’s still possible to find one for sale from time to time.
As the PY-10 was built to order with custom options, the exact specifications differ from bike to bike. Some typical differences from the PX-10 include:
- Thinner-Gauge Reynolds 531 Tubing (for reduced weight)
- Gold-Anodized Simplex Super LJ Shifters and Derailleurs
- Gold-Anodized MAFAC Competition Brakes
- Cinelli Handlebars and Stem
- Mid-Range “Semi-Racer”
- Sometimes (but not always) Reynolds 531 Straight-Gauge Tubing
- Mixte-Style Frame
The Peugeot PR-65 was marketed as a “Ladies Semi-Racing Bike” – though the porteur-style handlebars make it clear that the PR-65 was designed as more of a city transport bike than a speed machine.
With its original specifications, the PR-65 can be a little uncomfortable to ride. The combination of the long top tube, short stem, and lack of rise on the porteur bars leaves the riding position a touch stretched out – so it might be worth replacing the stem and handlebars if you find this problematic.
All the same, the PR-65 is worth a look-in if you’re interested in a Peugeot vintage bike and are a fan of the mixte-style frame.
Ready To Get Your Hands On A Vintage Peugeot Bike?
There’s something magic about riding a vintage Peugeot bike for the first time.
Whether you’re looking for a high-end racer, a vintage touring bike build, or just a city transport to get you around, there’s no better way to boost your understanding and love of bike than riding, maintaining, and upgrading a vintage classic.
So if you’re tempted by a vintage Peugeot, our answer is simple: go for it!